Iker Casillas has recalled the day he received his first call up from Madrid for a Champions League game in Norway against Rosenborg in November 1997.
Former Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas is now 37 and has been playing at the highest level of football for almost twenty years. Before he joined Porto in 2015, the World Cup winner made 510 appearances for Real Madrid after making his debut against Olympiakos in the Champions League in September, 1999, a game in which he became the youngest goalkeeper ever to feature in the competition at the time.
Now, in an interview published on Uefa’s website, Casillas has recalled the day he received his first call up from Madrid for a Champions League game in Norway against Rosenborg in November, 1997, when he was just the tender age of 16.
“It's a good anecdote because it was back in 1997 and I was in design class. We were talking about Real Madrid, about how they were doing at the time. It was late November, I think, and Real Madrid were struggling in the league. I think they were third or fourth and getting bad results, but things were going fine in the Champions League. They had an important game against Rosenborg coming up in Norway,” said the Spanish shot stopper.
“At that point, the high-school principal came into the classroom. Everyone knew I played in Real Madrid's youth ranks. He used to talk to me about Real Madrid, just as I did with my friends. He said: ‘Iker, would you mind stepping outside for one second?’
“‘Sure,’ I replied. When I came out, he told me: ‘You'd better get in a taxi now and hurry to Barajas [airport] because Real Madrid just phoned your mum and she has called us. You need to hurry up because you have to go to Norway."
“It felt like winning the lottery" - Casillas
The goalkeeper could not believe that, within the space of a few hours, he went from talking about Real Madrid with his classmates in school to sharing a flight with the stars of his beloved club.
“[It felt] like winning the lottery. I remember that moment very well. I was 16 years old. I left school, went home, changed my clothes, got in a taxi to Barajas, and I met all the stars – everything you thought impossible when you were a kid.
“I went from being in class with my mate Julio to sitting at the same table as Fernando Morientes, Clarence Seedorf, Fernando Sanz, Predrag Mijatović, Davor Šuker and Raúl González. It was something magical and I will always remember that.”
The then 16-year-old did not come off the bench for that game in Norway, but it wasn’t long after that his illustrious career began as one of Real Madrid and Spain’s most celebrated goalkeepers.