Santiago Freixa

Honours board at a glance

  • 193 caps and 126 goals
  • Olympic Games silver medal 2008
  • World Cup bronze 2006
  • Champions Trophy winner 2004
  • Champions Trophy silver 2008, 2011
  • Champions Trophy bronze 2006
  • EuroHockey Nations Championship winner 2005
  • Seven times national club champion with Atletic terrassa 2004-7 and 2012-13, 2011 (Amsterdam)
  • Winner European Cup Winners Cup 2000
  • FIH Young Player of the Year 2004

It all began 6-7 years ago with the idea of helping poor kids develop themselves by playing hockey. It has since flourished with two academies, one for boys and one for girls, giving youngsters the chance to play the game as well as benefit from an education, accommodation and food. Santi describes the organisation as amazing adding it helps society develop itself giving children a chance in both education and sport. What a career it’s turned out to be for the 30-year-old from Terrassa. In keeping with family tradition he was given a hockey stick when he was born and after growing up playing hockey in his grandmother’s garden he joined Atletic Terrassa. In common with so many internationals, hockey runs in the family with his father having played club hockey while Santi played alongside his brother Oriol in the 2006 World Cup in Monchengladbach. And for those with a decent memory, three uncles (the Escudes) from his mother’s side played in the Olympics with a fourth, David Freixa playing in the 1992 Games. So it was hardly surprising when young Santi was called up aged 17 to play against the Netherlands in 2000. “It was incredibly special” he said. “Making my debut in my home town and playing against the Dutch who were an amazing team – I was just a kid!”

“I remember our coach Maurits Hendriks saying to me that I could be a great player but at the moment I was no-one. I ended the summer as a big player, a senior player ready to take responsibility.” He picks out Philipp Crone, the former Germany captain and defender as one of the most difficult opponents he has played against along with the Bloemendaal pair Thomas Boerma and compatriot Rodrigo Garza. Born in Spain, he has played for the mighty Amsterdam club for much of his career. Fluent in Dutch and English, he has a Dutch girlfriend and works for a Dutch consultancy firm. He admits he’d love to be injury-free and intends remaining in the game. His sights are set on the 2014 World Cup and then he will think about the difficult decision to retire.

Cathy Harris talks to Santi, The injuries which have blighted Santi’s brilliant career have returned to haunt him and although the personable Spaniard will be missing out on the EuroHockey action with yet another knee injury, he will be present to be inducted in to the EHF Hall of Fame. “It is” he admits, “a huge honour. I was so surprised when I heard but now I know what it’s all about I’m so honoured. It’s totally unexpected.

 When you look back on your hockey career it’s more than all about scoring goals. It’s being part of a team off the pitch, and on, sharing experiences and living a way of life.” One of the most instantly recognizable Spanish stars his athleticism and skills in front of goal and powerful penalty corner striking helped his country capture several titles at major events. However, his generous and kind nature has also seen him involved in a successful charity in India.

Thirteen years on he looks back and picks out several highlights. Winning gold at the Champions Trophy in Lahore in 2004, winning the Euro Nations Championship in Leipzig in 2005 (gleefully recalling how Spain scored a late winner against Germany in the semi-finals “just like the Germans usually do!”) and the Olympic final in 2008. And the biggest influence on his career? His father. Santi explained: “He showed me who I am and what I have to do. His advice was to pass the ball and enjoy the game. He kept it simple – it was never all about scoring goals.” Goal scoring is a part of the game Santi is rather good at. Finding the net four times in the Euro Nations Championship in Barcelona in 2003 against the Netherlands in the semi-finals is one of his greatest memories. “It was the start of Spain getting back on track after a disappointing 9th place finish at the Sydney Olympics.