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Fun, fitness in focus

RACHEL STURGES
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014
Football EBC

KICKING HIGH: Paul Kothroulas and John Carras play at the beach tournament in Wellington.

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Football fans are in for a fast-paced treat at Saturday's Beach Football Tournament at Mission Bay.

This is the fourth year running for the five-a-side tournament, with the sport rapidly growing in popularity in New Zealand.

"It's very popular overseas in South America but here it's a little bit newer," the organiser Damien Hochberg says.

The Red Barons have played in the tournament for two years running and won the runners-up plate in last year's tournament.

Goalkeeper Mike Anderson says it's a fantastic day out.

"It's awesome fun," he says.

The Remuera resident says playing beach football is a "great leveller" because it's hard to run on the soft sand and the pitch is extremely bumpy.

"It's really hard and really tough on the body.

"But you can be a social player and be up against competitive players and give them a run for their money."

Despite the physical challenges of the sport, the number of teams playing in the tournament this year has increased.

Hochberg says while only 16 teams played in the tournament in 2011, 42 teams have entered to play so far this year, 12 of them women's teams.

Beach football is different to regular football because it is played bare-foot and the ball is lighter for better control on the sand, Hochberg says.

Playing on sand is much more challenging than regular football and does not mean the best players win,

"Fitness is definitely the key."

The Beach Football Tournament is taking place on February 8 at Mission Bay with a rain-date of February 9. Go to beachfootballnz.co.nz for details.

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- East And Bays Courier

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