A CONTROVERSIAL goal the coaching staff viewed as a more blatant handball than Diego Maradona’a infamous Hand of God will not dent the progress made by Portsmouth Beach Soccer Club.
The ladies’ team reached the final of the Euro Winners Cup in Portugal and were leading 3-2 with 18 seconds to go when they were agonisingly pegged back by an equaliser.
Their Swiss opponents Havana Shots Aargau then scored again with 12 seconds left to win the cup 4-3.
The Portsmouth squad was mostly made up of players who have featured on the grass for Pompey Ladies and Chichester City.
In addition, Holland international goalkeeper Annelies Martijn joined the group along with Swiss international Vanessa Meyer.
Nadine Bazan and Becky Barron were making their beach soccer debuts at the event in Nazaré.
Katie James, Jade Widdowson, Shannon Sievwright, Gemma Hillier, Molly Clark and Sarah Kempson completed the Portsmouth squad.
The players caught the eye of several major beach soccer clubs with their skills and strong team performances throughout the tournament.
Although it was a frustrating finish to the competition team boss Perry Northeast felt his players could look back on their efforts with pride.
He said: ‘Not many people understand just how difficult it is out there, it’s a tough tournament.
‘The manner of the defeat in the final was a difficult one to take.
‘We have to give credit to how far the players have come.
‘There is a real buzz about beach soccer in the city now.
‘Our work in preparation for it was great and we couldn’t ask for a better group of players. They were learning every single day and performed better and better.
‘I was quietly confident we could do well. Maybe the semi-final was our objective but the players showed what they can do on a great stage.
‘Opposition teams really rated our players and they have had offers to go and play in different countries.’
Coach Jason Campbell summed up the frustration with the controversial goal that cost the team overall glory.
He said: ‘We could see the handball – it was worse than when Diego Maradona did it. The players were devastated.’
On their way to the final the Portsmouth side beat the champions of Italy, Spain and Poland, they then won 3-0 against strong Russian side WFC Zvedza in the semi-final.
Sarah Kempson was named most valuable player of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the Portsmouth men featured in the preliminary round.
Northeast also manages England Ladies and they go to Portugal for the Euro Beach Soccer Cup starting on July 7. They will face holders Spain and the Netherlands in group A.