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Jun 6, 2013

Ballack nets hat-trick in final outing

Former Germany captain Michael Ballack officially brought the curtain down on his playing career with a farewell match in Leipzig on Wednesday night.

Ballack, 36, had invited friends and old team-mates to play in the game in front of a 44,000 capacity crowd at the city's Zentralstadion. His former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho coached the World XI and ex-Germany manager Rudi Voller took charge of the Friends of Ballack XI.

Didier Drogba, Roman Weidenfeller, Philipp Lahm, Ulf Kristen, Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Essien, Miroslav Klose, Lothar Matthaus and Formula One legend Michael Schumacher joined Ballack for his final 90 minutes on the pitch, while a number of high-ranking football officials such as Bayern president Uli Hoeness, Germany manager Joachim Low and German FA president Wolfgang Niersbach joined tennis legend Boris Becker at the match.

Ballack scored three times in a 4-3 win for his team, with Voller among those to pay tribute to the "man who scored the important goals".

Ballack began his career in the eastern town of Chemnitz in 1995 - only five years after Germany's reunification - and went on to establish himself as an icon throughout the former East Germany. It was appropriate that the final outing of his career was in Leipzig, only 80km away from the starting point of his life in football.

"I intended not to cry," Ballack said when his career finally ended 83 minutes into the game, with the former Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea midfielder fighting back the tears as Frank Sinatra's My Way blaring out of the loudspeakers.

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