Beach Soccer … A Developing Sport

Whilst I love football, I have never really paid that much notice to Beach Soccer. My knowledge of the sport was limited prior to writing this; hopefully by the end of the article you’ll start taking an interest … I know I am going to.

WHERE IT ALL STARTED

Brazilians have been using Beach Soccer for years to develop their skills; it is an accessible game for everyone as long as they are near a beach and have got a ball. Most of us have been on holiday and ended up getting involved in a casual game, followed by a few beers to discuss the contest.

One thing everybody knows about Beach Soccer is that it is played on sand, which means the players must have quicker reactions than normal football. The bounce of the ball is often unpredictable, which leads to goals coming from everywhere on the pitch, many of which are screamers. Games are often high scoring; most matches will have around 60 attempts on goal leading to an average number of 11 goals a game.

Beach Soccer was created in 1992, when under new official laws the first professional competition was played at Miami Beach with teams from Argentina, Brazil, Italy and the USA taking part. Just a year later, in April 1993 the first ever televised match took place on Copacabana Beach. A further year later in the same location the first ever World Championships was held – Brazilian players delighted their local fans by winning the tournament. Brazil showed their class as they beat the USA and even England finished third, sadly the Three Lions have never got so close to winning the competition since. The first Golden Boot was shared by two legends of the game, Zico of Brazil and Italy’s Altobelli who both scored 12 goals.

THE DEVELOPMENT

After seeing the success and development of Beach Soccer, commercial interest started to grow. The next stage of the development of the game was the start of ‘the Pro Beach Soccer Tour’ which started in 1996; this involved 60 games in a two year period across Asia, Europe, South America and the USA. Two years later, the European Pro Beach Soccer League (EPBSL) was formed.

The Pro Beach Soccer Tour moved further afield when it toured Australia, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. By 2005, the EPBSL was renamed Euro BS League and had teams from 20 different nations participating across Europe.

FIFA

FIFA started to take note of all the interest Beach Soccer was receiving and decided to officially back the sport. In 2005, the first ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup was played. The natural hosts for the tournament were Brazil; where else could it be played? There was a lot of local interest, but unfortunately for the fans not only did Brazil fail to win the tournament, they didn’t even reach the last two. The final was played between France and Portugal, with the French running out as winners, a slight consolation for the losers was that Madjer won the Golden Boot. The Brazilians were not impressed at having lost that competition and were consequently determined to do better in the future. In all four of the following FIFA World Cups, Brazil emerged victorious. The last Championships were in 2009 where Brazil smashed Switzerland 10-5 and the 2011 tournament will be held in Rome.

LEGENDS

Beach Soccer is a lot of fun, but is taken very seriously by those who play and watch the game. The sport allows ex-professionals to keep playing football at a good standard; Altobelli and Zico are not the only two legends to play the game. Football legend Eric Cantona, who retired far too early from professional football when he was playing for Manchester United, decided to play a bit of Beach Soccer. The talented Frenchman captained the side before going on to coach them to victory in the 2005 FIFA World Cup. Having enticed the charismatic striker into Beach Soccer there was increased interest in the sport in his native France, as well as in England, where Manchester United fans were able to follow their hero. Another footballing God who has been involved with Beach Soccer is Romario, he also represented Brazil in the 2005, but Cantona outshone him. This type of football however, was suited to Romario’s style of shoot on sight. 

I am now aware how big the sport has grown, both in participation and on the pitch as well as how it has developed commercially. I am keen to start following the game and hope to witness some live action at the next World Cup in Rome this year.

Scott Balaam

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