Veljko Paunovic Retires, Thanks Fans For Embracing Him

SANDY, UT - SEPTEMBER 3: Head coach of the Philadelphia Union Piotr Nowak talks to Veljko Paunovic #16 during the first half of a game against Real Salt Lake at an MLS soccer game September 3, 2011 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Real Salt Lake beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1. Real Salt Lake beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Union's Veljko Paunovic has decided to announce his retirement from professional soccer for the second time, according to the team. His beginning in Philadelphia wasn't a celebrated one, but by the end of his time in the city, he was appreciated.

"It is with great sadness that I announce my retirement from soccer due to family reasons but I will never forget the Union fans and the atmosphere at PPL Park every game," Paunovic said to PhiladelphiaUnion.com. "I have proudly worn the Union jersey wherever we have played throughout the country and I will always feel like a Union "soldier" wherever I am in the world."

The former Serbian international came out of retirement to join the Union during the summer of 2011, and took much criticism from fans and media alike (including the Brotherly Game). Paunovic's age (then 33) and playing status (nearly three years removed from competitive outdoor soccer) did not appear to hint towards a successful time with the Union.

Instead of succumbing to those criticisms, Paunovic amiably put in consistent efforts, which each match helping to improve his feel for the game. By the playoffs, Paunovic was clearly an important part of the Union, if not just for his heading ability.

Affectionately known as the "Old Serb," which had a more 'sinister' origin, Paunovic found favor within the Union fan base and recognized it as part of his retirement process.

"I want to thank the great Union family for welcoming me from the very first day that I came here," said Paunović to PhiladelphiaUnion.com. "I've been so many places around the world and I have never felt as happy as I have been here.

Paunovic recently spent time in Serbia with his family, which will presumably be where he will remain for the foreseeable future, unless perhaps a team like Atletico Madrid comes calling for a coaching role again.

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