We preview the Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup taking place in the city
Dubai is once again set to host a deluge of sporting stars as international teams descend on the city for the Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup. Taking place at the Dubai International Marine Club from Thursday November 19 to Saturday November 23, it will not only feature fast-paced action, but a weekend of family-friendly entertainment and activities as the event looks to put on the best day out in town. Better still, entry to the tournament is free for everyone.
What exactly is beach soccer? Originating from Brazil, beach soccer had been played casually for decades before Beach Soccer Worldwide established a set of rules for the game in 1992. By 1996, the sport had taken off around the world, and the first Pro Beach Soccer Tour was held, with 60 games across Europe, Asia and the USA. The sport’s popularity in Europe led to the creation of the Euro Beach Soccer League in 1998, and in May 2005 the first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup was held on Copacobana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Featuring traditional football moves adapted to the sand, the organisers describe the sport as being full of aerial plays and goals, with lots of improvised moves and flair from the players. At 28x37 metres, the pitch is small, meaning players can shoot from anywhere, putting goalkeepers to the test.
Who are the teams? Eight teams compete in the Dubai event, including two-time FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Champions Russia, the original kings of the sport Brazil, Mexico, Switzerland and the UAE. Newcomers are Morocco, who according to the organisers have seen significant growth in recent years, Italy and Iran, who made it into the quarter finals of the last FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, held in Tahiti. The UAE, Morocco, Switzerland and Mexico make up group A, while Russia, Brazil, Iran and Italy form group B – the best two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals.
Which players are the ones to watch? Ilya Leonov (Russia) Best player of the last European League and adidas Golden Ball at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011, the Russian is described as ‘the soul’ of the World Champions, an extension of coach Mikhail Likhachev on the sand, and the player every coach dreams of.
Bruno Xavier (Brazil) Xavier won the Adidas Golden Ball award in the last FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, crowning him the world’s best player for 2013. Quick on the sand, an excellent defender and attacker with an impressive capacity for firing the ball home from any point on the beach, he’s an entertaining player to watch.
Adel Ali Rahu Ranjbar (UAE) The UAE’s magic comes mainly from this player’s feet. With brilliant technique and lots of fighting spirit, he sets the beat in the Marcelo Mendes-steered side. The team’s chance of success hinges on him.
Dejan Stankovic (Switzerland) The Swiss bomber is always ready to punish the nets – his left foot canon and nose for a goal make him a constant menace to all defenders and goalkeepers. He was the best player and top scorer in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2009, held right here in Dubai. Free. November 19-23. Dubai International Marine Club, Dubai Marina, www.beachsoccer.com.