Jonas Hector and his teammates enjoyed the ovations of the fans long after the final whistle, then the captain of 1. FC Köln announced in the dressing room that he would be leaving professional football at the end of the season. “He announced to the team that he will be retiring in the summer,” reported FC coach Steffen Baumgart on Saturday evening after the convincing 3-1 (2-0) win at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
The big point in the fight to stay in the Bundesliga, which Cologne almost certainly has with 35 points, suddenly receded into the background. “It’s a big loss for the club. A great FC player goes with him. But his motives are completely understandable for the coach and for me,” said Cologne’s sporting director Christian Keller.
Hector himself spoke only briefly via Twitter. “After my family, it was important for me to inform my team, the coaching team and the staff first. For the moment, I don’t want to say more than that I’m incredibly grateful for what we have together at FC,” said the 32-year-old. Neither Hector nor the club shared any details about the forthcoming farewell.
Hector with Cologne also in league two
Hector, who was born in Saarbrücken, moved to Cologne in 2010 and has always remained loyal to FC – even when the club was temporarily relegated to the 2nd Bundesliga. He completed more than 300 competitive games for the Rhinelanders. There were also 43 international matches for Germany, in which he scored three goals. Hector only turned professional at the age of 20 and had never seen the inside of a youth academy in a Bundesliga club.
After Cologne’s first success against Hoffenheim since 2015, Hector now saw the time to make his decision public. “All the better that he was able to reward himself with a win in the last game against Hoffenheim,” said FC coach Baumgart. Thanks to the well-deserved success, the Cologne team got a decent cushion on the relegation places and fell from table 14. from Hoffenheim (29) at the same time deeper into the first division struggle for existence.
Baumgart was accordingly satisfied with the performance of his protégés. “We were awake from the start and are happy to have won here with a very good performance. That was a big and important step that gives a certain security,” said the 51-year-old and encouraged his TSG colleague Pellegrino Matarazzo: “I assume we’ll see each other again next season.”
At least the Rhinelanders, who have been unbeaten for four games, can plan another year in the football upper house. “That was a very, very important win and, in the constellation with the other results, a milestone for us to be able to breathe a little longer,” said Thomas Kessler, head of the Cologne licensed player department.
In front of 30,150 spectators in the sold-out arena in Sinsheim, Florian Kainz scored a hand penalty in the 18th minute, Davie Selke (39th) and Jan Thielmann (90th + 2) scored the guest goals. “That was a giant step,” Selke said with relief.
The late goal from Kasper Dolberg (90+4) was not enough for Hoffenheim. “We didn’t play well and had different expectations,” said Matarazzo, adding: “That wasn’t apparent in training.” And TSG striker Christoph Baumgartner admitted: “That’s extremely disappointing. We lacked the energy.”