International futsal icon Kike Boned was offered a stirring tribute on his last appearance for Spain as 5,000 supporters filled the Palacio de Deportes in Murcia to witness La Roja register a 14-2 friendly victory against Greece.
"It's time to take off the captain's armband and to think about different things in life," Kike said after lining up for the UEFA Futsal EURO champions one last time to win his 181st cap and bring an end to a glittering international career. "During the game tonight the feelings were very different to the competitive encounters I have played," the 35-year-old added. "Having said that, every moment I lived with the national team was beautiful and I really feel privileged."
Kike's futsal career began on the home courts of his native Valencia – "where we were brought up on neighbourhood games, school competitions and Saturday mornings when we would pray for it not to rain" – and would climax with an array of trophies almost unequalled on the domestic and international fronts. Twice a FIFA Futsal World Cup winner and runner-up, the defender also lifted an incredible five UEFA Futsal EURO titles, the last of which he collected in 2012, when he was also named UEFA.com's Golden Player.
The Murcia FS captain's success has not only been limited to the national-team scene. Domestically, he has claimed four Ligas, three Copas de España and three Spanish Super Cups, along with a plethora of individual prizes, all of which made Monday's event in front of his home supporters all the more special.
"I feel loved by these fans," he said. "It's different now, because through the various social networks each supporter can express their affection to you; that wasn't possible in the past."
Saying that he was "not a nostalgic person", Kike – who had last skippered Spain in their World Cup final loss to Brazil a year before his tribute match – nonetheless added: "It's impossible not to think about everything I have been through and all of my team-mates. I am extremely appreciative of everyone."
Spain themselves have further friendlies – in Serbia next month and against Slovenia and the Netherlands in the new year – before beginning their bid for a fifth straight title at UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 in Antwerp against Croatia and the Czech Republic in Group D from 29 January.
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