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Posted on Mar 16, 04:54PM | IANS
Panaji, March 16 : The world's next Pele or Ronaldinho could be a youngster playing soccer on Goa's golden beaches, according to world football body FIFA's pointsman for beach soccer Joan Cusco.
Goa's phenomenal beaches and the natural affinity which the locals have for the game of football would make beach soccer a great success if properly implemented, the FIFA board member told IANS Saturday.
"Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho they all grew up playing on beaches. They learnt their football there. Now, the world's next Pele or Ronaldinho could be found on the beaches here," the Spaniard said, underlining the importance of the beach game in the lives of the Brazilian footballing greats.
Cusco, who is the managing director of FIFA Beach Soccer and a sports marketing guru was in Goa to attend Goa International Football Table (GIFT), a two-day conference which discussed ways and means to create football-related infrastructure in the state.
The FIFA official said that beach soccer was emerging as one of the hottest games on the horizon. In a matter of five years had spread from 30 markets to 130 markets globally, he said, adding that more outreach needed to be carried out in order to further increase the popularity of the sport.
"It is tremendously television friendly. So it can make very good product which can be marketed," Cusco said. "There is also a large audience and therefore we get a lot of sponsorship," he said.
Beach soccer is a fast paced version of football played on a smaller pitch on a beach with five players to a team. The rules are almost similar to football, but the fun, beach atmosphere, the casual, the shorter game time (three intervals of 12 minutes each) have made it the football equivalent of T-20 cricket.
The quick and informal nature of the game has propelled the game to heights of popularity, even eclipsing its other sand-game counterpart, beach volleyball.
"The beach volleyball people are speaking to us to join forces. That shows that beach volleyball has already outdone them in terms of popularity," Cusco said. "FIFA is 100 per cent behind beach soccer," he further said.
Beach volleyball is only in a fledgling state in Goa, with very few amateur tourneys organised every year on the state's beaches, which otherwise attract over 2.6 million tourists annually.
According to Cusco, Goa's phenomenal beaches are a great draw for beach soccer tourneys and the time was ripe to introduce beach soccer on them.
"We are talking to the authorities here. There is a beach soccer tournament in Dubai. We might get over a few teams here for a few matches," Cusco said.