And the UAE will be one of the 16 teams playing in it, having qualified on Saturday night with an excruciatingly tight 3-2 victory over Australia.
Sixteen teams. A World Cup just like the World Cup. Except on sand.
Beach soccer has been around a while, having originated in Brazil about 30 years ago, and is played by five-a-side teams on a sandy pitch about 40 yards by 30. The ball hardly rolls, and the game is generally played in the air. A match lasts 36 minutes, and goals can be scored from anywhere — including from the opposite goal.
Fifa has sanctioned the beach soccer World Cup since 1995, and the UAE is pretty good at this variant of the game. This will be the fourth time the country has qualified for the finals, and in a way it makes sense — nearly the whole of the UAE is sand. If you’re kicking a ball around, in the UAE, it very well is going through sand.
(If you think about it, the notion of playing soccer on grass should be the exotic concept, in the Emirates. Topsoil is the rarity, here.)
Asia will be represented by three teams, the other two being Japan and Iran, and four teams from Europe have qualified — Spain (of course), and the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine. (Russia is good at beach soccer. Go figure. It has a zillion miles of coast, but practically none of it is what you would call a “beach” — unless you are a polar bear, perhaps.)
Whether the U.S. will be joining the party … not clear. The site for the 2013 World Cup does not indicate when the North America qualifiers for the World Cup will take place, nor whether the U.S. plans to enter.
Turns out, despite enormous stretches of coastline, the U.S. is not very good at beach soccer. An American team played in something called the International Cup, in Dubai, in October and the UAE team defeated the Yanks, 5-3 — and the U.S. lost all three games by a composite score of 18-7.
So, don’t know if the Yanks will make it to Tahiti. I hope to.