Madrid: Childhood friends now playing for arch foes, Real Madrid's Iker Casillas and Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez won a top Spanish award Wednesday for rising above team rivalry.
Casillas, 31-year-old goalkeeper for Real Madrid and Spain, and Xavi, the 32-year-old Barcelona midfielder, were awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias 2012 prize for sports.
The jury, meeting in Oviedo, northern Spain, said the pair "symbolise the values of friendship and comradeship beyond the great rivalry of their respective teams."
Casillas and Xavi have been friends since their footballing youth, and they are often credited for helping to anchor the national side, which features a large bloc of Barcelona and Real Madrid players.
Matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona are national sporting events, known as "clasicos" because of the level of play and the intensity of the competition.
Rivalry between the nation's two top clubs famously exploded into an on-field scrap in August last year during Real Madrid's Spanish Super Cup loss to Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
As players from the arch-rival teams scuffled on the field, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho poked Barcelona's then assistant coach Tito Vilanova in the eye in the full view of television cameras.
Last month, a year after the event, the 49-year-old Mourinho conceded: "I obviously should not have done what I did." Vilanova has since been promoted to the job of Barcelona coach.