Beaches boasting leagues of their own


Aug. 16, 2001 14:00
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Hydropark's Uni Oasis and Sun City beach and entertainment complexes are hosting more organized sports leagues than ever before - from the more traditional beach volleyball and beach soccer to the newly introduced aqua-soccer, played on an inflatable, watery "field."
>Aqua-soccer is played by company-sponsored teams in an inflatable 18-by-12-meter court filled with a couple inches of water. It’s a slippery game, and players spend a good deal of time falling on their backsides. Matches are held every Saturday and Sunday morning at Sun City, a recreation and beach area at Hydropark that charges a small cover fee.

Down the beach at Uni Oasis, amateur volleyball tournaments are held weekly. Recently an international tournament called “Challenger” took place on the sand of Uni Oasis, with teams competing from as far away as the United States, Germany and Brazil. The tournament was the feature event of the summer, carrying a prize purse of $33,000. Every weekend until September Uni Oasis features high-level volleyball action, but amateur hacks can take to the sand too if they pay the weekend Hr 8 entrance fee.

Other opportunities to work up a sweat in team competition at Hydropark include pick-up games of beach soccer and basketball. This year organized teams are all the rage. Ruslan Gorbach, director of the recreation agency Ukrainian Sport Project, organized two beach soccer leagues and several basketball leagues at Uni Oasis this summer. Basketball leagues are in their seventh year at Hydropark, but beach soccer is still young. The company teams play in round robins on Saturday and Sunday mornings throughout the summer.

“There are more participants every year,” Gorbach said. “Last year beach soccer was an experiment, and it proved tremendously popular.”

Beach soccer is played barefoot on a 35-by-19 meter field of sand. The company teams are usually comprised of young professionals. Teams such as Kyivstar, Euromart and the television station Inter battle it out against another team of five for two 10-minute halves. Players have widely varying levels of soccer skills but almost all check their mobile phone messages during halftime.

The game has many of the same rules as traditional soccer, but there’s a catch. Deep sand makes it difficult for players to run or pass the ball and acts as the ultimate equalizer.

“It’s active vacationing. We play hard but also relax and have a good time,” said Fyodr Okrimenko, captain of the ad agency Decyatka’s beach soccer team that plays every weekend at Sun City. A case of Slavutych is a typical prize for the winner of the day’s round robin.

The weekend volleyball and soccer tournaments are turning out to be a big draw. People are showing up not only to lie on the beach and jump in the river, but to watch the action on the sand. Uni Oasis has shaded viewing bleachers in front of the central volleyball courts. Those who want to get in on the action can rent the beach soccer field or aqua-soccer courts at Sun City for Hr 1 a minute or the volleyball courts for half that price.

On a recent 40 C day, Brazilian brothers Aldir and Aquino Alzair hit the aqua-soccer courts at Sun City. Aqua-soccer is popular in Brazil where soap is usually added to the thin layer of water to add a new dimension.

“In Brazil you’re falling all over the place, and the soap makes huge bubbles,” Aquino said. “Nonetheless, I think you have the same amount of fun everywhere.”

The serious competition heats up at Hydropark at 10 a.m. on weekends. Unofficial games are best organized in the early morning or late afternoon when the sand is available and the sun is not as intense.

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