Beach Soccer gets in the festival mood
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The beach soccer world has started 2012 just as it ended 2011: at a frenetic pace. The tournaments and development courses have been coming thick and fast around the globe, with a major women’s beach soccer festival taking place in Uruguay, a beginners’ coaching course in Tahiti and yet more silverware coming the way of the Brazil men’s team.

FIFA.com has the details in its latest round-up of events on planet beach soccer.

Highlights
The year began in Uruguay with a five-day women’s beach soccer festival, the idea for which was hatched during a FIFA PERFORMANCE mission to the country in 2011. Lending its support in the drive to promote the game there, FIFA provided sports equipment and educational material and also sent two of its instructors to lead a course, with Argentinian Hector Petrasso focusing on skills and Uruguayan beach soccer refereeing specialist Cesar Figueredo on the laws of the game.

Attracting participants from schools across the country, the festival featured a beach soccer tournament organised in line with FIFA regulations and contested by 30 teams in three different categories, with more than 60 matches being played.

Beach soccer is a relatively unknown sport in Uruguay, and the staging of this celebration of the game is designed to spread its popularity there and get key stakeholders involved with a view to ensuring it takes root.

Development
The curtain came down on 2011 with a host of activities taking place around the world, among them a beginners’ coaching course in Tahiti, led by Swiss expert Angelo Schirinzi. With a year to go before the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013, and local interest in the game growing, the Tahitian FA is looking to expand its network of beach soccer specialists and set up a major festival featuring FIFA-run training initiatives. Schirinzi later travelled to New Caledonia to lead a similar course.

Held in conjunction with a local beach soccer tournament, a coaching and refereeing course took place at Clearwater Beach, Florida, with a similar course also being held in Uganda in December, the first step in FIFA’s plan to promote the game there.

That was not the only course held in Africa in recent times. In January some 60 local coaches and referees came together in Zimbabwe to kick off a national FA-backed programme designed to create a nationwide network of beach soccer coaches, referees and administrators. Another course for referees and coaches was also organised in South Africa last month.

Beach Soccer across the globe
Tournament-wise, Brazil have been laying their hands on yet more silverware. In December 2011 A Seleçao saw off Paraguay and Ecuador to win gold at the second South American Beach Games. And though the Brazilians were then surprisingly beaten by hosts Nigeria in the inaugural Lagos Cup – a competition that also featured England and South Africa – it was business as usual in January, as they defeated Argentina to land the Copa Mercosur.

Last month’s Euro Beach Soccer Cup Moscow was won by hosts Russia, who beat Portugal in the final, while Switzerland claimed third place at the expense of Italy. There was more home joy at the Beach Soccer Worldwide Cancun Cup 2012, with Mexico coming out on top against El Salvador, Spain and USA.

Finally, the inaugural United Arab Emirates’ national beach soccer league championship kicked off in February. The professionally run 14-team tournament is a clear indication of the great strides the game is making in the region. The national FA is being helped in its unstinting efforts to promote the sport by FIFA, who have been organising coaching and refereeing courses in the country since 2009 and providing equipment such as pitch kits and balls.

What they said
“It’s very exciting for our national FA to see that beach soccer can be played in Zimbabwe despite the fact we don’t have a coastline. We’re hoping to build on these FIFA-organised courses and give other provinces around the country the same opportunities,” Chris Nhapi, Beach Soccer Director at the Zimbabwean Football Association.

“Beach soccer has grown phenomenally fast in Russia. The Russian FA is right behind us and their support is first-class. Without it we wouldn’t have become world champions, and that’s the greatest possible honour for us,” Ilya Leonov, Russia captain.

“2011 hasn’t started too well for us. Some players have been unavailable and we’re starting to blood a new generation who’ve been training especially for beach soccer, which is an important step as far as the future of the national team is concerned. The challenge we face now is to come up with some consistent results in tournaments. These are tough times for us, but we’re working hard with the Spanish FA to come up with solutions,” Joaquin Alonso, Spain’s national team coach.

“I’m very happy with what I’ve seen so far. We’ve been monitoring a few players who’ve been performing at a very good standard and look to have what it takes to join the national team. The final phase in Dubai will be a terrific battle,” Marcelo Mendes, the UAE’s national team coach, gives his view on the newly launched national league.

Coming up
Mauritius is set to host a beach soccer training course for referees and coaches at the start of March, while the Beach Soccer Copa America will be getting under way in the state of Goiania, Brazil at the same time.