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Leave the beach to Zdrila and the boys

23 Jan 2013 | 15:01-Craig Foster

What fantastic news that the Australia beach soccer team won its first 2013 World Cup qualifying match against Oman.

Well done to our man Zdrila, his fellow Socceroos international Ante Juric and the rest of the group, for a great result.

The presence of Socceroos greats will provide a visibility and promotion of the form of game that is much needed and my hope is that Football Federation Australia and those involved at promotional level take advantage of the momentum to better organise the sport in a country that is perfectly suited to the game.

Quite how we don’t already have a national beach soccer league over summer is beyond me, given the interest that already exists, the wonderful fun and exceptional health benefits of playing on the sand on our beautiful beaches, and our love of coastal life. Various promoters have tried and failed over the years.

The landscape is perfectly placed for FFA to step in and provide direction and coordination.

Not surprisingly, the beach is highly topical here at SBS right now. Although my reason for writing about the sand is not all about congratulations and great wishes. Quite the opposite.

I want to the issue of our outdoor teams spending their valuable pre-season training time on the beaches around the country - a practice that anyone of my vintage or beyond will remember without fondness.

Amazingly still exists today. Over summer I have spent a great deal of time on my local, Bondi beach, with the kids. Every Saturday and Sunday morning we see several youth teams, often from elite levels of the game, stroll onto the sand with rarely a ball in sight and proceed to run themselves ragged.

I thought we had moved on from this practice, which takes invaluable time away from actually working on team mechanics and honing the main techniques, two areas we are severely deficient in and which require consistent, high quality work.

Of course, if you are Zdrila and company then team mechanics can and should be trained and perfected on the beach, however the benefits of running on sand have absolutely no application for outdoor teams and is a great example of the difference between physical conditioning and football conditioning. Being able to run versus being able to play.

Being conditioned to play football means the ability to play a certain way in every aspect with and without the ball for the entire duration of a match.

Only one element of which is the physical. For a player or team to be truly conditioned to play football implies an important tactical element of coordination. It is working together, thinking together, reacting in sync - things that cannot possibly be on a beach.

Running teams on the sand takes up valuable time which could be spent improving physical conditioning in concert with decision making, tactical awareness and technical competency, under the umbrella of the vision of the given coach, club or program.

It all comes down to what you regard as a football team: is it a bunch of highly fit individuals who can run but without collective synchronisation? Or a group of players conditioned to play a certain way throughout the game?

The first example can apply to teams which waste time flogging themselves in a non football context on the beach and who focus mostly on fitness and the the physical side to make up for the repeated technical and tactical mistakes.

Surely, the ideal scenario must be to spend all conditioning time within the game to work on various tactical and technical aspects while becoming ‘football fit’ to play a certain style automatically?

Since this has to be a given, it makes sense so many teams head to the beach since this methodology did not previously exist or was not widely available in Australia, however in the new FFA coaching licenses considerable time is spent studying a method of ‘football conditioning’ that allows all of the adaptations necessary to take place over pre-season, not only the physical.

I would strongly encourage those intent on taking to the sand to undertake the new courses because as a country we cannot afford to continue the practice of spending time away from the training pitch, when we have so much ground to make up on so many technical levels.

Unless, that is, you play beach soccer like Zdrila and the boys.

About this blog


Craig Foster

As SBS’s chief football analyst, Craig provides expert opinion and unrivalled insight. He has also represented the Socceroos and played abroad. Follow @Craig_Foster on Twitter.
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Les Murray

Fondly known as 'Mr Football', Les has been directly involved in all the major events covered by SBS Sport, including five World Cup football tournaments. Follow @lesmurraysbs on Twitter.

Craig Foster

As SBS’s chief football analyst, Craig provides expert opinion and unrivalled insight. He has also represented the Socceroos and played abroad. Follow @Craig_Foster on Twitter.

David Zdrilic

After years playing abroad and a 20-goal career for the Socceroos, David turned his hand to football punditry and is a beach football fanatic. Follow @Zdrila on Twitter.

Scott McIntyre

Scott’s passion and knowledge of Asian football has consolidated his reputation as Australia’s foremost Asian football expert. Follow @mcintinhos on Twitter.

Lucy Zelic

Lucy is a life-long sports buff and former host of the Official A-League Podcast and also commentated games for Canberra United in the W-League. Follow @LucyZelic on Twitter.

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Philip Micallef

Philip Micallef is a football writer with almost 40 years of experience. He has worked for News Limited and now SBS. He is a long-time follower of AC Milan.

Ned Zelic

Considered one of Australia's most gifted players, Ned Zelic represented the Socceroos 34 times over a decorated career that spanned Europe, Asia and the United Kingdom. Follow @NedZelic on Twitter.

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Vitor commentates for SBS and works as a presenter for The World Game. His passion for European football resonates through his blogs. Follow @Vitor_TWG on Twitter.

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A journalist with decades of experience on TV and radio, Tony is an expert on all things Italian - including football.

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