FC Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernández (31) was today awarded the UEFA International Centurion Award and the Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) Godal Medal for surpassing the 100 cap milestone with the Spanish national team.
The ceremony held today at lunchtime first unveiled the new European Championship 2012 jerseys for the Spanish team. At the end, the two centurion awards were bestowed. Fellow UEFA centurions Iker Casillas (30) and FC Barcelona Director of Sport Andoni Zubizarreta were also present. Raúl González (34) was unable to attend. Zubizarreta, the current all-time cap leader with 126, received his cap from former RFEF President José Luis Pérez Payá and said, “I’d like to thank UEFA and I will cherish this cap. I’d like to just remember the many who should also have won this cap – such as Iribar, Arkonada, Hierro or Camacho. They deserved to be honoured – as do all the players who have worn the Spanish shirt – even if only once.”
Current captain Casillas, who is just behind Zubizarreta with 125 caps, was given his award by another former President, José Luis Roca, and remarked that “I have not managed to reach the number of Zubizarreta. We are eager and impatient for that time to come, although it is true it is close. From the first day I debuted eleven years ago, I told myself to take every call and every game with the national team; not to think about the high numbers. I think it has made me get here. It was a pleasure and I thank all my colleagues for what they have taught me for eleven years. I’ve always felt to enjoy every game like it were my last and it has made me able to be here today.”
Finally, the man of the hour Xavi was presented his cap by RFEF Vice President Juan Padrón, stating, “I am proud to come here, to represent the RFEF, for many years and many games. When you enjoy something you do not realize that the years go by and I hope to continue to enjoy.” He added, “I’ve had plenty of good times, but what we have experienced over the last few seasons with this generation of footballers after so many years when we weren’t so well appreciated, is just the best. I’m as a happy as a little kid.” Xavi was also given special recognition by the current RFEF President Ángel María Villar when he was presented the RFEF’s gold medal for achieving over 100 caps with La Roja. “I thank everyone who helped me get this award because I feel very privileged,” Xavi said.
The RFEF also created a special video commemorating Xavi’s 105 caps and counting career with the Spanish team. “I could not imagine having achieved this. One always wants to both make a living in football and enjoy the sport I love so much … I consider myself privileged. The most important thing is the affection of the people. I thank all the people of the Federation, coaches, teammates, managers, media … all the moments lived. I’ll remember what I’m enjoying these last few years.”
Both of Xavi’s coaches from the national team praised the maestro. Current coach Vicente del Bosque said, “he represents very well what is the current player on the field and off the pitch. He is one of those unique players, who brings a lot of play, thinks only of the team, knows to defend, builds well, finishes … I think he’s very complete.” Former head coach Luis Aragonés continued the celebration by saying, “he has many virtues, especially as a player and his human qualities, he knows how to go through life with an extraordinary humanity. He has the conditions to play outstanding football. Coaches influence the players only a litte but he who has won has set an example on how to understand and play football. “