On 24 January 1998 in Porto, a teenage defender named Kike made his Spain futsal debut in a 12-3 defeat of the Portugal universities team, alongside fellow newcomer Luis Amado. Fourteen years later both shared in a fifth UEFA European Futsal Championship success in Zagreb.
Kike's importance to Spain in their Futsal EURO triumphs of 2001, 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012 was immense, from his sure touch, to his positional nous and inspirational presence. At time-outs, it became as common to see Kike rallying his team-mates and making tactical suggestions as his coach.
Before UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 kicked off in Croatia, Murcia FS stalwart Kike told UEFA.com: "Victory is so wonderful, you always want to repeat the feeling." As Spain went into the finals having not lost over 40 minutes for more than six years, they were very used to the experience.
They were immediately into their stride in Zagreb, beating Slovenia 4-2 on the opening night and a 4-1 win against Ukraine followed, despite a bizarre volleyed own goal by Kike himself. No matter, in the quarter-finals Romania were seen off 8-3, Kike putting Spain on their way with a back-heel to help supply Torras.
Old rivals Italy awaited in the semi-finals and this was where Kike came into his own. After Aicardo scored for Spain, Kike and Ortiz took it in turns to anchor a superb defensive rearguard and set up swift counters that so nearly increased the lead; in the event, the 1-0 scoreline proved sufficient to earn another final appearance.
Russia, as in 2005, were the opposition, and this time Spain had to come from behind. Indeed they were trailing with 34 seconds left, but the leadership of Kike proved crucial as Sergio Lozano equalised and he scored again in extra time before Borja sealed a 3-1 victory and Spain's latest title.
Kike reflected: "Spain never give up: we always want a little more. We always believe we can give a little more, and luckily this time we succeeded. Russia produced a great championship, a great final, but we are worthy winners. All titles are special. The first one is because you are youthful and somewhat immature, while this is also special because it's near the end of my career and I'm almost 34."
Indeed, after captaining Spain to the fourth FIFA Futsal World Cup final of his career later in 2012, losing 3-2 to Brazil to miss out on a third global title, Kike ended his international career, as had Amado just prior to the tournament.
"it was a difficult decision – a hard decision to make after 15 years with the Spanish national squad and having been part of the golden generation of Spanish futsal, but it is important for a player to know when the end is, to be able to say stop. It has been a well-informed decision, taking into account the opinion of the people close to me. I have always thought it was important to retire when you still have something to give and to be aware that your time is passing and you need to make way for the next generation. I'm absolutely convinced they can do even better than us
"I was very young in 2001. There are many differences from a sporting point of view. The game itself has evolved a lot, technically, tactically and physically, but I think the major difference between 2001 and 2013 is on a organisational level and from a professional perspective. The evolution has been huge."
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