Cologne's Jonas Hector: for the happiness, not the glory – DW (English)

Cologne stalwarts Jonas Hector and Timo Horn are set to leave the club at the end of the season, marking the end of an era. In Hector's case, it’s an early retirement for a player who has long seen football differently.
Stuck to a random lamppost outside Cologne’s Müngersdorfer-Stadion is an A3-sized, handwritten copy of the official founding document of FC Cologne, painstakingly reproduced letter for letter by a particularly committed fan who has even replicated the font.
The document describes the fusion of two local predecessor clubs back in 1948 and promises to bear witness to an “even happier and more glorious” future under the name of “1. FC Köln.”
This week, two players almost as integral to the modern FC Cologne as that document, and who have shaped the club more than most, announced their intention to quit at the end of the season: captain Jonas Hector and goalkeeper Timo Horn. 
Between them, by the end of May, the two will have made over 670 first team appearances for Cologne across more than a quarter of a century of combined service, having both made their debuts for the reserves back in 2010. 
On Saturday, despite a 1-0 home defeat by Freiburg, the two were serenaded by Cologne supporters who know that, with only two home games remaining, an era is coming to an end. 
Both Hector and Horn were part of the Cologne side which was promoted to the Bundesliga in 2014, qualified for Europe for the first time in 25 years in 2017, and which was relegated again in 2018
Both had offers to move and stay in the Bundesliga – Borussia Dortmund wanted Hector, an established German international – but both opted to stay and make good what had gone wrong. “You listen to your heart,” said Horn at the time. “And then it was clear that we’d stick with FC.”
This time, Horn will listen to other offers. Cologne head coach Steffen Baumgart has made it clear that Marwin Schwäbe is his number one goalkeeper and Horn, still only 29, wants games. But Hector, himself only 32, is quitting football altogether. 
“[Jonas] is someone who has a clear idea of how he sees the world and the football business,” said Baumgart this week. “For me, he’s been an important colleague, a captain who acted exactly as a captain should. Not a loud captain, but a very good one.” 
Cologne may be as good as safe for a fourth consecutive Bundesliga season, but the captain still can’t really enjoy it. “It would be easier if we’d won,” he said at full-time. And nothing more. 
Hector has never been a big talker; a wonderful footballer – “one of the very best, not only in Cologne, but in the Bundesliga, especially on the left hand side,” according to Baumgart – but who has never been interested in any other aspects of modern football. 
“[Jonas] is an extraordinary person and a player who has followed a different path to most professional footballers,” former roommate Horn told the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) broadsheet this week. 
“But he doesn’t need the rest, the other stuff in professional football. He was never prepared for that, he never came through an academy. He just loves the game, he loves having success with his team and being with his teammates. I’m sure he’ll miss that.” 
Indeed, it was typical of Hector that, having said the bare minimum in his contractual television interviews, he then spent a good ten minutes deep in conversation with Freiburg’s Matthias Ginter – another player who knows something about club loyalty, having returned to his hometown club last summer after eight years away at Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach. 
On Saturday, both recorded their respective teams’ top tackling statistics and, in another life, may have been teammates. 
“Jonas Hector would have made a great Freiburger,” said Freiburg head coach Christian Streich this week, revealing that Freiburg had tried to sign him as a youngster. Asked by DW to elaborate on Saturday, the praise flowed like water down the Rhine.
“He’s a great footballer, a captain, a talisman, a personality. Go around the country and ask if anybody doesn’t like Jonas Hector. You won’t find anyone,” said the 57-year-old.
“He’s a perfect fit for FC Cologne and for the city of Cologne, a city I also like a lot because people can live here freely, regardless of their sexual orientation or background. Jonas Hector stands for that sort of humanity, that correctness, that conduct. That’s more important than any goal or cross.” 
Having scored 23 goals and assisted 29 more over the years, Hector has done his bit in that regard, too, though, from the reserves to the second division, to the Bundesliga, to Europe. 
His coach in that infamous Europa League season, when 20,000 supporters followed Hector and Cologne away to Arsenal, was Peter Stöger. The Austrian told the SZ that he was “not surprised that Jonas has made this decision.” After all, he’s “always set the right priorities.”
Stöger suspects that the more irksome elements of modern football may well have been too much for Hector, the constant “faster, higher, further.” Or as FC Cologne’s modern founders put it on their foundation declaration in 1948: “even happier and more glorious.”
Jonas Hector never wanted the glory but now he can certainly be happy. 

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