SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – The fifth film in Ford’s Fascinating World of Football series is now available, featuring a quiet beach in Northern Spain where some of the most famous stars in the sport learned their craft.
San Sebastian on the northern coast of Spain features a beach called the Bahia de la Concha, translated as ‘Shell Beach’, which is populated by joggers, cyclists and surfers.
With all this activity, most people don’t give Pablo Blanco or his team of 13-year-old footballers a second glance. Unless they were local Basques, they wouldn’t know that this beach is a nursery for some of Spain’s best professional footballers.
The 13-year-olds form one of 18 teams who play for the town’s club, Antiguoko. The other teams have players ranging from seven to 18 years of age. The beach is their training ground and over the years has been home to boys who have grown up to play in sides that have won the Champions League and the World Cup.
“The success of the club to the people who live here is important to everyone,” says Periko Alonso, being interviewed as part of Ford’s Fantastic World of Football, and father to one of the most famous players to leave the beach and start a career as a professional, Xabi Alonso.
The Antiguoko teams don’t play fixtures here, due to the tide that comes in and washes away any pitch markings, leaving the beach smooth. Every day when they train, the lines have to be marked out again, and this process has become an important ritual, something that Periko hasn’t forgotten.
“Te maraca,” he says. It leaves its mark on you. “But the joy of the beach is that it gives the boys a wonderful sense of freedom. And when the kids have won a final they come here to celebrate. They jump in the sea.”
A few yards from that beach, down a side street, is the clubhouse, set in the basement of an apartment block. Inside, on one wall, framed, signed and dedicated, are 16 team shirts, each one carrying the name of a boy who has become a professional.
The one near the middle is a Real Madrid shirt and it is Xabi’s. When Xabi first heard of Liverpool’s interest in him he was playing for Real Sociedad, San Sebastian’s home team. After signing for the Reds, highlights included scoring the third goal in Liverpool’s Champions League final win against Milan and winning the FA Cup.
In Madrid, his achievements were noticed and in August 2009 he signed for Real for £30m. He went on to win the Spanish League title with them in 2012, but not before winning the World Cup with Spain in 2010. It is a remarkable career, made all the more so by the fact that, like many other Spanish stars, it was shaped here on a beach in northern Spain.
And those 13-year-old kids out there training today have good reason to hope that the roar of the waves might one day be replaced by the roar of the crowd.
This is part of Ford’s Fascinating World of Football, a 3-month series of weekly stories highlighting some of the more unusual stories of European football. To follow the tour and find out more about the support vehicle, the all-new Ford Tourneo Custom, visit facebook.com/FordTourneo