Beach Soccer is a form of soccer played on a beach or some form of a sandy surface. Across the world, beach soccer is also known as ‘beach football,’ ‘sand football’ or “beasal.”
The origins date back to the end of the 19th century when European sailors in coastal Brazil started playing the game on beaches. Since then, the game has come a long way. Currently, the game is governed by FIFA, and it even has its own World Cup. As it stands, the World Cup is only contested between men’s teams. However, efforts have been made in the last decade to popularise the women’s game too.
Looking at the history of soccer, it’s somewhat challenging to determine when someone kicked a ball for the first time on a sandy surface. According to the FIFA website, beach soccer was played by European sailors on the beaches of Brazil at the end of the 19th century.
The game became popular as futebol de areia in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro. Several small tournaments started taking place in the neighborhoods of the city in the 1940s. In 1950, these small tournaments merged to become the first official tournament of the game.
In the following years, many international soccer players participated in beach soccer and helped make this version of soccer popular.
In 1992, Giancarlo Signorini founded Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW) and established formal rules of the game. This organization further helped put beach soccer in the limelight and eventually helped bring recognition from FIFA. The same year, BSWW organized a test event in Los Angeles. Then, in 1993, the first international professional tournament took place at Miami Beach, with the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy.
In April 1994, it was televised for the first time. And in 1995, the first-ever Beach Soccer World Championship was held. This period saw a boom in interest in the game, and the first Pro Beach Soccer Tour was organized in 1996. The interest generated towards the tour in Europe led to the creation of the European Pro Beach Soccer League in 1998.
The landmark moment for the game came in 2005 when FIFA acknowledged BSWW’s framework and became the governing body. As a result, the Beach Soccer World Championship was remodeled as FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The first edition of the tournament was held, in 2005, at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
From 2005 to 2009, the World Cup was held every year. However, since then, it has become a biennial event.
Beach Soccer Rules
Beach Soccer is different from regular soccer in some ways. A game consists of three periods, each of 12 minutes. Five players make the team on the pitch, and a matchday squad consists of 12 players. The game allows unlimited rolling substitutions.
Furthermore, every foul results in a direct free kick, and the fouled player is required to take the resultant kick. The game doesn’t have offsides, and it doesn’t allow walls for free kicks. Players also don’t wear any footwear, and they are allowed to take throw-ins with a kick. It’s a specific foul to tackle an opponent while they are attempting a bicycle kick. Teams are also not allowed to keep possession in their penalty area for more than four seconds. Goalkeepers are permitted to handle back-pass from a teammate, but only once during a spell of possession.
“Draw” as a game result is not accepted. If the scores are level in standard time, 3 minutes of extra time are played, followed by penalties. A win in normal time counts for 3 points, success in extra time gets 2 points, and a win on penalties is worth a single point.
An official pitch is 35–37 meters (38.3–40.5 yards) long and 26–28 meters (28.4–30.6 yards) wide. The penalty area is 9 m (9.8 yards) from the goal and is marked by a yellow flag. The goals are also smaller than the ones used in standard soccer. A goal is 2.2 meters (7 ft 3 in) tall and 5.5 meters (18 ft) in wide.
Soccer Beach Ball
Beach soccer makes for a great sport to play as it doesn’t require a lot of equipment. The essential thing to play is a ball.
Since beach soccer is played barefoot, it is played with a lighter and softer ball with fewer panels. The ball is also kept at a lower air pressure – 0.4-0.6 atm as compared to 0.6–1.1 atm in a regular soccer ball. A beach soccer ball has the exact dimensions of a standard ball, a circumference between 68 to 70 cm. Additionally, the ball should weigh between 400 and 440 grams.
Beach Soccer Goals
As we mentioned before, the goals used are smaller than those used in a regular soccer game. The height from the ground to the bottom of a crossbar is 2.2 meters (7 ft 3 in), and the width between the two posts is 5.5 meters (18 ft)
Most of the options available in the market are made from Aluminium. These goalposts are usually lighter than the standard ones are easy to move around. Furthermore, these goalposts are foldable and easy to store.
Players can use in-ground anchors to safely anchor the goal, which is readily available on the internet. Alternatively, sand weights/bags can also be used to keep the goals in place.
Beach Soccer Worldwide
Beach Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports currently. In the last couple of decades, the sport has witnessed tremendous growth. According to Josep Pont, director of competitions for Beach Soccer Worldwide, beach soccer is played by more than 120 of the 208 member nations of FIFA.
The latest FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup edition was held in Moscow, Russia, between 19 and 29 August 2021. It was the 11th edition of the tournament in its current format, and 16 nations contested it. The hosts defeated Japan 5-2 in the final to lift the trophy.
Overall, 49 teams participated in the qualification from Africa, North America, South America, and Europe. Organizations from Asia and Oceania directly selected their participating nations as they had to cancel their respective qualifying tournaments due to COVID-19.
Brazil has been the most prosperous nation, with five World Cup wins. Russia, Portugal, and France follow them with three, two, and one World Cup wins, respectively.
Portugal men’s national team currently leads the world rankings. The European nation won the World Cup in 2019, but they were crashed out in the group stage in 2021. Brazil might be the most successful nation overall, but they find themselves in the second spot. Italy, which is yet to win a World Cup, occupies the third spot, trailed by current World Champions Russia in the fourth. Spain completes the top five in men’s beach soccer rankings.
Japan is the highest-ranking Asian country in the 6th spot, and Senegal is the top African nation in the tenth. Mexico, 12th, is the highest-ranked country from North America, and Tahiti, 13th, in the Oceania region.
When it comes to women’s beach soccer, Spain is the current leader in world rankings. England occupies the second spot, and Russia completes the top-three. Switzerland sits in the fourth spot, and Mexico in the fifth.
Do you have a story about beach soccer that you want to share with readers worldwide?
US Beach Soccer
The United States men’s team currently sits 16th in the world rankings. They have made six appearances at Beach Soccer World Cup, and their best performances have been tenth place finishes in 2005 and 2013. The US team has also won CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship in 2006 and 2013. The US national team is governed by the USSF, the parent body for Soccer in the United States. The US women’s team is placed eighth in the world rankings.
The US Beach Soccer National Championship, a part of PRO-AM Beach Soccer, is one of the biggest tournaments in the US.
Euro Beach Soccer
Europe boasts of several major tournaments, both at the club and international levels.
Euro Beach Soccer Cup, also known as European Pro Beach Soccer Championships, was contested by national teams. It was the premier beach soccer competition in Europe. Portugal is the most successful nation with seven trophy wins. The last men’s tournament was held in 2016, and from 2016 to 2019, it turned into an annual women’s competition.
The competition has been replaced by Euro Beach Soccer League, previously European Pro Beach Soccer League. It is held since 1998, and it is another major competition held in Europe. It is an annual competition. The first edition of the women’s event will take place in 2021.
At the club level, Euro Winners’ Cup is an annual competition between top-division European clubs. It is seen as beach soccer’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League. The tournament was founded in 2012, and a women’s edition began in 2016. Russian club Kristall is the most successful team in the men’s edition with four title wins.
Main Image: Stolbovsky