BAREFOOT: The Beach Soccer Mag - Issue 15

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BAREFOOT EDITION 15TH / DECEMBER 2021

”THE LADS” BRING IT HOME RUSSIA SHINE TO CLAIM AN UNFORGETTABLE FIFA BEACH SOCCER WORLD CUP ON HOME SOIL BEACH SOCCER STARS SPECIAL · PORTUGAL CLINCH YET ANOTHER EBSL TITLE KRISTALL AND MADRID CFF REIGN IN EUROPE · THE MAN BEHIND HE SAEED HAREB




CONTENTS · BAREFOOT

020

Reviews

Inside Beach Soccer

020 FIFA BEACH SOCCER WORLD CUP We could be talking and reading about what has been named “the best FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup ever” for days... But we have tried to summarize it in just some pages...

066 HE SAEED HAREB Read the story behind one of the most instrumental persons in the development of Dubai as a premier sports destination.

036 BEACH SOCCER STARS Everything you need to know about that very special Dubai night in which we honour the best... 072 WOMEN’S INTERCONTINENTAL CUP Read about how women’s beach soccer made another huge step, with the first edition of a key event that is here to stay. 04 I BEACHSOCCER.COM

084 THE GENIUS IN THE BOTTLES The road to Nazaré was not an easy one for the Netherlands Women’s Beach Soccer Team. But when you want something badly enogh, you turn problems into challenges. 096 THANK YOU, LEGENDS Some iconic players ended their international careers this 2021. This was their way of saying goodbye”...


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· CONTENTS

In this issue... 036

072

Interviews

Features

048 OZU MOREIRA The Best Player of the Year takes us on a journey in which he explains everything about his first years in the sport, his arrival in Japan, his expectations, his feelings after reaching the top, and many other things.

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054 MOLLY CLARK We talked to the newly crowned Women’s Best Player of the Year, who explained us everything it took her to reach the amazing level that has got her chosen, by her opponents on the sand, the best in the game, as well as how her world spins around beach soccer now.

018 STATS WARS 028 IN NUMBERS 110 DESTINATION 112 #IAMBEACHSOCCER 114 COMING UP BEACHSOCCER.COM I 05


KICKING OFF · BAREFOOT

D

ear friends,

As we close a thrilling and challenging 2021, it is inevitable to reflect on what we have achieved. It has been a time of fighting against the elements (namely, a pandemic) to do what we love most. It has been a time to see how we have kept together, fighting to bring our passion back to the beach. Only through hard work, both from the training pitches, our homes and our offices, we have been able to get to this 2021 ready to kickoff again. We knew it was only a matter of time. This is why it has been key not to lose our hope, not to lose our focus, and not to forget why we do what we do. Although the fight against this pandemic is not over (and does not seem it will any time soon, unfortunately), we have demonstrated we are ready to stick together for what we love. In these difficult conditions, we managed to host 25 events all around the world during this 2021, including new ventures like the Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League and the first-ever Euro Beach Soccer League in Moldova. We visited our more traditional homes, and got the chance to enjoy an unforgettable FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. This 15th issue of BAREFOOT: The Beach Soccer Mag is also thought as a particular celebration of all that, a flight over this unforgettable season. Through these pages, we will try to bring you back to those moments that have made us feel so proud of who we are, of how united we are, and how many things we can achieve together. Also, we have tried to show you some backstage stories and exclusive interviews that showcase how special beach soccer people are. We really hope to make this Christmas time a lot more fun with this new issue of our magazine, your magazine. We hope you enjoy it! Thank you for everything you do. Merry Christmas and a Happy Beach Soccer 2022 to all!! Let’s enjoy it together!

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Iñaki Uribarri

GABINO RENALES BSWW Vice-President

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Matthew Mills DESIGN DIRECTOR Laura Cuscó ART DIRECTOR Adrian Velado

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PHOTOGRAPHERS Manuel Queimadelos Jose Manuel Álvarez Mikhail Shapae Dmitry Golubovich Pablo Zarcero CONTRIBUTORS Fran Roldán Paula Sanz Rui Delgado

SPONSORSHIP Pol Calvet EDITED BY Beach Soccer Worldwide VICE-PRESIDENT Gabino Renales PRESIDENT Joan Cuscó


Smart ways to grow your sport


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Kung-Fu or beach soccer?

Dane Axel Damm leaps to block a Gori bicycle kick at the European Qualifier for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Nazaré.

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On top of the world

Senegal keeper N’Diaye scales the goal frame in Moscow after a historic win over Brazil at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup quarter-finals.

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A new home for beach soccer The passion of the Moldovan fans was clear to see in the capital Chisinau during the EBSL stage in July.

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The Golden Boy

Switzerland’s Noel Ott starred in the World Cup in Moscow, taking home the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament MVP.

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The teacher and his outstanding student

Russian captain Anton Shkarin and head coach Mikhail Likhachev pose for a photo after winning the World Cup.

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FEATURES · BAREFOOT

Stats Wars powered by

NIKONOROV VS AKAGUMA

I

n this new edition of Stats Wars, we wanted to compare two players that have been absolutely instrumental for their teams’ successes this season: Russian Boris Nikonorov and Japan’s Takuya Akaguma.

newcomers, as they had been punishing their opponents’ nets for some years already, but this season has been special for them.

It cannot be said that we are talking about two

Let’s analyze their performances at the last event they played, the Tecnotree Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup in Dubai. (By Fran Roldán).

Nikonorov

Akaguma

RUSSIA

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JAPAN


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8 8 54 20 12 10 1 82 27 4 15.5

GOALS

BICYCLE KICKS

SHOT ACCURACY %

DEF. ACTIONS

RECOVERIES

balls lost

ASSISTS

pass ACCURACY %

DUELS WON %

GAMES PLAYED

AVERAGE MINUTES PER GAME

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2 11 52 8 14 14 0 80 33 5 16.6

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REVIEW · BAREFOOT

The best FIFA Beach World Cup ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Moscow 2021

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ussia, playing under the title of RFU, won their third World Cup, the ninth edition of the biggest beach soccer show of all, and the best yet according to FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

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h Soccer

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The magnificent Luzhniki Beach Soccer Stadium, a real “theatre of dreams”...

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he biggest beach soccer show on Earth, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, was held in Moscow in August 2021. Edition number nine edition saw the hosts RFU win the title after going undefeated, despite a shaky start, to regain the world title they last won back in 2013. The two previous winners who qualified for the 2021 edition, Portugal and Brazil (France are

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the only other team to have won the World Cup but did not qualify), experienced disappointing campaigns, while new beach soccer nations stamped their marks on the world stage. Hosts impress on home sand RFU struggled a little in their opening matches, just managing to beat USA in extra time and then only downing Paraguay from the penalty spot in the group stage. They did cruise past Japan by seven goals to one in what turned out to be a

preview of the final, and ended the group stage on top after going undefeated. Mikhail Likhachev’s men then met Spain in the quarter-finals, where another tight fixture saw them come out on top by four goals to two, earning them a place in the semi-finals against a dangerous Swiss side who had defeated Brazil in their first match. It was penalties again that would decide this one between the European powerhouses,


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and the hosts held their nerve to reach the final, while Switzerland’s unbeaten run came to an end.

Things got tough for hosts RFU in the first stages of the competition... RFU met Japan for the second time in Moscow, who had recovered from their heavy defeat to their hosts to not lose another match.

But once again, it was Likhachev’s tactics that proved too much for the Samurai Blue, and with a final score of 5-2, one of RFU’s most convincing wins of the campaign, the hosts lifted the most sought-after trophy of all. The rise of Africa As undeniably impressive as the performance of the RFU was on home sand, it is well worth giving a mention to the role played by the two African nations at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

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Senegal are no strangers to the world championships, as they have qualified for eight of the last nine World Cups, but they made it all the way to fourth, the furthest they’ve ever reached, and they defeated the five-time champions Brazil and two-time champions Portugal in the process. The other qualified nation was Mozambique, a team that burst onto the beach soccer scene when they swept aside some of the continent’s top teams at the CAF Beach Soccer BEACHSOCCER.COM I 23


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How many FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups have you won, Mikhail?

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Africa Cup of Nations to make it all the way to the final to qualify for Russia 2021. Once in Moscow, at their firstever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the Mambas looked right at home, fighting against Spain in their first match, but losing 4-2. They did, however, defeat UAE in their second match to give them a lifeline in their quest for a place in the knockout stages. A thrilling 8-7 battle against OFC champions Tahiti (Twice FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup runners-up) marked the end of the World Cup dream for

Mozambique, but their number nine Figo lead the scoring charts for much of the group stage matches. The team scored a total 15 goals in just three matches.

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they were close to upset some giants.

Senegal wrote a historic page for Africa’s beach soccer in Moscow

Golden Swiss Stars Angelo Schirinzi’s Switzerland fell just short in the European Qualifiers but with the withdrawal of Ukraine they seized their good fortune with two hands and kicked off their World Cup campaign with a memorable win against five-time champions Brazil.

