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Table football

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Table football (Bonzini style table).
Table football (Bonzini style table).

Table football (also called foosball) is a table-top game based on football (soccer). The origins of the game are unclear, but most historians agree that the first tables probably appeared in France or Germany in the 1880s-1890s.


While several have claimed the honor of inventing table football, no one has yet been able to produce irrefutable evidence of the exact time and place of the birth of the sport. Patents exist from as far back as the 1890s, and more detail on these are available in the external links section. Table football is also known in the US as foosball, from Fußball, the German word for football.

The game

To start play, 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 middle of the table. Players attempt to use figures mounted on rotating bars to kick the ball into the opponent's goal. A ball may travel at speeds up to 40 mph (64 km/h) in competition. The sport/game/simulation requires quick reflexes with a delicate touch using the player's fine tuned motor skills, control and knowledge.

The basics include 'passing' the ball, where you have the ball in your possession with one bar, and pass it to another bar, and 'shooting', where you find a hole in the defense and attempt to score.

The winner is determined when one team scores a predetermined number of goals, typically five. A two-goal victory is most often required. In competition, every ball that enters the goal is counted, unless the player or players on the scoring team broke a rule during the play. Large events have referees that determine the infractions and penalties.

Foosball tables can vary in size, but a typical table is about 4 ft (120 cm) long and 2 ft (60 cm) wide. The table usually contains 8 rows of "foos-men", which are plastic, metal, wooden, or sometimes carbon-fiber figures mounted on horizontal metal bars. Each team of 1, 2, or 3 human players controls 4 rows of foos-men.

The arrangement of the foosballers is standard. Looking from left to right on one side of the table, you see:

Foosball strategy varies greatly. With teams of one human each ("singles" play), it is difficult for each person to control all four rows of foosmen simultaneously, though some players have perfected a defensive method using the thumb and pinky of the left hand to control the two defensive rows, and the right elbow and hand to control the midfield and attack rows. This style is considered somewhat radical, though it is employed to great benefit by certain advanced players. Other players keep the left hand always on the goalie or defensemen and move the right hand among the other three rows. More aggressive players may take up an attack with the offense and midfield, leaving the goalie unattended.

Foosball can also be played with four people in "doubles" style, in which there are teams of two people on either side. In this scenario, usually one player takes the two defensive rows and the other team member uses the midfield and attack rows.

With practice, it is possible to learn very fast "set-piece" moves, including the "snake", "pull-shot", and "front-pin". The pull shot is where you position the ball near the top of the oppositions goal. Then you pull your bar, which moves the ball downwards, and you aim for the hole or corner that is no longer guarded. The snake and front-pin both involve pinning the ball, or clamping the ball with your men. That way one can sway either direction.


Table football in New York
Table football in New York

Table football is often played for fun in pubs, bars, workplaces, schools, and clubs with few rules. Foosball 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 1940's and 50's 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 since his Tournament Soccer Organization went out of business in 1981 several orgs and promoters have continued holding large purse professional table soccer events worldwide. An international organization named ITSF (International Table Soccer Federation) was established in August 2002 to bring together all of them, as well as organizing World Championships.

Numerous local leagues exist around the world and there are huge differences in levels of skill between "pub" players and "tournament" players. A National League involving pub teams and University sides has recently been set up in the UK, and on an international level the ITSF World Cuptook place in May 2006 on a variety of ITSF-sanctioned tables in Germany to coincide with the FIFA World Cup. Austria, Germany and Belgium took the Gold, Silver and Bronze respectively.


A Garlando style table with a game in progress
A Garlando style table with a game in progress
An 11-per-side Leonhart table football game in Berlin
An 11-per-side Leonhart table football game in Berlin

A vast number of different tables exist. The table brands used on the world tour and official ITSF tournaments are "French-style" Bonzini, "American-style" Tornado, "Italian-style" Roberto-Sport, "Belgian-style" Eurosoccer/Wood (Jupiter/ABC), "German-style" Tecball. Other major brands include Kicker, Garlando, Rosengart, Löwen-Soccer, Warrior, Lehmacher, Leonhart, and Smoby. There was also a 7-meter table created by artist Maurizio Cattelan for a piece called Stadium. It takes 11 players to a side. Another unique foosball set is the Opus Table created by the Elevenforty company. Each table is hand-crafted, and each foosman is made to resemble his on-field counterpart.

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. Other tables 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 is found in the balls, which can be made of cork, plastic, wood or even marble and metal, varying the speed of shots a great deal, as well as the "grip" between the man and the ball.


