UEFA has continued its series of presentations to footballers who have achieved the distinction of playing 100 or more times for their country – with further recipients of the newly issued commemorative cap and medal being honoured at six matches across Europe.
After the first set of presentations took place on Friday, a total of 16 players received the new 100-cap award during Tuesday's UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers and the Poland-Germany friendly. Taking the plaudits this time were a range of footballers, both current and retired:
• Andreas Herzog – Austria v Turkey, Vienna
• Martin Reim, Marko Kristal, Mart Poom, Andres Oper, Kristen Viikmäe, Raio Piiroja, Indrek Zelinski – Estonia v Northern Ireland, Tallinn
• Sami Hyypiä, Jonatan Johansson – Finland v Netherlands, Helsinki
• Rúnar Kristinsson – Iceland v Cyprus, Reykjavik
• Michał Żewłakow – Poland v Germany, Gdansk
• Dorinel Munteanu, Gheorghe Hagi, Gheorghe Popescu, László Bölöni – Romania v France, Bucharest
Former Austria playmaker Andreas Herzog, who represented his nation 103 times before retiring in 2004, collected his cap and medal from UEFA President Michel Platini. Later he told UEFA.com: "
It's a great honour to get the award from Michel Platini. He was my idol when I started playing, and to get the UEFA award from him is very exciting. It shows that it is something special to play more than 100 games for your country. The award will have a special place in my house."
Meanwhile, defender Michał Żewłakow, who earned the last of his 102 Poland caps in March this year, said: "A big thank you to UEFA for honouring me this way. I felt again, if only for a few seconds, what it means to be part of the national team. I played 102 games, which means I did not waste my career – I achieved something. It was also moving to be handed the prize by [Polish Football Federation president] Grzegorz Lato, who has 100 caps himself and is a real legend. This way of honouring 100-cap players is a fantastic idea."
Another notable member of the defenders' union, Sami Hyypiä, hung up his boots last May with 105 Finland caps to his name. "Of course it is nice to receive this kind of award," he said. "
Looking back, 100 matches is a big number and I feel honoured to belong to a club of this kind. There are many happy memories from the many years I played for Finland. They are something I will never forget."
It was against Finland that former Estonia forward Indrek Zelinski made the last of his 103 national-team appearances in May 2010. Like his fellow century makers, he was delighted to return to centre stage last night: "I was happy to see old friends and ex team-mates. It's fantastic UEFA has started this award for players who gave a lot to their national teams."
Romania's Dorinel Munteanu gave long national service, spanning 134 caps, between 1991 and 2007, and welcomed the UEFA initiative. "This has been a very nice surprise for me," the ex-midfielder said. "We talk a lot about money and bonuses in football, but recognition of this kind, especially coming from the highest European football authority, is worth much more. I am deeply honoured that my work and efforts are so highly valued."
UEFA announced plans to make this special award to Europe's international football centurions at the end of last month, with the proposal having been approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in June. Among the recipients of Friday's presentations were former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings and the family of the late great Hungary midfielder József Bozsik.
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