‘Conejo’ Pérez ends 26-year career with one final save

Oscar Perez of Cruz Azul gestures after making his final "save" for Cruz Azul during a retirement ceremony in Estadio Azteca on July 27, 2019. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)
Oscar Perez of Cruz Azul gestures after making his final "save" for Cruz Azul during a retirement ceremony in Estadio Azteca on July 27, 2019. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images) /

Cruz Azul pays homage to the goalie who was between the pipes for the Cementeros for 15 seasons.

Oscar “Conejo” Pérez officially hung up his gloves on Saturday, making a final appearance with the team that he started his career with 26 years ago.

The 46-year-old keeper was on the field in Estadio Azteca in a Cruz Azul uniform for a brief ceremony to pay homage to his long and illustrious career. Pérez was announced with the starters and wore the captain’s armband. The kick-off was taken by Cruz Azul and the ball was passed to a Morelia player who sent a shot toward “Pérez from midfield. “Conejo” scooped up the shot to make his final “save” then walked off the field as both teams lined up to salute him as he walked off the pitch.

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The venerable goalkeeper made his debut with Cruz Azul on Aug. 21, 1993, and was between the pipes when the Cementeros won their last Liga MX title – on Dec. 7, 1997.

With “Conejo” holding down the fort, Cruz Azul won a treble in 1997 (the Copa MX and the league Champions Cups). Pérez also helped the Cementeros win another Champions Cup in 1996 and a PanAmerican Cup (2007). He even scored a goal for the Cementeros, heading home the tying goal against the Tecos in injury time on Sept. 6, 2006.

Pérez was the starting goalie for Cruz Azul for 15 seasons and he holds the franchise record for most games played – 418. “Conejo” was traded to the Tigres ahead of the Apertura 2008 season and played 30 games for the Monterrey-based club before getting injured. After the Tigres acquired Cirilo Saucedo to cover his absence, Pérez was shipped to Chiapas where he played one season with the Jaguares (2009-2010), then one season with Necaxa (2010-2011).

“Conejo” then spent two seasons with San Luis before Pachuca came calling, reviving his career at the ripe old age of 40.

"Conejo" retires
Oscar “Conejo” Pérez hoists the Concacaf Champions League trophy after Pachuca defeated the Tigres on April 26, 2017. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent via Getty Images) /

Pérez won the starting job with the Tuzos and soon was embracing more hardware. Pachuca won the Liga MX title in the Clausura 2016 with Pérez playing a major role, holding the high-powered Monterrey attack to 1 goal in the Finals. Pachuca also won the 2016-2017 Concacaf Champions League title, this time shutting down the potent Tigres attack in a 2-1 aggregate victory.

“Conejo” played 166 games for the Tuzos, finally losing his starting job during the Apertura 2018 season, but not before scoring another goal. His second professional goal came on April 29, 2017, against the club that he debuted with. In Estadio Hidalgo, Pérez ran forward during a corner kick and tied the game deep into injury time.

The grizzled goalkeeper holds the record for most Liga MX games played with 740 over 26 seasons.

The native of Guadalajara also enjoyed considerable success at the national team level. Pérez was the starting goalie for El Tri at two World Cups (2002 in Korea/Japan and 2010 in South Africa). “Conejo” also starred for Mexico’s 1998 Gold Cup-winning team.

Pérez was the back-up goalie for both the 1999 Confederations Cup triumph (a stunning 4-3 win over Brazil) and El Tri’s 2003 Gold Cup champion. “Conejo” was also a key contributor to the Cementeros team that made a magical run to the Finals of the Copa Libertadores in 2001 before losing to Boca Juniors.