History of Foosball



Table football Although patents for similar games may exist from as far back as the 1890s, the game of Table Football as we know it today was first invented by Harold Searles Thornton in 1922 and patented in 1923 (UK patent no. 205,991 application dated 14 October 1922 and accepted 1 November 1923)[1] The concept was conceived after Harold had been to a Tottenham Hotspur F.C. football match (he was an avid supporter). He wanted to provide a game that replicated football that could be played at home. The inspiration came from a box of matches: by laying the matches across the box he had formed the basis of his game. His uncle (United States resident Louis P. Thornton, who lived in Portland, Oregon) visited Harold and took the inspiration back to the USA where it was patented in 1927 (United States Patent Office No. 1,615,491). The patent eventually expired. In 2002, the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) was established in France with the mission of promoting the sport of Table Soccer as an organizing sports body, regulating international competitions, and establishing the game with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and General Association of International Sport Federation (GAISF).Every time you say "foosball," you're putting a foot in your mouth-a German foot! Foosball is the American corruption of fussball (pronounced the same), the German word for soccer-literally foot plus ball. While the sport has the more formal name of table soccer, to the American players who love it, it's foosball, or just foos. Unfortunately, the origins of the game are not as easy to trace as those of its name. Like many games, it is quite possible that variations of foosball developed in different countries over roughly the same time period. Since organized soccer first entered the sports scene in the 1860s, the invention of soccer's table version can be safely dated sometime afterward, probably in the late 1800s. The earliest United States patent for a foosball table was registered in 1901, but it is generally agreed that foosball, like soccer, originated in western Europe.

A recent article in a Belgian magazine (Le Soir Illustre, No. 2471, November 1979, p. 26) stated that the inventor of the first foosball table was a Frenchman named Lucien Rosengart, who lived from 1880 to 1976. An employee of the Citroen automobile factory, he amassed a huge fortune through his inventive genius. He is accredited with the invention of the minicar, frontwheel drive, and the seat belt, to name a few, besides babyfoot, the original name for foosball. One of the oldest manufacturers of foosball is a Swiss company called Kicker, located in Geneva. Its table is also called Kicker and has been so popular in Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium that the word has become generic: kicker is to these European players what foosball is to Americans. In European countries as well as in the United States, foosball did not become widespread until after World War II. One popular belief is that foosball was invented to help rehabilitate war veterans. While not invented for that purpose, foosball has been used in rehabilitation with great success, especially in rebuilding handeye coordination. Today foosball also plays a role in social rehabilitation, being a part of the recreational programs offered by many state and federal correctional institutions. American servicemen are responsible for another common belief, one that has haunted American players for a long time. After being stationed in Germany, servicemen have often come home with tales of German foosball players who are so incredibly good that they could beat any American. During our first years of professional competition in the early 1970s, the prevalence of this idea irked many dedicated American players. We were getting so good-how could they be better? Competition in Europe, compared to the United States, has been organized for a long time. Belgium leagues, for instance, were organized as early as 1950. It wasn't until 1976, however, that the European leagues from different countries finally united to form the European Table Soccer Union (ETU) and competed against each other in the European Cup, now an annual affair. Unification is still a big problem for European players. There are many different table brands, and each country naturally prefers its own. The shape of the playing figures, the size of the handles, and the composition of the balls varies from brand to brand, making it difficult for players to switch from one to the other. As good as the Europeans may be at their style of play on their own tables, the Americans have one thing that they don't: a pro tour with a million dollars in prize money. Foosball competition in Europe has remained on a very small scale in terms of prize money. With the introduction of the American table, players in Europe are being brought together, playing more and more on the American table and using the American rules. They have an incentive: the American prize money! The $250,000 World Championships in May, 1979, welcomed the largest European delegation ever-thirtysix players from England, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. Disagreements between Americans and Europeans were inevitable, and most disputes concerned the rules. Once an official and a translator arrived at a table, however, it was often discovered that communication was the only problem. By the end of the tournament, transatlantic friendships had been formed and the Europeans' skill at the table had won the respect of many American players. Foosball is played all over the world. It can be found in the Middle East, North Africa, South America, Australia, and Tahiti, as well as in Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America. Two foreign countries who recently expressed the desire to participate in American tournament competition are Argentina and Japan. Don't be surprised if you see teams from these two nations at the World Championships in the near future.

