Xabi Alonso: Racism is a tricky issue for players to deal with

The midfielder has urged the soccer authorities to show zero tolerance on the issue, and expects Group C opponents Italy to be galvanized by its domestic turmoil.
 Ashish Sharma
 Based in Gdansk
Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso has admitted that racism in football is a "tricky" issue for players to deal with and has urged the footballing authorities to be "as strict as possible" in the measures aimed at eradicating it from the game.

Plans have been made by organizations such as Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) in order to ensure Euro 2012 does not become overshadowed by incidents of racist chanting in stadiums but concerns arose once more after the Netherlands team complained of abuse during a training session on Wednesday.

Alonso advised caution when approaching such sensitive issues but hoped to see decisive action from those tasked with eliminating the problem.

"Of course, it's quite a tricky one and quite a sensitive matter," Alonso told Goal.com. "And the way it's reported in England, they have done their investigations, as you say with [the BBC documentary] 'Panorama' in Poland and Ukraine.

"We have to be really cautious with these matters because they are sensitive. From our point of view we want to help to minimize and [for] nothing to happen because that's not the message we want to deliver from football and for football games. As much as it can be avoided we will try to move that and to promote that.

"Of course, from the football players' point of view we want to try to help as much as possible. The ones responsible to take measures for that, they have to be really strict to try to stop them [the racist chants] as much as possible."

Italy striker Mario Balotelli threatened to walk off of the pitch if he was subjected to racist abuse from the stands, and UEFA president Michel Platini said referees would have the power to abandon games in the event of racist chanting.

Alonso, however, insisted that Spain was not planning in advance for such a situation.

"We haven't been told, we have not said what would happen in that case," he said. "Hopefully it won't happen. Better not to talk about hypotheticals and to try to avoid them as much as possible."

Spain faces Italy in its first fixture of the tournament on Sunday, and Alonso is preparing to face an Azzurri team galvanized by the turmoil in which its domestic game has once again been engulfed.

The Italy training camp was investigated by police at the end of May, with defender Domenico Criscito forced to pull out of the squad after he had been informed that he was under investigation for match-fixing.

"We are expecting a very tough and very difficult game because they're competitive," Alonso explained. "Even having problems surrounding the squad, all the media things, all the gambling things - that means that maybe they can be more dangerous because whenever they have problems they get stronger.

"We saw that in the World Cup in 2006 and in the Euros in 2008. That's not a relief for us, that's more [likely] to make us more ready."

Italy has adopted a more attacking style under coach Cesare Prandelli, but the Real Madrid midfielder did not believe that the new approach would necessarily play in to Spain's hands.

"No, it's not a relief," he maintained. "It's something that we analyzed. We know pretty well how they play, the things they want and will try to analyze that as well as possible. But of course it doesn't change at all the way we want to face the game, the way we want to approach it.

"We will see if they play with two strikers up front. We have [been] analyzing different options. When we play it's going to be tough because they have very good players and they're playing at the top level at the moment."

Doubt remains as to the identity of Spain's first choice striker in the absence of the injured David Villa, with Fernando Torres, Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente competing for the role.

Torres' place in the final squad of 23 was not certain after a mixed season at Chelsea but Alonso believes his former Liverpool teammate is in a positive frame of mind heading into Euro 2012.

"Of course, it was not easy for him to take that decision [to move to Chelsea] and it took him some time to settle down," Alonso opined. "But I think he has played his part, he is absolutely pleased with what they have achieved this year.

"It has been a massive achievement to lift that European Cup for the first time for Chelsea, the FA Cup as well. So, [while] being concerned that he wants to play a more important role, he's really enjoying that time."

"I think that he is delivering, day-by-day, more importance for them [Chelsea] and as far as I know they are happy with him."