Futevôlei: Soccer merges with volleyball on Rio’s beaches
Brazilians are passionate about soccer. Some people say it’s is not a sport, but a type of religion for them. In Rio de Janeiro people have taken soccer to the beach and invented a new and more acrobatic sport.
They call it “futevôlei.” Similar to beach volleyball, futevôlei has a net in the center of the court. But the net for futevôlei is a foot lower than it is for beach volleyball.
Futevôlei players use their head, feet, knees, ankles, thighs, and shins to pass and spike the ball. Hands and arms don’t come into play. The sport is played with 2 or 4 players on each side. Teams play three sets of 15 points with a difference of 2-point margin needed to win.
One of the first nets hung exclusively for futevôlei in the world is called Maracanã, at Rua Constante Ramos at the Copacabana beach in Rio.
Selmo Tarnopolsky, 58, is a pioneer in futevôlei and director of futevolei.com.br. He said that the sport might be fairly new in other South American countries and in Europe, yet its history in Brazil can be traced to the late 1960s. Back then all sports were prohibited on the beach before 2 p.m.
“Professional and former soccer players at the time would bring a soccer ball and would shoot on a goal post, also people would pass and kick the soccer ball on the volleyball nets on the beach,” Tarnopolsky said. The city and the police eventually hung a net and the sport was born.
Watching from his bike on the sidewalk was Otavio Gomes, 85, who goes to Copacabana beach to play futevôlei almost every weekend. He has been playing futevôlei since 1976 on weekends at the Maracanã net and explained how the sport first got the attention of Cariocas, Rio natives.
“In 1986 famous soccer players started playing it, so the sidewalks in Rio got crowded. It was a spectacle -— they would play from four in the afternoon until late night during the week,” Gomes said.
With acrobatic moves such as bicycle kicks and shoulder passes, futevôlei has grown exponentially over the years, reaching all 26 states of Brazil and the federal district, too.
Women got involved playing futevôlei a couple decades after the sport was created. “It’s another attraction. They started in the 1980s when a lot of professional soccer players participated with us, so they became curious and excited to try it, too,” Tarnopolsky said.
On this day women can be seen playing at the other end of Copacabana. Teacher Rodrigo Leite Vasconcelos, known as “Café”, offers futevôlei classes at a net near Post 6. Participants can choose to play on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. There are also evening classes from 7 to 9 p.m.
Maria Regina Perreira Lima, 47, is one of the students and says she never misses one of the 2-hour workouts.
“Practices keep me in shape to take care of my two young children,” she said.
Here's video made at Copacabana beach of players at the Maracanã net.