Countdown to FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup
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Beach soccer’s showpiece event is just around the corner, with the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy due to kick off in September. A number of events and tournaments have taken place over the past few months as the build-up to the main event continues to grow apace.

Development
The summer months in the northern hemisphere traditionally bring an increase in beach soccer activities, and this year has been no exception. A real flurry of events came between May and July, with a total of 12 training courses held across five confederations over this period.

In Asia, courses were held in Lebanon and Iran for coaches and referees respectively, while a combined coaching and refereeing course was held in China. Meanwhile in Africa, the Gambia welcomed Brazilian FIFA instructor Gustavo Zloccowick for a coaching course.

Cayman Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis also held combined courses, while Venezuela benefited from the refereeing expertise of Colombian FIFA instructor Fabian Lopez. Finally, Europe made the most of the early summer months by staging five courses in Belarus (one course for coaches and one for referees), Estonia, Moldova and Malta.

Beach Soccer around the globe
Three stages of the 2011 Euro Beach Soccer League took place between May and June, with Bern, Berlin and Ravenna the host cities. Over the course of these tournaments, Spain, Israel, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland and France all booked their place in the Superfinal that starts in Moscow on 4 August. The final stage took place in The Hague, where Portugal, Poland, the Netherlands, England and Greece competed for the last remaining place at the grand final. Portugal ran out victorious, booking themselves into a group alongside Switzerland and Italy for the Moscow showpiece finale. The Netherlands also clinched the last promotion final spot.

Elsewhere, the African qualification tournament took place in the Moroccan city of Casablanca in June. Nigeria and Senegal both secured places at September’s FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup at the expense, notably, of favourites Côte d’Ivoire.

On Saturday 30 July, before the preliminary draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter attended a charity beach soccer match between Brazil and Japan. Five Japanese children from areas affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami made the journey to watch the game, along with 140 youngsters from deprived neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian greats Zico, Cafu and Ronaldo were just some of the players who took part.

What they said
“The chance to represent our country at home is something really special for us, but also for our fans, as they’ll be able to experience all the excitement and emotion of beach soccer live in their own towns,” Germany player-coach Rene Weiher at the Euro Beach Soccer League tournament in Berlin.

“The coaches in China are keen to learn a new football variant and are visibly motivated to launch beach soccer programmes in their respective regions,” FIFA beach soccer instructor Ross Ongaro.

Up next
August and September are two very important months in terms of competitive beach soccer. The final of the 2011 Euro Beach Soccer League in Moscow and the Beach Soccer Worldwide Mundialito both take place in August, while the main event, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011, runs from 1 to 11 September.

FIFA will also stage a refereeing course in Japan in September as part of the sport’s development cycle.