Spanish soccer players Iker Casillas and Xavier Hernandez on Wednesday were named the recipients of this year’s Prince of Asturias Award for Sports in recognition of their outstanding play on the field and admirable sportsmanship.
Casillas, the Real Madrid goalkeeper, and Xavi, midfielder for FC Barcelona, beat out the International Paralympic Committee in the final voting by 11 votes to seven.
The jury, presided over by Spanish ex-tennis great Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, said the two players “symbolize the values of friendship and companionship that go beyond the all-out rivalry of their respective teams. Their sportsmanship is a model for young people.”
In the 32-year history of the Prince of Asturias Awards, which are given out in eight categories, Casillas and Xavi are the first repeat winners. Both also garnered the sports prize in 2010 as members of the Spanish soccer team that won their nation’s first-ever World Cup that year.
The minutes of the jury added that “both players, who have achieved the most important titles with their clubs and the Spanish (national soccer team), are an example of fair play that is admired by all.”
“They have jointly shown a conciliatory attitude that has smoothed out traditional differences between players and supporters.”
The two players learned the news early Wednesday while the members of the national soccer team were gathered at Soccer City in Las Rozas, a town on the outskirts of Madrid.
Both men stressed that the prize was recognition not only of their achievements but of the entire current generation of Spanish soccer players, who also have won the past two European soccer championships - in 2008 and 2012.
“We have a relationship that goes back a long way. We’re the visible face but there also are a lot of players behind us who in their day were able to pave the way for things that happened,” Casillas said.
“The prize is a recognition of our work, of our generation of soccer players, our friendship. We’ve been playing together on the Spanish team for 15 years, both in lower levels and in the absolute highest,” Xavi said.
A total of 21 candidates were in the running for the award, including Spanish triathlete Javier Gomez Noya, the New York City Marathon, Kenyan former long-distance track and road runner Tegla Chepkite Loroupe, U.S. surfer Kelly Slater and Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner.
The sports prize is the seventh of the eight Prince of Asturias Awards to be conferred this year. The 2011 winner in the sports category was Ethiopian long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie.
Other Asturias award winners this year have included Spanish architect Rafael Moneo for achievement in the arts, American philosopher Martha Nussbaum in social sciences, Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto in communication and humanities, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in international cooperation.
British biochemist Gregory Winter and American research chemist Richard Lerner and American novelist Philip Roth were the recipients of the technical and scientific research and literature prizes, respectively.
The prize in the concord category will be awarded later this year.
The honors carry a cash prize of 50,000 euros (about $63,000), a sculpture by Joan Miro that represents and symbolizes the awards, a diploma and an insignia bearing the Prince of Asturias Foundation’s coat of arms.
The prizes, which Spain’s crown prince will hand out at a ceremony in the fall in the northern city of Oviedo, are regarded as the Ibero-American world’s equivalent of the Nobels.