By Peter Bruun
At 37 years old, striker Heine Fernandez took to the field for the last time on Sunday at the Parken stadium, where he had spent some of his best seasons with FC København.
The 19,000 in attendance were certainly not reticent as the København supporters joined with fans of Fernandez's current club, Akademisk Boldklub, to give the veteran a mighty send-off. Fernandez was also presented with flowers by København sports director Niels Christian Holmstrøm - one of many at the stadium who would remember the player's winning goal against S.S. Lazio in the 2001 UEFA Champions League qualifiers.
The victory against Lazio was to prove something of a high-water mark for Fernandez, but København would miss out on the group stages after a 4-1 defeat in the return leg in Rome. Fernandez himself enjoyed a less than happy end to 2001 as he was fined for criticising coach Kent Carlsson that autumn.
However, Sunday was a day to celebrate the striker's proud achievements - not least among them, the fact that for some time he was the greatest goalscorer in Danish football history. From 2000, he was the league's all-time leading marksman until his total of 134 goals was eclipsed this year by Søren Frederiksen.
Indeed, had injury not interrupted his career, particularly in recent seasons, it seems unlikely that Fernandez would have had to relinquish his record. Certainly, he would have earned more than the solitary Denmark cap, picked up in a goalless friendly in Iceland in 1991.
However, it was for Fernandez's performances at club level that the Parken fans cheered him. With Silkeborg IF, Viborg FF, København and AB, he showed his worth as a powerful penalty-box player. Big and strong, he could score with both feet as well as with his head.
'The time has come'
Latterly, Fernandez has had fewer opportunities to showcase his skills as he found himself on the bench at struggling AB. It was this prospect of no longer being certain of first-team football that finally persuaded the striker to retire. "
I still feel motivated when I play, but it gets more and more difficult to keep up my spirits between matches," he said before Sunday's game. "That is why I feel the time has come to say goodbye."
In the end, his final flourish lasted just 25 minutes as he came on for a brief substitute's cameo against København. However, there was to be no happy ending to the story as Fernandez missed two golden opportunities to score in a 3-1 defeat for AB.
The way I was received by the crowd was overwhelming, but I am annoyed to have finished my career with two huge misses like that," he said. However, Fernandez can be sure that it is the 134 goals he scored, rather than the two that got away, that have made him a legend in Denmark.
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