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.
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.
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!
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.
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