SDSU alumni bring Brazilian sport, footvolley, to San Diego


Reese Savoie

Jovan Obradovic (left) and Beesan Abder-Ruhman (right) attempt to send the ball over the net without the use of their hands during a footvolley tournament on Oct. 12 at Mission Beach.

by Reese Savoie, Contributor

Athletes took to the sand this past Saturday, Oct. 12, to participate in a day-long footvolley tournament hosted by the Footvolley Club of San Diego.

The event took place on the shores of Mission Bay as players kicked, bumped and headed a soccer ball over a volleyball net, all in an attempt to outscore their opponents and keep the ball airborne on their side of the court.

Sound familiar?

The objective is extremely similar to beach volleyball: Each team must get the ball over the net and try to ground it on the opposite team’s end. However, there’s a catch: absolutely no hands are to be used. Instead, players must rely upon their heads, shoulders, chest, legs and feet to get a soccer ball – instead of a volleyball – up and over the net.

Footvolley originated in Brazil, but has since made its way to the United States, and is now beginning to make a name for itself right here in San Diego. The Footvolley Club of San Diego is owned by Daniel Gaspar, a Brazilian native and an SDSU alumnus.

Gaspar, who grew up surrounded by footvolley in Brazil, said he’s excited about the sport’s local growth.

“I think it’s amazing,” he said. “When I first got here, we didn’t have enough players to play, and now, seeing how it’s grown, we have a lot of players that started with us, and we can see more people playing the sport.”

Cecilia Zaccarelli, another SDSU graduate, is also part of the Footvolley Club.

Zaccarelli grew up in Brazil and attended SDSU on a swimming scholarship. She said seeing footvolley grow in San Diego holds personal significance.

“It’s so special,” Zaccarelli said. “It’s sports-related, and that’s how I came to the U.S.”

“If it wasn’t for SDSU, I wouldn’t be here today,” she added about popularizing footvolley in the city.

Along with integrating Brazilian culture into the United States, footvolley also helps bring people together and creates a community built upon the players’ love for the game.

Beesan Abder-Ruhman is another member of the Footvolley Club of San Diego. She graduated from San Diego State’s Sports MBA program in 2007 and lived in Brazil for four years. Her time abroad allowed her to immerse herself in footvolley, and seeing everyone come together and play speaks volumes of the sport’s significance.

Abder-Ruhman said no matter what part of the globe someone is from, footvolley is a language that can be spoken and understood amongst all players.

“Sport is always one of the biggest ways of communicating and getting to know each other,” she said. “You’ll never really understand a place until you talk to people and get to know them, and sports is just one of the best ways of doing that.”

Zaccarelli added that footvolley helps to unite people of all different backgrounds.

“If it wasn’t for footvolley, I wouldn’t know (the other players),” Zaccarelli said. “They are my best friends. They’re like family to me.”

Zaccarelli hopes to see footvolley continue to flourish here in San Diego and said one day, it can be introduced into collegiate athletic organizations.

“This can get really big,” she said. “This sport has potential to be playing in schools one day.”

Her alma mater would be an ideal place to start, Zaccarelli said.

“We wanted to start to spread the word at SDSU, just because that’s how we came to the U.S.,” she said.

For more information about footvolley, check out the organization’s Instagram account (@footvolleyclub) and Facebook page.

Reese Savoie is a junior studying media studies. Follow her on Twitter @ReeseSavoie.

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