Football has certainly evolved over the years. The game itself has even branched off into different versions, one of which is currently making headways in India. The first-ever National Beach Soccer Championship has started in Surat, Gujarat, where 20 states are fighting it out against each other for the top prize.
The Federation has further plans to form a national team from the best beach soccer players that are scouted from the championship, with plans to participate in the AFC Beach Soccer competitions later on.
Beach soccer is a game played barefeet on sand, where both teams field five players each. The matchday squad of each team can have up to 12 players, and rolling substitutions are available. Unlike football or futsal, there are three periods in a beach soccer match, lasting 12 minutes, with an extra three minutes added if the scores are tied. If a winner is not decided in those three minutes, then the game goes to a penalty shootout.
The current National Beach Soccer Championship got underway at the Dumas Beach in Surat on January 26 in the presence of AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey and Member of Parliament CR Patil.
Mr Chaubey said, “I am very happy with how Gujarat has taken up the mantle of hosting beach soccer this season, but we must also make sure that we make this event even bigger in the years to come. The National Beach Soccer Championship needs to be a regular feature in every season’s footballing calendar, and we must make sure that it takes place during this time of the year.”
“It is our hope that we will give beach soccer a new push through this championship,” said Jignesh Patil, Chairman, AIFF Beach Soccer Committee. “This is not just an event for this year, but for the future as well. A lot of states have shown enthusiasm in participating in this event, and I hope more follow suit later on as well.
“The fact that we have started the beach soccer championship does not just end at the games themselves. We are looking at an overall growth that involves education about this relatively new game for the coaches, referees, and other stakeholders as well.”
The Dumas Beach, which is hosting the ongoing National Beach Soccer Championship, is a public area, some 10 km from the city of Surat. The Gujarat State Football Association (GSFA), with the help of the local corporation, has put things together at the beach, in order to host the tournament.
“The beach is an open public area, but the corporation helped a lot in cleaning up the beach so that we could mark the playing areas. We have also put in temporary stands that can host around 500-600 people,” said Mr Patil. “I am happy to say that so far, the stands have been full of young children who come to the matches after attending their schools.”
The GSFA has also made other logistical arrangement for the teams to stay close to the venue. “The response from the fans and the teams has been huge. Other enthusiasts have also joined in,” he said. “We have also requested the corporation to keep the playing areas intact even after the end of the tournament, so that they can be used for the future as well, be it in tournaments or for the public.”