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Beach Football: Rules, History, and Russia’s Latest Victory

Beach Soccer, also known as beach football, sand football or beasal, is a type of football played on sand. While this much is painfully obvious from the sport’s name, other differences from ‘normal’ football are less commonly known.

Played on a smaller pitch with smaller goals, beach soccer features only five players on each team instead of eleven. The pitch is a little less than half the size of a standard football pitch, with beach football pitches having dimensions between 35-37m long and 26-28m wide, compared to the 90-120m length and 45-90m length of football pitches.

A game of beach football is also shorter, consisting of three periods lasting 12 minutes each. There are three-minute breaks between the first and second periods and the second and third periods. Another key difference here is that the clock is stopped when the ball is not in play. Other regulatory differences include the lack of footwear, the lack of the offside rule, and a ball inflated to lower pressure.

Freekicks don’t allow for walls and as long as the throw-in is taken within four seconds, it can be taken with feet in addition to being actually thrown in by the player’s hands.

With respect to gameplay and tactics, beach football is a much faster game. As a playing surface, sand does not facilitate dribbling, making the sport more aerial and reducing the number of passes. This translates into the increased need to think on one’s feet, so to speak.

The execution and set-up of goals happen quickly, and the average beach football match will see more goals than an average football match.

While beach football has been played for decades, its rules were formally established in 1992 by the founding partners of Beach Soccer Worldwide. Beach football joined FIFA in 2004, post which the first-ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup was hosted in Rio De Janeiro in 2005.

The hosts were fan favourites, and though they were expected to win, the finals were a battle between France and Portugal. The French, led by Eric Cantona, were the first winners of the tournament which was held annually until 2009, post which it has been held once every two years.

The ninth edition of the tournament was hosted by Russia this year, from the 19th to the 29th of August. The hosts, represented by the RFU, won the tournament for the third time, beating Japan 5-2 in the finals, highlights of which can be found here. Portugal, the defending champions, were knocked out in the group stages.

Highlights of the playoff for third place can be found here, and this game had the most goals in the whole tournament, with Switzerland beating Senegal 9-7. Glenn Hodel, a Swiss player, was the top scorer of the tournament, with twelve goals. In contrast, Harry Kane, the top scorer at the World Cup in Russia in 2018, scored half that number.

The number of goals in this match and the difference in the number of goals required to secure a Golden Boot are good markers of the increased number of goals observed in Beach Football. The ninth edition of the tournament was also the highest-scoring Beach Soccer World Cup in history.

While there exist European tournaments for women, such as the Women’s Euro Beach Soccer Cup, there is no World Cup for women. It may be interesting to see whether the organisations pursuing the development of the sport take the unique opportunity to develop the sport for both men and women from a similar level at the same time or whether they choose to take the ‘conventional’ route of focussing only on men’s beach football.

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