Life’s a beach for duo

editorial image
Sylvain Deslandes could play at left-back if Dion Donohue is switched to midfield

Pompey boss encouraged by ‘good options’

Have your say

One minute you’re scoring a cracker against Brazil in 35 degree heat on a Nigerian beach.

The next, you’re back in the midst of a Wessex League relegation battle in wet and windy England.

That’s footballing life for Portsmouth’s Steve Black, who has just returned from representing England in a four-team beach soccer tournament.

He will be thrust straight back into struggling Hayling United’s battle against relegation from the Wessex League premier division.

The next time he trots out for the Humbugs, Black could be forgiven for casting a wistful eye towards his recent exploits on the African sand.

These included scoring against Brazil on his 35th birthday and also netting against the host side, who were the eventual champions in front of a partisan crowd of 3,000.

Black – and England skipper and Moneyfields forward Dean Blake – joined the international squad at the same time three years ago and have since become stalwarts of the five-a-side format of the game.

They are in some illustrious company with former Manchester United star Eric Cantona tempted out of footballing retirement to join the beach soccer circuit, while Brazil, Portugal and Spain all have their own professional leagues.

But Black admits that it’s a world away from the 11-a-side stuff on grass.

He said: ‘I got asked to go to a trial three years ago when I’d never played beach soccer before and I took to it really well.

‘I got into that squad and I’ve been invited to every tournament since then.

‘Dean got involved at the same time as me and he’s England captain now.

‘I love it. It’s quite a bit different and it’s like its own individual sport really.

‘You have to be super fit to play on the sand in that heat and technically it has to be a bit different because you have to get the ball in the air a lot of the time.

‘I really enjoy it but it couldn’t be more different than playing in the Wessex League.’

Players play barefoot and with rolling substitutes throughout the three 12-minute periods, it’s a fast-paced game with some spectacular goals.

The self-employed builder netted with an overhead kick in the 5-2 defeat to Nigeria.

He also scored in England’s opening match against Brazil as they went down 6-3.

While it was tough going against two of the leading sides in the world, England did sign off the round-robin tournament with a late 4-3 win over South Africa.

Black again played a key role, setting up Mitch Day for the winner with a well-worked set-piece.

He said: ‘You work on a few set-pieces and that one worked out pretty well with Mitch scoring with an overhead kick with five seconds left!

‘It was a tough tournament. We had Nigeria and Brazil, who are two of the best teams in the world.

‘We just wanted to compete with the two big teams and we were looking to beat South Africa.

‘It surprises a few people when you tell them about it but it’s getting bigger as a sport in this country.’