If you’re tired of the overly competitive nature of traditional soccer tournaments, one alternative might be to enter your team into one of the dozens of beach soccer events that have been cropping up all over the country over the past few years. Beach soccer offers a far more relaxed kind of soccer tournament, one that is fast-paced, fun, and full of scoring.
The beach version of the beautiful game has long been popular in Brazil, where some of nation’s favorite players cut their soccer teeth on the beaches of Rio. It started to gain popularity in the US in 1992, when Giancarlo Signorini, an Italian living in Greenwich CT, first formalized a set of rules for soccer played on sand. Soon after that, the Pro Beach Soccer tour became a big success featuring such high-profile players as Eric Cantona, Zico, Romario, and Michel.
By 2005, FIFA had embraced the beach version of the sport enough to sanction the inaugural Beach Soccer World Cup, which was held in Brazil. Eric Cantona, by this time, had moved from playing to to coaching and led France to the very first World Cup title. The sport has gained so much popularity in the last 20 years that even Switzerland has a successful pro beach soccer team, in spite of the fact that it has no coastline and no beaches.
Beach soccer differs from soccer on grass in that dribbling on uneven sand is almost impossible so there is a premium on moving the ball through the air. This is done either with headers or with quick lift and kick-type shots that require some technical skill to pull off. There is an emphasis on attacking play with no offside and no tackling allowed.
Beach soccer games are divided into three 12-minute periods, with teams usually having four players plus the goalkeeper on the field at any given time. Because playing in the sand is so strenuous, players substitute on the fly for short shifts. There is no limit to the number of substitutions a team can make. Shoes are not allowed but socks are, and there are even certain manufacturers who are catering to the new demand with specially designed sand soccer socks.
Games are played on fields that are 25 yards by 30 yards (30 x 40 for some of the adult divisions). Goals also vary in size from 6 feet x 8 feet to 7 feet x 18 feet, depending on the age of the players. Putting the ball back into play after it goes out over the side line can be done with either throw-in or a kick-in. When the ball goes out over the end-line, though, the goalie has no choice but to throw it back into play. There are no goal kicks. Fouls are punished with the awarding of a direct free kick on goal. This has to be taken by the player who was fouled. But any player is allowed to take a kick if it is awarded for handball.
There are plenty of beach soccer tournaments in the United States for your team to enter, some of which are quite spectacular events. Perhaps the largest is the Cape Express Beach Blast in Atlantic City, which has grown so popular that organizers have added the Cape Express More Beach Blast about a month later. Then there is the North American Sand Soccer Championships in Virginia Beach which attracts about 1,000 teams from all over the country. And the Soccer in the Sand series hosts several beach soccer tournaments all over the United States and Canada, including some in such unlikely beach areas as Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.
Most of the bigger tournaments are aimed squarely at the typical soccer tournament crowd of families with soccer-playing kids. But others are more targeted toward teams of young adults. Some offer cash prizes in some of the divisions, while others promote the lively night life that a particular venue offers. These types of things should serve as clues as to whether a particular tournament will be suitable for young kids to play in.
Whatever age your team is, though, there are sure to be plenty of beach soccer tournaments for you to enter. They are a great way to build team spirit, they’re excellent for improving overall team fitness, and they can help your team develop soccer skills that might otherwise go untested. But the best reason of all to enter is that beach soccer is a lot of fun.
By KeithJJ from Pixabay