Since Raúl's Real Madrid debut on 29 October, 1994, when he dared sit the very own Emilio Butragueño on the bench, the footballer hasn't stopped reaping the laurels on what has been a long sports career. Always working at maximum capacity, he has perfectly managed to combine his role as Real Madrid captain with that of the Spanish national team, for whom he first played with in January 1996, when only 19 years old. Today, his work, sacrifice, and sense of responsibilty were finally rewarded.
At 11 am, the heads of Spanish sports appeared at the Football City in Las Rozas, a suburb of the Spanish capital. Secretary of Sports, Jaime Lissavetzky, and President of the Spanish Football Federation, Ángel María Villar, attended the final Spanish national team training session at their 'home' facility. It was yet another sign of the unconditional support from Red fans, who have filled the stands all week long to cheer Spain on in the mini-preseason before the German World Cup kicks off on 9 June.
Lissavetzky and Villar watched as the squad trained on the pitch, and both listened attentively as coach Luis Aragonés instructed his men. They enjoyed a battery of shots and several great goals that the internationals, especially Raúl, used to entertain the public. It was the last training session before the team travels to the Spanish province of Albacete, where on Saturday at 10 pm CET they will play a friendly against Russia.
After one hour of workouts under the intense sun at Las Rozas, Jaime Lissavetzky and Ángel María Villar took the pitch to present Raúl with the Royal Order's gold medal for Sports Merit. With the ever-present shyness that reflects his humble character, Raúl was clearly moved upon receiving the award. It hasn't been an easy year for the Madrid attacker, who seriously injured his left knee last October. The Spanish national team captain went through some very tough months and worked daily at 200% so that he could help Real Madrid down the final homestretch of the Primera Liga, as well as be in top form for the World Cup in Germany.
But, Raúl wasn't the only person honoured. He himself presented the Secretary of Sports with a number '7' shirt with his name, 'Jaime', on it. Lissavetzky was very appreciative of the gesture, and even moreso when Raúl used that same jersey so that the Secretary of Sports could afix the gold medal for Sports Merit on it. All those present, including the press and the fans, applauded in recognition of one of the best players of the Spanish League.
Report by Laura Navas
Photos by Ángel Martínez
Translation by Matthew Goltz