The Sport

To begin the game, the ball is served through a hole at the side of the table, or simply placed by hand at the feet of a figure in the center of the table. The initial serving side is decided with by coin toss. Players attempt to use figures mounted on rotating bars to kick the ball into the opposing goal. Expert players have been known to move balls at speeds up to 56 kmh (35 mph) in competition.[citation needed] Ball control Most rules consider "360-degree shots" or "spinning" (using the palm of the hand to swiftly spin the bar all around, instead of using wrist strokes to kick the ball with a bar-mounted figure) to be illegal. There are many rules variations - in some variations, the keeper is allowed to spin, in others as long as a goal is scored from a controlled position, rotations of the rod after striking the ball are permitted. Generally, shots short of a full 360-degree rotation before (or after) striking the ball are legal. Since the establishment of the ITSF, the rules have become standardized in most international competitions. The winner is determined when one team scores a predetermined number of goals, typically five, ten, or eleven in competition. When playing Bonzini competitions the target numbers of goal is seven. Table football tables can vary in size, but a typical table is about 120 cm (4 ft) long and 61 cm (2 ft) wide. The table usually contains 8 rows of foos men, which are plastic, metal, wooden, or sometimes carbon-fibre figures mounted on horizontal metal bars. Each team of 1 or 2 human players controls 4 rows of foos men. The following arrangement is common to ITSF competition tables, though there are substantial variations, particularly in Spain and South America - where the Futbolín table model is common and uses a different configuration. Looking from left to right on one side of the table, the configuration is usually as follows:

Row 1 Goalkeeper 1 foosman (sometimes 2 or 3)
Row 2 Defense 2 foosmen (sometimes 3)
Row 3 Opponent's attack 3 foosmen (sometimes 2)
Row 4 Midfield 5 foosmen (sometimes 4 or 6)
Row 5 Opponent's midfield 5 foosmen (sometimes 4 or 6)
Row 6 Attack 3 foosmen (sometimes 2)
Row 7 Opponent's defense 2 foosmen (sometimes 3)
Row 8 Opponent's goalkeeper 1 foosman (sometimes 2 or 3)

Table football can be played by two individuals (singles) - and also with four people (doubles), in which there are teams of two people on either side. In this scenario, one player usually controls the two defensive rows and the other team member uses the midfield and attack rows. In informal matches, three or four players per side are also common.


Table football is often played for fun in pubs, bars, workplaces, schools, and clubs with few rules. Table football is also played in official competitions organized by a number of national organizations, with highly evolved rules and regulations. Organized competition can be traced back to the 1940s and 1950s in Europe. But the professional tours and bigtime money events began when the founding father of modern professional table soccer, Lee Peppard of Seattle, Washington, United States announced a "quarter million dollar tour" in 1975. Peppard went on to award several million dollars in prize monies and, ever since his Tournament Soccer Organization went out of business in 1981, several organizations and promoters have continued holding large purse professional table soccer events worldwide.

The ITSF now regulates International events including the annual World Championships and the World Cup. The World Cup was originally intended to coincide with the FIFA World Cup, but since January 2009 it runs annually. In 2006 - the inaugural ITSFWorld Cup - Austria, Germany and Belgium took the Gold, Silver and Bronze respectively.



A vast number of different tables exist. The table brands used at the ITSF World Championships are the "French-style" Bonzini, "American-style" Tornado, "Italian-style" Roberto Sport and Garlando and the "German-style" Tecball[5]. Other major brands often used in international competitions include Fireball, Kicker, Deutscher Meister, Rosengart, Jupiter Goldstar, Eurosoccer, Löwen-Soccer, Warrior, Lehmacher and Leonhart.

