Walking in soft sand is tiring; running in sand is positively exhausting. Playing soccer in sand is fun for about 10 minutes until your legs are burning and you’re drenched in sweat and you need to go dunk yourself in the ocean before you suffer a heat stroke. Watching beach soccer, though, is fantastic—and if you’re interested, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup started today in the Bahamas.
The beach soccer pitch is smaller, and because the game is played on sand the pace is a bit slower than regular soccer, but the skills and endurance needed are the same. Here’s Everton winger Yannick Bolasie, who is a spectator at the Nassau event, marveling at the strength of beach soccer players.
The games are five on five, with unlimited substitutions and three 12-minute periods. There are no draws, no offsides, and direct free kicks only. In the opener, Iran beat Mexico 3-2. Senegal destroyed Ecuador 9-0 in the second game of the day.
According to FIFA, beach soccer has existed officially as a global sport since 1992, and the next year, the first professional beach soccer tournament was held in Miami Beach. In 2005, FIFA absorbed beach soccer and the tournament became the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The tournament in its current form consists of 16 teams and is held every two years.
Here are some sandy golazos from the 2015 tournament:
Group play continues tonight with the home team taking on Switzerland and Nigeria playing Italy. Tomorrow, the defending champions Portugal play Panama, and powerhouse Brazil, who have won four tournaments since 2005, take on Tahiti. You can watch on Fox Sports and Telemundo.