FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup presentation ceremony

ESPINHO: The tournament logo, ambassadors, match ball and official poster for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 have been unveiled in the host city of Espinho, marking the start of the countdown to the big event, which will take place from July 9-19.

Espinho’s Multimedia Centre played host to some of the stars of beach soccer past and present, who had the first view of the tournament’s official logo, which takes its inspiration from the close ties between the coastal city and the sea, and from the colours of the Portuguese flag: red, symbolising the fight for freedom, and green for hope.

Portuguese Football Association (FPF) president Fernando Gomes had the honour of presenting former football stars Vitor Baia and Nuno Gomes as the ambassadors of the second FIFA tournament to be organised in Portugal, after the U-20 World Cup in 1991.

“Hosting the Beach Soccer World Cup is a big honour for our country and it was the right choice for historical, environmental and sporting reasons,” said Gomes. “Portugal’s identity was established by the sea, by the beach, and we will offer joy, hospitality and a smile to every fan that comes to the event.”

Russia coach Mikhail Likhachev and Swiss beach soccer star Noel Ott were also on hand to test out the official Portugal 2015 match ball. Judging by the show they put on, the fans can expect plenty of thrills when the tournament kicks off in a little under four months’ time.

“I’m very happy to be in Portugal and, of course, to have won two World Cups in a row,” Likhachev said. “Now, the Russian supporters wait for a third consecutive title, but ten or 12 teams have a good chance to win. I am happy to be one of the contenders. It’s fantastic; Espinho is a very nice city. I spent two days here and I really enjoyed it a lot.”

Ott also shared his thoughts about the match ball. ““The ball is quite similar as last year,” the Swiss player said. “Two or three weeks of practice and it feels really good. I want to score some goals in Espinho, but the most important thing is that the team wins each game.”

Joán Cuscó, FIFA Beach Soccer Committee member, then explained the many good reasons why Espinho and Portugal provide the perfect venue for the competition.

“On behalf of FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter, I welcome you to Espinho,” Cuscó commented. “This is, probably, the most important year ever for Beach Soccer, as we have the FIFA World Cup, the European Games and another 35 tournaments all over the world. It was a matter of justice to host a World Cup in Portugal and Espinho was the right choice.”

Attracting one of the biggest ovations of the whole ceremony was Portugal captain and two-time FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup adidas Golden Ball winner Madjer, who took to the stage to present the official tournament poster and spoke of the host nation’s desire to lift the world title in July.

“I want to congratulate FPF and FIFA for choosing Espinho to host the World Cup,” said the Portuguese skipper. “We can promise unity and strength to fight for the World Cup trophy”.

There is more to a World Cup than big stars, however, a point that was proved with the presentation of the volunteers programme, a key factor in the success of any FIFA competition, and the launch of ticket sales for the tournament, helping to further whet the appetite for what promises to be a very special event on the sands of Espinho.

Espinho’s mayor, Pinto Moreira, also expressed excitement ahead of July’s beach soccer extravaganza: “We will host a great event, a landmark not only for Espinho but for all of the country. This will be an event from Espinho to the world and we can promise the best World Cup of all time.”