Wellington Phoenix and All Whites midfielder Tim Brown today stunned New Zealand football followers by announcing he will retire from the game when the Phoenix's A-League campaign ends.
Admitting it had been a massive decision that he had been thinking about for a number of weeks, Brown said he was quitting playing to return to his studies.
The opportunity has arisen for him to study for a Masters degree in Management at either the London School of Economics or Cambridge University.
Brown has played 30 matches for the All Whites and 110 times for the Phoenix. The side's playoff game against Sydney FC on Friday will more than likely be his last at Westpac Stadium.
"It was an emotional decision to make, but an exciting one for me," Brown said today.
"The opportunity to continue my studies at either of those places is fantastic.
"It was tough making the decision to leave what has been a dream job but I believe it is the right time for me having just turned 31."
Brown has never been one to seek out the limelight and when he made his mind up on where his future lay his gut feeling was that he should keep it to himself and "just drift off in the off season".
"I spoke to Ricki (Herbert) on how I should handle it and he was adamant I should share it with the team," Brown said.
"I told the boys and management team at dinner while we were in Melbourne recently and I'm so glad I did.
"It was good to share it with a bunch of guys who are all real friends as well as team-mates. I thought it would be easy to do till I stood up. It was quite an emotional moment."
Brown's announcement was probably all the more surprising in that the All Whites are soon to begin their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
An almost constant presence in the All Whites line-up since his debut in 2004, Brown went on to make 30 appearances in 'A' internationals, captaining the team for 13 of those matches including the entire 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup campaign.
Having missed out getting on the field during the World Cup finals in South Africa after sustaining a shoulder injury against Australia in a lead-up game, it must have been tempting for Brown to continue.
"The New Zealand team is different to the Phoenix but special in its own way," Brown said.
"It is probably one of the most talented New Zealand sides that I can remember. It is a hugely exciting group.
"But when you embark on a journey like that (World Cup qualifying campaign) you have to give it everything. That's what we did last time and we were rewarded.
"You can't be half-hearted and if you are starting to think about other things, as I was, I couldn't be certain I could give 100 per cent."
New Zealand Football Chairman Frank van Hattum hailed the midfielder's contribution over an eight year international career.
"Tim's a home-grown talent that has not only been part of a wonderful era for the game, he's been an integral part of the resurgence of football in New Zealand through the both the All Whites and Wellington Phoenix," van Hattum said.
"He's a passionate and intelligent man and he had universal respect from players, staff and administrators. I'm a little stunned that he won't be a part of the All Whites on the Road to Brazil but we respect his decision and wish him all the best as he chases a wonderful opportunity."
One of Ricki Herbert's first signings when the Phoenix was founded, Brown has played 110 times for the club but was reluctant to pick out memorable moments.
"I can dwell on the past later but at the moment it is all about the present," Brown said.
"When you are going to the playoffs, as we are on Friday, you know that each game is potentially your last.
"I've felt all along that we could do something special this season and while I don't want to believe in fairy tales it would be great to go on and win something with this group of players.
"What a great way to finish that would be.
"That's why I didn't want to make a fuss about retiring. You can't get too emotional when there is an important game to be played on Friday.
"I want us to finish the season strongly. It is a shame we have gone off the boil a little in the last couple of games but we can't afford to leave anything in the tank over the next couple of games."
Asked how he would like to be remembered by football followers, Brown said "as someone who didn't take anything for granted".
"I've tried to be grateful for every opportunity I've been given because I know most people would give their left arm to be in the position I am and to have had the opportunities I've had."