Africa has a new powerhouse, and the spirit that the Mozambique team brought to Russia was without doubt one of the most memorable aspects of the World Cup, where

Next, they downed fellow European giants Belarus by seven goals to three, and a final group win against El Salvador saw the Nati finish top. They then breezed past Uruguay by BEACHSOCCER.COM I 25


REVIEW · BAREFOOT

10 goals to one, as Schirinzi’s stars Noel Ott and Glenn Hodel continued to control games and score goals. Keeper Eliott, renowned across Europe for his shot-stopping and deadly long-distance shooting, also played a huge part in the continues success, as Switzerland reached a semi-final against the hosts… Their mission to lift the World Cup ended from the nine-meter line, but after winning a place on the podium with a playoff victory against Senegal, the Swiss stars were recognised in the awards ceremony by scooping 26 I BEACHSOCCER.COM

the Golden Ball, Golden Scorer and Golden Glove, as Noel Ott, Glenn Hodel and Eliott Mounoud all went home with the prestigious trophies.

The Mozambique National Team was another story to remember The unique stories, the triumph of the home side, the packed stadium and all-round brilliantly organised event meant that the FIFA President Gianni Infantino marked out the 2021 edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World

Cup as the best one to date. Alaev: It is really valuable RFU General Secretary Aleksandr Alaev, could hardly describe the feelings after making history: “The outcome of the event, the result by the team, and the level of the organisation proof the high level of development of beach soccer in Russia. FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s words, defining the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021 as the best World Cup in history, are truly valuable. Just as the feedback from our fans is. It is something really satisfying for us”, he said.


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FIFA President Gianni Infantino was highly impressed with the event.

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In numbers FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021

302 goals scored, for an average of 9,44 goals/game, the highest records ever.

127 volunteers enrolled in the event, with a 94% satisfaction. The youngest volunteer was 13 years old, and the oldest, 71.

53.000 spectators, with stadium reaching full capacity in 8 out of the 9 days.

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People from

different countries took part in the event (accredited).

6130 hotel nights and 920 flights booked.

213 media representatives registered.

4027 Covid-19 Tests performed, with only 17 positive cases (0,42%).

200 tons of sand were brought to build the stadium.

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When even numbers cannot quantify success... By Joan Cusco, BSWW President

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t is easy to understand why the last FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup that delighted and enthralled us so much is already being hailed as the best FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup ever. Not only because FIFA President Gianni Infantino himself defined it as such, but also because of the unique moments and memories it left us with, the barriers it broke down and the records it attained. Some numbers speak for themselves: the highest-scoring World Cup ever, with 302 goals scored (an average of 9.44 per game), 213 media representatives registered, showcasing a record-high in media interest all over the globe, reaching audiences in 179 countries, including more than 40 million viewers on Globo TV (Brazil). These are numbers simply never seen before. But if you ask me, none of these numbers really matter. You may disagree, but I really think they don’t. Because they cannot explain or portray BEACHSOCCER.COM I 31


INSIDE BEACH SOCCER · BAREFOOT

the sheer emotion, thrill and joy we all experienced in Moscow before, during and after this historic World Cup. Numbers cannot reflect the state-of-the-art stadium, absolutely flawless in its construction and organisation, how the audiences responded despite the difficulties, and not to mention the Covid-19 restrictions! We achieved the best-ever attendance figures in spite of the most challenging of circumstances, adding extra magic that turned the atmosphere at the Luzhniki into a breath-taking experience. These numbers cannot accurately explain how the event projected an excellent impression of Russia to the world, showcasing their second-to-none professional capacity, and you cannot quantify the professionalism of the Local Organizing Committee, who delivered not only a magical event, but also the dream of so many across the nation in a sporting competition for the history books.

This FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia left some numbers never seen before, but this success story goes even beyond that... The dream was completed when the home national team, or as the Russian crowd called them, “our guys” (наши парни, as written in the chest of the national team jersey), confirmed that there are no barriers for thorough, well-planned and tireless work. This dream was the vision of a highly-talented individual, a beach soccer enthusiast, and a tireless professional: RFU General Secretary Alex Alaev, a person that gave everything it took to make the 2021 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup the perfect combination of seamless organisation, genuine love for the sport, and magic both on and off the pitch. But again, what you have just read are simply words. Kind words and record-breaking numbers cannot do justice to what this FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup truly was, how it contributed to skyrocketing our sport onto the world stage and, above all, the special people and professionals that made it happen. Spasibo, Russia. 32 I BEACHSOCCER.COM


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PUMA Final Available on beachsoccer.com/store



REVIEW · BAREFOOT

The Beach Socce

The latest edition of the Beach Soccer Stars re Ozu as the world’s best players

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he Beach Soccer Stars returned to the UAE to name a new generation of the best in beach soccer, on Saturday 6 November in Dubai, a city that has shown over the last decade that is truly a beach soccer hub. Another momentous night saw the 2021 season’s very best receive the awards for being at

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the very pinnacle of the sport, with an eager audience dressed in their very best to see who would win the titles this year. Excitement levels were especially high considering that the 2020 edition of the event had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The previous edition took place back in 2019, where Portugal’s Jordan Santos and Spain’s Carol Gonzalez

won the Best Player awards. As is tradition, the gala took place just after the final of the Tecnotree Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup, and the players from the competing nations, including the winners Russia, were present, along with many special guests from across the world and the beach soccer spectrum.


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er Stars is back!

ecognised England’s Molly Clark and Japan’s

The gala was kicked off with a speech by BSWW President Joan Cusco, who thanked the people gathered and offered a special thank you to the event partners and to Dubai Sports Council for organising yet another incredible Intercontinental Cup and the Beach Soccer Stars. Next, HE Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports

Council, extended his thanks to the audience as well as everyone who worked at the events in Dubai.

With Raoul, Africa received their first award “On behalf of my family, Dubai Sports Council, to you,

I would like to thank you all and I hope to see you again next year.” A true friend of the sport, Mr. Hareb grew up playing beach soccer on the sands of Dubai before the city was the glittering metropolis that the world knows today, and who better to present the very first award of the evening...? BEACHSOCCER.COM I 37


REVIEW · BAREFOOT

Best Player (Men) Ozu (Japan) The final award of the night went to Ozu Moreira, Japanese captain, who was announced as the Best Player of 2021. On receiving the award. Brazilian-born Ozu thanked his teammates in Japanese for their support. He captained and coached the Samurai Blue to the final of the World Cup, a record finish for the country.

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Best Player (Women) Molly Clark (England) The Women’s Best Player award went to England’s Molly Clark, who paid tribute to her teammates and said that she works every day to be at her best. Clark won the EBSL Regular Phase and finished runner-up in the Superfinal with England. It was the second time Clark had been nominated for the award after being beaten to it in 2018 by Russian Marina Federova.

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Best 5 Eliott Mounoud (Switzerland) Ozu (Japan) Catarino (Brazil) Philipp Borer (Switzerland) Be Martins (Portugal) Then it was time to build the dream team of beach soccer, the award known as the Best 5 Stars. Eliott was named as the keeper, while in front of him in defence were Japan’s Ozu and Brazil’s Catarino. Leading the attack, were Borer from Switzerland and Be Martins from Portugal.

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Best Goalkeeper Eliott Mounoud (Switzerland) In terms of the safest pair of hands in beach soccer, the trophy went to Eliott from Switzerland. As dangerous in attack as he is in defence, Eilott’s performance in Russia helped Angelo Schirinzi’s side finish third place in the World Cup, where he was awarded the FIFA Golden Glove.

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Rising Star Raoul Mendy (Senegal) After an incredible World Cup, winning the CAF Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations and performing at the highest level in his maiden Intercontinental Cup, Raoul Mendy won the Rising Star award. His story captured hearts in Russia, and his performances helped the Lions of Teranga jump to fifth in the world.

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Best Coach Mikhail Likhachev (Russia) Mikhail Likhachev of Russia, who saw off all the world’s top teams to claim the 2021 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, was awarded the Best Coach. His other achievements this year included winning the EBSL Division A Regular Phase and of course the Intercontinental Cup in Dubai. It is the second time that Likhachev has won this award, the first being in 2014.

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Best Goal Nicolae Ignat (Moldova) Anyone who saw Nicolae Ignat’s goal at the EBSL Regular Phase in Moldova will have no doubt thought in that moment that the incredible volley must be a Goal of the Year contender. Well, it was. The public voted and the Moldovan number 11 was the deserving winner of this special award.

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Best Event FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021 With so many incredible events taking place in 2021, it was always going to be difficult to select a winner. However, few were surprised when the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021 was announced. Alex Alaev, Secretary General of the RFU, accepted the award and said that the success of the event and the award was a “dream come true.”

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INTERVIEW · BAREFOOT

‘‘Until they called my name, I really didn’t expect it’’ Ozu Moreira

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e had been named in the Best 5 five times (something no one else can say), he was named best player of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2019, and he has been the MVP of many events during this year, but Ozu had never had the honour of being chosen as the Best Player of the Year by his colleagues. Something finally changed this November. We have the honour of speaking to one of the most recognisable figures in the beach soccer world, and now the very best beach soccer player in the world – Ozu! Thank for joining us. Hello! Thank you. Hello everyone. Tell us, has it sunk in yet? Have you come to terms with your new title? Yeah I’m really happy. It was one of my dreams, becoming the best player in the world. I was working very hard towards this and finally I was nominated. I’m very happy but I still find it hard to recognise what has happened. How was the trip back? Did you have a special seat for the trophy? [Laughs] Yeah it was a good flight, not many people on the plane. I had three seats for myself so I could put the trophy by my side and we could both sleep. Let’s just go back to that moment where you were named Best Player, what were the immediate emotions you felt?

