Iker Casillas hangs up his gloves

Casillas with then Spanish Premier Zapatero. Photo: La Moncloa.

This was the moment ten years ago that an entire country held its breath in near despair, 62 minutes into a 0-0 World Cup final against Holland, one against one … one considered the best goalkeeper in Spanish history, if not the world of football, and the other a brilliant winger, considered one of the best strikers in the world.

Iker Casillas himself says that this was his best save. Not the most spectacular, perhaps, but for the occasion, the most important. And it was, the miraculous stopping of Arjen Robben’s virtual certainty allowing the score to remain at nil so that when Andrés Iniesta scored just four minutes from the end of extra time it meant that that single goal won Spain the World Cup, no longer the Best Team that Never Won the World Cup, but World Champions. And Casillas was the team’s captain, weeping on his knees as the final whistle blew.

And then came the wedding to sports journalist Sara Carbonara after the country had swooned when he grabbed and kissed her as she tried to interview her then boyfriend professionally in a televised post-match interview! Then came the heart attack after his move to Portugal, and the recovery, and her own discovery of and then recovery from ovarian cancer. They’ve been through the mill, and so with today’s announcement from Casillas that he is hanging up his gloves, at least his professional ones, I wish him a very happy and very long retirement.

Announcing his retirement, Casillas said that what was important for him was not so much a destination but the path travelled and those who travelled along it in company with one. Both his path and destination, he said, had been a dream. He ended by thanking the public for their support, but they will feel that it’s they who should be thanking him for a time when Spain literally ruled the world!

And I’m afraid there has to be this …. the incomparable tiki-taka of Spain’s play, the famous names, the wonderful finish … and the sublime commentary by former footballer José Antonio Camacho. “Iniesta mi vida” he screamed at the end … along no doubt with the whole of the country who followed this move from one end of the pitch to the other, passing through midfield as only Spain could do in those days, and on to the goal and history.  I could watch this over and over again!

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