- In May 2019 Casillas suffered a heart attack that has changed his life and priorities
- The Spain and Madrid legend turns 40 today 20 May
- He talks to FIFA.com about his concerns, new projects and cherished memories
“We footballers believe that, because we’re monitored more, we won’t suffer from heart problems. However, cases like mine, and others even more serious, show that unfortunately that’s not the case,” says Iker Casillas on what concerns him most today, his 40th birthday.
On 1 May 2019, his life was turned upside down. The 2010 world champion suffered a heart attack while training with his club Porto. That day everything changed for him and he had to leave behind what he loved most, playing football, bringing his motivation and enthusiasm to new projects instead.
To coincide with his 40th birthday, FIFA.com chatted to Casillas about these projects and reminisce about some of the key moments in his glittering career.
FIFA.com: Congratulations on your 40th birthday. How special is this day for you?
Iker Casillas: Thank you very much. My birthday has always been special, but for two years I’ve also celebrated the date I had a heart attack. That was the day I was born again.
That happened in 2019 and forced you to retire from football. Have your priorities and the way you view football changed?
The heart attack changed my life, of course. It forced me to leave behind what I loved the most, which was playing football, at a time when my enthusiasm for competing at the highest level was still intact.
Fortunately, life goes on, albeit with different priorities, and now I’m excited and busy during this phase of my life with my work at Real Madrid, my Foundation, La Liga as well as my business projects.
Can you tell us why you feel it’s important to raise awareness of heart disease and how this can save lives?
It is important to make everyone aware that heart disease can be detected and prevented, whether you’re a sportsperson or not. People should routinely have check-ups to avoid nasty scares.
I collaborate with various initiatives to support research projects. One that I’m especially proud of is a project with Idoven, a cardiological start-up that combines AI, wearable technology and cardiologists to prevent heart disease and sudden death through early detection.
How important is it for players to be aware that they too can suffer heart problems?
“We footballers believe that, because we’re monitored more, we won’t suffer from heart problems. However, cases like mine, and others even more serious, show that unfortunately that’s not the case. Elite sportspeople are more exposed due to the physical demands that require us to push our bodies closer to the limits. There are also moments of stress due to competitions that can increase the risk of these problems appearing.
Given all that, what do you treasure most from your career? Do you now place even greater store on what you did as a player?
I treasure everything because the good times were exceptionally good, while the not-so-good ones can make you even better. But my debut for Real Madrid, my first Champions League title, the two EUROs and, obviously, the South African World Cup are indelible memories.
You were a fundamental part of the golden age that changed Spanish football. What do you remember about EURO 2008 and your coach Luis Aragones?
The best memory is the atmosphere we had at that time in the squad. We were team-mates and friends. The group was tightknit and led by Aragones, who was the one who really imbued us with confidence and forced us to believe that we could achieve what we set out to do.