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Articles: Beach soccer

Beach soccer

Beach Soccer or Beach Football is, as the name suggests, a form of association football that is played by two teams of five players on a beach or any surface made entirely of sand. The game has its own set of rules but the basic principle of scoring a goal by using any part of the body except the hands or arms, is the same as the game it derives from. Beach football requires a high level of ball control and accurate shooting ability.

The unpredictable nature of the sandy surface and the reduced size of the playing area, result in a completely different style of game to regular football. Beach Soccer games are generally high scoring and feature a large number of goal attempts.

The origins of Beach Soccer (also known as Beasal) can be traced back to the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the game was played recreationally for many years before an official code was introduced. By 1992, the rules of the game had been established by the original founders of the Beach Soccer Worldwide organisation (BSWW), and by 1993 the first official competition had been launched in Miami, USA.

The game has grown into a popular worldwide sport and the top competitions have been broadcast to more than 170 countries. Many ex-players from the world of professional association football have helped to raise the profile of the sport through participation and marketing activities.

A beach soccer match

The game of beach soccer involves two teams, each consisting of five players with up to seven additional players on the reserves bench - five of which can be used as substitutes. Each team can make unlimited substitutions during the match but cannot have more than five players on the field at once. One of the five players must play as a goalkeeper and is the only player allowed to use their hands during open play. Outfield players may only use their hands to take a throw-in after the ball has gone out of play.

The other four players can move freely around the pitch and can pass the ball to each other or attempt to shoot at the opposition’s goal. The object of the game is to score more goals than the other team.

Beach Soccer is played outdoors on a rectangular pitch composed of sand. The surface is sifted before a competition to remove any hard objects such as pebbles and shells that could potentially injure a player. The playing area is much smaller than a regular soccer pitch with a standard measurement of between 35–37 metres long and 26–28 metres wide.

Two sections of the pitch - within nine metres of each goal-line – form the penalty areas and are marked by two yellow flags placed on the touch line at either end of an imaginary penalty line. The rectangular goals are also smaller than those used in standard association football with a standard height of 2.2 metres and width of 5.5 metres.

The ball used for beach soccer is lighter than a standard football and should be between 400-440 g in weight with a circumference of 68-70 cm. This helps the players to pass and control the ball more accurately in the air. Due to the uneven surface, passes along the ground are much rarer in beach soccer. Players are not permitted to wear any type of footwear during the game although ankle guards are permitted.

How a beach soccer match begins

A pre-match coin toss is held after which the winner can choose whether to kick-off or play in a certain direction during the first period. During the second period of play, the direction of play is reversed and the other team kicks off. In the third and final period of play, another coin toss is held to decide the team that kicks off and the direction of play. The opponents must remain 5 metres away from the ball until the kick-off has been taken.

The match is officiated by two on-pitch referees, one of whom has the final say in all decisions; and a third referee, who remains pitch-side and carries out various tasks including overseeing substitutions and keeping a record of cautions. A separate time keeper also remains pitch-side and is responsible for ensuring that the correct duration of all activities is adhered to.

The main rules of the game

A beach soccer match is played over three equal periods of 12 minutes during which the teams must attempt to score more goals than their opponents. There is a three minute interval between each period of play.

The players must attempt to retain possession and create scoring opportunities by passing the ball to their teammates. The opposition can steal possession by intercepting the ball or by tackling an opponent without committing a foul.

A goal is scored anytime that the ball fully enters the goal area without any infringement being committed. The players can try to score from anywhere on the pitch but cannot score directly from a kick-off. If the scores are still level after 36 minutes an extra three minutes of time is added to play. If there is still no winner after extra time, a penalty shootout is held on a sudden death basis.

Substitutions are unlimited and up to five players may be used as replacements during the game. This means that players may be substituted and return to the field many times during a match. Substitutions can be made at any time - even while the ball is in play – providing they are authorised by a match official. A player must hold up a card with the number of the player they are replacing, and then pass the card to that player as they leave the pitch. Once the substituted player has taken the card and crossed the touchline, the replacement can join the game.

Just like in regular football, yellow and red cards can be issued for acts of foul play. However, the consequences of receiving a card differ from the traditional format. Any player that receives a yellow card must leave the pitch for two minutes and cannot be replaced or return during this time. Any player that receives a red card must leave the pitch permanently but can be replaced by a substitute after two minutes.

A free-kick is awarded if the referee decides that a foul has been committed. If the offence takes place within nine metres of the goal line, a penalty is awarded. The player that was fouled must always take the kick unless they are unable to due to a serious injury.

Strategy and tactics when playing Beach Soccer

Due to the unpredictable nature of the sandy surface, most teams prefer to pass the ball high in the air when playing beach soccer. It is common for a player to dig their foot into the sand under the ball in order to lift the ball into the air. By doing this they can pass the ball directly to a teammate in one movement, or they can lift the ball in the air and then volley it to a colleague.

If a player makes a low pass they will try to lift the ball slightly off the ground to prevent any unwanted interference from the uneven surface. The ball is often moved very quickly from one end of the pitch to the other and many attempts on goal can be made during a game. A team with good shooting ability can soon build a comprehensive lead and dominate a game.

Competing in Beach soccer

Since the early days of beach soccer, the sport has grown to such a high level that there is now talk of inclusion at the Olympic Games. A combination of high profile sponsors and recognition from major footballing bodies such as FIFA and UEFA have allowed teams to operate at a professional level in leagues throughout the world.

In 2005, FIFA took over the organisation of the annual Beach Soccer World Cup and in 2009, they changed the event to a bi-annual format to allow the growth of other competitions within the sport. The competition follows a group format in the early rounds and then progresses to a series of knockout games.

An invitation only Intercontinental Cup has been held in Dubai each year since 2011 and the annual Mundialito international tournament, organised by the BSWW, has now been running for more than 20 years. As well as these high profile tournaments, there is a Pro Tour organised by BSWW and all the FIFA confederations have their own beach soccer events.

Betting on beach soccer

The number of beach soccer tour events is increasing all the time but the sport remains relatively small in terms of betting activity. Most bookmakers now offer markets on the higher profile tournaments such as the World Cup but betting on smaller events can be more difficult.

The most common beach soccer bet is to predict the overall winner of the game (Outright Winner). Although the matches can be settled by extra time or penalties, most bookies will count the result after the regulation 36 minutes of play, so the draw is also available.

In major tournaments, top goal scorer markets are also available and punters that follow the sport can do well in this area.