Robots designed to play table football 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. [1]. Another table football robot, Foosbot, is claimed to have never been beaten by a human (taking into account no expert players have had a go). 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 [2].

Television and Film

Appearances of Foosball tables and play in feature films and television series

  • FOOS : Be The Greatest © (film) (2006, USA) – The History of American Foosball (Table Soccer or Table Football)
  • Long Shot (film) (1981, USA) Feature movie of a Foosball Championships starring 70's teen idol Leif Garrett. Also features an "over-the-top" ("Rainbow Shot") foosball stunt double closeup by pro Johnny Lott
  • Il Postino (1994, Italy) A female character flirts with the protagonist while playing foosball.
  • Dazed and Confused (1993, USA) Features a long scene in a foosball and billiards parlor.
  • Notting Hill (1999, USA) A stored foosball table is visible in Hugh Grant's character's flat
  • Friends (1994-2004, USA) The show featured a Dynamo table in earlier seasons, and later a Tornado (Valley) brand table, the latter which is the standard competition table on the pro circuit in the USA. The stars of the show were also reported to play the game frequently. The foosball table is originally purchased in 1.12, "The One With The Dozen Lasagnas," when Joey and Chandler purchase it instead of a kitchen table, and Monica beats the boys at the game. It is stolen in 4.02, and another (The Tornado with green playfield, black & yellow men, and marbled sides) is purchased by Chandler in 4.07.'s FAQ claims a third table was used as a stunt table in 6.06, to depict a collapsed leg in the episode where Chandler fails to let Joey win at the game. The table is destroyed by Monica in the series finale, 10.18, The Last One, in order to rescue two pet fowl, Chick Jr. and Duck Jr., who were lost in the table by Joey. Other episodes that feature the table are 2.16, The One Where Joey Moves Out, and The One with the Prom Video with guest star Tom Selleck.
  • The Simpsons (1989-Present, USA) In the episode entitled "Lisa's Sax", Homer is seen imagining himself playing foosball with The Scream at the Springfield Museum.
  • Cheers (1982-1993, USA) In the episode entitled "Achilles Hill", Carla believes the foosball table is possessed.
  • The Waterboy (1998, USA) Robert's mother refers to American football as foosball. This mispronunciation gained some popularity and is sometimes used in the same regard.
  • In Married... with Children "Lez Be Friends", after defeating his son, Bud, Al Bundy retorts that the game was the "greatest invention ever made." According to Al, Edward Foos was "a boy with a dream, a dream to invent a game that everyone could enjoy no matter how out of shape or drunk you are." Bud leaves in disgust.
  • Table Football is regularly played by Sabrina and Harvey in Sabrina The Teenage Witch
  • Lola und Zoey played in Zoey 101

See also

  • Sport
  • Subbuteo
  • Table hockey
  • Air hockey

External links


  • History of Table football
  • History of Foosball (Table Soccer or Table Football) Movie - Now Available

International and national federations

  • British Foosball Association
  • International Table Soccer Federation
  • United States Table Soccer Federation
  • French table-soccer federation
  • German table-soccer federation
  • Danish table-soccer federation
  • VIFA, the main North American federation
  • R.T.S.F., Russian Table Soccer Federation
  • CFO, Czech Foosball Organization

General sites

  • - A discussion forum covering foosball frequented by North American tournament and recreational table soccer players
  • - a foosball directory, foosball playing locations worldwide
  • - American site with rules, tricks, results
  •, American site, original host of usenet FAQs
  • Playing Locations Directory
  • Inside Foos, American site, known for sports video of pro tournaments with color commentary
  • - Tournament results, playing locations, player profiles, ratings and interviews
  • Bonzini USA - French-style foosball tables and tournaments in the USA
  • Build your own foosball table
  • The Foosball Fanatic - A Foosball blog
  • Rankings website for Foosball
  • The Foosball Factory - Site for Foosball Table Sales and Competitions in Australia

Local leagues

  • Tulsa Foosball
  • Calcetto International League
  • Oxford University Table Football Club
  • Cambridge University Table Football Society
  • Warwick University Table Football Society
  • Colorado Foosball
  • New York City Foosball
  • San Antonio Foosball
  • Northern California Foosball
  • Raleigh NC Foosball
  • Northern Virginia Foosball


  • Official international P4P DVD shipping (free, like linux)
  • "Wicked Foosball Shot"
  • KiRo the Foosball Robot
  • Extreme foosball skills with slow-motion replays
  • Long Shot (1981) Feature movie with over-the-top foosball stunt double closeup by pro Johnny Lott
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