If you are a footballer, and you have played the game on the beach, you know how different and fun the game can be on the sand. That is specially the case when the water is warm enough for a swim right after a game!
Beach soccer started as an informal game that friends would play on the beach, mostly while on vacation. But with the growth of the sport, in 1992 the first official rules of beach soccer were created. Since its first historical competitions, beach soccer has grown to be an international game, with the start of the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005.
Each beach soccer team consists of five players, including the goalkeeper. An unlimited amount of substitutions, from a selection of 3 to 5 substitute players, is allowed at any moment of the game, even when the ball is in play. A game lasts 36 minutes, and it is split up into three 12 minute periods. The pitch is considerably smaller than a regular one (about the size of a futsal field), and it should be composed of sand without any other objects which could injure a player. The game runs on a fast pace, with an average of over ten goals scored per game as players are able to score anywhere on the field. This makes for a fast pace game, with lots of action.
We had the chance to discuss beach soccer with Yuri Morales, who played for the United States national beach soccer team at the highest level. Yuri can be seen throwing bicycle kicks at virtually every Beach Soccer Tournament in the Bay, and he works with America SCORES Bay Area to inspire urban youth to lead healthy lives, be engaged students, and have the confidence and character to make a difference in the world. He helps put together an Annual Beach Soccer Blast Tournament in San Francisco every summer, with proceeds going to America Scores.
Senda: How did you get involved with Beach Soccer?
Yuri:I grew up in Santa Cruz, so there was a beach going culture there. When I was playing with the Portland Timbers(USL division 1, before there was MLS) in 2006, my friend Ronny Silva was a member of the beach soccer team at that time and he was looking for players for beach soccer. There was a core group of players from Santa Cruz that were forming a core of the beach soccer national team based in training in Santa Cruz. So he asked me if I wanted to try playing beach soccer, and I did.
Senda: What aspects of “regular” soccer does Beach Soccer emphasize the most?
Yuri: There are tactics similar to grass soccer, but at the same time different because the field is so much smaller and fewer players. In terms of defensive tactics in some ways they are more similar to futsal than grass soccer in many ways. attacking wise you have to have very good technique to be successful, just like grass soccer. For beach soccer you have to be more focused on the technical because the ball is usually and ideally in the air, so you have to adjust your body in the sand. So you have to have very good techniques
Senda: What was your most memorable Beach Soccer moment?”
Yuri: The second time we qualified for the world cup in 2007, in Mexico. We beat Uruguay in an exhibition championship match. There was an arrangement that the champion of North America and the champion of South America would play against each other in an exhibition match. Uruguay earned second place in the previous world cup and they were a very strong team. We beat them in the last minute of the game. I remember because we won 4-3, and I scored the goal to make the game even at 3-3 as a substitute at that time. That was a really memorable moment for me.”
Senda – What did it feel to have the opportunity to represent your country in the World Cup?
Yuri: It feels great. I’d say that it’s a great honor, and I am very appreciative of the US Soccer Federal for sponsoring the team. They supported the team from the very beginning even when this beach soccer didn’t make much money. For them to stick with us I feel very supported by them. ”
Senda – “What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to start playing Beach Soccer?
Yuri:Stick with it. Don’t give up. It’s like golf and snowboarding that the first few times you do it it’s going to be miserable. After that when you start getting the hang of it, getting your balance, and moving better on the sand it becomes more and more fun.”
Senda: What characteristics do you look for in a Beach Soccer ball?
Yuri: I like it to have a layer of foam so that when you kick it it doesn’t slap against your skin against your foot. When it has that layer of padding it can protect from that. Also the weight has to be just right. If it’s too light the ball would just fly away in the wind. If it’s too heavy it can hurt your foot. I think you guys did a great job with the Senda beach soccer ball. It could have a little bit more padding, but I think its a great ball.
Senda: Any fun Beach Soccer stories while playing the game?
Yuri:In 2006 in the qualifying tournament, it was my first trip with the national team. It was in the winter and it was in the Costa Rican rain forest. It rained all the time there. They built a little stadium and brought in sand, but they weren’t allowed to bring in real sand, so they brought in dirt. When it rained the dirt turned into mud, so we played the first couple games in just deep mud. It was my first beach soccer experience, and I did really well because I was used to playing in mud because in Santa Cruz in high school when it rained the grass field we played on was covered with mud. I did really well the first couple games, but it just kept raining, so the tournament was forced to move to a beach town in order to continue.”
Another story, I got to have granola next to Eric Cantona, coach for the French National Team, in 2006! I was having breakfast in the morning and I looked over and there he was. We greeted each other and continued to have breakfast. I was a little star struck at that time.
Thanks to Yuri for taking the time to talk to us about beach soccer!