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I was very nervous because I had Leo [Martins] and Philipp [Borer] next to me, two great players, and when they called my name it was like a dream for me. My teammates and the coaching staff were there with me. It was a very important moment. And what’s the reaction been like in Japan? My teammates, and in Tokyo Verdy as well, were very happy. They had expected me to get the Best Player after the Paraguay World Cup, so now it’s finally come and when we came back to Japan I had so many messages. They’re very happy.

‘‘ I immediately thought

about my teammates. I am very thankful to them ’’ What about media interest? Can this lift yours and beach soccer’s status in the country? I think so yes. We need to finish the quarantine then we can start doing some TV interviews. I just had two zoom interviews earlier today. But yes, I think it’s going to help beach soccer. We have our championship here on the 28th so I think it will help. We tried to push having the second place in the World Cup and we’re trying to organise the Japanese league for next year, like they have in Russia, Italy and Portugal as well. When you accepted the trophy in Dubai, your immediate response was towards your


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· INTERVIEW

teammates. How much of a role did they play in winning this award? I thanked them very much because when I first arrived in Japan they were so friendly and they helped me with everything, especially as I didn’t speak Japanese. That’s why I wanted to say thank you to them. 15 years here, I know I was born in Brazil but I really feel Japanese and I feel at home. I just wanted to say thank you to them and to work hard to get more championships too. You always say how grateful you are to the Japanese people, but surely, they’re grateful to you too? You’ve done so much for the sport in Japan. When I came here in 2007, beach soccer was just starting. No one knew how to play. I came from Brazil where we had great players like Júnior Negão, Jorginho, so it was a surprise for me. Ruy Ramos was here too and he was helping as well. I think it’s been a good combination. They help me and I help them and for me it’s always a gift to play for Japan. I love this country and I love playing for them and I will always do my best to help them.

‘‘ When I arrived in Japan, in 2007, beach soccer was very unknown ’’

You speak many languages: your native language is Portuguese, you speak English and Spanish, and now of course you speak fluent Japanese. How hard was it to learn? It took me maybe four or five years. I came here just speaking Portuguese, and most of them don’t speak English either. At the beginning, to become Japanese I needed to live here for five years and to speak Japanese. I always trained with Japanese players and spent time with local people. I went to summer schools too, but most of it was just trying to be with the players, make friends, going places by myself, even if I don’t understand what they said. The first few years I had many Brazilian players here with me. Like Neném – we just spoke Portuguese. When they left it improved. I was living in Okinawa, and then I moved to Tokyo and it’s a big city. There are many international people there. Maybe four years it took me to learn in total. Out of the three nominees for the award, who did you honestly think was going to win BEACHSOCCER.COM I 51


INTERVIEW · BAREFOOT

the Best Player? It was my first time in the top three players, I’ve reached the Best 5 six times, so I waited a long time for this moment, but Leo had a great season with Portugal scoring many goals, and Phillip had a great World Cup as well. I think between us, whoever was chosen would have been a good choice. But until they called the name out, I really didn’t expect it. I was really surprised. How much of an effect do you think Japan’s performance in the World Cup, finishing second, had on you winning the award? We had a very good World Cup in Paraguay. We were very upset because we had a chance to fight for a medal but we lost to Portugal on penalties, When we came back to Japan, Ruy Ramos left and they offered me the chance to be the coach, so it was a big addition for me. At Tokyo Verdy I do both, but to lead the national team and play at the same time is really tough. When the JFA (Japanese Football Association) asked me, I couldn’t say no. I had Tabata who retired and became the second coach. We try to play at the highest level. We always seem to finish in a good place, but we don’t get the results. The second place is great and we lost to Russia who are a great team, great players, and were playing at home with an amazing atmosphere. It was one of the best World Cups I’ve played in. The atmosphere was amazing.

top three and won Best Player, what was the extra step? I always try to be the best in my position, the best defender. I train and work harder every year. Even if I play for the team, I defend a lot and try and let them play free, that’s why I always fight for the Best 5, to be the best defender. Of course, I always wanted to try and get more and become the Best Player but I think they often choose the players who score goals. It’s not easy to win as a defender. But how we played this World Cup, and how I defended and how I try to make my team play… it’s not just for me.

‘‘ It took me four to five

years to learn proficient Japanese ’’ What does the future hold for Japan and beach soccer now? Now we should get ready for the next world cup, that is necesarrily our biggest comming challenge. We don’t know where it will be, but our dream was to bring it here to Japan. But I think it won’t be possible now but should now try to form a league here in Japan. The national team is getting stronger but our base here in Japan is not ready. We should start thinking about new players and new places. We don’t have many beach soccer pitches in Japan.

So what are they key learnings?

And for you personally...?

we need to change many things in Japan, we need a league. We have tournaments but not a league, the players aren’t professional yet. They need to earn money playing. So, I think finishing second is a good reason to start to change the things. I’m talking about the federation, the confederation, they should help us. The players are doing an amazing job. They train and work and they train and work, just to try and do their best to have a great team but with this result now we will try and make beach soccer more famous and have a better chance to win the World Cup. Being the head coach and player, I see the guys understand what I want to do, so they try and help me on the pitch. We have many players like Oba and Akaguma who score many goals. We also had two young players as well.

[Laughs] I want to keep playing more, I feel I am still in a good shape. I was playing with Andrade in the Mundialito de Clubes, as he was playing with Verdy, and he is now 42, and he told me he wants to play for ten more years and I said, “I can’t let him beat me!” [Laughs] I don’t have any injuries, I still have power to help the team and I want to take Tokyo Verdy to be the champion of the Mundialito, I want to play in more competitions abroad, like the Euro Winners Cup maybe Russia and Italy, and take the gold medal in the World Cup for the Japanese national team. We have many things to do, but always my goal is to take Japanese beach soccer to a higher level.

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That’s good news for us to hear that you’ll be around for many years to come! Thanks so much Ozu. Thank you. Thank you so much.


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‘‘I just try to be the best version of me’’ Molly Clark

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s she herself admits, the days after being named Women’s Best Player in the World in the last Beach Soccer Stars “have been a rollercoaster… but a good one”. But one thing is clear for Molly Clark: This brand new title will not change her and the way she lives her live. She will carry on living by the same rules and work etics that have led her to the top of the beach soccer world.

in the moment they announced your name?

Hello Molly! Thanks for being here with us. Please allow us to just start off with a huge congratulations and a round of applause for the best beach soccer player in the world. Has it sunk in yet?

Out of the three nominees in Dubai – honestly - who did you think was going to win?

No actually. A lot of people keep saying it but I haven’t had time to process it I’ve been far too busy. The minute I landed I’ve been straight back into playing and training etc. There are times now and then where I get a few seconds to try and remember what has actually happened and it’s unbelievable. But no, I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.

I had to pinch myself as I didn’t quite believe that I actually heard my name. Like I said in my speech when I received the award, there were 30 girls to choose form and many more. I was happy to be in the top three but to walk away with it was just amazing. It wasn’t something I set out to achieve but now that I’ve got it it’s unbelievable.

Honestly, I thought it was going to be Adri just because it’s the third year she’d been nominated I just thought it had to be her time and she was going to walk away with it.

‘‘My mum asked for the

trophy as soon as I landed... but I will keep it with me this time... ’’

And where is the trophy right now? Is it on the mantlepiece, in your bedroom, at you mum’s house?

In terms of your performance over the 2021 season, which part, which event was the turning point that made people vote for you?

Funny you should say that because my mum and dad asked me for it the minute I landed. Normally I do let them have my trophies and medals but I’m not ready to give this one up just yet.

Throughout the season I had mixed tournaments in terms of my performances. I think I covered every position and every quality that you would expect in a player, whether that be attacking, defending, scoring goals. I think I ticked all of those boxes at least once in every tournament but I think my best tournament

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was with Melilla in the Euro Winners Cup. Why? What made the difference in that event, in your opinion? I was relaxed, enjoying every game and just enjoyed playing in the team that I was in, which lead me to score many good goals and good team goals, but the most important tournaments were with England where I put my body on the line going forward and defending. So that also might be one of the reasons that the captains and coaches voted for me, because not only can I score goals but I stop them from going in. What’s the reaction been like from back home? Family, friends and the media etc.? Like I said I haven’t had time to think about the award. But my friends and my family were happy, there were tears of joy. I’ve been doing interviews, messages from people I’ve never heard of. Yea it’s been a rollercoaster, but a good one.

