England’s beach soccer team have travelled to Valence in France to participate in the third leg of 2013’s Euro Beach Soccer League.
The competition sees the eight entrants split off into two divisions (A and B, if you like), with England taking part in the second tier alongside Andorra, Moldova and the Czech Republic. Perform well here and they’ll gain entry to the Promotional Final in Spain this August, for which Israel and Turkey have already qualified for.
England have never won a major tournament before and this weekend is the perfect opportunity to make history. Following the recent Bang Saen tournament in Thailand as well as the national side’s tour of the several regional tournaments back home, their appearance in Valence is a great chance to push the profile of the game almost completely overlooked in Britain.
In order to prepare fully, England took part in a friendly against Division A side France on Wednesday, a team previously coached by legend Eric Cantona. Although closed off to the public, the exhibition was a feisty clash, eventually ending 6-3 to the hosts. With encouraging signs for the future, England now look to the Euro League, with their opening Division B match against Andorra taking part at 4pm today. This is followed by a game against Moldova on Saturday and a potential decider against the Czech Republic on Sunday 23rd June.
As mentioned, the profile of beach soccer in England is rapidly increasing. Not only are the national side finding their feet around the world, the sport is being shown off in all corners of this country, already taking in Portsmouth and Poole. Last weekend, Sandown Sociedad defended their title in the Isle of Wight Super Cup, beating Shanklin Sharks 5-3 in the final. Sandown Sociedad, who suffered a baptism of fire when they lost all their group games representing England in the Euro Winners Cup in May, won the event easily after Shanklin’s Scott Lawson displaced his knee and was taken away in an ambulance.
Elsewhere, under-11s and under-12s enjoyed the first East Coast Beach Soccer Tournament with teams from Bridlington, Scarborough, Hunmanby and York taking part, plus students from Skegness Grammar School Sixth Form got the chance to play England in a friendly game at the home of national beach soccer.
Following the Euro Beach Soccer League, the next major action (regional tournaments aside) will be the English National Championships in Ryde.
People wishing to see the action from Valence can see live footage, plus audio and text commentary and highlights at the Beach Soccer Worldwide website.