One of the world’s biggest international beach soccer tournaments returns to Dubai in November, with the game’s stars hoping to impress before next year’s World Cup. Gruffudd Owen looks ahead to the Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup
There’s no place like home…
The Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup has called Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach its home since the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2011. A state-of-the-art 3,000-seater stadium at the Dubai International Marine Club plays host to the matches – making it an ideal venue for one of the biggest events on the beach soccer calendar. With an agreement in place to hold the competition in Dubai until at least 2017, the city has made a name for itself as a leading destination for this quick-paced sport.
Russia the team to beat
Russia head to the tournament as defending champions, having beaten Tahiti 5-2 in last year’s final. With a population 800 times the size of the remote southern Pacific island, the Russians were always going to be strong favourites in the tie, and the country’s third title (the other two occasions coming in 2011 and 2012) reflects their dominance in the competition. Mikhail Likhachev’s side is second in the Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW) rankings and starts this year’s campaign against Egypt in Group B. Once again, they are tipped to go far.
Can the UAE deliver?
As annual hosts of the Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup, the UAE have benefited from regularly competing against some of the strongest sides in the world. Currently 13th in the BSWW rankings, Al Abyad finished third in both 2012 and 2013, and will be hoping to emulate – or even surpass – these performances this time. Drawn into a group containing last year’s runners-up Tahiti, heavyweights Brazil and Poland, this will be a tough ask – but they will certainly relish the challenge.
The first of two tournaments in Dubai
Such is the attraction of Dubai as a world-class venue for the sport that it will welcome another major tournament to Jumeirah in January 2017 – the AFC Beach Soccer Championship. Asia’s biggest international beach soccer competition sees the top three teams qualify for the 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in the Bahamas. The Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup therefore represents an excellent opportunity for the UAE to prepare for a crucial event they will host for the first time since 2009.
A worldwide event
Beach soccer is still a relatively young sport compared to its ubiquitous older brother. That is not to say, however, that it lacks mass appeal. The Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup will be broadcast live to over 200 million households across the five days of competition, with big crowds expected at the Dubai International Marine Club. Regarded as a warm-up event ahead of next year’s World Cup, some of the game’s biggest stars will be on show – making this a festival of beach footy that is not to be missed.
The Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup runs from 1-5 November at the Dubai International Marine Club, Jumeirah.