Written by Staff Writer
Xabi Alonso is one of Spain’s most successful soccer players.
He won the European Championship twice, he won the Champions League three times, and became Spain’s all-time appearance record holder in 2018.
Despite his illustrious status, Alonso still has strong roots in the Basque region, the birthplace of the 31-year-old — the first of eight siblings to be born in Tocona, a small town in the north-west Basque country.
The soccer legend and coach will visit the village this weekend and will give his honorary freedom to 29th King Alfonso XIII, who was born in 1683.
Alonso is a descendent of King Alfonso XV, who is credited with the unification of the Basque nation in the 15th century. The late monarch encouraged all Basques to turn towards the political center-right and defected from the liberals of Francisco Franco’s Iberian Socialist Federation.
Alonso is scheduled to visit the royal palace on Friday, pay homage to the 18th-century king and retire from Spain’s international scene following his national team duty this year, ending a 14-year career.
Xabi Alonso. Cipriana Chornay/REX/Shutterstock
Spanish born soccer player Xabi Alonso was born in Spanish Basque Country to Basque immigrant families.
The King’s insignia will feature an image of Alonso, who will be wearing the crown and the Spanish flag on his thigh-length black dress.
Alonso will return to the town on Saturday to give his freedom to 27th King Juan Carlos, who was also born in the Basque country. The 57-year-old monarch was crowned in 1981, after the death of his father Juan Carlos I and joined the Royal House of Spain, after being elected to the Upper House of Parliament in 1983.
The visits will mark the end of Alonso’s playing career and begin his new role in the Basque country.
The midfielder retired from football in 2014 after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid and his domestic treble with Liverpool. He made over 1,500 appearances during his career.
Born in 1926, Alonso is said to have spent his childhood in the olive groves of his family’s farming operation in the municipality of Galleta, before fleeing with his mother and younger siblings to Britain as refugees in the midst of the Spanish Civil War.
In 2013, Alonso was arrested for paying 20,000 euros (then $24,000) to have his childhood home in Tocona demolished to make way for a housing development, in accordance with Basque nationalist wish to clear the area for new houses.