Ildefons Lima: Andorra captain ends international career after 26 years

Ildefons Lima: Andorra captain ends international career after 26 years

Ildefonso Lima playing for Andorra
At 43 years and 276 days Ildefons Lima is the oldest player to appear in a European Championship qualifier

After 26 years and 137 caps Ildefons Lima has played his last game for Andorra – ending the longest career in international football.

The 43-year-old made his Andorra debut aged 17 in a 4-1 loss to Estonia in 1997, scoring in the nation’s second ever official fixture.

He has played in every decade since and on Tuesday he started his final international match, a 3-0 defeat by Switzerland.

After 23 minutes he was substituted and was given a standing ovation by Swiss and Andorran supporters as he left the field.

He was replaced by Ricard Fernandez Betriu, a team-mate who was born almost two years after his international debut.

In 2021, Guinness World Recordsexternal-link claimed Lima had achieved the longest international playing career.

Before the match against Switzerland, Lima called the fixture “the last dance” on a post on Xexternal-link, formerly known as Twitter.

Ildefonso Lima Sola playing for Andoraa
Lima has scored international goals against Belgium, Republic of Ireland and Wales

Lima became Andorra captain over a decade ago, representing a nation that has a population of just 79,000.

He has lost over 100 international matches. The Tricolours have only won seven competitive fixtures, the most recent being a 2-0 win over Liechtenstein in 2022 in the Nations League.

The centre-back is the third European footballer to be capped in four different decades, joining Welsh international Billy Meredith and Finland’s Jari Litmanen.

And this summer he became the oldest player to appear in a Uefa European Championship qualifier.

Lima is also Andorra’s record goalscorer, finding the net 11 times. Back in 2014 his sixth-minute penalty gave Andorra a shock lead against Wales before two Gareth Bale strikes helped Chris Coleman’s side scrape to a win.

He also scored the opener in a 3-1 loss to the Republic of Ireland in a World Cup qualifier in Dublin in 2001.

In 2020, the Andorran Football Federation removed him from the squad after he called for more Covid-19 testing for players.

After pressure from manager Koldo Alvarez and FIFpro he returned to the side the following year.

At club level he has represented Espanyol, Las Palmas and Rayo Vallecano in Spain, and is currently playing for FC Andorra B owned by ex-Spain defender Gerard Pique.

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