Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

“We will be up there as one of the teams to beat” Team GB’s Hannah Short on the first ever World Beach Games and her love of beach soccer

Posted on 9 October 2019 by Emily Salley

London City Lionesses, Portsmouth, England, and now Great Britain.

This is a sneak peek into the busy life of Hannah Short, the Bristol-born footballer who currently plays for all of these teams, albeit in two very different ways.

Traditional, 11-a-side football played on grass: this is the sort of football which is recognised and celebrated globally. It is the kind of football which Hannah Short plays under Championship-side London City Lionesses.

But with Portsmouth, England and Team GB, Short takes off her boots and takes to the sand instead.

Beach Soccer. Football as we know and love, but faster, and with an extra level of flamboyance.

A smaller pitch means more action, the sand means there’s a focus on aerial finesse and three periods of 12-minutes guarantees energetic entertainment.

Hannah Short thrives on the intensity of the game but loves the laid back nature of the crowd: “There’s music playing the whole time. It’s amazing and there are people bouncing in the crowd. You are playing at this fast pace. Sometimes the score-line is quite high, a goal goes in and you haven’t got time to dwell, you’ve got to get on with the next play.

“On grass you can make up for big mistakes. But on beach, if you make a mistake it is probably going to cost a goal.”

It was a “grass” teammate at Yeovil Town, during their promotion-winning season in 2016, who introduced Short to the world of beach soccer: “They needed an extra defender because three years ago there wasn’t many people involved in it [beach soccer] and it wasn’t that big.

“Our head coach Perry [Northeast] would always say you will either love it or hate it.”

Short continues: “I absolutely loved it. The technical side of it. Keeping the ball up in the air, it was just something new for me to focus on. I’ve played football on grass for so long and I’m quite confident with what I do and how I play so to go into a new environment that’s still football based but have to learn and pick up things as I went along was something that I was willing to get stuck into a little bit more.”

Short during the Euro Beach Soccer Cup Women Nazaré 2019  (Photo by Lea Weil)

For a country which isn’t known for its year-round scorching temperatures, women’s beach soccer in England has been hugely successful. England Women are placed second, just behind Spain in the European rankings. In comparison to their male counterparts who are ranked 40th in Europe, England Women are flourishing on the world stage.

In Short’s first beach soccer tournament abroad in 2017, England were crowned as European champions.

Now Short and her beach teammates are taking a step into uncharted territory. Beach soccer will feature at the first ever World Beach Games in Doha which will take place between 12-17th October.

The women’s beach soccer squad will compete as part of a 21-strong Team GB group of athletes: “It still seems a bit surreal that we are even going. We have always been England and for some reason GB is different, it feels different.”

Short is somewhat speechless when talk of a medal arises: “I don’t even know if I could put that into words.”

The London City Lionesses’ and now Team GB defender attempts to explain how much it would mean to come home from Doha with silverware: “We have worked hard and built beach soccer up to be what it is now, to win a medal would mean a massive amount. I would like it to be a gold obviously, that’s the only thing I’m thinking of. That would probably be one of the best achievements of my career.

“We have some really good technical players on our team as well as physical, hard-working players. We’ve got a good balance of everything and I do think we have got a really good chance of doing really well in these games. I think we will be up there as one of the teams to beat.”

Short’s mother and sister are flying to Qatar to see her represent Great Britain which would make it even more special for Short to pick up a medal: “I know she [Short’s mother] is super proud of me for getting here.”

It could have been a different story, though. The 26-year-old is thankful to even be allowed to play in Qatar this week.

“Although I’m contracted with London City, they have been nice enough and understood this is a once in a lifetime opportunity so I’m very grateful for that,” Short said.

“That was an obstacle where I don’t know what I would have done if they had said no. But luckily, I haven’t had to go down that route.”

Short during the Euro Beach Soccer Cup Women Nazaré 2019 (Photo by Lea Weil)

The World Beach Games is an event which Short hopes can take beach soccer to the next level.

“I don’t think there has ever been anything this big for beach soccer before. So, for it to be on the world stage and with other massive countries going into this tournament, it is going to be huge,” she explained.

“If we do well, I think it will put beach soccer, in England anyway, more out there and make people more aware of the sport. I think this tournament may push it to be an Olympic sport, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be.”

When asked whether the future of her career lies in beach or grass football, Short’s passion for beach soccer is evident: “It’s a growing sport and I have got a lot to learn still.  I’d rather push myself on beach and be a part of England, and possibly GB, going abroad and experiencing different countries with beach soccer which I just wouldn’t get with grass.

But I’m going to make the most of this season at London City. I have to! I’ve moved my whole life here.”

The beach soccer team are the first of Team GB to arrive in Doha as their tournament gets underway before the World Beach Games opening ceremony on Friday 11th October.

They are set to play Paraguay, the United States and Russia in the group stages and will be hoping to progress to the final stages of the tournament where they could meet the likes of Brazil and Spain, beach soccer royalty.