Walking in soft sand is wearying; running in sand is positively tiring; playing football on sand is physically shattering. Yet, that is what beach football is, precisely that. Although at first glance, it may appear to be a fun game played in exotic locations, unlike football and futsal, beach football is much slower, placing emphasis on technical play and high stamina.
A brief history of beach football
Brazil, having a strong beach culture and obsession with football, began taking the beautiful game beyond the football pitch and onto the beach. Improvising the style of play where an emphasis is placed on skill and stamina as opposed to pace and team play - led to a sport developing with a lot of dribbling, flair passing and goals.
Beach football rules were founded to promote the role of the individual and not the team, whilst stressing fair play amongst all. Initially conceived as an appreciated spectator sport, it quickly generated revenue from businesses looking to advertise to a new market audience.
Beach football went on to spread across the world, even where there is a lack of sand and sun-kissed nations. The sport is played today by both women and men alike, with a growing following amongst children and young adults.
Rules of beach football
Beach football, also known as beach soccer has vastly different rules to football and futsal, primarily because the game is more physically demanding, technical standard, played on a smaller pitch and its emphasis on winning.
Dejan Stankovic (SUI) against Mario Alava (ECU)
Three twelve-minute 'halves'Beach football matches are not like football; instead, they have three periods lasting twelve minutes each, all separated by three-minute breaks.
Unlike football, where the clock continues whenever there is an infringement or goal scored, the clock stops in beach football. This is to avoid time wasting and ensuring spectators obtain a full game as they had paid for.
Unlimited substitutionsIn football, each opposing side has five players on the pitch at one time - four outfield players and one goalkeeper. Teams are permitted seven, and these are unlimited, and intriguingly can take place whilst play is ongoing, as long as they are done within a designated area.
Unlimited substitutions are critical for teams as they can use it to replace tired players or make tactical changes as much as they like to influence the outcome of the game's result.
Direct free-kicks onlyNo walls are allowed in free kicks, where the ball is set at where the infringement occurred. The player who was fouled, unless injured, must take the free kick, and has four seconds to do so after the referee has blown their whistle. Failure to do so will result in the opposition being awarded a direct free kick.
Only penalties are taken within the penalty box. With penalties and no-wall direct free kicks, scoring goals in beach football highly likely; thrilling spectators alike.
Switzerland's Noel Ott (L) and Russia's Kirill Romanov struggle for the ball in their 2017 Euro Beach Soccer League
Players who are sent off, either through collecting two yellow cards or a direct red one, can be replaced by a substitute after a two-minute penalty, keeping five players on the pitch. Replacements can join the pitch before those two minutes are up if the opposition scores with having an extra player on the pitch.
Playing beach football
Beach football has a unique style of play that differs from futsal and football.
Unlike football or several other sports, beach football matches must either be won or lost by teams. A draw is not permitted.
Should the scores be level at the end of the three periods of play, then extra time is played, lasting three minutes. Should a team win, then they are awarded two points (in competition group stages) as opposed to a typical three points for a win.
Brazil's defender Bruno Xavier celebrates after scoring a goal during the Beach Soccer Mundialito 2017 match between Portugal and Brazil
If the extra time does not produce a winner, then a penalty shootout is played. Unlike football, there is no minimum of five penalties to be taken - only three are taken, and sudden death is from the beginning.
Although not permitted in football, yet likewise to futsal, goals cannot be scored immediately from kick-off, and there is no offside rule. Throw-ins can also be taken with feet as long as players hands.
Goalkeepers like other outfield players, have four seconds to get the ball into play. They are permitted to use their hands within their own penalty area, are allowed to dribble the ball out with their feet if required. Goalkeepers are prohibited from scoring from a direct kick out of their goal or volleying the ball. Doing so will award a direct free-kick to the opposition. Outfield players are not permitted to pass the ball back to the goalkeeper unless an opponent as touched it first - again, to stop time wasting in the game.
Switzerland's goalkeeper Marco Allenbach makes a save in their 2017 Euro Beach Soccer League
FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup
The beach soccer (football) world cup is held every two years and is the pinnacle for beach footballers, with games providing high-scoring results that spread the sport globally. Although tournaments existed since 1995, it is since 2005 that FIFA has governed the sport.
The Beach Soccer World Cup is renowned for providing ‘lesser’ football nations to stake their names on the football map, as in 2017, when the tournament was set in the Bahamas and Tahiti lost to Brazil in the final, with Iran finishing third.
Beach Soccer World Cup, Switzerland - Ecuador. Noel Ott (SUI) against Mario Alava (ECU)
At first glance, beach football may appear similar to futsal and football, its rules and style of play is vastly different. If you prefer exotic locations and slower-paced game and skilled former footballers playing the game, then beach football is for you. With this geek’s guide to beach football, you should have enough to get started watching and betting on your first match.
Words: David Bailey-Lauring