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Pro-am Beach Soccer Santa Cruz

This past weekend marked the 10th annual Santa Cruz Beach Soccer Open presented by Senda Athletics. We set up our tent by the check-in and results booths and marked out the area for our juggling competition.  The juggling competition produced some great scores despite most players struggling to juggle barefoot in the sand. Even those players who said they are capable of successfully completing as many as 1000 juggles on grass with cleats found it difficult to reach a century of juggles in the sand. The record-holder using the mini-ball completed 156 juggles, the Size 5 champion reached 300 juggles, and someone managed to keep the giant 3 foot ball in the air for 17 touches!!

This year’s tournament included over 170 teams, topping last year’s total thanks in large part due to the addition of the micro division for six and seven year-olds. There were many champions from last year that returned to defend their titles and countless teams new to the competition that were looking for their first taste of victory!

Thanks to all of those who came out to the Pro-am this year. And to those who missed out, don’t worry because there’s always next year! Our next Beach Soccer Pro-am promises to be another great day of soccer, friends, and fun. Join us!

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Futbol + Volleyball: Futevôlei, A Brazilian Passion

Futevôlei is a blend of soccer and volleyball and (according to legend) was invented in Rio de Janeiro. In lieu of using your hands or arms like in volleyball, the players’ chest and head are turned into the primary surfaces of play. Futevôlei is a 2 vs 2 game played on a regulation sized volleyball space. Most public courts in Rio de Janeiro are in the sand along the beach. All of the courts in Rio come with picturesque backdrops worthy of sitting back and relaxing to take in the view. But if the vistas aren’t enough for you, don’t worry, because you will be amazed by the grace and skill of the futevôlei jogadores.

IMG_2001-2Futevôlei is played up to 18 points. The serve switches sides after one team has made 6 serves; sides rotate after both teams have completed their set of services. Got it?  It is like volleyball…well kind of, but not really. Futevôlei is the pinnacle of soccer-related sports. You need to have impeccable control of the ball with your feet, thighs, shoulders, head, and most importantly, your chest! Much in the same way a volleyball player “sets” the ball with their hands, futevôlei jogadores can do the same with millimeter precision using their chests, heads, thighs, shoulders, and even a foot stretched behind their back.

IMG_1892-2Futevôlei is not a game where you can expect instant success. It’s extremely difficult. Even if you have played soccer your entire life and can juggle a ball 100 times with ease, futevôlei is still a game with game-specific techniques and skills that need to be honed over months or years. I hope that I am not deterring you from playing; I’m just giving you some words of warning so that you’re not too hard on yourself when you start training.  The first thing that is strange for 11 vs 11 soccer players is the way in which one uses their chest. Usually, a soccer player is taught to trap the ball with their chest. Coaches have probably taught you how to bring a ball under control by concaving your chest to cushion the ball and place it in front of your feet on the ground. Futevôlei demands the complete opposite. You need to be able to bend at the knees, lean back and pop out your chest in a manner that accurately propels the ball to your teammate. It will take your brain a little while to rewire your instincts and then a whole lot longer to perfect the timing, force, and accuracy of the pass. Practice till your chest turns the glowing red color of a Brazilian sunset.

Using your head is a lot easier to adapt to as you just need to head the ball upwards instead of downwards.  However, the foot pass is a little different from the technique you learned in soccer. The best control is with the inside of your foot, but not your instep.  Have you seen hacky-sackers? Well that is the technique you want to emulate. You lean back a little, and in a smooth upward motion, stroke through the middle of the ball. The thigh is pretty easy to adapt to also. Some players throw their foot out instead of tucking it under them.  You are basically smoothly swinging through the ball and trying to loft it to your teammate with accuracy to their chest or head.  The gameplay is identical to volleyball with 3 touches, alternating between players before the ball is returned. It is similar to bump-set-spike in volleyball. However there is no stigma attached to returning the ball on the first or second touch if you find your opponent poorly positioned. Players cannot touch the ball more than once, without the ball touching another player.  The net does not reset your touch and unlike volleyball or tennis, if the ball touches the net on the serve it is still in play!  Serves are done with as little spin as possible so that the wind can more effectively mess with the ball’s flightpath. Perhaps counterintuitively, spinning the ball on the serve actually makes it easier for your opponent to predict its path.

IMG_1893Well, there you have it. Now you know the basics of futevôlei. Next time you are in Copacabana, Ipanema, Botofogo, or Flamengo, cruise down to the water on a beautiful day and keep an eye out for the old men wearing speedos (sungas). They will be dark as leather and rippling with muscle from years of playing on the sunny beaches of Brazil. Take some time to watch, get a feel for the game, and learn from the masters. Then, when you’re feeling ready, go out there and join in on this classic of Brazilian sport culture.

Brazil World Cup 2014: A Senda Ambassador’s Life in Rio de Janeiro, Part 2

Casey Grady is one of our Senda ambassadors who is currently living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is passionate about football and tries to play pickup games whenever he has free time. Casey is investigating Brazil’s street football culture and reporting back to us on his impressions.

Copacabana Futevôlei

If you’re in Brazil this summer for the World Cup, there is a good chance you will be watching or playing football every waking moment. Even though football is the greatest thing to ever exist in the history of humanity, perhaps you will want slightly different activities from time to time (gasp!). So if you find yourself feeling a little bit of footy overload, I have just the cure – footvolley!

