Interview with Joaquín Alonso, Technical director of the Spain national beach soccer team
Joaquín Alonso is a Spanish football veteran. There is Real Sporting de Gijón blood running through his veins, which is the club he played for during his professional career. Nowadays he still enjoys football in different modalities, and he explains so during the pre-game meetings of the Spain national beach soccer team in Cambrils Park Sport Village, during the World Beach Games – Europe Qualifier Salou.
Before beach soccer came into your life, you played 16 seasons and 644 official matches wearing the Sporting de Gijon T-shirt. How do you remember that time?
I say that I’m a privileged person because I live on football since I was 20 years old, which is a profession I am being well paid for and, in addition, it allows me to do what I like, and that is a great advantage. I enjoy doing what I do, I live with people I feel at ease with and it is a great satisfaction because it is a fantastic way of living.
All your career defending the same colours. Did you ever thought about playing in another league once retired from Sporting in Spain?
In my time, players going abroad was something complicated or not usual. However, now I am reaping the fruits of having been all my professional life connected to two organizations, the Sporting and the Royal Spanish Football Federation.
You took part in the Olympic Games in Moscow 1980, an athlete’s dream. How do you remember it?
The experience is amazing. When we arrived in Russia, the first experience was to play against the former East Germany in Kiev. We tied at one, and then, we were taken to Minsk where we tied in both matches. We were undefeated, but we were eliminated for the goal difference.
However, what it seemed to be a bad thing became something really good, because we were taken to the Olympic Village and we were there for seven days only training. We were lucky to live with other athletes from other disciplines. I remember Tkachenko who was at the top in basketball. Being able to sit next to him and other situations that were happening were very interesting.
The 1982 World Cup is a thorn the national team has in his side, especially because we were hosting it: 1 victory in 5 matches. Did the effects last a lot?
What is true is that in the '82 expectations were really high because we all thought that we were going to perform well during the World Cup, we had a great squad, the manager, Santamaría, encouraged us to think that we could become world champions, in our own country, and it went awry.
But I am satisfied I participated in a World Cup, which is something not everyone can say, although at that time, to all of us it was a halt in our continuity with the national team.
And with this football career, how did you exactly arrive to beach soccer?
By chance. It was in 1996, while Lobo Carrasco was working on a Canal Plus project organizing an international beach soccer tournament in San Juan, Alicante. Brazil, the United States and Italy were playing… And they asked him to set a Spanish team. He called me and I accepted.
I thought that it was like playing on Gijón’s beach when the tide goes out and the sand gets hard… But when Lobo Carrasco put us a video on how it was played in Brazil…. I remember I told him; do we have to do this tomorrow? And on top of that it will be televised? However, we did it.
Since then I am hooked, first as a player and later as a coach.
How did you discover Llorenç Gómez, the current best beach soccer player in the world?
The first time I saw Llorenç Gómez I got surprised, and the second one at a territorial Spanish tournament, his manager also put a good word in form him. We all bet on him. Llorenç was finishing his year in the junior category and I told him, if you go to a team that lets you juggle beach soccer with 11-a-side football, next call you will be with us. And it was like this, in 2011 we were travelling to Russia, and that was the first time he came. Since then his performance has skyrocketed.
Llorenç enjoys everything he does, he is passionate about beach soccer and you can notice it. He is a very special person, a good person and as an exceptional footballer, he is giving us a lot.
Unlike 11-a-side football, beach soccer players barely train together. How does a national team manage it?
Beach soccer is seasonal, especially here in Europe. At the beginning it was complicated to find people because they were all doing other activities or were playing 11-a-side or 5-a-side football. Little by little, they have specialized.
Nowadays at the men senior team, almost 80% of the players only play beach soccer. Nevertheless, with the women national team this is different because there aren’t as many competitions. Of all the players we have here, they all play 11-a-side football except for Lorena, that only plays beach soccer.
Llorenç told us that position Spain is in the World ranking doesn’t correspond to the quality of the team. Do you agree?
I totally agree. The ranking is influenced by the participation in tournaments, and there was a time we participated in less competitions than other national teams that are above us in the ranking and that we consider that have less level than us. They are real situations; we think that we are among the best and it is being proved.
In Europe what national teams do you think are the best?
In Europe, there are 7 national teams that have a similar level: Russia, Belorussia and Ukraine, Portugal, Switzerland and Italy. Maybe a step below there might be France, that is working well with young people, Germany, which is improving; and Azerbaijan and Turkey who are strong.
There are some national teams that less important, but they are working well and are getting closer. The truth is that competition in Europe is huge.
And at a worldwide level?
In the CONMEBOL, Brazil is on top off all. Although Uruguay did a good job to enter the qualifier and Paraguay is also strong.
From the Oceania area, Tahiti, as strange as it sounds, is a strong and powerful national team. In the CONCACAF, United Sates and Mexico are always on top. African teams tactically aren’t as good as European teams, but physically they are enormous. Senegal and Nigeria are strong teams.
In the Asian area, Iran is very strong, although in this qualifier it got out of the World Cup. In general, there is equality…
Do you imagine a final against Brazil at the World Beach Games San Diego 2019?
We would be delighted. We were in November in the Intercontinental Cup in Dubai, they won, but the game was evenly contested. Last time we played against them was long time ago, the last time was in 2015 in Espinho, in the World cup in Portugal. We lost 2-1, also an evenly contested match. And the truth is that we like to compete against the best because this way you can see your level.
How would you rate your stay at the Resort and the facilities?
The facilities are amazing, the football pitches you have and the sports complex are incredible… the beach soccer facilities are also good. We travel a lot, we stay at a lot of hotels and live together with lots of people from different countries, because the majority of tournaments are played outside of Spain, and the truth is that there is something we value a lot which is personal treatment and in this sense, it couldn’t be better.
Thank you very much Joaquín!
Photos: Beach Soccer Worldwide