For this edition let’s reflect on the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The event held in Nassau, Bahamas was yet another example of why #FIFA needs to pay attention to this amazing sport and NEVER let it out of its grasp as the most exciting version of our favorite sport with a ball.
The numerous number of people I have met who have no interest in the grass game are enthralled and amazed by the crazy and acrobatic kicks, shots, and passing taking place mostly in the air. At this World Cup new friends would leave their seats to go watch the monitors just so they could see the replays because if you turned your head for a second you would miss the goal keeper throwing the ball the length of the small pitch followed by his teammate sky-ing in the air and driving a full overhead bike kick directly on goal for an amazing score!
The Bahamas as a country were not only gracious and friendly hosts, but did so in the middle of Carnival and on the eve of their national elections…not to mention following the now world renowned Fyre Festival which is known for all the wrong reasons and had nothing to do with Bahamas beside cleaning up JaRule’s & Co. mess they made of it.
The point being is all at one time the Bahamas was the center of the world of sport and music and they pulled it off very well. Even the Fyre Festival a dismal failure gave praise to the Ministry of Tourism who basically bailed out the festival for all their short comings. But, this supposed to be about soccer/futbol and the Beach Soccer World Cup right?
The event was exceptional! The stadium built at the foot of the bridge leading to Atlantis and the high end resorts was amazing. The stadium while not full all the time since games started at 3.30pm each day, mid-week mostly, would fill more and more as the day would go on. There was a fear once the host team was eliminated it might be tough to have the party and atmosphere continue.
This fear was never realized as the stadium filled each night for the later rounds of the tournament. Even the day of Carnival in full swing with the parade circling around Nassau the beach soccer stadium was full of excited fans witnessing Tahiti moving past Iran, and Brazil showing Italy why they are still the best, even thought Italy has arguably the best professional beach soccer league in the world.
Iran was the story of the tournament. When I first saw their goalie, Peyman Hosseini, I wondered how they were going to be successful with such a small member between the sticks. As he did the splits in preparation for penalties I sort of chuckled to myself, but later when he dove one direction and his leg raised to a level I have never seen and snap kick the ball away I was not only shocked and amazed, but impressed like no other keeper I have ever seen. He gave precision service and even scored himself from the back making him the best goalkeeper of the tournament truly hands down. The team itself played very well and upset many teams along the way before stunning the heavy Italian crowd in the 3rd place game taking it to the Italians as well as the bronze. In additon, Mohammed Ahmadzadeh, was named the top player of the tournament by FIFA. Only the Golden Boot which was won by Italian Gabriele Gori (17 Goals) was not taken by Iran in the individual awards categories.
In the final, we saw Brazil, the inventors of the sport, and Tahiti, a finalist in the last two World Cups face off in what everyone anticipated to be a great game. But, the reality was Brazil has found a new generation of young talent which many knew were the best, but no one could have imagined how good. They attacked Tahiti from the outset and in the end beat down their opponent to a 5-0 victory giving Brazil it’s 5th title!
The number 5 was the number of the day for Brazil. It was five World Cups since they last won the tournament, it was their 5th FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, as well as beating their opponent by scoring 5 goals. It was quite a sight to see them play against a very good Tahiti team. But, the tactics on the day by the Tahitian team could not match the pace, and precision finishing the Brazilians displayed.
So where was the United States? They didn’t earn their way to the party. Up to 2007 the US had been to as many World Cups as the best in the world including Brazil. Brazil has been to the most cups with 19 appearances. Since 2007 there has been six World Cups. Previous to 2008 the US had appeared in 12 World Cups. If they had continued on their pattern they would have now appeared in 18 cups. But, something went very wrong and we have only appeared once in the last six World Cups.
Our country has probably the greatest potential of any nation to win big at the Beach Soccer World Cup. We have more beaches than probably any country, and pure numbers and young players playing the sport. Something has to change! Players have to be given the chance to show their talent. At this point, that is not possible. But, change will come, and when it does, we will hopefully once again see the US back in the Beach Soccer World Cup and back to the stage which it has been absent consistently for far too long.
The #USSF must begin to recognize this sport and its importance. It’s understood that USSF President Sunil Gulati is a big fan of beach soccer. But, we need action. Not in words but in funding to be able to develop our team and change the culture of it. The only team the USMNT has beaten in the last several years is China. Not exactly a soccer powerhouse, let alone one who plays beach soccer at a significant level. It is time for change! Mr. Gulati, the ball is in your court, please lift it to yourself and hit the best bike kick we have ever seen to spring us back towards the top the of game!