El Salvador aiming higher
© AFP

A year after El Salvador qualified for their very first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Rudis Gallo's men are once again preparing to step into the limelight for this year's tournament in Dubai. Although last year's qualification was achieved amid nationwide celebrations, El Salvador failed to cause a stir in Marseille when losing all three group games.   

This time around, without the nerves associated with playing in their first global tournament, El Salvador have raised the bar and even harbour hopes of progressing into the knockout stages.

Optimizing resources
However, Los Cuscatlecos are in a difficult group, alongside European champions Spain, African Zone runners-up Côte d'Ivoire and an as-yet-undecided team from Asia. With such quality opposition ahead, Gallo's preparations must be meticulous to ensure that his team arrive in Dubai in peak condition.

A solid and compact unit, the players have been training hard on  home sands but have missed out on vital friendly matches against foreign opposition. Therefore their coach has had to come up with alternative arrangements. "The team remain fully focused on the challenge ahead. Thankfully, we have no injury worries," said Gallo.

"Unfortunately we weren't able to arrange friendly games against Costa Rica or South American opposition, which would have been a great help, but we'll press on and do our best with what we've got."

Gallo knows that one way to compensate for the lack of friendly internationals is to have a settled team. For this reason, all 12 players who competed in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament will be travelling to Dubai.

"It's a process which will come to an end after the World Cup in November. There must be a togetherness within the squad, which is why there will be no changes from the team which played in the qualifiers in Mexico. We're working hard and our unity keeps us motivated."

Recognition and a request
A testament to the team's popularity was the acknowledgement they received from El Salvador's Legislative Assembly. In a ceremony at the Plaza de las Banderas, the players and backroom staff were awarded certificates in recognition of their success.  

"It's a very nice gesture which encourages the boys to keep working hard and to do El Salvador proud at the World Cup," said Gallo at the ceremony. "The assembly members told us how proud they were to have a team like us and that we should be an example for all other sporting disciplines in the country."  

But to give the best account of themselves, the team needs the best possible conditions. With this in mind, the coaching staff have requested that the team arrive in the UAE as early as feasible, since they are currently due to land just four days before their opening game. The request was taken on board and the outlook is promising.

"The coach made a request regarding the trip to Dubai, which we are evaluating, to see if an earlier arrival date can be arranged," said Reinaldo Vazquez, Head of the Normalization Committee which regulates sport in El Salvador.

So with humility and plenty of commitment, the El Salvador beach soccer team push on with their preparations. November's big kick-off is just around the corner, and as always, Los Cuscatlecos are ready to rise to the challenge.