Footvolley, futevôley in Portuguese, was invented right here in Rio at Copacabana Beach.  It is a pretty big deal here in Rio and there are even professional teams and leagues that follow international regulations.  I won’t bore you with details about the rules. All you really need to know is that footvolley is essentially beach volleyball, except that players are not allowed to use their hands and a football is used instead of a volleyball.

Nets for footvolley are set up at each end of the Copacabana beach. Some near posto 1 in Leme and others between posto 5/6, opposite Leme, and almost to Ipanema). Copacabana has a posto about every half kilometer, which are important landmarks with lifeguard stations and pay bathrooms.

After watching footvolley for even a couple minutes, you will probably decide not to join in with these guys. Their skill is astounding, their shorts ludicrously small, their tans glorious, and their bodies artfully sculpted to attract beautiful women. They are so good with their feet that you may start to believe that playing volleyball with your hands is strictly for amateurs.

Futebol

Before jumping in on a footvolley game, I suggest honing your skills with friends. I think I will continue to practice on my own before I try my hand at playing a game with the locals. Unless you can use your chest to collect and rebound volleyballs with startling precision, you may be a little out of your depth at first.

I have also seen a lot of footvolley on the beach in Flamengo, where somehow the players’ shorts (tungas) are even smaller.

Beach soccer pickup (Futebol na praia)

When the sun drops, Copacabana comes alive with people exercising and playing futebol.  Go somewhere with a nice view to watch the sunset, then head out to play footy.  Being the birthplace of beach soccer, Copacabana has an amazing footballing infrastructure consisting of dozens of illuminated goal posts for volleyball and footvolley.  But be sure to bring your own nets!

Senda Fair Trade Soccer Balls Brazil World Cup 2014

At Copacabana you will certainly find the perfect type of playing field to match your specific soccer needs. The beach is lined with small, medium, and large nets, and even various sized pitches. The beach is wide and has plenty of space for futebol. The best locations have huge nets behind the goals and are usually dominated by organized teams at peak hours.  Watching these young men for even a few moments, you will quickly realize how skills they are. They make juggling and possessing the ball in the air seem effortless. They are true artists and the ball is their medium of expression. While you may be confident in your ability to juggle the ball on solid ground, the circumstances change dramatically when you must retain possession while mired in sand with a pack of footballers trying desperately to rob you of the ball.

If you can only juggle 2 times and have only one juggling trick, do not fear, for there are still pickup opportunities for you.  One fantastic thing about Brazil is that finding a game is easy because nearly every Brazilian man, woman, and child plays.  Most people are very relaxed and will be more than happy to have you join in. All you have to do is go to the beach in the evening and look for a group of people hanging out juggling or playing small games. Usually around 7:00-8:00 in the evening, a group will gather around posto 2, which is where I live. They start juggling, warming up, and then start a small game of 2v2.  These games are fast-paced and exciting and sometimes draw an audience. Inevitably, as the intensity builds, more players arrive and a game of 5v5 or 7v7 will begin. That’s the way things work in Brazil.  Here, a small game of keep away can transform into a full-fledged pickup game in a flash.

Pickup Futebol Basics:

- Everyone plays goalie eventually, with a typical rotation system in place. Once scored on, you rotate out of goal. If you are absolutely exhausted from running in the sand, no one will tease you if you wish to take a breather and rotate to keeper.

- Games usually last two or three goals. When the game finishes, the team currently sitting rotates in for the recently vanquished team.

- If you are knackered, you can easily have someone sub in for you.  There is always someone who wants to play.

- Games usually go on for 1 to 1.5 hours.  When everyone is panting and struggling for air, a group of fresh players will rotate in.

Best strategy to play?

The best way to play beach soccer in Rio is just to go out there with no fear. In the evening, grab a beach soccer ball, head to the beach, identify a group of players, and simply tell them that you want to play.

In the rare occasion that you do not see people already playing, walk the length of the beach until you do, or just start juggling and warming up near an empty pitch. This will signal to others that you want to play. Eventually a game will form, or at the very least, some kids will approach you to kick the ball around. The amazing thing about Brazilians is that they are really friendly and welcoming to strangers.  If you see a Brazilian without a smile on their face, perhaps their pet goldfish just died or they recently stubbed their toe. I have never been denied access to a game, but I look like Michael Bradley and Zidane had a child – a big, bald baby!  Teams have even let me practice with them because I was gutsy enough to ask. I wouldn’t recommend trying this unless you are very confident in your skills and the coach seems laid-back.

Senda Fair Trade Soccer Balls Rio World Cup Brazil

Well, there you have it. That’s my take on playing futebol and futevolley on Copacabana beach. Although I outlined a rather complicated set of guidelines for getting in on the action, remember that nothing is better than simply heading out to the beach with nothing but a ball and your love for the game.

O Brasil é lindo maravilhoso, Brazil is magnificent!

Story from Casey Grady

Spotlight of Soccer series: Beach Soccer

Yuri Beach Soccer Shot

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.

photo (1)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.

Yuri also played previously with the Danish professional football club Viborg F, the Portland Timbers right before they joined MLS.

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. ”

Yuri FIFA Photo

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!