Several companies have created "luxury versions" of table football tables. One of the most notable is the Opus Table created by the Elevenforty company[6]. There was also a 7-meter table created by artist Maurizio Cattelan for a piece called Stadium. It takes 11 players to a side.

The CARROM® Company[7] created a sports division in 1996 and began making several models of high quality Foosball tables for use in the home. Their tables are made in the USA.

Differences in the table types have great influence on the playing styles. Most tables have one goalie whose movements are restricted to the goal area. On some of these tables the goalie becomes unable to get the ball once it is stuck out of reach in the corner; others have sloped corners to return the ball to play. Other tables - notably the Tornado model - have three goalies, one in the center and one in each corner to reach the ball so sloped corners are not needed. Another major difference between table types is found in the balls, which can be made of wood (cork in the case of traditional French tables), various forms of plastic or rarely even marble and metal, varying the speed of shots a great deal, as well as the "grip" between the man and the ball and the ball and the playing surface.

One of the newest additions to the foosball table family, the Fireball table, is manufactured in China. In 2010 it became an officially-recognized ITSF table, approved for use in internationally-recognized competition.


The most common English names are table footballfootzybar football and foosball, though table soccer is also used. Among French-style players it is known as baby-foot [9]. Foosball is also known as "fußball" (German for football), although more commonly spelled "foosball". In Pakistan it is also known as "Patti".

Robotic players

Robots designed to play table soccer by roboticists at the University of Freiburg are claimed to be able to beat 85 percent of casual players. They use a camera from below a transparent table base to track the ball, and an electronic control system to control high torque motors to rotate and move the foosmen. Currently an expert player can beat the robot 10 games to 1. [10]. Another table football robot, Foosbot, is claimed to have never been beaten by a human, but has not been tested against expert players[citation needed]. Yet another table football robot is under development by two students at the Technical University of Denmark. The robot uses a camera mounted above an ordinary table.

What lies ahead for foosball? This question can be answered in one word: more-more players from more countries, competing at more tournaments for more prize money. A recent study revealed that every week 1.9 million people play a game of foosball-in the United States alone. The cause of the phenomenal growth of the sport in the United States during the last decade is no secret: someone took foosball, the tavern game, and turned it into a big money professional sport.

Foosball is a very entertaining indoor game. In fact, it ranks up high with billiards and chess, when it comes to the most popular and most played sport in the whole world. But how did foosball really start? Where did it originate and who conceived this popular table sport?

Foosball, which was originally referred to as table soccer is believed to have originated in the land of Germany in the late 1920's. However, it was also discovered that the French were concocting the exact same game sometime in the early 1930's. Foosball started as a soccer game played in an old wooden box.

The first commercial foosball table was released approximately thirty-five years ago, through the company called EBSCO Amusements. EBSCO Amusements introduced foosball in America by importing two German tables. But a few years later they began making their own line of patented tables and they called it the Vulcan Fussball Table. Several other foosball table manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon. The list includes Irving Kaye Sales Corporation, which released their table in 1969.

The game caught on with many followers and enthusiasts. And as the game started to get popular, competitions were being held left and right. In the United States, the first-ever professional foosball competition took place in 1979, with as much as $250,000 at stake. The event was called the World Championships, which also marked the debut of the foremost professional foosball league. The European and German leagues held competitions as early as the 1950's. However, there isn't a body established for the pros during those times.

Right now, foosball is a hit not only in the West but in the rest of the world as well. Good players are now emerging from countries like North Africa, the Middle East, South America, Tahiti, and Australia. Argentina and Japan are slowly inching their way towards winning the World Cup as well.

In the United States alone, there is an estimated 1.9 million players enjoying the game. The evolution of the game from a regular indoor game into a professional sport with millions in cash prizes at stake has contributed to its rise in popularity.

And the rest is history. If you love the sport of foosball, understanding its history will make it even more enjoyable.