‘‘ I like to get the girls I coach at Bournemouth to train on the beach sometimes ’’

You’re the second English player to win this award, after of course your teammate Sarah Kempson in 2017, making England the only nation to have two winners of the award. What could this mean for the sport of beach soccer in England? It’s something that we continue to work towards and fight for, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before people start turning their heads and thinking, “wow, this nation is really good at something.” We get a lot of support from our family and friends but not necessarily from people who we would like the support from, let’s say. But I’m sure we’ll get there. We’re going to keep pushing, keep fighting and get the recognition and keep turning more heads. Like I said we’re starting to build more teams in the area. There was one and now I think there are five, so we’re getting different tournaments going. There are only one or two right now but it’s a stepping stone. What about grassroots? Like the young girls that want to play? I know you’re a coach BEACHSOCCER.COM I 57


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at Bournemouth FC, are they interested in beach soccer? I saw you signing autographs the other day! The girls at Bournemouth love it. They love the idea, they love beach soccer, they know it’s great fun, but little do they know how much it can improve their football. We do try and get some fun sessions on the sand for the girls during preseason especially, so that would be something the club may look into maybe in the future and there have definitely been talks about it and the support I get from them is fantastic. I can’t thank them enough for the support they give me in something I love to do as a player. England just fell short in the European championship final last year. Can they go that one step further in 2022? Yes 100%. Looking back now, with a cooler head, we have a lot of work to focus on – both on and off the pitch – and we’re looking to start that in the next couple of weeks. We just want to get out to tournaments. The support we get is great but we have to do everything ourselves, so we have to start early to give us the best chance of reaching as many tournaments as we can. We need to focus on being the best team that we can be, which comes with a lot of sacrifices, and hard work.

‘‘ I don’t compare myself to other players. We are all different, we all have different virtues ’’

On a personal level, you’ve hit the top of the sport. Where do you go from here? Do you win it again?! Well it was never my target in the first place but the fact I’ve walked away with it is amazing and I have to keep pinching myself. But I’ll just continue doing what I do every day to continue being the best version of myself. I train hard, I eat well, I get the right sleep… I just try and be the best me. I don’t compare myself to anybody else because everyone is different. I can’t be like Adri [Adriele], I can’t be like [Andrea Miron], I can’t be like Sarah Kempson. I can just be the best me and hopefully that’s good enough. Thanks, Molly. It was great talking to you. My pleasure. Thank you. 58 I BEACHSOCCER.COM


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Russia return to the

Tecnotree Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup Duba

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he FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup champions dominated in Dubai to claim a record fourth Intercontinental Cup

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e top in Dubai

ai 2021

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he 2021 beach soccer season was all about Russia, and when the world champions landed in Dubai, their eyes were on the next big prize… Early November saw the milestone tenth edition of the Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup of the event held in the UAE. As of the ninth edition, held back in 2019 after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the 2020 edition to be cancelled, there were three teams tied at the top of

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the Intercontinental trophy table: Iran, Russia and Brazil, and two of those sides had a golden opportunity to clinch a record fourth.

In Group A were the hosts UAE, European champions Portugal, African champions Senegal and another European powerhouse, Spain.

Eight of the world’s top beach soccer teams landed in Dubai in November, and all except the champions of the last edition, Iran, had been at the World Cup months before. In fact, Group B rivals Russia, Japan and Paraguay were coincidentally drawn in the same group at the world championships, along with Iran.

The very first day saw the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup final replayed, when Russia met Japan and won their first points of the campaign in Dubai. UAE, Senegal and Iran also claimed points on the first day. Second wins for Russia and Iran – who shared six Intercontinental Cup titles before 2021 – saw them seal semi-final places


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with a match still to play, as they handed second defeats to Japan and Paraguay. It took until Day 3 to decide which teams from a very open Group A would join them. Senegal and Portugal made the cut after the 2019 world champions defeated Spain in an Iberian derby, while Senegal were taken all the way to the penalty spot by the hosts UAE but came away with the point. In the knockout stage, Russia brushed aside Portugal by se-

ven goals to three to reach their seventh final in 10 editions.

With 4 titles, Russia become the most decorated team in Dubai A tighter match saw the reigning champions Iran overpower the Lions of Teranga, who were making their debut appearance in Dubai, by seven goals to five. The decider was set - Iran ver-

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sus Russia - the third time the two nations had faced off in the Intercontinental final. An historic final The sides had already met in their Group B game just days before, where the Russians edged the game by four goals to three. These two nations had also met twice before in Intercontinental finals, where Iran came out on top on both occasions. Boris Nikonorov, winner of both BEACHSOCCER.COM I 63


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the MVP and Top Scorer awards at the 2021 Mundialto de Clubes with BSC Lokomotiv just a week previously, spun from an impossible position to sneak in the first goal of the final. His strike was all that separated the sides at the break, but he was back in the second period to head in number two, and then he completed a hattrick with an impressive bicycle kick. Just before the second break, 64 I BEACHSOCCER.COM

Mokthari gave the Iranian crowd something to scream about, as they pulled an important goal back.

was successfully defended by Russia, who held on for a record-breaking fourth Intercontinental Cup title.

Senegal achieved a laudable third place finish in their first participation

They have now lifted a record four out of the ten Intercontinental Cup, making them the most successful nation in the competition.

The number nine then scored an incredible overhead with just 20 seconds left on the clock but a frantic last-minute scramble for an equaliser

Brilliant bronze debutants In the battle for third, Senegal marked their debut Intercontinental Cup with an impressive performance against the Eu-


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ropean champions Portugal to seal bronze. Since their amazing World Cup campaign, where they finished fourth after losing the third-place playoff to Switzerland, Senegal have demonstrated that their place among the beach soccer elite is well-cemented, and their achievement in Dubai saw them move up three places in the official ranking into fifth place. Meanwhile, Japan beat Spain

by a slim margin to claim fifth place as they did in the previous edition and Paraguay beat UAE to seventh place, handing the hosts their lowest ever finish. Russia‘s Boris Nikonorov was awarded the MVP award after seizing control of the final, while Spanish striker Chiky, scoring nine goals, claimed the Top Scorer trophy. The Best Goalkeeper was awarded to Hamid from Iran. The 2021 Intercontinental Cup,

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after a year off in the 2020 season, returned in all its glory for a record-breaking event which celebrated its milestone tenth edition. Preparations are already being made for the 2022 edition, will we see a new champion crowned on Emirati sands? Although the participating teams for 2022 cannot be known at this stage, what is certain is that we will have the strongest lineup and the most competitive beach soccer again on the sands of Dubai. BEACHSOCCER.COM I 65


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HE Saeed Hareb A life of football, sea and sand

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ubai Sports Council Secretary General, Saeed Hareb, is an important presence and recognisable figure at the annual Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup in Dubai, and he actually traces his success back to playing the sport on the sands of Shindagah in his youth. A remarkable and varied history makes up the past of one of beach soccer’s most influential friends, Mr Saeed Hareb, someone who has invested much time and effort into the sport’s development. Beach soccer has a special relationship with the sea, and Mr Hareb’s was born into a family of seafarers and pearl divers, as he grew up in a land of sea and sand.

Born into a family of seafarers and pearl divers, he used to play beach soccer in Shindagah during his chilhood As a youth he sailed the Arabian sea in dhows and played football on the sands of Shindagah on the mouth of Dubai Creek where he lived, a fitting beginning for someone who would play such an important role in developing beach soccer in his adult life. A leading figure in the establishing of the Intercontinental Cup in Dubai as a flagship event in BEACHSOCCER.COM I 67


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the annual beach soccer calendar, Saeed Hareb has led a fascinating and varied life that has lead him to the post of Dubai Sports Council Secretary General, encompassing many of the things essential to beach soccer. A promising footballer growing up, Mr Hareb captained and coached the UAE National Football Team, and growing up he had a strong link to sand and sea. “My paternal grandfather Ahmed bin Hareb was appointed by His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum as a judge in the Naif Court to preside over sea-related cases. He would control dhow traffic and the building from where he functioned is now a museum. A mosque under the Hareb family name also stands in the same area.” His life may have revolved around the sea, but it was his footballing talent that gave a young athlete a step up. “It was my father Mohammed and elder brother Abdullah who discovered my potential in football,” he says. “Towards the end of the 1960s, when the customs office shifted to Naif, the building was occupied by the Hilal Al Bahrain Football Club, which my father was in charge of. When the club merged with Al Nasr Club, I began to play for them in the junior category.

Born into a family of seafarers and pearl divers, he used to play beach soccer in Shindagah during his chilhood “It can be said that my real football journey began at Al Wasl Club at 13-14 years old. I moved from strength to strength and became the captain. I trained under a different coach. We travelled to many countries, including Germany and Spain, to play.” As is cruelly the case with so many footballers, an injury cut a what promised to be an amazing career short, but Al Wasl had no intention of letting Hareb go, as they made him a board member and manager at the club. Hareb shared a story in which he was tasked with finding a new coach for the club… “I was sent by Sheikh Ahmed as part of a 68 I BEACHSOCCER.COM


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HE Saeed Hareb as captain of Al Wasl SC, in a friendly game in the 1980s

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three-member team to Brazil to find a suitable coach. The name that was on top of our list was the well-known Mário Jorge Lobo Zagallo (the former professional Brazilian football player and manager). He had a good reputation. But when we were in a taxi, we got chatting about football with the taxi driver and asked him who he thought was a good, young coach. He immediately took the name of Gilson Nunes. We kept that mind and decided to approach him too. We were invited to watch a match after which we were convinced he fit the bill. We signed him up and flew him to Dubai.” Nunes would g on to lead Al Wasl to great success, winning the league title two seasons in a row. Hareb also recognised the importance of keeping fit and the 66-year-old, who cycles 2530km every day, says that, “Age is just a number. If you are clean in your heart and harbour positive thoughts, you will always stay young.” One can hardly talk about matters of the heart without mentioning family. Hareb is a grandfather, who enjoys his time with five children and six grandchildren, but his story is also one of loss as well, as his wife Noura tragically passed away 20 years ago. “Noura was the perfect wife and mother. It was her support and the space she gave me that allowed me to continue with my sports and other commitments. I am also thankful to her for raising our children with the right values,” he says.

