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Dick WhalenNASSC Tournament DirectorThe North American Sand Soccer Championships turn “Silver”
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Roberto CarettoManager Lazio Beach SoccerIdentity is key for clubs’ future
Beach Soccer: More than a decade of history
The Brazilian people’s passion for football games has moved beyond the football pitch and onto the beach. Traditional moves were adapted to the sand, an environment where skill, improvisation, excellent physical conditioning and the swing and natural ability that Brazilians are known for in football, have all overflowed. The sun, the sea and the sand of the Copacabana beach have made up the scenery for the creation of the Beach Soccer, a sport full of plasticity, aerial plays, spectacular dribbles and goals…lots of goals.
Developed by the founding partners of Beach Soccer Worldwide, the Beach Soccer rules were established in a dynamic format, one which causes each player’s individual skills to prevail, while stressing fair play among the athletes. The game was originally intended as a highly appreciated spectator sport, valuing and generating businesses in advertising and sales.
The formula has worked out. Beach Soccer has conquered the world quickly, and is now played in 75 countries within the six FIFA Confederation zones. It is a sport for all audiences, played by men, women and children alike.
The scene has always been the same: Lots of sun and heat, packed arenas, personalities from the sports world standing on the Podium of Honour, huge queues forming before dawn for a seat to watch World Championship finals, etc.
The participation of internationally renowned players such as flamboyant Frenchman Eric Cantona, legendary Spanish strikers Michel and Julio Salinas and Brazilian samba stars such as Romario, Junior and Zico has helped to expand television coverage to large audiences in over 170 countries worldwide, making Beach Soccer one of the fastest growing professional sports in the world and converting it into a major showcase for international commercial opportunity.
Setting up the competition
The early success of the World Championships (started by Koch Tavares) saw commercial interest begin to match developments on the pitch, and growing demand for the sport around the world gave rise to the Pro Beach Soccer Tour in 1996, organised by Barcelona-based Beach Soccer Company, and later renamed Pro Beach Soccer.
The first Pro Beach Soccer Tour included a total of 60 games across Europe, Asia and the U.S.A., attracting major names both on and off the pitch.
Interest generated by the tour in Europe led to the creation of the Euro Beach Soccer League in 1998, providing a solid infrastructure that would increase the professionalism of the sport on all levels.
The EPBSL, now known as the Euro BS League, united promoters from across the continent and satisfied the demands of the media, sponsors and fans. Only four years on from its creation, the successful first step in the building of a legitimate Worldwide Competition Structure for the sport of Pro Beach Soccer had been taken.
Behind the scenes, key developments were also taking place, with both founding partners joining forces to form a single entity known as Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW). Its goal was to unify all major Beach Soccer tournaments in the world under the same structure and to provide sole representation of the sport to major sponsors, the media and FIFA.
A part of the FIFA family
Just over some years ago, beach soccer became a part of the FIFA family, and in May 2005, the first-ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup was staged on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. To everyone's surprise, France defeated Portugal in the final, while hot favourites Brazil fell in the semis.
However, the following year, at the first edition of the tournament to feature 16 nations, the Auriverde avenged the previous year's loss. In the final of the competition, they were never in any real trouble against Uruguay as they proceeded to claim their first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Eric Cantona's Bleus, meanwhile, triumphed in the third-place play-off, again at the expense of Portugal. Brazil retained their crown in the following edition, 2007, beating surprise finalists Mexico 8-2 in the final. Their hegemony began becoming real.
Then, in 2008, the global showpiece left its birthplace at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach to start a journey around the world to expand the Beach Soccer family worldwide, and open doors to the discipline for as many communities as possible. The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2008 Marseille confirmed that the sport’s success is set to continue far beyond the cliché scenery. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the Brazilians from retaining their championship crown.
2009 saw The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup jump to a new continent again. It was the time for Dubai. The Middle East country proved ready to host such a big event, and it did with a great success. A 5,000 seat stadium was packed almost for every match, and beach soccer fans witnessed Brazilian victory for the fourth time in a row, seeing newcomers Switzerland lose the final to the Canarinha.