Dubai: Joan Cusco has quite a huge responsibility before him. As Fifa board member and vice-president of Beach Soccer Worldwide (BSW), he has the task of ensuring the sport breaks new ground constantly. In the UAE, BSW has been working closely with the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) to promote beach soccer in this part of the world.
Since 2011, the two bodies came together to introduce the Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup. Now in its seventh year, the annual competition brings together eight teams, including hosts the UAE, to decide the best side in the world.
Russia have won this competition three times, while Brazil are the defending two-time champions. After hosting the event at a specially-made pitch at the Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) for the past three years, the event will now be held at a specially constructed venue in the Business Bay area.
Cusco’s BSW develops and runs Beach Soccer around the world. The company has a long-term contract with Fifa for the organisation and management of the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup, and to date, the Intercontinental Cup is one of the sport’s defining events. It has evolved into a sort of reference point for the sport after the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup, as Cusco says in an interview with Gulf News.
Question: What would be the highlight of the Samsung Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup this time?
Answer: The main aspect this year is definitely the new venue. This is an important move because Business Bay looks like a venue that is going to be a long-term solution for beach soccer in general, and the Samsung tournament in particular. The timing too is crucial as it comes at a time when we can build something more stable that can put the sport as a reference event for everyone. It is close to the city and that gives it a better credibility as a venue and this will work very well. Besides, it is close to the new W Hotel and we can see that it will work very well for everyone concerned — organisers, spectators and players.
Q Any event of this nature needs spectators. How do you plan to address this aspect?
A Closer to the tournament, we will carrying out a special publicity campaign to ensure people are made aware of this big event. We are committed to this tournament and we will do everything to make sure the fans come. Going by the past popularity of this tournament, I am sure the fans have shown that they love this event. And this year, we have got a much better venue — a place that has parking, much better access and is easier to reach compared to the previous venue. It is important that people feel comfortable in a venue.
Q What was wrong with DIMC as a venue for this tournament?
A We had DIMC for three years and for this we are eternally grateful to the club. But we encountered some restrictions as we were in a club that housed water sports activity. It was becoming increasingly challenging for people to find parking. But now with the new venue, I think we are confident we have a much better option and a potential great venue for the future.
Q This is the final year of the contract. Is there any progress being made to ensure this tournament will continue?
A We will inform the concerned people on the future of this tournament when the time is right. But to clarify, we are already in advanced talks on the renewal and extension of the contract. I feel we are in a very good position at the moment after all we [DSC and BSW] are on the same team. The Samsung tournament is one of DSC’s marquee events. That stands true not just for Dubai but for the sport as well and the beach soccer world. I think this is the most important reference for our sport after the World Cup that is held every two years. But the Dubai tournament is held every year and this makes this tournament even more relevant and fresh.
Q How is the sport changing? What about the shift in the order despite Brazil at the top of the world rankings?
A In sport, nothing can be permanent. Russia won the European Championships and they are back again. They have always been a threat for the big teams, including Brazil whom they have beaten here quite a few times. But there are other teams that can shine, including Paraguay who beat Brazil recently in the Conmebol Championships. Former world champions Portugal are here and so are Iran, Egypt and the home team. This is going to be an interesting tournament for sure.