BY ANGELA HURNI
CORPORATE LANDING — People driving down Dam Neck Road or Corporate Landing Parkway may never realize that there is a regulation size sand soccer pitch – or playing field – at Corporate Landing Medical Center.
It is a “field of dreams” of sorts for John Carvalho. He is the owner of MB Solutions located in the medical center, part owner and manager of the building, and an avid promoter of sand soccer in the region.
The sand pitch was built this spring, and it is regulation size.
Carvalho said the development of the pitch was fairly easy because there was already sand in the lot next to the center. It was left over from construction.
“One of my emergency medical technicians coaches soccer, and his family and team cleaned it up to make it a playable field,” Carvalho said.
Adrian Toscano is coaching a sand soccer team for the second year, and he brought his family, team parents and players to weed and rake sand over two cold weekends.
“I saw the field, and it looked like it had potential,” Toscano said. “I thought it would be a good team project. The best part about it was we had the parents of the players bring out their own tools and come help as well.”
Virginia Beach has plenty of grass soccer fields for practices and games, but the pitch is meant to be a place specifically for sand soccer teams to play and practice. Carvalho hopes that can happen year round, and the pitch is surrounded by LED lights so that teams can practice in the evening, too.
The pitch will also allow Carvalho to support the teams who need to practice for the North American Sand Soccer Championship, which occurs one weekend a year in June at the Oceanfront. This past summer was the 24th year of the championship.
The championship is a huge event for Virginia Beach, bringing in 1,100 national and international teams, with nearly 12,000 players, and 100,000 daily weekend visitors and spectators, according to the organization. The event generates millions of dollars in revenue in Virginia Beach, Carvalho said.
The pitch at the medical center is not affiliated with the championship. However, Carvalho wants it to be a place where national and international teams alike can come to practice for the championship year round.
Toscano, also a player, and his team use the pitch to practice for sand soccer tournaments.
“I believe the sand helps us with cardio,” he explained. “For those who don’t know, practicing on the sand is much more difficult than grass. You can tell we were a more aggressive, stronger team than the opposing teams.”
He said practicing at a private field helps players concentrate, too.
Carvalho wants to help develop better players and to work with sand soccer leagues. He would also like to accommodate international teams, like Barcelona FC, which has held camps at the Oceanfront before the championship and has visited his pitch.
“My son’s team was fortunate enough to have one practice on that field before the annual sand soccer tournament last summer,” said Todd Fritz, whose son has played in the tournament.
It was a memorable practice because the Barcelona team was there to coach the players.
“Our kids were able to get some coaching and other tips from one of the best sand soccer teams in the world,” said Fritz. “It was a magical moment.”
Ultimately, Carvalho hopes to build a year round community for sand soccer devotees like himself. Though he does not play any longer, he has an abundance of enthusiasm for the sport and its players. He also hopes adult womens teams will use the pitch, develop professional-amateur, or proam, level teams and get involved with the tournament in the summertime.
“The annual tournament draws thousands of people every year, but then sand soccer just stops in Virginia Beach,” Fritz said. “That is a shame.”
The medical center offers bathrooms and a shower, a conference room, and other ameneties for those who might want to practice on the pitch or organize team functions.
Carvalho feels that the sport is overlooked in America. He wants to change that by building a sand soccer community that has leagues, mini-tournaments, a training center and a sponsorship for a professional-amateur level team.
Carvalho hopes there are more parents and businesses in the area who share his enthusiasm and who would be willing to support a burgeoning sand soccer community.
© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC