After nearly three decades representing his country, Andorran football legend Ildefons Lima has called time on his record-breaking international career. The 43-year-old defender made his senior debut for Andorra in 1997 at the tender age of 17 and went on to earn 137 caps, scoring 6 goals, over a span of 26 years.

Special One from Andorra

Lima has the distinction of being the only player to represent Andorra in international matches across four different decades, cementing his status as an icon of Andorran football. On Tuesday, he started his final match against Switzerland before being substituted in the 23rd minute to rapturous applause from both sets of supporters.

In a touching moment, Lima was replaced by 20-year-old Ricard Fernandez Betriu, a player who was not even born when Lima made his international bow in 1997. Last year, Lima’s longevity was recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest international career in football. Ahead of his swansong, Lima bade farewell to fans via social media, describing the match as his “last dance.”

After nearly three decades of loyal service, the curtain has dropped on Ildefons Lima’s historic and unprecedented international career. He leaves a lasting legacy as Andorra’s most-capped player and an inspiration to young athletes from smaller footballing nations worldwide.

How he build so long career?

Ildefons Lima has been a stalwart for the Andorran national team for over a decade, captaining a country with a tiny population of just 79,000 people. The veteran center-back has suffered through over 100 losses wearing the red and blue of Andorra. Victories have been scarce, with the team’s most recent competitive win coming in a 2-0 result against Liechtenstein in the 2022 Nations League.

Lima joined an exclusive club by playing in four separate decades for his national team, an accomplishment only previously achieved by Welsh great Billy Meredith and Finnish icon Jari Litmanen. This past summer, at age 41, Lima became the oldest player to feature in a UEFA European Championship qualifier.

In addition to his longevity, Lima holds the goalscoring record for Andorra with 11 international strikes. In 2014, his early penalty kick stunned Wales and gave Andorra a 1-0 lead before two goals from Gareth Bale allowed Wales to narrowly escape with a victory. Lima also scored the opening goal in a 3-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Ireland in Dublin in 2001.

Lima was temporarily removed from the national team in 2020 after calling for increased COVID-19 testing for players. But after pressure from manager Koldo Alvarez and FIFPro, Lima returned to the squad the following year.

At club level, Lima has played in Spain’s top divisions for Espanyol, Las Palmas and Rayo Vallecano. He currently features for FC Andorra’s reserve squad, which is owned by former Spain defender Gerard Pique.

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