Bastian Schweinsteiger played his final match for Germany on Wednesday, captaining his side one last time in a friendly against Finland, and man, it got dusty in here real quick.
Schweinsteiger couldn’t hold back the tears as he was introduced to the crowd, presented with flowers and a framed photograph, all while a lengthy highlight video spanning his incredible career played over the big screens.
Hours before the match, Schweinsteiger published a touching letter on the German Football Association’s (DFB) official website. In it, he thanked the DFB, his coaches and teammates, and lastly, the fans.
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“My biggest thank you goes to you, the fans. Thank you for your patience, your trust and your support. The pictures from the fan park, your excitement and your celebrations and emotions were all my motivation. What I can say for certain is that without you, mine and our journeys would not have been possible.”
After choking back tears, Schweinsteiger addressed them one more time before taking the pitch:
Seriously, anyone have some Claritin handy? These allergies are killing me.
Schweinsteiger, who announced his international retirement last month, made his national team debut in a 2004 friendly against Hungary as a 19-year-old. He featured in the team ever since.
Along with Lukas Podolski, who earned his international debut in the same game, Schweinsteiger quickly became a poster child of a new and exciting Germany, rising to stardom after leading the team to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup. The crowning moment came eight years later, when Schweinsteiger won the 2014 World Cup for his only major international title, playing an integral role in the final.
Schweinsteiger’s 121 caps are good for fourth on Germany’s all-time list, trailing only Lothar Matthaeus, Miroslav Klose and Podolski. No one in history has played more games in major international tournaments than Schweinsteiger’s 38, spanning four Euros and three World Cups.