He played for Al Wasl SC (Dubai) and captained and coached the UAE National Football Team Life experience as special and unique as that of Saeed Hared are worthy of a book which, coincidentally enough, he is in the process of writing. An inspiring and influential person, both within and beyond the world of beach soccer, Saeed Hareb summarises his attitude toward life with a simple sentence… “We are all walking on a road that has many exits. Which is our exit, we do not know.” An amazing man with an amazing story. A person beach soccer is happy to count as a friend. 70 I BEACHSOCCER.COM


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HE Saeed Hareb (extreme right) with his college team in Egypt in 1975. Most players were part of UAE’s National Team.

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Brilliant Brazil win Women’s Interconti

Women’s Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup Mosco

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maiden inental Cup

ow 2021

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huge leap in the development of women’s beach soccer was made with the first edition of the Women’s Intercontinental Cup in 2021 A concept that had long been a dream for many was made a reality in 2021, as the Women’s Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup was added to the beach soccer calendar. The event took place at the Luzhniki Park in Moscow in August, in the very same incredible stadium which held the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup just a week after. Brazil claimed the monumental first trophy, with victories over USA and Spain being enough to overshadow the loss to the Russian hosts on the final day. La Roja took second with a victory over the United States. Day 1 saw Dani Barboza boss the Spaniards to gift the women in yellow an opening victory, the first-ever points won at the Women’s Intercontinental Cup. The defending World Beach Games managed to neutralize the 2-0 disadvantage, but Barbara Colodetti rocketed the winner to give the Brazilians the point. What a beginning to the competition it was… Later in the day, the hosts needed extra time to down a United States team who had only played two events previously, but showed that they were clearly competing in the same league as the world’s top teams, denying Russia all three points. The Stars & Stripes then put three past Brazil on the second day to build an early lead, but they were outgunned in the end as a late comeback saw Lele Villar’s brace make all the difference.

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In the last game of that second matchdtay, things would get even more dramatic. Spain edged Russia in extra time to paradoxically confirm Brazil as the winners with a day of matches still to play.

and a winless – but undoubtedly competitive and ever-developing - USA came fourth. One of the nominees for the Women’s Best Player of the Year, Andrea Mirón, became the Americans’ worst nightmare in Moscow.

The Russian side seemed to be comfortably cruising to a second win, leading the score 3-1 late into the second period with a brace by the tournament’s top scorer Anna Cherniakova.

After Spain’s opening 3-0, USA reacted to make things really tight. But when they were trying everything to level the score, putting the Spaniards’ goal under siege, Mirón finished their expectations with the final 4-2.

But a 3-0 run by La Roja in the last half of the game changed things around and made Brazil the champions of the competition. The first Women’s Intercontinental Cup trophy was already heading back to Brazil, but in one last bout for points, the champions went up against their hosts…

Colodetti was named the MVP of the event. Akylbaeva, Best Goalkeeper, and Cherniakova, Top scorer On the last matchday, the European champions played their best game in Moscow, beating Brazil by four goals to one. It was too little too late though, and had the locals managed to beat Spain the day before, they would have won the tournament. Akylbaeva, Zubilova, Bazhanova and Cherniakova scored in the game to make Lele Villa’s goal just meaningless. But the trophy was already at Brazilian hands. Spain, the world’s top-ranked side, came second, Russia third

The Brazilians were worthy winners, and Barbara Colodetti was named tournament MVP, while the host’s keeper Anna Akylbaeva won the award for Best Goalkeeper. Anna Cherniakova, after netting her fourth goal in the final match, took the Top Scorer award. An historic title for the Verde-Amarela, a solid performance from Russia on home sand (as well as two of the three Individual Awards) and overall, a hugely successful start to the story of the Women’s Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup. Beyond this great achievement for the Brazilian Side, what we all experienced in Moscow this August is a victory for the whole beach soccer world. It was the demonstration that the sport keeps growing strong, healthy and stable. It is also the demonstration that more and more countries are ready to make one or two steps forward in the projection of Women’s beach soccer. This time, only four teams took part in the event, but the Women’s Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup is here to stay, and it can be, and will always be, considered the seed of a future World Cup. The talent is there, the will is there, and the stage is set. Big things will keep coming. BEACHSOCCER.COM I 75


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Lokomotiv steam Mundialito de Clu Mundialito de Clubes Moscow 2021

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dition number eight of the Mundialito de Clubes sees hosts end SC Braga domination

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m to third ubes title

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he Mundialito de Clubes Moscow hosts claimed a milestone victory in the 2021 season by downing the Portuguese champions in the final. In its eighth edition, the battle between the world’s top clubs was forced to be cut short due to emergency Covid-19 restrictions that came into force suddenly in Moscow. The competition was therefore played over two days, 26 and 27 October. The participating clubs were

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BSC Lokomotiv (RUS), BSC Spartak (RUS), SC Braga (POR), Vasco da Gama (BRA), Dinamo Minsk (BLR), Levante (ESP), Tokyo Verdy (JPN) and CD Nacional (PAR).

First ever Mundialito champions Vasco da Gama were back in the competition On Day 1, victories for Vasco, Lokomotiv, Dinamo Minsk and Braga saw the four clubs reach

the semi-finals where Braga and Lokomotiv came out on top to secure a place in the final. Up to this point, both sides had won both of the two finals they had appeared in, but that record had to end. The Final Captain Torres got Braga off the mark after less than two minutes, Zemskov volleyed in a corner soon after, but Lucao was given too much space and time in the middle of the pitch to smash in a bicycle kick.


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The event was held for the first time at the magnificent CSKA Arena

Kosharnyi, nominated in the top three goalkeepers in the world, showed his attacking value too when he blasted in an equaliser. Boris Nikonorov, fresh from winning the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup with Russia, took the game by the horns and smashed in three brilliant goals to see hosts Lokomotiv leading at the second break, despite strikes from both Martins brothers. The 5-4 scoreline remained intact until Swiss star recruit

Borer netted his second of the campaign to push the advantage to two. Try as they might, the minutes became seconds for the defending champions as their title slipped away, and at the final whistle there was only one winner. Man of the Moment Boris Nikonorov was the star of the show, as the Muscovites defeated SC Braga, who have held the title since 2019, in a tense final on the final day in Moscow.

In a true representation of how much of a part he played in his team’s success, Nikonorov took home both the Top Scorer award, with eight goals, and the tournament MVP award, while the Best Goalkeeper was awarded to Braga’s Brazilian, Rafa Padilha, a regular face in the Individual Awards. Indeed, the Brazilian goalie was also named as the best in his position in the last edition of the tournament. Three Mundialito de Clubes finals, three trophies – BSC Lokomotiv make history. BEACHSOCCER.COM I 79


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Portugal still on top in Europe as the women return to the sand Euro Beach Soccer League Superfinal and Promotion Final Figueira da Foz 2021

H Division A.

ost boss European league at home as Estonia win historic promotion to

The 2021 Euro Beach Soccer League season was full of drama, delight, disappointment and domination. Portugal continued their reign in the men’s division, while the women enjoyed their maiden edition of one of the oldest beach soccer competitions in the world. In Division B, Moldova impressed by winning their Regular Phase, but Estonia went all the way to securing their first-ever promotion to the continent’s elite division. Meanwhile, Portugal’s women returned to the sand after a five-year absence and impressed on their comeback. The season culminated in Figueria da Foz in Portugal in September, where the European champions were named, and two sides exchanged Division A and Division B status… 80 I BEACHSOCCER.COM

Three in a row Portugal may have suffered a disappointing campaign in the 2021 World Cup, due in part to the injuries they suffered earlier in the season, but the season was far from a failure for the 2019 world champions. Mario Narciso’s men shone in the Regular Stage of the Division A Euro Beach Soccer League, seeing off Azerbaijan, Germany and Ukraine to top their group and convincingly earn a place at the Superfinal.

The team of The Quinas is the most decorated side, with eight titles Once there, there were drawn alongside Ukraine once more and defeated them more comfortably this time, by 7-5. T he hosts then edged Switzerland 3-2 and finally downed Italy, the 2018 European champions, 6-3 to remain undefeated.

