Beach soccer breeds international talent
Xabi Alonso's father Periko and former coach Pablo Blanco say beach soccer is ideal for developing young footballers.
Blanco manages the Antiguoko boys team - who Alonso junior turned out for - in the Basque city of San Sebastian and they choose to play their soccer on sand rather than on grass.
"My sons Xabi and Mikel (Arteta) started in the Ekintza school and played in the beach championship," Periko Alonso said.
"The beach here provides a very important start for kids aged seven to 10.
"It's exciting: you have to set up the pitch with the goals. It's a great age to be. And then they went on to Antiguoko."
Blanco said the primary function of Antiguoko was to identify talent at a young age, such as Alonso and Arteta, and develop them to a point where they are good enough to play in La Liga.
"Xabi Alonso arrived at Antiguoko from a town and he was eight years old," Blanco said.
"He came at that age because of his football skills, which were very good from young. He was very small, very skilful and he had a great shot which he still has now.
"And afterwards he developed as a player and grew into the Xabi Alonso of today.
"Yes. Going to the beach a lot is very good for a kid's development. It aids physical development, the development of ability and skills and above all one learns coordination - knowing how to tread and move. The beach is very important."
"I hope there will be more players like Alonso to come from the beach in the future."