41-Year-Old Andorra Defender Ildefons Lima Is Having A Great Time Out There
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England, the world’s fourth-ranked nation, went through the motions against Andorra, ranked 156th, in World Cup qualifying at Wembley on Sunday. Jesse Lingard was England’s standout performer with two goals in the 4-0 win, but the man who really captured the eye was 41-year-old defender Ildefons Lima.
Lima didn’t get on until the 86th-minute with the score already settled, but that still couldn’t erase the shit-eating grin on the former Pachuca man’s face (he apparently made three appearances back in 2002) as he walked onto the hallowed pitch in northwest London — and why should it?
Lima was earning his 131st cap in an international career that’s spanned four decades, beginning in 1997. It took him nearly two decades to record his first win, so occasions like this aren’t lost on the veteran.
Prior to the match, Lima had gotten into a war of words with Gary Lineker, who’d questioned why a nation like Andorra — with a population of just 77,142 — should be competing against England at this stage of qualifying.
“If Lineker was born in Andorra, he could not play against big teams? Why? It’s a country like England is a country,” Lima said. “It’s not a problem for a big team to play once a year against us. It’s like a pre-season game that you play sometimes. It’s not a problem for them.
“You can even try out other players, other tactical systems. It’s good for football that there’s this type of football. It’s not the football of money, the number of Instagram followers you have, or anything like that. It’s a football that’s more pure.”
By earning his 131st cap on Sunday, Lima moved up to 107th on the all-time international appearance list in men’s soccer. He now has more caps than Jorge Campos, Lukas Podolski and Edwin van der Sar (all on 130) and is level with the likes of Andrés Iniesta, Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen.
“I’m the luckiest player in the world,” Lima said. “I have played for almost 24 years with a national team. I’ve played against the best players in the world and in the biggest national stadiums. People often say to me ‘You play for Andorra, you always lose.’ But the people that say that would give anything to be in my place. I’m a normal player, a normal person and a world citizen and yet I get to do the things most professional players would love to do. How can that not make you happy?”
His experiences have also yielded an incredible jersey collection, as well as this beautiful exchange between himself and SPORTbible.
I wash all the shirts!!!— Ildefons Lima Solà (@ildelima6) July 5, 2017
England vs. Andorra Highlights