This was enough to see them into the final where they took on Nico Alvarado’s Belarus, who had also not lost in Figueria da Foz. 2019 Best Player Jordan Santos and Leo Martins, nominated among the world’s top three players this season, ran the show to bring home a third consecutive EBSL title as Portugal won 7-4. Leo Martins won the MVP award, while Russia’s Boris Nikonorov scored ten goal to finish the tournament as Top Scorer and Kanstantsin Mahaletski made sure that one trophy at least returned to Belarus, winning the Best Goalkeeper award. Russia run riot in Superfinal In the women’s category, Russia retained the European title that they’ve held since 2018, and won the first-ever Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League. Eight of Europe’s top nations had made it to Figueira da Foz but two stood out as superior. England and Russia downed


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Leo Martins (POR), was named MVP of the competition once again.

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Russia beat England to clinch the first ever Women’s EBSL.

opponent after opponent, while Portugal looked impressive on their return to international beach soccer, and gave England a nervy game just losing 3-2, and the hosts went on to beat Czech Republic, scoring some of the tournament’s most impressive goals in the process. This edition was all about Russia though, who beat England by an imperious eight goals to two in the final after cruising through the group stages. The Lionesses had beaten Russia in 82 I BEACHSOCCER.COM

the Regular Stage and had been undefeated until the final. They were, however, unprepared for Leonov’s side in the final showdown. Russia also claimed the MVP, which went to Iana Zubilova, as well as the Best Goalkeeper which was won by Anna Akylbaeva. England’s Molly Clark, scoring seven goals in four games, took home the Top Scorer trophy. In the playoffs to decide the fi-

nish positions, Spain left it very late to edge Switzerland and take third, while Portugal marked their return to European beach soccer with a win over Ukraine. Estonia earn place at the elite After such a dominant performance in the Regular Stage, many people’s money was on Moldova to earn promotion to the European elite league, but Estonia, who had also impressed in Chisinau, showed extra reserve in Portugal to mark an


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historic achievement in the country’s beach soccer history.

lowest-ranked Division A side, Turkey.

The final of the Regular Stage in Moldova saw the hosts go up against Estonia, where they dealt them a 4-1 defeat, but when the teams met again in Portugal months later, in the all-important final game of the group stage, the Estonians held their nerve to edge the match by four goals to three.

Russia extended their reign after two WEBSC crowns

This won them a place in the Promotion Final against the

Turkey had suffered in their campaign in Figueira though, losing their first match to Lithuania. They managed to turn their form around enough to reach the Promotion Final but, on the day, Estonia wanted it more.

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It was another tight affair, but an own goal and strikes from captain Marmor, Lepik and Alavali were enough to nose past Turkey 4-3 and to earn a place in Division A. With preparation already in place for the 2022 Euro Beach Soccer League season, the beach soccer world is itching to see how Estonia will fair among the big boys, and whether anyone can prize the European titles from the hands of Portugal’s men and Russia’s women. BEACHSOCCER.COM I 83


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The genius in the bottles How the Dutch women’s national team did all it takes to be a part of the first-ever Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League

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each soccer never ceases to amaze us with stories of people that make our sport a consistently better place. It is these these people and their actions which set beach soccer apart, and shows how strong their love for the sport really is.

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The results were not the ones they expected, but the experience was worth all the efforts.

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his year we discovered a behind-the-scenes story of the Netherlands women’s national team, who put all their time and resource into being able to take a part in the first-ever Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League. Playing at the maiden edition of the EBSL was their dream, a goal to work towards. The passion for the sport, the will to train and improve, and their commitment to the cause were never in doubt; the only issue financial support. “So we decided to turn that problem into a challenge”. And this is how the mission began. Thinking about big partners was not an option, but they had to think big, starting small... Each player starting spreading the word, rallying essential support from family and friends, who made small contributions to make their beach soccer dream come true. But that wouldn’t be enough, and that’s when Mariël Miedema came in with another idea: collecting bottles for cash. In the Netherlands, a recycling incentive was set up whereby you can receive a small amount on money (around 10 cents) for every bottle you return to the shop after use. Mariël started a Facebook campaign to let everybody know that she wanted people’s bottles and that she would collect them from their houses... House by house, day by day, and thousands of bottles later, the dream was began to take shape and eventually became a reality - they were going to Nazaré! No matter the challenges, this team was ready to work together towards a common goal. They had been training hard for months, without even knowing if they would make it to the comeptition. “They insisted on training from the start. They wanted, so badly, to be ready.”, team manager, Maikel Schats, explains. “I still remember during the first week of March, with temperatures hardly above 0ºC, they called me and said: ‘let’s start training this week!’ It was so cold, and the sand was freezing, but how could I tell them otherwise, seeing their spirit and their eagerness. I have so much respect for the girls and their attitude.”

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On top of the bitter weather conditions, the training facilities are hardly close by for some of the girls, who live far from Amsterdam, and have to travel two hours each way from their home cities like Heerenveen, Siegerswoude (near Drachten), Zwolle, Heerhugowaard or Terneuzen. If this isn’t a way to show your love for beach soccer, we don’t know what it is. However, there were still more sacrifices to be made as when the competition approached. Some players, also had to juggle their professional lives to be able to compete, such as Nidia Bos, former professional footballer at Excelsior (Eredivisie), who had just took over the farm from her parents weeks before. “It was difficult for me to go for a whole week. I had to do some changes and ask for some favours, but I didn’t want to miss the Euro Beach Soccer League.”, she explained.

Some of the girls have a two-hour train commute to the training ground Once in Nazaré, the team had to continue to be careful with their budget, making sure they did not overspend. “We cooked our own breakfast and lunch, and bought groceries from the supermarket... With Maikel, it is very difficult to overspend”, they joke. Luck was not on their side when it came to their results in the matches, but that does not mean they did not enjoy every single second of the experience, while competing at the highest level in this year’s Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League also offered invaluable experience to the players and teams. “It was absolutely worth all the effort. It is so nice to play here and to be a part of this event”, they assured. In this same sense, one of the most experienced players in the team, goalkeeper Jessica Overtoom, highlighted how the team had significantly improved after this period. “Training hard made us grow and learn a lot, in different aspects of the games, and also having been able to compete here made us stronger.”, she stated. With their attitude, their grit, and their passion, there is no doubt this team will keep growing, aiming for yet higher goals in the seasons to come. BEACHSOCCER.COM I 87


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Kristall and Mad dominate Europ Euro Winners Cup Nazaré 2021

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he very best players in the world returned to the Portuguese coast to represent some of the top

beach soccer sides in the battle for European supremacy, with Kristall claiming a record fourth time and Madrid CFF becoming the sixth club to clinch the Women’s Euro Winners Cup.

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The two teams topping the BSWW Ranking squared off in the final once again.

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Angelo Schirinzi’s Kristall were the defending champions, but no less that 49 clubs were ready to try and claim the crown, including three previous winners, Russian rivals Lokomotiv Moscow (who were named Mundialito champions later in the year), three-time Euro Winners Cup champions SC Braga of Portugal and Italians Viareggio. Getting out of the group The first step towards retaining their title and winning a record fourth fir Kristall was making the knockout stages, but a wobble on Day 1 saw them lose to the Spanish debutants, San Francisco, who were headed by none other than Ramiro Amarelle. The Spaniards went on to top the group but Kristall made the Round of 32 as second place finishers. Braga stormed through the first stages with an aggregate score of 23-2 to top Group L, while Lokomotiv topped their group too and Viareggio just managed to scrape through as one of the best third-place finishers.

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Viareggio were the first previous winners to fall, knocked out by Russian club Delta in the Round of 32, but the rest reached the quarter-finals, as well as the so far undefeated debutants, San Francisco. Hosts ACD Sótão, Krylya Sovetov, Spartak Varna and the 2020 third-place finishers Real Münster (GER) also reached the final eight, but the Germans were the only ones to make it to the semi-final where they lost to Kristall. San Francisco’s winning streak finally came to an end when they came up against Portuguese champions Braga, and with those results, yet another classic Euro Winners Cup final between two old rivals was set… Final Number Five Another Euro Winners Cup final, another Kristall versus Braga. Each had played four Euro Winners Cup finals before, each had won three of them, meaning that their stalemate of titles won was about to be upset.

Kristall claim record fourth Euro Winners Cup title

A much improved local Nazaré side, ACD Sótão also didn’t drop a point to top the group, Kfar Qassem (ISR), Krylya Sovetov (RUS), Delta (RUS), Casa Benfica Loures (POR) and Spartak Varna (BUL) did the same.

The fight for a record fourth European title got underway in fierce fashion, where physicality and speed were the themes of the opening period, but there were no goals.

Knockouts The original number of 50 clubs from 16 different nations was slashed to 32 after the group stage, and then to 16 as each day’s matches saw the number drop and the quality increase.

