With his team up 3-1 after 85 minutes against Japan and a spot in the Round of 16 assured, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman made World Cup history. With his final substitution, Pekerman took off goalkeeper, and team captain, David Ospina and replaced him with Faryd Mondragón. At the age of 43 years and 3 days Mondragón became the oldest player to ever make an appearance in a World Cup match breaking Cameroonian Roger Milla’s record of 42 years, 1 month, and 8 days.
As he stood at the sidelines waiting to enter the match, Mondragón looked towards the sky, his arms outstretched as if to thank the heavens above for what is almost certainly to be his final run out. Running out onto the pitch to tend his team’s goal, amidst a deafening roar from the Colombian supporters, tears of happiness ran down his face. Quite the incredible send off.
If you’re a keen follower of the Bundesliga, FC Köln in particular, you have very likely have heard of Faryd Mondragón before yesterday’s record breaking substitution. He arrived at Köln, then in the 2 Bundesliga, on a €400,000 transfer in the summer of 2007 after he’d spent five seasons at Turkish club Galatasaray. In his first season with the club, Mondragón played in 31 league matches and kept 8 clean sheets helping Köln to a 3rd place finish and the final automatic promotion spot to the Bundesliga; they amended the promotion/relegation rules a season later to the ones that are currently in place.
Over the next two and a half seasons playing in the German top flight, Mondragón appeared in 75 matches and kept 22 clean sheets. Many Bayern supporters such as myself will remember him as part of that Köln side that was incredibly frustrating to play against over those few seasons. In the five league meetings between the sides, all with Mondragón in goal, the overall record was 1-3-1 with two of the draws ending 0-0. Perhaps the more telling statistic is that in the three matches in which Köln visited the Allianz Arena they were unbeaten, winning once and drawing twice.
However, for the relative success he did enjoy on the pitch for die Geißbocke, Mondragón might best be known for his dramatic departure in December of 2010. The incident took place at a press conference ahead of Köln’s match with Hannover 96. Mondragón spoke for a full 20 minutes, entirely in Spanish (aided in translation by a friend of his)[i]; he took no questions from the media who, I assume, sat in stunned silence at the whole dramatic event. In his tirade he likened himself to Jesus who himself was betrayed at the Last Supper. From the Bild article:
“Ich fühle mich, als hätte ich ein Messer im Rücken. Auch Jesus Christus wurde hinterhältig behandelt und verraten. So wird man im Leben eben immer wieder von Menschen enttäuscht.”
Loosely translated Mondragón said that he feels like he’s been stabbed in the back and that even Jesus Christ was betrayed. He also says that he feels disappointed by “people”; the “people” he spoke of were probably then coach Zvonimir Soldo and manager Michael Meier.
The reason for the rant at the press conference was that Mondragón was at odds with his coach and manager over joining his national side for a friendly match against the United States in October of 2010. The club officials did not grant him leave to play for Colombia whereas Mondragón was adamant that he would be going; he was so adamant that he was not even on the bench for his side’s 2-1 home defeat by Borussia Dortmund and left Germany to play in Colombia’s match.
Mondragón would be dropped from his side’s next four league matches (three of them defeats) but would regain his spot under new manager Frank Schaefer on match day 13 where Köln would be 1-0 winners over Stuttgart. However for Mondragón the damage had already been done and his contract was terminated at the end of 2010, paving the way for a move to MLS side Philadelphia Union where he would play out the 2011 season before leaving the United States to play for, and finish his career with his hometown club Deportivo Cali.
It is perhaps then little coincidence that the man who once described his plight (no matter how tenuous the link) to that of Jesus Christ was seen on the sidelines yesterday in Cuiaba, Brazil standing in the pose of one of the country’s most famous landmarks. One thing is for certain though, Faryd Mondragón knows how to make an exit.
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