The All India Football Federation’s decision to host the first-ever Men’s National Beach Soccer Championships at Dumas Beach, Surat, in January-February early this
year has proved to be a game-changer for the sport in the country.
Beach Soccer, which remained a fringe sport in India all these years even though FIFA has hosted 11 editions of the Beach Soccer World Cup so far, is now a part of the National Games in Goa beginning October 26. The top seven teams from the Men’s National Beach Soccer Championships and hosts Goa, will fight for the title at Goa’s picturesque Colva Beach, with the final on November 1.
Bruno Coutinho, the former India football team captain and Arjuna awardee, has been closely associated with beach soccer ever since he decided to hang up his boots. His skills in this five-a-side game played barefoot on the sand are well known; in 2007, Bruno was the India coach in the pre-World Cup. He is now the coach of the hosts Goa team in the National Games. A star footballer during his playing days, Bruno is pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of beach soccer in the
National Games, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) sources said.
“I was really surprised to see that beach soccer has been included in the National Games for the first time. Previously, it was just normal football, but now they have not only included beach soccer, but beach handball as well, so it will be interesting,” said Bruno.
Bruno felt that AIFF’s decision to stage the National Championship of the sport was the turning point. “The AIFF took the momentous decision to host the Beach Soccer National Championship last season, and that has paved the way. Now, we can have the National Championship of the sport every year, like the Santosh Trophy, providing more opportunities to players. It will only help the sport grow,” Bruno said.
Mulrajsinh Chudasama, the chairperson of the AIFF Grassroots Committee, is the Tournament Director for beach soccer in the National Games. He said the maiden entry of beach soccer in the Goa National Games was the continuation of AIFF’s successful conduct of the National Championship in January-February.
“I am confident that this is going to be a huge success,” said Mulrajsinh. “There are some challenges ahead. This is the high tide time in Goa, but the organisers have done well by putting up sandbags on the beach so that the FoP (Field of Play) doesn’t get affected. The best state teams in the country will fight it out there. It should be highly entertaining,” he said.
Eight teams have been equally divided into two groups. In Group A, National Champions Kerala are clubbed with Delhi, Jharkhand and Lakshadweep. National runners-up Punjab are in Group B along with Uttarakhand, Odisha and hosts Goa.