Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko is taking his eye off the ball for good as he steps into the world of politics. The Dynamo Kiev star and national hero is retiring from football for a future in the political realm.
The former AC Milan striker started and ended his 17-year football career on Saturday with Dynamo Kiev, announcing on the team's website that he was hanging up his boots.
"Perhaps I will shock everyone: my future has nothing to do with soccer … It is related to politics," Shevchenko was quoted as saying in a statement by the club.
Shevchenko is now part of the Ukraine - Forward! Party, which used to be the Social-Democratic party and was a long-time member of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko's opposition faction BYuT.
Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last October on charges she abused her office in what the West has deemed to be a politically motivated case.
Ukraine– Forward! quoted Shevchenko as saying he wants "to find myself in politics, share the experience I have acquired in Europe, do something for my country."
It was not immediately made clear whether he plans to run for office, but his announcement comes on the eve of parliamentary elections.
Shevchenko follows fellow Ukrainian sports star Vitaly Klitschko into the political realm. The former heavyweight boxing champion formed his own political party, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, and will be a serious contender against President Vikto Yanukovych and this Regions Party in the parliamentary elections this October.
Yanukovych currently runs the Ukraine alongside the Region's Party leader and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. They rely on the support of the Russian-speaking east. Yanukovych and Tymoshenko were longtime rivals, with Tymoshenko losing a tight race for the presidency to Yanuokovych in 2010.
The 35-year-old striker helped Dynamo Kiev win five straight Ukrainian titles in the 1990s, scoring 60 goals during his first stint with the team before joining AC Milan in 1999.
With the Italian club, he proved to be a crowd favorite, helping the club win the Champions League, the Series A title and the Italian Cup. His success there helped him secure Ballon d'Or in 2004, which is often referred to as the European footballer of the year award.
In June, Shevchenko proved once again why he's a football icon by heading both goals in Ukraine's win over Sweden at the 2012 European Championship. It was to be Ukraine's only win of the tournament.
After Euro 2012, he announced his international retirement but refused to discuss his future in club football.
On Saturday, however, Shevchenko fans got their answer. He is leaving the sport altogether in hopes of finding success in politics.
tm/rg (AP, Reuters)