Former England captain John Terry dramatically quit international football, fewer than 24 hours before a Football Association hearing into allegations he racially abused Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand.
Chelsea skipper Terry, 31, said the FA had made his position "untenable" after he had already been cleared of criminal charges emanating from the controversy which rocked the game last October.
"I am today announcing my retirement from international football," Terry said in a statement released Sunday.
"I would like to thank the England managers who have selected me for my 78 caps. I have had great pleasure in sharing that honour with all the players that I've played with.
"I would like to thank them, the fans and my family for their support and encouragement during my international career.
"Representing and captaining my country is what I dreamed of as a boy and it has been a truly great honour. I have always given my all and it breaks my heart to make this decision," added Terry who made his England debut in 2003.
"I want to wish Roy (Hodgson, the England manager) and the team every success for the future.
"I am making this statement today in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable.
"I now look forward to playing for Chelsea FC, and challenging for domestic and European honours, and I want to thank the fans and the club for their continued support."
Former Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins said Terry's international retirement would be a "massive loss" to Hodgson.
Wilkins, himself a former Chelsea captain and ex-England midfielder, said Terry's absence would leave Hodgson with a huge hole to fill as the national side look to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"I feel very sad for Roy Hodgson in that Roy made it pretty evident he wanted John to be there and be his centre-half," Wilkins told Sky Sports News. "We've got to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil and this is a massive blow.
"It's a massive loss. You will see the loss it will be when John finally has to hang up his boots for Chelsea."
British newspapers on Monday expressed regret over the loss to the national team of Terry -- but contrasted his impressive record on the pitch with his chequered personal history.
The football editor of The Times newspaper said "the game has been tarnished" by the incident last October and "Terry did the right thing last night. It may well have been the hardest thing he's ever done."
The Sun tabloid said many fans "have grown to dislike a player who, nevertheless, remains this country's best defender by a distance... Terry's career has been a soap opera and, at times, an unsavoury one."
Terry's reputation has suffered from episodes like a nightclub brawl, a fine over claims of drunkenly taunting US tourists shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and 2010 reports of an affair with model Vanessa Perroncel, ex-partner of teammate Wayne Bridge.
Twice England captain, Terry, 31, had become "not a symbol of unity but of division," according to a commentator in the tabloid Mirror, who said his "legacy had become tainted beyond repair".
Central defender Terry has always denied using a racist slur against Ferdinand during a Premier League match last October and was cleared of criminal charges relating to the incident by a London court in July.
The criminal action had to prove Terry's guilt beyond reasonable doubt but the judge ruled the prosection had not proved their case to that standard.
An FA panel is set to consider the claims resulting from the match but has a lower burden of proof based on the balance of probabilities.
Terry was stripped of the England captaincy as a result of the allegations and there was further controversy when he was included in Hodgson's squad for this year's European Championships while long-term England central defensive colleague Rio Ferdinand, Anton's older brother, was left out.
The announcement of Terry's international retirement is not expected to delay or halt the FA hearing.
Hodgson had repeatedly made it clear he wanted Terry in his squad as England try to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But had Terry still been available for international football and been found guilty of the FA charge, officials would have come under pressure to drop Terry from England duty as a result.
Now, whatever the FA decide, it is Terry himself who has called time on his nine-year international career.