The start of the second, however, was all about the Brazilians as Mauricinho hit two in quick succession to snatch the lead. Braga keeper Rafa Padilha wasn’t far behind him with a rocket from his own area, and then a deflected Leo Martins shot looped over Maksim Chuzhkov to see the scores

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levelled. It wasn’t until the final period that a gap started to form between the two dominant clubs in Europe. The Russians of Kristall joined their Brazilian teammates on the scoresheet as Remizov, Paporotnyi and Shishin took the tally for Schirinzi’s men to five, while Braga hit a third through Filipe. With Kristall in control, there was still time for one more goal, and it came in incredible style with just 52 seconds on the clock, where veteran Russian international Shishin leapt to catch an overhead volley from distance to take the final score to 6-3. Individual brilliance To add more trophies for the Saint Petersburg club, Mauricinho won his fourth – yes, fourth! – Euro Winners Cup MVP award, and Chuzhkov took home the Best Goalkeeper award. They were joined in the award ceremony by an incredible breakthrough talent, Bernardo Lopes who had been representing Portuguese side GRAP. Lopes made his debut with the Portuguese national team a month previously, and netted no less than 18 goals in the 2021 Euro Winners Cup campaign – remember the name! Meanwhile in the playoffs, Real Münster had reached their second third-place playoff in as many years, and they went up against Ramiro Amarelle’s San Francisco. In a thrilling match, the Spaniards came out on top to end their first ever Euro Winners Cup in an impressive third place. Two Russian sides, Lokomotiv and Krylia Sovetov, faced off for fifth, and the Railwaymen BEACHSOCCER.COM I 91


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San Francisco (ESP) sealed their first participation with a third-place finish.

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ran out narrow winners, while ACD O Sótão defeated Bulgarian side Spartak on penalties in the seventh-place playoff. Both sides recorded their best ever finish in the competition. The story of beach soccer dominance in Europe is far from over, but advantage Kristall… Madrid win first Women’s Euro Winners Cup Mid-July saw the return of the top women’s beach soccer club competition in Europe, as 18 clubs from eight different nations descended on the sands of Nazaré, Portugal to do battle.

Super Spaniards Madrid won the 2021 trophy, dethroning Mriya 2006 (UKR) who won the crown on their debut appearance in 2020.

67 clubs hurdled Covid-19 difficulties and took part in the event The two clubs actually met in the group stages, where the Ukrainians came out on top after extra time, but despite this defeat, Madrid CFF kept their heads up to top the group and reach the knockout stages.

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The three group winners, as well as the best second-placed team, made the semi-finals in Nazaré and they were: 2018 champions WFC Zvezda (RUS), the Brazilian-bolstered Marseille Beach Team (FRA), debutants Bonaire Terrassa (ESP) and 2019 runners-up Madrid CFF (ESP). Russian side Zvezda defeated Marseille, who had one of the world’s top three players Adriele from Brazil in their squad, by three goals to two to make the final, the first time they had done so since their title-winning campaign in 2018. BEACHSOCCER.COM I 93


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La Roja star Alba Mellado was instrumental for the Spaniards

In the other semi-final, it was a Spanish derby where the Catalan side Terrassa marked their first-ever Euro Winners Cup campaign with an impressive winning streak, but it came to an end at the hands of the Spanish rivals.

The final was a continuation of the Mellado show, as the number ten scored no less than four goals as Madrid beat Zvezda 6-3, and deservedly added their name to the growing list of Euro Winners Cup champions.

Madrid brushed aside Terrassa by scoring four goals, and three of them came from Alba Mellado who had been in incredible form throughout the tournament and really came through for her club when they needed her most.

They not only added theirname, but could from 2019, where they reached the final of the competition and faced AIS Playas de San Javier. In that all-Spanish final, luck was not on Madrid’s side, who saw how their opponents from Murcia

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scaped with the trophy after a thrilling beach soccer battle. This time, the story was different, though, and Madrid are the new queens of Europe, becoming the second Spanish club to win the title. Apart from that, the fact that six Women’s Euro Winners Cup editions have seen six difference winners is a true testament to the competitive nature of women’s beach soccer. That would not be the only honour for the Madrileñas,


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though, as Alba Mellado also took home the Top Scorer award thanks to her amazing 14 goals, while Anna Cherniakova won the MVP trophy and fellow Russian international Anna Akylbaeva, one of the most awarded players of the last seasons, won the Best Goalkeeper prize. One more to add to her personal cabinet, indeed... In the playoff for third, Terrassa claimed one last victory by coming from behind to beat Marseille BT from the penalty

spot, thus confirming their underdogs condition of this 2021 edition.

La Roja star Alba Mellado was instrumental once again for the Spaniards If global health conditions allow, let’s keep our fingers crossed, next 2022 the Women’s Euro Winners Cup will

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write a new historic chapter, and will strive to break the participation records to date. Women’s Beach Soccer, at a clubs level (as well as at the National Teams level) has already demonstrated that it is ready, and willing, for bigger and more competitive events. And the Euro Winners Cup is one of those competitions with an interminable room for growth. Let’s go for it! Roll of the 2022 Women’s Euro Winners Cup! BEACHSOCCER.COM I 95


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lorenç and Hosseini

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he beach soccer world will not be the same after 2021. Some iconic players retired from the international stage leaving a void that will hardly be filled. Two of those players are living legends Llorenç Gómez (Spain) and Peyman Hosseini (Iran). The first notice about that came after the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, when Llorenç Gómez announced his retirement from professional beach soccer due to an injury. In a statement released on Sunday evening, the 29-year-old said: “After a magical decade, I’m leaving this amazing period of my life.

Llorenç: “I had to make a tough decision, but I have to prioritize the quality of the rest of my life” I came across professional beach soccer at 19 years old. I have run across the most extraordinary beaches and scored goals in the most important stadiums in the world. The reason that I am retiring is the injuries that I’ve suffered, which have been diagnosed as degenerative, and I want to prioritise the quality of the rest of my life over my life as a professional athlete.” He suffered the latest in a string of injuries during Spain’s FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup campaign, which will now stand as his final competition. BEACHSOCCER.COM I 97


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Following an incredible individual season in 2018, Llorenç was nominated as the Best Player in the World for that season. He has represented top clubs such as Kristall (RUS), Flamengo (BRA), Lokomotiv Moscow (RUS) and Barcelona (ESP), as well as scoring 205 goals in 165 games for La Roja. Hosseini steps down international stage Legendary goalkeeper Peyman Hosseini, undeniably one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the sport, brought his international career to an end, bowing out at the Tecnotree Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup in Dubai in November this year. However, he made it very clear that this does not mean that he will leave beach soccer and the beach soccer family. Beach soccer is his place, something he has no doubt about. On top of continuing to compete at club level in Iran, he is already thinking about how to continue to add value to the sport that he absolutely adores.

Hosseini: “I love beach soccer, and what I want to do is teach the next generation of players now”

“I love beach soccer and I will keep working in beach soccer“, he assured. In the near future, his plans are to transmit his knowledge and experience to the coming generations. First, becoming the goalkeeper coach of the Iran National Team but his objective is also to work with children. “I want to create an academy in my city, Largan, in Mazandaran, and start working with young players. I believe that beach soccer is better than any other sport or modality of football, and my intention is to bring as many people to beach soccer as possible, help them in getting to know the sport and become enchanted by it. I know they will as soon as they try it.” Whatever their plans are, both Llorenç and Peyman will always be true assets for beach soccer, and their charisma, knowledge and experience will continue to help the sport grow to new levels. The journey does not end here, thank you for everything, guys. 98 I BEACHSOCCER.COM


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Hosseini and Abdollahi said goodbye to the Iranian fans in Dubai.

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Hosts claim maiden Independence Cup in Kiev Independence Beach Soccer Cup Kiev 2021

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he 2021 season saw the brand-new Independence Cup added to the beach soccer

Ukraine impress at the firstever Independence Beach Soccer Cup to claim the title on home sand! Even in the difficult times posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, beach soccer still managed to reach new height and establish new events across the world. The latest addition to the evergrowing calendar is the Independence Beach Soccer Cup Kiev.

the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup which took place just weeks after, and they met in a tight battle on Day 1, where the UAE just edged the opener by two goals to one. Ukraine then put eight past Turkey, including a hat-trick from the towering striker Andrei Pashko who is fast becoming a focal point of the Ukrainian attack, to go top of the group.

Ukraine’s wonderkid Andrii Pashko was the top scorer of the competition

ded in stalemate where penalties were the only way to decide the match between Ukraine and UAE. Although the Emirati sealed the point at stake from the 9-meter distance, the overall points kept the hosts atop the standings. This result saw Ukraine lift the title and UAE finish in second, while Oman dealt a devastating 7-0 thumping to Turkey to claim third. Local young hero Andrii Pashko finished as the Top Scorer on five, earning Ukraine another trophy, while the other individual awards went to UAE players. Shot-stopper Humaid took home the Best Goalkeeper trophy, while Waleed Beshr won the MVP.

The Ukrainian capital was the backdrop for a three-day contest which saw four of the world’s top beach soccer nations come together to contend a fresh title.

On Day 2, it was a second win for Ukraine, who handed a second defeat to Oman, with a final score of 3-1, despite Abdullah taking an initial lead for the visitors.

The hosts narrowly came out on top against the visiting national teams of UAE, Turkey and Oman to claim a momentous title.

In the other match, Turkey left it very late to get off the mark and go level on points with UAE and Oman when they beat the Emiratis five goals to three.

Another successful beach soccer event established, and the 2022 season will see the return of the Independence Cup even bigger and better than the first edition.

For the Asian sides, the event served as the ideal warm-up for

On the final day of matches, what was essentially a final en-

Who will challenge the hosts for the second edition title?

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The final whistle International referees Matticoli, Almeida and Günther called it a day this season

Dubai will always be special for Gionni Matticoli.

