Beach soccer’s home country heroes

Stuart Barker looks at the heroes of the England and Great Britain women’s beach soccer team.

You would be forgiven for not being aware of the great work going on with the England and Great Britain women’s beach soccer side. While coverage of women’s football is improving, I wanted to share the great work being done by Perry Northeast and his women’s beach soccer team.

Beach soccer has many similarities with the grass game but a few differences which make the sport unique.

Each team consists of five players, including one goalkeeper. Matches are divided into three twelve minutes periods with no injury time as the clock is stopped during breaks in play.

There are unlimited substitutions and these can be made while the ball is still in play.

Every infraction of the rules will result in a direct free kick which is to be taken by the player fouled (unless injured). No walls are permitted and players must clear the route between the kicker and the goal. Due to the smaller pitches, all free kicks provide a good opportunity to score. Like grass, the kick is taken from the spot where the foul was committed (typical penalty rules apply). Players are allowed to manipulate the sand (but only with their feet) to set the ball up and allow them to get the best connection with the ball.

Unlike the 11-a-side game, but similar to futsal, goals cannot be scored directly from kick-off and there is no offside. 

Due to the difficulty in dribbling with the ball you’ll find that players will flick up the ball and look to play it in the air. This also requires players to have a good touch and results in spectacular overhead and bicycle kicks.

Northeast is a former England beach soccer player himself and currently works as one of the FA Women’s High Performance Centre’s Coach Development Officers based in Sussex.

Until this summer Northeast’s biggest achievement with the team was winning the 2017 Women’s Euro Beach Soccer Cup. The side have been consistently competing at the highest level, getting to the semi-finals in the subsequent two tournaments.

Last month the England team competed under the banner of Team GB in the inaugural Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar.

Northeast’s squad included Gemma Hillier (the only female inducted into the Portsmouth FC hall of fame), London City LionessesHannah Short, former Tottenham Hotspur player, Wendy Martin and team captain, Sarah Kempson.

Not to forget, Molly Clark, who in 2018 was nominated as one of the top three players in the world and shortlisted for goal of the season with a sensational overhead kick.

After finishing top in their group, Team GB qualified for the semi-finals where they took on Brazil, a team that is infamous for kicking a ball around Copacabana beach.  

Team GB found themselves 5-2 down in that game and looked to be heading out. Hillier gave the side hope, pulling one back with a beautiful overhead, while soon after Kempson reduced to margin to just one goal.

Team GB were awarded a penalty which was successfully converted by Martin to make it 5-5.

Step up Sarah Kempson, the former Lewes midfielder hit a rocket of a free kick from her own area which went in off the post.

Brazil pushed for an equaliser but Portsmouth Women’s goalkeeper, Hannah Haughton was able to manage anything and everything that came her way. When the final whistle went it was GB’s cue for wild, and much deserved, celebrations.

GB lost the final 3-2 to an impressive Spain side but they can be immensely proud of their achievement.

If you’d like to know how to get involved in the sport then you can contact info@englandbeachsoccer.org.

Follow Stuart on Twitter @_ChuBarker

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