Where's the Weirdest Place to Play Soccer?

Soccer up, up on the roof. By Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

Maybe you get the itch every time you see little kids kicking around a soccer ball. Or maybe you caught the football bug over the summer during the FIFA World Cup.

If you want to play the world's most popular sport, regulation-sized fields are hard to come by. This has led to the creation of all kinds of interesting soccer spin-offs: a hard-court version of the "beautiful game" called futsal that can be played indoors or outdoors, beach soccer (which has its own World Cup), and hundreds of types of kids' fantasy games where the ball is replaced with cans, rolled-up rags and just about anything that won't bruise your foot.

In places like Tokyo, where space is at a premium, soccer fields have even been built on the tops of buildings.

The lengths that some people will go to get their ball-kicking fix can be surprising.

In Tianjin, China, an aquarium recently served as a temporary pitch for four players who donned diving equipment and sank a mini-sized goal to the bottom of a large tank. The underwater match took place at the Haichang Polar Ocean World, a popular attraction in the northeastern city of more than 11 million people. The huge tank also houses fish, who were swimming around above the divers as they played.

To be fair, the underwater Pele impressions in Tianjin were not totally original. Before the World Cup, a South Korean diver took a ball underwater and attempted to juggle it while a school of sardines scattered around him. Around the same time, the Shanghai Aquarium held a more fish-friendly event. The divers were replaced by fish and the ball by a round, molded fish feeder patterned like a soccer ball.

Unlike Thailand's elephant soccer matches, which see quite a bit of action, the Shanghai aquarium's event didn't see a single goal.

Want to give underwater soccer a try? You can buy a special ball online. The ball must be partially filled with water to create neutral buoyancy so that it doesn't float to the surface or drop to the bottom of the pool like a rock. Balls can also be made heavier than water by adding substances like a dense saline solution or even corn syrup.

Submerged in history

But underwater sports are not a new phenomenon. In fact, some people take them very seriously. The Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (the World Underwater Federation), was founded way back in 1959 by a group of divers headed by Jacques Cousteau. The group includes a sports department that oversees a number of unique underwater contests. There are some sports you might expect, like free diving, sport diving, spearfishing and underwater orienteering. The CMAS holds competitions in the disciplines of underwater hockey, underwater rugby, and even underwater wresting.

With four years to kill until the next FIFA World Cup, players will have plenty of time to perfect their underwater soccer skills and figure out how to perform bicycle kicks with oxygen tanks strapped to their backs.