Piiroja Signs With Chinese Club, Stepanov Retires ({{commentsTotal}})

Raio Piiroja (nr. 16) celebrating
Raio Piiroja (nr. 16) celebrating Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Former captain of the national football team Raio Piiroja is now officially a Chengdu Blades player after passing a medical yesterday, while fellow defender Andrei Stepanov has announced his retirement.

Piiroja, who has played for Estonia 109 times, has been battling injuries for the last couple of seasons. Estonia's head coach Tarmo Rüütli told Delfi that he will continue to call up the 33-year-old, provided he stays in good condition.

“If he is fit, then he will receive an invite to play for the national team. I don't need to see him play in China, the only criterion is the situation of his health,” said Rüütli.

The Chengdu Blades play in the China's second division. The Chinese football season, like Estonia's, runs from March to October.

Stepanov retires from professional football

Meanwhile, citing health problems, veteran central defender Stepanov told Postimees he will no longer play at the pro level.

“The problem is that if I continued I would have more problems with my health later on,” he said.

Stepanov's final game for the national team came last May, when he won his 89th cap. He was voted Estonia's Footballer of the Year in 2004 while playing for Moscow Torpedo.

Stepanov said he would continue to keep his hand in, working as agent to Estonian footballers.



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