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Park Ji-sung to host charity football match before World Cup, return to nat'l team doubtful

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- Former South Korean football captain Park Ji-sung will host a charity football match in Southeast Asia only days before the start of the FIFA World Cup, his father confirmed Wednesday, leaving the player's possible return to the national team in doubt.

Park Sung-jong, the player's father, said the footballer will host the annual charity event either on May 31 or June 1 in Malaysia or Indonesia. Park Ji-sung launched his own charity organization called JS Foundation in 2011 and has been hosting an All-Star football match to raise funds for children since that year.

"This is something he'd planned to do all along," the senior Park said. "He is executing plans that he'd made when he retired from international play three years ago."

If the former Manchester United midfielder commits to his own event, it appears unlikely he will join the national team in Brazil for the World Cup in early June. The tournament opens on June 12, and South Korea plans to travel to the host country early in that month.

Park hasn't played for South Korea since January 2011 and has repeatedly said he will not return to international action. However, Hong Myung-bo, the current national team head coach, said earlier this month he hopes to have a meeting with Park and hear what the player has to say in person.

Hong has insisted he is not necessarily trying to persuade Park to come back but has also said it was "possible" that Park could be on the team in March for South Korea's friendly against Greece.

Park Sung-jong, who has acted as the player's de facto spokesman, said his son's opinion will matter the most in the end.

"People can say whatever they want about Park Ji-sung's return, but it's ultimately up to him," the senior Park said. "They say they want to respect the player's decision, but it seems like he's almost being forced to come back for the World Cup. That's not respecting his decision at all."

Hong has frequently talked about the need for veteran players at big events such as the World Cup, with the key players for the country mostly in their early- to mid-20s. Park, 32, has played in 100 international matches and three consecutive World Cups starting in 2002. He scored at least one goal in all three tournaments.

Currently with PSV Eindhoven in the top Dutch league, Park likely won't see regular action even if he is named to the South Korean team. On wings and in midfield, the country has a wealth of talented young players plying their trade in top European leagues, such as Son Heung-min of Bayer Leverkusen and Ki Sung-yueng of Sunderland.

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