What's half soccer, half volleyball and the most fun you've ever had at the beach?
Learn why footvolley is growing in popularity on beaches around the world.
It's not unusual to see soccer or volleyball played at the beach, but what about a sport that combines the two? That's a bit less common. It does, however, exist, and it's becoming ever more popular on beaches throughout the world.
Footvolley, founded originally in Brazil, is played in many countries across the globe. But nowhere is it more popular than in Tel Aviv, Israel, where the first – and only – full-fledged league was formed in 2008.
The sport has actually been around since the 1960s, when an ordinance was passed outlawing soccer on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach. A man named Octavio de Moraes is credited with having created the game as a way to continue playing soccer without running into trouble with the police.
The rules of the game are simple, though they vary a bit from country to country – it's two to a side, with one set to 18 points. Think beach volleyball but with one major difference: with footvolley you're not allowed to touch the ball with your hands.
The sport was confined to Brazil for many years, popping up in Europe in the '80s, and the U.S. in the '90s, as a hobby sport. In 2003 its competitive potential received a major boost thanks to the U.S., which held the first international footvolley tournament. This was followed by the organization of a popular tour in the country. Other countries such as Italy, Australia, Netherlands and Great Britain formed footvolley associations to promote and perpetuate the sport.
In Israel, the beer brand Corona identified the craze surrounding the sport early on and backed the league. Today, it features two divisions and both summer and winter sessions.
Ron Zaks, the league's director, said that Tel Aviv was primed for the sport because of its beach culture, and has embraced it like few other places have. Zaks told From The Grapevine that, "We are taking care of this sport and try to promote it wherever we can – TV, newspaper, radio, etc. We do all that we can with the vision of making it the leading beach sport in Israel."
Shai Salis, one of the participants in the league, could be found on a recent Friday playing pick-up games with friends on one of Tel Aviv's beaches. He explained that footvolley has become popular in Tel Aviv because it's the perfect combination of soccer, Israel's most popular sport, and the beach-going lifestyle of the city.
"It's the weather. We spend so much time in the sun and the beach here, it's great fun and a good way to stay active," he told us. "I think it's my favorite sport I've ever played."
Gal Hofu Levi is another participant in the league. He's been playing since it first launched and served as a league photographer for five years. "We have good weather, good facilities and Israel is a country where lots of people love soccer, so we have the basics," he told From The Grapevine. Levi also pointed at the international flavor of Tel Aviv as a contributing factor to its success there.
With televised games and big-time sponsorship, it's a certainty that the popularity of the sport will grow, both in Israel and beyond. In fact, some in Brazil are making a push to have it included it in the 2016 Olympics, which take place in Rio.
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Related Topics: Sports