November 05, 2020

Beach Soccer - Sun, Sand and Football

What Is Beach Soccer (Football)?

Beach soccer is as it sounds, football played on sand. A variant of football, with many similarities to futsal and five-a-side, it has been adapted to suit the playing conditions - sand. Played on a smaller pitch with less time per match, it is a fast and furious game, peppered with goals...lots of goals. And, due to the nature of the playing surface, the style of play is more spontaneous, more creative and more engaging to watch - aerial plays and acrobatics, spectacular dribbles and a host of ball mastery skills are commonplace.

Does it have to be played on the beach?

No, the beach soccer field can be set up on any sandy base anywhere, but wherever it is, it needs to be cleared of stones, pebbles, shells and anything else that could injure a player.

How do you draw field lines on sand?

You don’t! Sand moves, and during a game, it is kicked all over the place, lines would be totally impractical. Other than tape used for the touch lines and goal lines, the players and the referees have to imagine where the lines and spots would be.

Isn’t beach soccer just a knock-about game that people play for fun at barbeques?

No, though it is reasonable to assume that the roots of the game did probably start that way. However, today it is an international game founded by the development agency Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW). FIFA is the world governing body, all the association football confederations support the game and hold beach soccer championships, and many countries have national teams and organised leagues.

Are the rules the same as those in association football and futsal?

Yes, the game follows the basic rules of 11-a-side football, and it has some of those used in futsal, and it has some rules of its own.

Do they play the game in bikinis and speedos?

No, that’s beach volleyball – similar kit as worn for association football and futsal is required.

So, there we have the basics of the game, let’s find out a little bit more about beach soccer.

A Brief Summary

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Beach soccer has been played on the beaches of Brazil since the 1940s. It’s overwhelming popularity led to the first official tournament being played in the 1950s. Though, the official rules of the game only started to come together in the 1990s.

From that time on, the game went from strength to strength. The first televised event was transmitted in 1994. In 1995 the first World Cup was held (organised by the BSWW and won by Brazil). A world tour - the Pro Beach Soccer Tour - was organised in 1996 with 60 games played over two years in Asia, Europe, South America and the USA. From the outset, the organisers made strategic efforts to attract promoters, sponsors, the media and FIFA - attracting external interest, as well as a new worldwide fanbase, led to the formation of a European Beach Soccer League in 1998.

By the early part of the 21st century, beach soccer was firmly established and boasted some major sponsors. In 2005, FIFA joined up with BSWW and founded the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. As international interest grew for the game, the number of teams involved in the World Cup expanded from 8 to 16 teams. Since 2009 the tournament has taken place every two years. In 2019 it was hosted by Paraguay. Moscow will host it in 2021. In 2016 UEFA held its first Women’s Beach Soccer Cup competition. And, in 2018 the first Madjer Cup International Youth Competition was held in Portugal.

Rules of the Game

Beach soccer is played on sand by two teams of five players (four outfielders and one goalkeeper). The field of play is similar to an association football pitch...only smaller.

A beach soccer field is around 36 x 26 meters, but the goal is almost as big as an association football goal – 5.5 x 2.2 meters.

The touchlines and goal lines are formed by tapes or ropes that are pegged to the sand. Red and yellow flags indicate the imaginary centre line, 9m penalty lines and corner arcs.

The game is played with an air-filled, size 5 ball (size 3 or 4 for children). It is made from padded panels so that it doesn’t hurt the players’ bare feet.

The game is played to similar rules and principles of association football. The ball can be played with any part of the body except the hands, and the game is won by the team that scores the most goals. Red and yellow cards are given for misconduct. Free kicks and penalties are awarded to the opposing team for infringements. And, there are corner kicks to restart play as per association football. But there are some significant differences.

A game of beach soccer is played over three 12 minutes sessions with two 3-minute breaks. Ideally, two referees and a time-keeper will be on the pitch to officiate the game. A beach soccer team comprises only 12 players with five on the court at any one time – one of whom must be the goalkeeper. The players wear no shoes, but they can wear ankle guards and beach socks.

