Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez, icons of Real Madrid and Barcelona and also heroes of the Spanish national team, were jointly awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Sports in recognition for their glittering careers and humanistic values.
Together, they took some time out of their busy schedule to talk to Euronews about their strong relationship.
Euronews: You have taken a short break from your club and national duties to receive this award – an award that recognises not only your sporting careers but also your personality and your solid friendship to each other.
Xavi Hernandez: I’m very happy because this award has an special meaning for me. Not only for the prestige of it, but also for being able to be awarded it with somebody who has been my friend for a long time, even before we became professional players. It is a very happy day to be able to enjoy this with Iker.
Euronews: Iker, Is it complicated to maintain this friendship for all these years whilst in the middle of the media storm that surrounds the bitter rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona?
Iker Casillas: ‘‘I don’t think so. As Xavi says, we have grown up together. We have reached a professional level with similar careers. Now all we have to do is to keep our clubs happy, Barcelona and Real Madrid, and of course the Spanish national team too.’‘
Euronews: How much of this award can be attributed to the success the National team, Barcelona and Real Madrid?
Xavi: ‘‘It comes from all of them. We came through the youth ranks in Barcelona and Real Madrid. Our parents and family and also the Spanish National Team all played a part in our success. We are both from a generation of Spanish football players who have been lucky in winning the European championships twice and one World Cup. Therefore, this prize belongs to more people than just ourselves.’‘
Iker Casillas: ‘‘Winning so many things with the Spanish national team is of course a plus. Obviously, to get titles with Real Madrid and Barcelona too. All that coupled with the way people have enjoyed our success with the national team is the principle factor in why we jointly won this prestigious award, it’s a proud moment for both of us.’‘
Euronews: Because of increased tensions between Catalonia and Spain, Xavi, do you think politics played any role at all in the award?
Xavi: ‘‘I don’t think so. This is sport and it is an award which recognises many years of friendship despite the football rivalry. Our career is important too: we have won a lot of titles with the Spanish National Team and with our clubs. I don’t see any political-related issues.’‘
Euronews: You both speak about the Spanish National Team. Everybody praises Spain. Do you think the country’s football players – whose price tags are a lot higher than previous years – have benefited from the golden age of Spanish football?
Iker Casillas: ‘‘I have no doubt. It will be difficult to repeat the Spanish national team’s golden era of many titles, but we hope it will happen again. Not everybody is lucky enough to win back to back European titles and a World Cup, in fact only the our national team has done it. The important titles are a result of a fusion of good players and coaches.’‘
Euronews: I’m sure that you both have a good place to put the award, but when people like yourselves have won almost all there is to win, where do you find your motivation? Perhaps the Golden Ball award?
Xavi: ‘‘We belong to a collective sport, in which the most important thing is to win titles: the World Cup, the Confederations Cup with the national team, the league, the Champions League with our clubs…all this motivate us. We are here because of good team work, this is the main reason why we have won this individual award.’‘
Euronews: If Iker Casillas could have voted, would he have voted for Xavi?
Iker Casillas: ‘‘Yes because he symbolises the Spanish National Team. He’s a sportsman held in high regard… I would have definitely voted him.’‘
Euronews: Xavi, I suppose that you would say the same about Iker.
Xavi: ‘‘Honestly, I would, because he is a great footballer, captain and guy. We have known each other for many years and I would have no hesitation in voting for him.’‘
Euronews: Let’s change the topic now… Is Real Madrid’s La Liga title race over due to Barcelona’s lead or is it still too early?
Xavi: ‘‘It is too early. We have a very good lead but the league is very long. It is not at all done yet.’‘
Euronews: Is the Champions League between Real Madrid and Barcelona or will there be a surprise, like last year?
Xavi: ‘‘We will see about that, but playing against Real Madrid again would be fine with me. When Barcelona play Real Madrid the matches are very special because the historic rivalry.’‘
Euronews: An all Spanish final between Real Madrid and Barcelona would be amazing…
Iker Casillas: ‘‘It would be good because both teams would be in the final on merit. As Xavi says, last year we saw many Real Madrid – Barcelona showdowns and this is good for football as people look forward to these matches.’‘
Euronews: You have almost secured qualification for the 2014 World Cup but the recent draw against France has left you with a must-win game in París to lock down top spot.
Iker Casillas: ‘‘Nobody said it would be easy. I think rivals prepare themselves more when they play against the World and European Champions. France played a serious and clinical match and I think the draw was fair.’‘
Euronews: Lance Armstrong won the Prince of Asturias Award many years ago. What are your thoughts about the doping-related controversy surrounding him?
Xavi: ‘‘I have read that is not possible to strip him of the award. It is not the sport we play so we are out of this controversial argument. Those kind of issues are not frequent in football. With this said, however, all my respect to Armstrong.’‘
Euronews: There are some cyclists who complain about sports, like football, because it has fewer doping controls than cycling. They say that there is a higher tolerance in other sports.
Iker Casillas: ‘‘I don’t think so. In football controls are done by the Consejo Superior de Deportes, the Spanish Federation, UEFA, FIFA, our clubs… We have controls too but unlike cycling there aren’t any cases of doping.’‘