Foosball is a popular miniature football game played on the tabletop. Outside the US, a game where 2 teams kick a ball to score a goal against each other without the help of hands is called football. In the case of the table-top version, different countries term the game in different names. The UK calls it ‘table football’, France names it as ‘baby foot’, Eastern European Countries call it ‘kicker’, and Spain terms it as ‘futbolin’. The US has borrowed the term ‘fußball’ (football) from the German word and it is pronounced as foosball.
Styles of Play
To a newbie in the game, a foosball is nothing other than playing miniature football on the table. However, a die-hard foosball player can differentiate and realize four different styles of playing foosball.
In American style or Texas foosball, the game is played on solid and dense surface of table made of mahogany. The player figures made of plastic are quite hard. Fastness and power rule the game. The tables have a 3-man goalie. The game focuses on pulling out the ball to the corner so that the participants don’t need to stop the gameplay.
In French style, foosball is played on an oily and sticky surface so that the gameplay is under the control of the participants. It gives the real football flavor in the game with emphasis on shots and passing the ball.
German foosball tables are the softest in the category. The tables provide absolute control on the ball. Participants can strategically line up their shots. Goals are oversized in these tables.
Italian style tables are famous for fast gameplay. They have a good mix of elegances. The sandblasted glass used on the tabletop is eye-catchy and it ensures the speed of the game. For precisely handling the ball, the tables sometimes use plastic laminate for slowing down the things when required.
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Origins of Foosball
The Early Days in Europe
The origin of foosball is not so clear. Some people believe that it was started back in 1880s or 1890s in some parts of Europe simultaneously as a parlor game. Although there is no definite inventor of foosball game, many people claim that a French automobile engineer Lucien Rosengart came up with the idea of it for the entertainment of his grandchildren in the winter season.
However, the first official foosball table patent was in the United Kingdom by Harold Searles Thorton in 1921. He invented the table keeping in mind the wide popularity of football across Europe. Mr. Harold wanted to spread the popularity of the game with a miniature version for playing on the table.
Foosball Got Momentum in America
Lawrence Patterson brought foosball to the United States. Lawrence, an American army personnel stationed in Germany in late 1960s, loved the game. After returning to the US, he introduced coin-operated foosball tables. The game began to get popularity that drove him to arrange some regional tournaments.
Later on, E. Lee Peppard who was a foosball enthusiast made the game famous across the whole nation. He introduced his own brand, Tournament Soccer Table and arranged many widely participating tournaments for promoting the brand.
The tournaments arranged by Peppard created a vibrancy in the whole country until the invention of video games in 1980s which took away the significant portion of the tournament revenue by degrading the popularity of foosball games.
After the bankruptcy of Tournament Soccer Table, smaller manufacturers started to continue the downgrading tournaments until 2003. After that, the foosball championships moved to Europe. Now, the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) regulates the tournaments.
Despite the lowering popularity of the game, lots of prominent foosball tournaments with huge prize-money are still getting arranged throughout the country.
The Great Evolution and Further Development
Europe is the birthplace of foosball and the US is the place for its growth. However, the level of competitiveness in foosball games has a long tradition in Europe. Belgium League is a great example that had been organized since the 1940s.
Afterward, all the leagues and tournaments arranged in different countries in Europe came under a common platform the European Table Soccer Union (ETU) in 1976. Till date the countries compete against each other in European Cup under ETU every year.
But unification created a big problem which is yet unresolved to the European players. Each country has its brand of table that has a unique composition of ball, size of handles, and shape of the playing figures. Thus, it is difficult for the players of different countries to play in the common platform with new tables beyond their preferred ones.
European players are ahead of US players in terms of playability with different styles of tables. However, the US pro tournaments have millions of dollars of prize-money which is quite higher than those of Europe. European foosball players come to compete in the US tournaments for the huge prize-money and they are getting accustomed to the US tables and rules.
In May, 1979 the World Championships had prize-money of $250,000 and the event saw the largest European delegation comprising 36 players from Holland, Ireland, Belgium, England, Switzerland, and Germany. However, Europeans and Americans faced the hardest disagreements in rules and communication. Therefore, a transatlantic friendship was made among the players after the tournament. Many American players fell in love with the skills of the European players in the table.
Foosball is today a very popular and widely played game all over the world. You can find the prominence of the game in South America, North Africa, Australia, Middle East, the United Kingdom, Europe and North America. Japan and Argentina are two foreign countries which are showing dazzling performances in foosball in recent times. It would not be a wonder if any of the countries become world champion soon!!
What is next about foosball? The answer is plain and simple. The more countries will start playing foosball, the more competition and so will be prize-money. Every week, approximately 1.9 million people in the US alone play foosball. The reason why foosball is so phenomenal in the United States is no more a secret!! Foosball is a massive money-making professional game today!!