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he end of the 2021 beach soccer season will also be marked by the farewell of three of the most iconic referees in the world: Gionni Matticoli, Torsten Günther and Antonio Almeida. The final of the Tecnotree Intercontinental Beach Cup Dubai 2021 meant the last of the 341 games directed by Matticoli, a referee that has been present in nothing less than five FIFA Beach Soccer Cups. After more than 13 years refereeing at the highest level, including 13 finals of the biggest competitions, the most important thing Matticoli keeps is the people he has got to know during these years.

Dubai, Moscow and Figueira da Foz, their last dances “I have had the chance to meet and share my time with amazing people, both referees, players, coaches, managers, etc. who have made me grow as a person. I am really thankful to all of them“, he admits. In a very similar terms, Portuguese refereeing legend Antonio Almeida explains that “beach soccer has given me such fantastic things. Refereeing is absolutely my passion, and getting to know other people, different countries and different cultures has been amazing, just as the chance to learn from the very best over these years“, Almeida highlights. BEACHSOCCER.COM I 103


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Following 223 international games at the highest level (plus hundreds more at the Portuguese National Championship), the game for the third place at the last Mundialito de Clubes (being Portuguese he could not referee the final, as SC Braga were involved) was his farewell to refereeing. A top class stage for a top class referee. These two referees, a true reference in the beach soccer global stage, have set the bar really high for all those who want to follow their steps, and say goodbye to our sport, at least at the highest level, banking on the respect from everyone, including players, coaches and fans all over the globe. Some weeks before, the Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League Superfinal meant the last dance for German International Torsten Günter. The DFB (German FA) stick to the age limit so he knew that 2021 would be his last year, unfortunately.

All three will keep helping beach soccer grow. Now they will do it off the pitch Figueira da Foz, then, meant the end of the refereeing career for Torsten after 27 years of refereeing, in which he not only raised the standard of refereeing at a global level, but contributed decisively to the creation of the German National League. In 2014 he became a FIFA referee, what had him refereeing 150 international games, plus eight German finals. Years that had him traveling the world and enjoying very special moments: “I remember once, in the Virginia Beach event, I had to stop the game because a kid was crying and all the players got down on one knee, the player with the ball was holding the ball, and they did not keep playing until the crying child was comforted. I had goose bumps”, he explains. As he himself says, it is not the end of his beach soccer life, as he will keep promoting the development of the sport and helping younger referees as coach and instructor, willing to keep contributing to the projection of beach soccer, “my passion”. Thank you for everything, and best of luck for your coming adventures, guys! 104 I BEACHSOCCER.COM


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Figueira saw Torsten Günther referee his last game. Antonio Almeida would still take part in the Mundialito de Clubes.

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2022 season: Workshop in Dubai launches the coming beach soccer year The season may have ended in November, but the work doesn’t stop there, as we look ahead to all the amazing beach soccer planned for 2022.

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he official launch of the 2022 beach soccer season returned to its usual time and place in Dubai on Friday 5 November.

In attendance were some of the biggest names in the sport such as 2021 Best Coach nominee Angelo Schirinzi, starting his birthday celebrations at the Season Launch, Ozu, this season’s Best Player, Mikhail Likhachev, this season’s Best Coach, as well as Portuguese beach soccer legend, Madjer. Ricardo Garcia, Director of Competitions at BSWW, outlined the new project of the Centres of Excellence. “We really want to develop beach soccer on a global scale. Our idea is that these Centres of Excellence will a big step forward in the growth of the sport. We want to have a headquarters on every continent, and a contact there.” Then it was the turn of Michele Conti, FIFA Referee Coordinator, to discuss the changes in the Laws of the Game. “We are always trying to improve the game to attract new teams, new players and new fans,” he commented, and then received some questions from the players and coaches in the audience. After that, Iñaki Uribarri, Director of Communications at BSWW, brought the subject of women’s beach soccer to the floor, outlining a four-pillar plan, and highlighting the importance of visibility and awareness in growing the women’s game. “We have put a lot of effort into the development of the women’s game. We went from three national teams in 2015 to 25 this year. But

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there is always room for improvement. Only 12% of the national associations have women’s teams.” A big step in the development and streamlining of beach soccer events has been the new platform, My Beach Soccer, and Laura Cusco, Director of Marketing, and Rafael Devisate from the competitions department, provided a quick rundown of how the system works and the huge advantages it will provide for everyone involved in the beach soccer events. Finally, the exciting moment of the calendar reveal came, as Josep Ponset, Director of Events, went through a preliminary draft of the 2022 season calendar.

The ammendments to the Laws of the Game, the 2022 projected calendar, the women’s beach soccer or the new platform were debated He had some important announcements about alterations to some classic events. “In the 2022 Euro Beach Soccer League, four Division B teams will be promoted to Division A.” On top of that, he revealed exiting news about editions to the beach soccer scene. “We have new teams who will be entering the competitions next year, including Belgium, Malta and Israel” He also disclosed that the 2023 European Games will include both men’s and women’s categories for the first time.


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Beach Soccer Worldwide and RealFevr sign partnership agreement The Portuguese start-up will launch and manage NFTs of key moments in beach soccer history

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each Soccer Worldwide and RealFevr have signed a three-year partnership agreement through which the Portuguese start-up will become the official beach soccer NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) platform.

Russia, and the United Arab Emirates, among others. After viewing the available content, in addition to the iconic acrobatic goals, we were fascinated by the number of “hidden gems” that we are sure will drive crazy, not only football fans but the entire crypto community.

Established in 2015, RealFevr is today expanding to be the leader of the NFT Market by launching the First-Ever Football Video NFTs Marketplace, fully backed by IP, which is the differential point of their model.

Joan Cuscó, Beach Soccer Worldwide president, highlighted the importance of this agreement: “We have always thought that beach soccer is rich in unforgettable moments, and this partnership with RealFevr will now allow us to bring them back to life in the form of NFTs, and this is something we regard as a truly valuable possibility. We are really happy to partner with a company with such a forward-thinking mindset which at the same time understands the importance of the Intellectual Property, and we are absolutely sure that this collaboration with RealFevr will bring many exciting things in a near future.”

RealFevr aims to completely disrupt the NFTs ecosystem by combining breakthrough tech, blockchain’s decentralization, with the uniqueness of video collectibles that empower gamers, providing utility to each moment and gamifying it in an entire ecosystem of NFT games. Through this collaboration, Beach Soccer Worldwide and RealFevr will jointly create a set of NFTs from different key moments in the history of the sport, including not only beach soccer legends like Madjer, Amarelle or Jorginho, but also former world-class football players such as Romário, Cantona, Zico, or Zidane, all coming soon to the RealFevr platform. Fred Antunes, RealFevr’s CEO Said: The partnership with Beach Soccer Worldwide is the realization of an old passion resulting from the results obtained by Portugal in several competitions. Beach Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world and is a strategic partnership for consolidation in Latin America, Europe,

“Beach Soccer is rich in unforgettable moments, a nd this partnership will allow us to bring them back to life in the form of NFTs” Periodically, a drop will be released, and beach soccer fans all over the world will be able to own a historical moment, purchasable with $FEVR, the RealFevr Token. More information at https://www.realfevr.com/

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Destination

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or the 10th time, one of the most iconic places in the world became the home of beach soccer. Proud to have walked together such a long and successful way! Coming back again this 2022!

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Fan Pics

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n this section, we highlight a few of our favourite beach soccer snaps that you guys have been taking all over the world… Do you want to be featured in this page? Use #iambeachsoccer and #beachsoccer hashtags in your beach soccer snaps and you might appear in the next edition of BAREFOOT: The Beach Soccer Mag!

Racing Club de France’s Naomi knows what’s the best way to enjoy holidays... @naomi_0r7_officiel

Volleying against the sea... Difficult to miss the target, isn’t it? ;) @beppe_simo

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Our friend Mohamed Naushad keeps snapping beach soccer in paradise... We can’t get enough! @natea23mv

The sun goes down... Beach soccer does not! v@suratlive

The perfect reflection of a beach soccer moment with some friends. @matteorabaiotti

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Coming Up

Eyes on the ball... and the new season! 2022 It has been an amazing 2021, with phenomenal beach soccer. But the ball does not stop flying, the beach soccer world does not stop spinning. And now is the perfect moment to start thinking about the mouth-watering season just ahead of us. While we are still delighting ourselves with the memories of the last FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021, the first steps to the 2023 edition have already been made. The bidding process for the global showpiece began in early December this year, with five member associations joining the race to host the tenth edition of the biggest beach soccer event in the planet: Colombia, Bahrain, UAE, Seychelles and Thailand. This means that the first qualifying stages will begin taking place this 2022, with the first con114 I BEACHSOCCER.COM

federations defining their representatives in the World Cup. At the same time, the road the World Beach Games (to take place in 2023) will also begin this year. And, in this case, the qualifying stages will involve both men’s and women’s divisions. Although the venue for the multi-sports event is still to be defined, one thing is confirmed: beach soccer will be one of the main attractions again. And besides all that, this 2022 will also bring a lot of surprises, with new venues expected for the Euro Beach Soccer League and the reencounter with beach soccer competitions the pandemic prevented from taking place, etc. We’d better be ready to enjoy what is coming!