What do you get when you give four Brazilian soccer players a soccer ball, a volleyball net, and a beach? An intense match of footvolley.
If you’re not sure what footvolley is exactly, don’t feel too bad. Most people don’t — unless they live near a beach in Brazil.
The sport originated on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro in the mid 1960s, but has only recently gained traction and extended beyond the borders of its home country. Footvolley is an Olympic demonstration sport at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, much like taekwondo in Seoul 1988.
“Footvolley is a mix between soccer and volleyball,” explains Thiago Andrade, a former soccer player at Queens University of Charlotte. “We play volleyball in a sand court but we are not allowed to use our hands. We can use any part of our bodies but our hands.”
The combination of soccer and volleyball creates a hybrid sport where bicycle kicks and chest bumps supplement aces and sets. The basic rules follow volleyball, making it easy to understand for both players and spectators.
“We usually play doubles and the net is a little lower than usual, so we can handle the ball easier,” says Luis “Dudu” Campos, a midfielder on the Queens soccer team.
Why does the sport attract current and past soccer players? “It became a culture in the country,” says Andrade, “and they play for fun because there’s not much running. It displays your quality [as a player] and what you’ve been practicing as you grew up.”
Footvolley brings Brazilians together in Charlotte. They play at Renaissance Park, near the Jeff Adams Tennis Center, and footvolley matches often segue into musical jam sessions at picnic tables. “It’s a good thing for us here,” says Felipe Netto, a graduate student in business at Queens. As an undergraduate, he also played soccer for the university. “We’re all just like a family pretty much,” says Campos.
“People will say that there’s too much of this on the beaches,” Netto explains.“Sometimes you try to go and have fun but there’s people playing everywhere,” he says. “You’re going to see people playing footvolley more than volleyball, that’s for sure. Everyone brings their soccer ball to the beach.”
Rio Field Producer and Translator – Luis Ottoni, Mackenzie Presbyterian University, São Paulo
Photo of footvolley players in Rio by Thiago Andrade