The other England team in contention to win the Euro in 2021 – the Athletic


It’s always nice when someone sends you a good goal, especially when it comes to a goal from women’s football – a sport that needs its drum to hit particularly hard.

The latest came from Portsmouth female Hannah Haughton, who juggled the ball before shooting the ball into the top corner. The difference is, Haughton is a goalie. And was not wearing shoes. And I didn’t really mean to do it.

It is not the most favorable accumulation: Haughton touches his feet and the ball is lodged in the sand. The shuffle to adjust his body position isn’t particularly conventional – a different kind of agility is required when the terrain is entirely made up of ever-changing mounds and ridges – but its finishing touch is delicious. The kick and three kicks that precede it epitomize the gleeful surrender and invention needed to make the grade in beach football, especially when goalkeepers only have four seconds with the ball, it doesn’t matter. where they are on the ground.

“Because it’s sand, the ball sometimes bounces, springs up, stops dead; it’s really unpredictable, ”says Haughton, a 28-year-old elementary school sports coach.

“The sand was pretty wet from the night before – it had been raining all night – so it was a little sticky, which is why the ball was stuck in there. If you want to hit it in the air, you have to send the ball to someone else or to yourself. There isn’t really a rule of how you hit him, but as a goalie you only have four seconds. Whatever you do, you need to do it fast.

“I had planned on trying to pull it up to shoot, but it just wasn’t high enough, so I kept hitting it and then I thought, ‘I think my four seconds are up.’ . I didn’t hit it like I thought I was going to hit it, but it seemed to work better.

Meet England Women, the new European beach soccer champions. The opening leg of the Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League saw the two top-ranked teams in the world reach a spectacular climax, with England beating Spain 3-1. Winning the regular season positions England as the seed for the post-season event, the Superfinal, in which the teams return to Portugal in September to compete directly for the league title.

The rules are a bit different: at five, on a 36- to 40-meter-long pitch, with three 12-minute periods and a Rugby League stopwatch – and there is of course the sand that makes a style of playing. Totally different game, brimming with whipped scorpion kicks and soaring bike kicks of the dreamy FIFA Street scenery. That’s all the Simpsons announced as Mexico vs. Portugal.

“You’re aiming for at least five or six goals per game,” Haughton says. “It’s crazy. You’re not really safe until you’re about four goals clear. It’s such a tight field.

“The sand makes it very unpredictable. I was beaten several times with the ball going in one direction, hitting the sand and pulling in the top corner or going in the opposite direction. Most of the time, to get good shots, the ball is played in the air. You have a lot of players doing bike kicks and a lot of volleys. It’s just a really, really fast game. It’s a lot more intense than grass football. Everything must be done quickly.

It also comes with its own dangers. Inevitably, the ball is cushioned – who has played football on vacation without fear of losing a fingernail or ruining the gritty pumice stone from a slap that shoots? – but still the same height and weight as in association football. England players invariably find themselves churning in boxes of moisturizer.

“Some games, you get little scratches on the sand or sometimes your feet get stuck, but you get used to it,” says Haughton. “We definitely hydrate because normally we play in a pretty hot sun, so (your skin) dries out anyway, let alone that.

“Although the ball is slightly more cushioned, it is not that far from a normal grass football so it takes some getting used to. Many new players will bandage their feet for a bit of cushioning – but afterwards having done a good part of it, you don’t even blink. “

There are also the dangers of competition in what Haughton describes as a “minority sport” where opportunities are scarce. Haughton fell in by accident when a futsal coach recruited her for a friendly before the 2017 European Championship, to which Haughton “brought boots and shin guards because I didn’t know what to do. to bring”.

Hannah Haughton lifts Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League regular season trophy

Ahead of the 2019 World Beach Games – Haughton and Great Britain lost the final to Spain – support arrived from the GB team and the British Olympic Association, who provided them with doctors, physiotherapists and “everything we’ve never seen before”. Britain had access to a training venue, playing on the beach soccer fields in Lee Valley, home of some of Team GB’s water sports athletes, but those fields have since closed.

“Now we (England) are using context lenses on the beach,” says Haughton. “It’s a minority sport in this country. In other countries, this is not the case. The Spanish have it all and more.

Haughton Primary School sponsors her to play for England and many of her teammates play for Bournemouth, where they are paid coaches, giving them some semblance of a professional football career. She adds that beach soccer receives no funding from the Football Association. They have had the same kits for the past three years and their training shirts bear the logo of Vauxhall, who stepped down as a sponsor in 2017. “We got that second hand from someone who worked in the industry. FA, who was about to bin, adds Haughton.

This makes it all the more remarkable as England keep pace with Spain, teeming with sandy beaches to match those allowed for the competition.

“In this country it’s tough and it’s mostly played on the south coast,” said Steven Black, England’s women’s head coach and former England men’s beach soccer player, scoring seven more than 40 times. appearances. “Bournemouth is a sandy beach and the Isle of Wight. There are man-made beaches: one in London and two in Portsmouth. These are our different training locations and where tournaments take place.

Beach soccer has a short history here – Black believes it was first played on the Isle of Wight 15 years ago – and “has become much more present on the mainland now”. The Portsmouth beach soccer team, founded by Black, is eight years old. Work in England is voluntary, expense-only, and this was his first tournament.

Still, there is hope that England can continue to emulate the success of beach soccer in Portugal and Spain, where players are paid. A number of England players traveled abroad again after the tournament to spend the next five weeks picking up where they left off.

“A lot of them are on popular beaches, so you have a lot of passers-by,” says Black. “There are tournaments and small stadiums built on the beaches. It’s just a lot better organized and you have professional leagues. On the men’s side, I think they have professional leagues in Portugal, Italy and Spain.

(Photo / s: Beach Soccer Worldwide)


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