TORONTO â€” Playing beach soccer in Canada in February is a challenge. But not impossible.
Adrian Cann, Marc Jankovic, Anthony Alves and Milos Scepanovic rented an indoor beach volleyball court in Hamilton to prepare for the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship, which runs Feb. 20-26 in the warmer climes of Nassau, Bahamas.
The 16-country CONCACAF championship will send two teams to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup slated for April 27 to May 7 also in the Bahamas. Only 14 are in contention, however. The Bahamas has already qualified as World Cup host while Guadeloupe is not a FIFA member.
The Canadians are in Group B with Mexico, the Barbados and Guadeloupe.
The top two finishers from each group advance to the quarter-finals. The semifinal winners qualify for the 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer Championship.
FIFA is billing the tournament as the Bahamas' biggest sporting event ever.
For the 36-year-old Cann, it's a welcome chance to represent his country again. He played for Canada at the Francophone Games in 2001 and won nine caps for the Canadian senior team from 2008 to 2011.
"It's always been an honour putting on the jersey for Canada and representing my country ... Something I'll never forget," he said.
Cann, Jankovic, Alves and Scepanovic were part of the Toronto Beach Soccer Club team that represented Canada at a Virginia Beach event last year. All four are on Canada's 11-man team for the CONCACAF qualifier.
Beach soccer matches are divided into three periods of 12 minutes each, divided by two three-minute breaks. Teams field five players â€” one goalkeeper and four outfield players â€” with substitutions made on the fly.
"It's a good workout," Cann said.
Cann spent three seasons with Toronto FC and was named the team's MVP in 2010.
Originally drafted by the Colorado Rapids in 2004, the six-foot-three defender went on to play for the pre-MLS Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps and Denmark's Esberg FB before joining Toronto in April 2010 as a free agent.
Released by Toronto after an injury-plagued 2012 season, he took a year off before helping the San Antonio Scorpions win the 2014 North American Soccer League championship.
More recently, he played for Scarborough SC in the Canadian Soccer League while completing his degree online at the University of Louisville and studying for his real estate certification.
Italy, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland (Europe), Nigeria and Senegal (Africa), Brazil, Paraguay and Ecuador (South Africa) and Tahiti (Oceania) have already qualified for the FIFA Beach World Cup.
Three Asian entries will be determined at a March 4-11 qualifier.
Brazil has won four times (2006, '07, '08 and '09) since the FIFA Beach World Cup started in 2005. Other winners were Russia (2011 and '13), Portugal (2015) and France (2005)
Canada's lone participation was in 2006 when it lost 12-1 to eventual winner Brazil in the quarter-finals after finishing runner-up in its group. That team featured forward Kyt Selaidopoulos, now Canadian beach and futsal coach.
Goalkeepers: Vincent Cournoyer, Royal Select Beauport; Anthony Alves, unattached.
Defenders: Daniel Chamale, Milwaukee Wave; Adrian Cann, unattached.
Midfielders: Jacob Orellana, Toronto United; Ian Bennett, Milwaukee Wave; Milos Scepanovic, unattached; Nazim Belguendouz, Grenadiers; Marc Jankovic, unattached.
Forwards: Danilo Pessoa, FC Grenadiers; Robert Renaud, Milwaukee Wave.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press