Farewell Fußballgott: End of an era as Jonas Hector waves goodbye to Cologne


The Cologne ship will soon be without its captain as one-club man Jonas Hector hangs up his boots at the end of the season. As the inspirational 32-year-old prepares to embark on the next stage of his life, the club want to give him the send-off he deserves.

Matchday 29's 3-1 victory over Hoffenheim should have been a cause for celebration, with the three points significantly boosting Cologne's bid for survival - a quest they have since completed. However, there were mixed emotions amongst supporters as they returned home from Sinsheim as, just minutes after the final whistle, Hector announced his retirement from the sport. The left-back is a bona fide legend at the RheinEnergieStadion and has made more than 300 competitive appearances since his first-team debut in 2012.

"Jonas informed us in advance," explained sporting director Christian Keller after Cologne's first victory away at Hoffenheim in eight years. "Without wanting to go into detail, every single reason he has given for wanting to retire is totally understandable. The team gave Jonas the applause he deserves, and after the season, we will say thank you."

Hector was reluctant to say too much in public as the end of his career approaches. "After my family, it was important for me to inform my teammates and the coaching staff. For the moment, all I can say is that I am grateful for everything we have achieved together here. Now we want to enjoy the rest of the season," said the Saarland native, who joined Cologne's second string from SV Auersmacher 12 years ago. In a twist of fate, the final Bundesliga game of the season, at home against Bayern Munich, falls on Hector's 33rd birthday.

As such, that clash on May 27th will bring the curtain down on an extraordinary career. Despite not emerging from a major academy as a youngster, Hector was picked up by Cologne's reserves, where he played for two seasons, before joining the big boys. Although he arrived at the club as an attacking midfielder, he was converted into a left-back and quickly became a key player.

Following Cologne's return to the top flight in 2014, the defender was called up to the Germany national team, with whom he won the 2017 Confederations Cup. Hector also represented his nation at the 2016 UEFA European Championships and 2018 FIFA World Cup, earning 43 caps and scoring three goals for his country in the process.

"Thank you for everything!" Hector and the Cologne fans share a special relationship. - IMAGO/Sebastian Räppold/Matthias Koch/IMAGO/Matthias Koch

At club level, Hector grew in stature with each passing season, becoming a leader and crowd-pleaser along the way. He is very much the antithesis of the modern professional footballer stereotype - he studies away from the game, does not have a social media presence, and is very down to earth.

His loyalty, too, appears to know no bounds: after spurning lucrative advances in the wake of an impressive Euro 2016, he was christened a Fußballgott, or "football god". Then, after Cologne were relegated from the Bundesliga in 2018 for just the sixth time in the club's history, Germany's starting full-back again resisted the advances of top German and European clubs with deep pockets and promises of success.

Watch: Hector's Bundesliga Goal of the Year effort from 2018

"I could have earned more at other clubs, no question. But I have no desire to have a bank balance of €400m at the end of my career. Emotion is more important," he explained to newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung shortly after committing his future to Cologne five years ago, a statement which also earned him respect far beyond the city's famous cathedral.

His exit is a considerable loss, and Hector leaves a huge void as he departs the sport for pastures new. Whether on the left of defence or in the middle of the park, he has been a crucial performer throughout the good times and the bad for a club he twice skippered on the European stage (2017 and 2022).

As such, the Billy Goats are losing a player whose standing amongst supporters may only be rivalled by Lukas Podolski, another of their favourite sons. No wonder then that thousands of supporters showed affection as the news of Hector's departure broke and they will again turn out in their droves to celebrate his legacy when Matchday 34 rolls around.