FIFA and CONMEBOL have been working together for quite some time now to develop beach soccer in South America, and this collaboration was further strengthened in October with the organising by FIFA’s Education and Technical Development Department of a conference devoted to the development of the sport.
The conference, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 22 to 25 October 2009, was honoured by the presence of Eugenio Figueredo, vice-president of CONMEBOL, and Sebastian Bauza, hosting the event in his role as Uruguayan Football Association President.
Beach soccer first surfaced in South America, and it remains incredibly popular there, with impromptu matches likely to spring up on the beaches of Brazil, Argentina and Chile at any moment of the day. However, there is still room for improvement as far as the sport’s facilities are concerned, in order to harness the enthusiasm of its followers and to develop their skills.
"We must aim to develop the sport at all levels right across South America, from the grass roots upwards," said Josep Ponset, the man in charge of all competitions falling under the Beach Soccer Worldwide umbrella, a FIFA partner responsible for organising the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Tactics and technique
It was with these thoughts in mind that the four-day conference took place, encouraging participants to exchange views on their respective philosophies and objectives as regards the development of beach soccer, based on the different experiences of all present. Discussions focused on tactical and technical aspects of the discipline, as well as on its administration and future marketing strategy. Those taking part – technical directors and beach soccer representatives from CONMEBOL associations, in the main – took the opportunity to debate numerous issues with Venancio Ramos, a FIFA instructor specialised in beach soccer and Uruguay national coach, and Josep Ponset.
"It’s clear that the Montevideo conference constitutes a turning point for our sport. Beach soccer was studied from all angles, from the bottom to the very top. Each association member present learned something useful from the others – I hope that forthcoming improvements in the set-up of our sport will help with development and increase the numbers currently playing beach soccer," summarised Ponset.
Venancio Ramos was of the same opinion: "In general terms, it was a great success, with discussion of high-quality contributions, ideas and projects, and all this in a very pleasant environment. Those taking part exchanged some very interesting opinions which enables all concerned to take stock of the precise state of beach soccer in South America.”
Away from the meetings and dialogue, circles continued to be made in the sand at a beach soccer youth tournament, arranged to coincide with the conference, and this was followed by a friendly match pitting the national teams of Argentina and Uruguay against each other, the host nation winning the clash by 4 goals to 2.
Copa America on the beach?
It is now looking likely that beach soccer pitches in South America will only get busier and busier in the years to come. During the conference, numerous projects and initiatives were put forward as ways of improving and expanding the sport, its facilities and competitions.
Eugenio Figueredo, vice-president of CONMEBOL, was very hopeful: "The responsibility now lies in the hands of the decision-makers of the relevant national associations, who will need to put in place future development programmes. Moreover, we talked about the possibility of organising an international-level competition, a Copa CONMEBOL, which would serve as a qualifying tournament for the Beach Soccer World Cup, and as a continental championship in non-World Cup years. We will analyse this proposal closely over the coming months."
A piece of news that, if it were to become reality, would represent a huge step forward in terms of the sport’s development and popularity in South America.