MADRID (AP) — Footballers Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez have received the annual sports prize from Spain's Prince of Asturias Foundation.
Casillas, of Real Madrid, and Xavi, with bitter rival Barcelona, have combined for 253 international appearances in helping Spain to become world football's dominant team with a World Cup triumph sandwiched between consecutive European Championships.
The pair, whose candidacy was put forward by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, edged the International Paralympic Committee to win an annual prize of €50,000 ($65,000) and a sculpture specially created by Joan Miro.
"They have forged and maintained a solid friendship since they won the Under-20s World Cup in 1999 with the Spanish team, which has contributed to resolving the differences between players of different clubs, promoting fair play and team philosophy as the basis for sporting success," said the jury, chaired by tennis great Arancha Sanchez-Vicario.
Blatter said they "are an example to follow, representing Spanish unity above the differences of the Real Madrid-Barcelona rivalry."
Casillas and Xavi have been part of Spanish club football's greatest rivalry, which has often spilled into acrimony as matches end in brawls with rival coaches being eye-poked even. But the pair has helped repair the recent frost between the rival clubs' players.
"Our friendship comes above all else," Xavi said. "It's a friendship that has united us for years."
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