Although it is not currently recognized as an Olympic sport, these Ghanian football players hope to make Beach Soccer the next big thing during the Summer Games. Story sponsored by GE.
Accra— While football is one of the world’s most popular sports and has been in the olympic games since 1908 — there are now calls for its sand based cousin to join it. Beach Soccer has been played informally by friends and families on beaches for decades. But in 1992 it began to take on an entirely more professional shape when the company Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSWW) put together a set of rules and regulations to make the sport official. From that tournaments sprung up, which increased its popularity and now, the push to get it included in the next summer olympics.
The irregularity of the soft-sand playing surface leads to a totally different style of play than what footballers are used to. It makes the game more surprising as the ball takes sudden twists and turns and it forces players to have to improvise more. The compact field, much smaller than a normal football field, allows players to score from anywhere on the sand, leading to about sixty attempts at goal in a single game. With an average of scoring rate of one goal every three or four minutes, the game is much faster and more exciting than regular football as around eleven goals are scored per game.
While people like Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman and Brazilian football legend Pele both lobbied for beach soccer’s inclusion into the 2016 games in Brazil, the game didn’t make the cut. Now its fans are looking at what they can do, to get it included in 2020.
Many of those fans live in Ghana where Beach Soccer has been played since 2007 when the new rules were first introduced.
Since 2011, Beach Soccer Ghana has successfully organized 4 beach soccer league seasons consisting of 20 registered teams and more than 600 players from coastal communities including Ada, Tema, Keta, Senya, Cape Coast, Sekondi, Prampram and Labadi. Just like in football, there are various rivalries in the local league, the main rivalry being between 3-time champions Sunset Sports, Keta and 2014-2015 champions Havedzi Mighty Warriors.
Alfred Torsu playing for the Volta Region Select side at the just ended Ghana Beach Soccer Unity Cup where they won the silver medal.
Then in 2013, another landmark achievement was recorded with the creation of Ghana’s first ever beach soccer national team, the Black Sharks. Despite a slow start, the Sharks have gone on to achieve great feats. At the 2015 Confederation of African Football beach Soccer Nations Cup in Seychelles, striker Alexander Adjei picked up the top scorer award for making 17 goals.
Ghanaians are slowly embracing the new beach soccer culture and notwithstanding the challenges, the future holds a lot of promise.
Beach Soccer Opens a New World to Fisher Boy – The Story of Alfred Torsu
Before he burst onto the scene in 2014, nobody had heard of Alfred Kwame Torsu. He was that typical innocuous child who hops along with the men when they go fishing. Always close enough to feel the energy and excitement before, during and after a catch. But always shielded away from the potential dangers of fishing. However by age 11, Alfred's resilience and willingness to join the fishing party meant that he became a constant feature and member of his clan’s fishing expeditions.
Alfred working his day job as a fisherman
Today, the Ghana Black Sharks and Havedzi Mighty Warriors beach soccer midfielder, is on the verge of leading his country to qualify for the Beach Soccer African Championship to be played next December in Lagos, Nigeria.
Torsu in his true element. Playing for the win on the sand.
Born on the 10th of January 1998, Alfred is one of the youngest and most promising beach soccer players in Ghana. The last child of 4 children, Alfred lost both parents before he turned 17; losing his dad when he was 9 and then his mum before he turned 16. The tragedies greatly impacted the soft spoken athlete who admits that he recoiled into a shell, which beach soccer has helped pull him out of.
Torsu, as he is called on the pitch, fell in love with football at a very tender age and joined his first football team when he was just 9 years old.
He started his career with a local colt’s team for youngsters curiously named Agbozume Serious Babies. In no time, the smallish but combative player moved up the ranks to a local second division club known as Agbozume Weavers.
When beach soccer took in Ghana, he was grabbed by his hometown club Havedzi Mighty Warriors.
The team was runner-up in Ghana’s National Championship match three times, before Alfred helped push them to winthe trophy in 2015. This led to an immediate call-up to the national beach soccer team, and made Alfred the youngest player on the Black Sharks. In international competition, Alfred did not disappoint. In the qualifiers he scored both home and away against Uganda, in Entebbe and then Accra. The goals continued to flow when Ghana made its debut at the maiden edition of the African Beach Soccer Nations Cup in Seychelles.
His impressive performance at the tournament caught the eyes of the organisers and he was named as one of best young stars of the competition. Alfred has won the MVP awards at almost every tournament he's played in, the latest being the 2016 Keta Cup which was followed by the Ghana Beach Soccer league.
Alfred says the only thing driving him to continuously improve is his passion for the game.
His story, just like the game itself, has only just begun.