March 30, 2005
With a festival atmosphere expected this weekend, the latest variation of the world’s most popular sport will take center stage at Tempe Town Lake.
The first beach soccer tournament to take place in the Valley is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday along the north side of the lake, with the Tempe Music Festival on the opposite bank.
While the music blares, the sand will fly in a tournament that introduces a growing variation of the sport everybody outside of the United States refers to as "futbol."
"It’s going to be a lot of fun," said organizer Manny Arias, a native of El Salvador who played soccer professionally and now coaches club soccer in the Valley. "It will be a good time and introduce this very popular sport."
A quick tutorial on beach soccer:
Begun informally on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and developed in southern California and south Florida, beach soccer might remind some people of indoor soccer. Actually, it most resembles the indoor offshoot called "futsal." That’s indoor soccer without side boards.
Beach soccer is played on sand in an area 40 yards by 30 yards with five players per side, including a goalkeeper.
The official rules call for three 12-minute periods but organizers of this weekend’s tournament will play two 20-minute halves. The players must be barefoot — taped ankles are allowed — and can be substituted freely. In fact, the substitution pattern can mimic hockey.
When the ball goes out of bounds, players can kick or throw the ball back in play, unlike regular soccer. There are "goal boxes" — keepers can handle the ball anywhere on the field up to 9 yards out from their goal.
Obviously, being on sand, there is a premium on possession and getting good shots on goal, which is about 18 feet wide and 7 feet high.
"It’s all about ball control," said co-organizer Jorge Kimzin, a native of Mexico City who also played professionally in his home country. "You have to pick it up to pass and to shoot. You have to get lift off the ground. You have to work twice as hard because it is sand."
Luckily for the organizers, Tempe was planning to bring in sand to create beach volleyball pits along the north bank of the lake as plans develop for increased use of Town Lake amenities. Some 2,000 tons of sand is being laid this week for the tournament and future volleyball use, said Travis Dray, community and special events coordinator for the city. The city already plans to host professional beach volleyball stops with the newly installed sand.
Arias and Kimzin have invited men’s, women’s and co-ed teams from across the Valley to participate in this weekend’s tourney and have room for 48 sides to play on the four fields. Of course, soccer still has only a small, loyal following in this country, so Arias and Kimzin concentrated on the Hispanic community — where soccer has more of a stronghold — for their first outing. But they have hopes of seeing the game take off so there can be other tournaments during the year. Plans are on the board for a youth tournament in October.
Soccer’s governing body, FIFA (Federation Internationale of Football Association), has finally embraced beach soccer, which has been played with established rules for a decade. It has further fine-tuned the rules and will sanction a beach soccer World Cup in May in Brazil. Not surprisingly, the Brazilians are generally considered to be the best beach soccer players in the world — even getting a few converts from the regular game.
Beach soccer tournament
Who: Men, women and co-ed soccer teams
Where: Tempe Town Lake, north
bank When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday Admission: Free