What A Kick

Beach Soccer Championships
WHEN: May 14-15, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Oceanside Harbor beach, 1200 N. Pacific Street
INFO: beachsoccerusa.org

By Alex Zaragoza

A?nyone can move a ball on grass, but it takes a tougher player, one with insanely high endurance and leg muscles cut from marble, to
score a goal on the sand.

At the fifth annual Beach Soccer Championships, May 14-15 in Oceanside, the stars of the sport will show the turf turkeys how it's done.

The U.S. men's national beach soccer team and other professional men's and women's clubs from as far away as Senegal will compete in a five-on-five tournament to see who walks away with the title, as well as a $10,000 prize.

Winning won't be easy.

"Running in sand in bare feet is pretty tiring," says event spokesman Marc Koehler. "The players raise their hand after a few minutes and are like, 'Coach, take me out!' The games are shorter, but the physical toll it takes on your legs is tremendous."

Even pro footballer John O'Brien (who has played in the World Cup for the U.S. national soccer team and in Europe against some of the greats) had a tough time keeping up on the sand when competing in a previous championship in Oceanside, Koehler says.

Beach soccer, which originated on the beaches of Brazil, is played with bare feet on a court that's just 35 yards long and 25 yards wide-a much smaller playing field than those utilized in traditional soccer.

What the game lacks in space, it makes up for in fast-paced competition.

Koehler points out that regular soccer matches average about three goals per game. With beach soccer, there's an average of 11 goals, and players can score from nearly anywhere on the field.

For spectators' and players' enjoyment, this year's competition is built around a festival that includes capoeira (Brazilian martial art) lessons, juggling contests, a "human foosball court" and more.

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