Dubai: Beach Soccer will hope to follow in the footsteps of rugby sevens and golf and become an Olympic sport, should its big boss have his way.
Luis Felipe Tavares, Beach Soccer Worldwide president, is quietly confident that, together with Fifa, he can sway the IOC into giving his sport the green signal to join the Games in 2020.
Tavares is spearheading a global campaign that is working hard to make beach soccer even more vibrant and attractive in an attempt to win over the IOC.
The recent Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup that was hosted by Dubai is one of the many tournaments that Tavares hopes will help raise the sport’s profile and broaden its appeal to a great audience.
When Gulf News met the former Brazilian beach soccer star at the Dubai event it was easy to see that Tavares is driven to succeed.
Following are excerpts from the conversation.
It goes without saying that tournaments like these are successful due to several factors. What are your thoughts on the way the event was organised and promoted in Dubai.
“We are very happy with the success of the tournament and the popularity of beach soccer in the UAE. The sport has seen a significant growth in this part of the world in recent years and I believe tournaments like the Samsung International Cup have established themselves firmly on the UAE sporting calendar, which is very encouraging.
What is in store for beach soccer? Do you think it can become an Olympic sport?
“It’s been one of our goals. With the help of Fifa, we were in talks with the International Olympic Committee to have beach soccer included in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro as a disciple of association football and not as a separate sport. However, we did not succeed. We are a bit disappointed but will continue to push for its inclusion, hopefully in time for the 2020 Games. There is a long way to go, which gives us time to show the IOC that like beach volleyball, our sport deserves to be a part of the Olympics.
What more do you have to do to convince the IOC? You have been turned away once, what lessons have you learn’t from that bid?
“We will continue to communicate with the IOC and Fifa; it’s a lengthy process, we are aware of that, but we are prepared to push even harder after missing out at Rio. It will require the initiative of the IOC members and support from all around. We are in the process of beginning fresh talks and hopefully we will learn something more following the IOC meeting at the end of next year. What happens at that meeting could be extremely positive for us.
You have the support of Fifa. What are they doing to support your endeavour?
“We can’t do this alone, we need Fifa to support our efforts and we know that they are doing everything to ensure that we get into the Olympics. We were pretty much involved when beach volleyball was pitching for the Games and we know the process. With the support of Fifa and the understanding of the IOC we hope to arrive at a situation where beach soccer is ultimately recognised as a major international sport and that it deserves a place in the Olympic Games.
Squash has repeatedly failed in its bid to be included in the Games, whereas golf and rugby have succeeded. What have you learnt from that?
“Every few years you have sports trying to get into the programme because they want to showcase their sport to the world, and what better way to do that than through the Olympics. Obviously, the IOC have their own reasons to add or subtract a sport. I’m sure it’s based on many factors like popularity, how many countries play the game, infrastructure, television coverage, etc. We don’t really want to compare beach soccer to other games, we want it to be accepted on its own merit. That would make us very happy.
Why is it important for beach soccer to be a part of the Olympic Games. How will it benefit the sport and all those involved in it?
“Firstly, it will be a huge accomplishment for beach soccer if it is accepted as an Olympic sport. Being a part of the Games will give it a lot more visibility and raise its status. Although I believe we already enjoy a very good popularity around the world I think beach soccer will receive a significant boost when it joins the Games. I have no doubt about that. It would only mean positive things for the players, the sport and its fans.
What has struck you most about the popularity of beach soccer in recent years?
“You have to look at the growth of beach soccer in considerable detail to understand that the fans are there because they love the sport and enjoy watching the way it is played. It’s an all-action sport and I’m not surprised at its popularity. The competitions are stronger, feature more teams and last more days. It has all the strengths to flourish.
Can you describe what beach soccer is all about in one word?