While football continues to maintain dominance over the world in terms of popularity, the different sports variants like futsal and beach soccer are also gaining prominence and have obtained the status of competitive sports, a significant upgrade from their status as a mere form of entertainment.
The AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup is the most prestigious event for beach soccer in Asia and is the counterpart of the AFC Asian Cup for football in Asia.
This article offers a detailed account of the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup, including its history, format, and progress over the years.
What Is Beach Soccer?
Beach soccer differs from conventional soccer in multiple aspects. For instance, the field in which it is played is much smaller than a regular soccer field, and the game is divided into three periods, each twelve minutes long. Moreover, since manoeuvring a ball on a sandy surface is challenging, the ball used for beach soccer is also much lighter in comparison.
In recent years, beach soccer has evolved from an informal sport to become one of the most popular sports in the world. As the name implies, the sport is played on a beach. Beach soccer was invented in Brazil and was first played in the 1950s. Soon other countries embraced the sport, and many international stars like Zico, Romario, and Eric Cantona contributed to making it widely popular globally.
Today, beach soccer is the most popular soccer variant, and all soccer confederations have their own international events. For Asia, the most prestigious event for the sport is the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup.
AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup History
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is currently the organising body for the Beach Soccer Asian Cup. However, it was not always like this.
The championship was launched in 2006 as a requirement from FIFA for all confederations to hold qualification tournaments for determining the best national team from the respective region that would represent the continent in the Beach Soccer World Cup.
Earlier, teams were not required to compete to qualify and could participate in the world cup via invitation only. However, the requirement by FIFA to organise qualifying tournaments was intended to organise the sport more formally and make it more competitive.
The first edition was held in the UAE, and Bahrain won the final while Japan was the runners-up team.
Initially, the Beach Soccer Asian Cup was created and organised by BSWW (Beach Soccer Worldwide), the international organisation responsible for the development and growth of beach soccer globally. The contest was launched as an AFC qualifier tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, and the first six editions of the tournament were held under this premise.
Over time, the contest came to be known as the AFC Beach Soccer Championship, and in 2015; the AFC assumed charge of the competition and made it a formal AFC event. For two years, AFC and BSWW jointly organised the contest, and in 2017 AFC took over the contest completely.
In 2021, AFC renamed the tournament the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup to bring it at par with other senior national tournaments that the body organises.
AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup Format & History
The winners of the Beach Soccer Asian Cup are declared the continental champions. Moreover, as we mentioned earlier, the Beach Soccer Asian Cup serves as a qualifying test for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Currently, FIFA allocates three positions to Asian teams, and the top three teams qualify to play in the World Cup finals.
Since 2006, there have been nine editions of the Beach Soccer Asian Cup, while the tenth edition is scheduled to take place in March 2023. Japan is the most successful country, winning three titles and qualifying for the World Cup every time.
Besides Japan, the four countries that have managed to reach the top four positions in the Beach Soccer Asian Cup include Oman, Bahrain, Iran, and the UAE.
The tenth edition of the tournament is scheduled to take place in Pattaya, Thailand, from March 16th to March 26th. It will be the first time the event is being held after a four-year hiatus, as earlier, the event was held with a gap of one and two years, respectively, till 2019.
The 2021 edition of the tournament scheduled to take place in Pattaya, Thailand, was cancelled by the AFC due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The draw for the tournament was held earlier this year on January 19th, 2023, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Teams were categorised into four groups, each group having four teams. The teams were placed according to their performance in the 2019 edition’s final tournament, whereby the hosts, Thailand, were automatically assigned a place in Group A.
A total of 16 teams are participating in the tournament. It will be the tenth edition for defending champions Japan, along with China and Iran, while for Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, and Indonesia; it will be the second time.
The top two teams from the finals will qualify for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2023, which is scheduled to be held in the UAE. Along with the top two teams from the AFC Beach Soccer Cup, the UAE, as the hosts, automatically qualify for the World Cup. If the UAE reaches the final, then the team in third place will also proceed to play in the World Cup.
Which teams are playing in the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup?
A total of 16 teams are playing in the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup. These include Afghanistan, Japan, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Malaysia, Palestine, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and the UAE.
When is the 2023 AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup going to be held?
The 2023 AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup is is being hosted by Thailand on the beaches of Pattaya.
What Are The 2023 AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup Groups?
Group A consists of Thailand, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia
Group B consists of UAE, IR Iran, Malaysia, Uzbekistan
Group C consists of Japan, Lebanon, China PR, Indonesia
Group D consists of Oman, Palestine, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Rep
Which is the most successful team of the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup?
Japan is the most successful country in the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup, having won the championship three times, including last time the event was held in Pattaya, Thailand.