Friday night was always going to be an emotional occasion for all involved as Freiburg legend Nils Petersen appeared for the final time in front of his home crows before retiring. However, the 34-year-old made sure the night went exactly according to a perfect script as he performed his trademark- coming off the bench to score.
Petersen announced his intention to retire back at the end of March and everything has been building towards his final farewell at the Europa Park against VfL Wolfsburg.
“After almost 16 years of professional football, I’m hanging up my shoes at the end of the season with a heavy heart” he said. “Everything that has an end also had a beginning. And a new beginning is not the same as the end. You will hear from me. I promise.”
And hear from him we sure did last night as he signed off in typical Nils Petersen style. With Freiburg chasing a top four finish and really needing the three points, Christian Streich sent on Petersen and Christian Günter with twenty minutes left. Günter scored immediately only for Petersen to get on the end of a Roland Sallai cross four minutes later to double the home side’s lead.
It was Petersen’s 90th goal for the club in his 243rd appearance. During his time in the Black Forest he has come to enjoy legendary status. A banner unfurled behind the goal last night read “Nobody is bigger than the club, but you were damn close to it!”
He made his debut for the club as a second half substitute eight years ago, whilst on loan from Werder Bremen and the rest as they say is history. He came on at half time at home to Eintracht Frankfurt with Freiburg 1-0 down and duly scored a hattrick to help seal a 4-1 win. His place in the fans’ affections was sealed and that seal was only strengthened last night.
Petersen started out in the East with Carl Zeiss Jena and Energie Cottbus before a dream move to Bayern Munich. In two years in Bavaria his chances were limited and he only played nine first-team matches (two goals). A move to Werder followed where he also couldn’t really command a regular starting berth, but he ultimately found his home at Freiburg under Christian Streich.
“I somehow can’t imagine him not being on the training pitch or in the locker room anymore,” Streich said of Petersen this week, “He’s a wonderful person and exceptional striker.”
The exceptional striker has made a name for himself as the ‘Joker’– scoring after coming off the bench and he extended his own Bundesliga record last season night with his 34th Jokertor. He began the evening on the Freiburg bench and ended as the goalscoring hero having a beer with the adoring home fans behind the goal in the Sudtribune. A true club legend and one who will be sorely missed at Freiburg. As another banner read: “Danke Nils”.
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