JOHANNESBURG (AP) – South Africa captain Steven Pienaar has retired from international football only three months before his country hosts the African Cup of Nations.
The Everton midfielder's decision was announced by the South African Football Association on Tuesday as coach Gordon Igesund named his Bafana Bafana squad for two upcoming friendlies.
''He's given us 10 years of service and his body is tired,'' the newly-appointed Igesund said.
The 30-year-old Pienaar told SAFA of his decision in a letter, which was read out by SAFA chief executive Robin Peterson at Tuesday's news conference.
In it, Pienaar wrote that ''it is with regret that I announce my retirement from international football.''
The midfielder, who made his debut in 2002, said his 10-year international career had taken a toll on him physically. Pienaar phoned Igesund to inform him of his decision on Monday, the coach said.
Pienaar's absence will be a major blow for Igesund, who had hoped to build South Africa's team around the former Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham player at next year's African Cup of Nations. Pienaar played more than 50 games for South Africa but was becoming increasingly absent for international duty because of injury.
South Africa replaced Libya as host of the 2013 African Cup, giving the former World Cup host nation a chance to restore its reputation on the field within African football after it failed to qualify for the last two continental championships.
Next year's African Cup runs from Jan. 19-Feb. 10.