The other main differences in the rules include:

  • There is no offside rule - meaning that the players can position or move around the court quite freely during play, and goals can be scored from anywhere on the field.
  • Substitutions can be made at any time (rolling subs) and as often as required. A substitute cannot go onto the field until the player being replaced is in the substitute zone. This procedure also applies to the goalkeeper.
  • Throw-ins can be taken with either hands or feet - a kick-in. The goalkeeper throws the ball into play.
  • All restarts (including free kicks, etc.) must be actioned within 4 seconds.
  • Yellow and red cards are handed out as in football. When a player is sent off (red card), a substitute can be sent on in his place after 2 minutes. If at any point, there are less than three players in a team on the field, the game is abandoned.
  • Penalties and free-kicks can be taken from three places in beach soccer – where the foul occurred, from the centre line, and at the 9m penalty line, as appropriate. Players are not allowed to form a defensive wall.
  • A goalkeeper can handle or kick the ball in the penalty area (which covers the full width of the field). The keeper must only keep the ball for 4 seconds.
  • A goalkeeper cannot receive the ball directly from a teammate unless at least one opposing player has touched the ball first.
  • The clock is stopped whenever the ball is not in play rather than adding on extra time at the end of the session.
  • There are 5 metre and 6-metre marks to indicate where players must be during the kick-off, a corner kick and a penalty kick.
  • Draws are not allowed in Beach Soccer. If both teams have an equal number of goals at full time, then they play an extra 3 minutes. If the scores remain equal after extra time, then the game goes into a sudden death penalty shootout.

For a comprehensive guide to all of the rules of the game, check out the official FIFA Laws of the Game.

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Who Plays Beach Soccer?

Image: David Acosta Allely/

Anyone can play beach soccer; it is a game that started on the beach as a fun recreational activity long before it became a professional sport. Even following the game's official rule book, beach soccer is a more informal sport than association football. However, beach soccer is a fast and intense, action-filled game, with goals scored at a rate of one every 3 to 4 minutes. The pitch is compact, the time on the field is short and playing on the sand can be very demanding. The ball is best played in the air, so a lot of headers, volleys, scissor kicks, overhead kicks and aerial acrobatics are required, as well as balancing the ball on various body parts. So, whoever wants to play needs to be fit, flexible and agile. And, with the skill to control a ball accurately on the sand and in the air.

There are, of course, professional players, both men and women, who play in national and club teams in international, federation and national competitions. These players generally receive a wage, and teams and tournaments are properly organised and fully funded and sponsored. However, some players, more especially women, do not get paid to play in tournaments; they have to balance their work with the game and even have to take unpaid leave - hopefully, something that will change as the sport continues to grow.

The growth in popularity of beach soccer has been largely well-managed, and coastlines around the world provide plenty of opportunities for men, women and youth players to get involved. Teams, leagues and tournaments have been established in schools and universities, throughout community clubs and workplaces, and even in the armed forces. But again, the game's growth in popularity has been such that outdoor and indoor sand fields, away from the coast, are popping up all around the world.

So whoever you are, if you are fit enough, find a field and give the game a go.

What Is The State Of Play In Qatar?

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Qatar is quite new to the sport of beach soccer, but it has been quick to take on both international and confederation responsibilities.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Beach Soccer Championship tournament has been held twice in Doha, 2013 and 2015. It is an important tournament as it serves as the AFC qualifiers for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup competition.

Qatar hosted the 2019 Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games. The event took place in October, and it featured sixteen men's teams and, for the first time, eight women's beach soccer teams.

All of these events were played at a bespoke beach soccer arena set up on Katara Beach in Doha - a city beach on the shores of Katara Cultural Village and overlooking the azure waters of the Persian Gulf.

In addition to hosting major tournaments, Qatar, in March 2015, hosted the first-ever AFC beach soccer referee's course. The four-day course was delivered by experienced FIFA, AFC and UEFA referee instructors.

Qatar also has its own national beach soccer team, which regularly takes part in the quadrennial (AFC) Asian Beach Games competitions.

Even Qatar's award-winning airline, Qatar Airways, has added its weight to the sport. The airline is the official FIFA partner (until 2022) for a multitude of World Cup events including the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

Image: almonfoto/

Beach soccer is now played in some 75 countries around the world, attracting large television audiences in over 170 countries. It is one of the fastest-growing professional sports in the world. Indeed, the pace of the game, the skill involved, and the glamour of the sun and the sand has attracted famous names and sponsors to support it...and the international commercial opportunities it presents are astutely being fostered.

However, it's not all a bed of roses, some federations do not yet support women's beach soccer championships, and not all countries have leagues and youth teams in place. But, the official game is still very new - given time, hopefully, it will tick all the relevant boxes to satisfy and please everyone.

Founded in South America, Futsal shares some of the same concepts as Beach Soccer, but is generally played indoors and on a hard court. Find out more about this energetic and skillful game in our Futsal The World, The Game and Qatar article.

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Published: July 15, 2020
Last updated: November 05, 2020
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