Table football

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"Foosball" and "Table soccer" redirect here. For the film, see Underdogs (2013 animated film). For other uses, see Table football (disambiguation)
Table football
Baby foot artlibre jnl.jpg
Table football (Bonzini style table)
Highest governing body International Table Soccer Federation
Nicknames Table soccer, foosball, fussball, kicker
Invented 1921
Contact No
Team members Single opponents, doubles, or teams of up to 4
Mixed gender Yes
Type Table
Equipment Football table
Olympic No
Table football

Table football, also known as table soccer (as in the German "Tischfußball"), fussball, baby-foot or kicker, is a table-top game, sport, that is loosely based on association football.[1]


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 (great great grandfather of Lucie Collins) in 1922 and patented in 1923 (UK patent no. 205,991 application dated 14 October 1922 and accepted 1 November 1923).[2]

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 once 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).

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).

The sport[edit]

A Greek table football player

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 a 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 km/h (35 mph) in competition.[3]

Most rules consider "over 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) illegal.[4] 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. However, since January 2012, the annual World Championships and the World Cup will permit two full 360-degree rotations.[4]

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 number of goals is seven. You must win by 2. 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,[5] though there are substantial variations, particularly in Spain and South America – where the Futbolín table model (or variants) is common and uses a different configuration. Looking from left to right on one side of the table, the configuration is usually as follows:

Ball control
Row 1 Goalkeeper 1 foosman (sometimes 2 or 3)
Row 2 Defence 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 defence 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. A common slang used to describe a team which consists of three players is the term 'dreamteam'.


A Garlando style table with a game in progress
An 11-per-side Leonhart table football game in Berlin
The largest table football using 1-metre Buddy Bear figures was set up in 2006 in Berlin for the Football World Cup.

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. Although organized competition can be traced back to the 1940s and 1950s in Europe, the professional tours and big money events began when the founding father of modern professional table soccer, Lee Peppard of Seattle, Washington, announced a "Quarter Million Dollar Tour" in 1976.[citation needed] Several organizations and promoters have continued holding large purse professional table soccer events worldwide. In 1976 Bobby Brown of Green Felt Billiards ended the season with 1305 points, the most ever recorded in a season.[citation needed]

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 has run annually. In the ITSF World Cup and World Championships 2013, almost 500 players from 30 countries congregated in Nantes, France to compete. Team US produced a tremendous performance and won the World Cup.[6]

Former Polish president Lech Kaczyński and former coach of the Polish national team Leo Beenhakker play table football

The ITSF World Tour has also recently expanded to include Asian countries. China, Taiwan and Malaysia played host to ITSF sanctioned tournaments in 2013, and more have been scheduled for 2014.[7]


A vast number of different table types exist. The table brands used at the ITSF World Championships are Bonzini, Roberto Sport, Garlando, Tornado (table football), and Leonhart.[8]

Several companies have created "luxury versions" of table football tables. There was a 7-meter table created by artist Maurizio Cattelan for a piece called Stadium. It takes 11 players to a side. 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. 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.

Robotic players[edit]

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.[9] Another table football robot, Foosbot, is claimed to have never been beaten by a human, but has not been tested against expert players.[10][11] 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.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

The characters Monica Geller, Joey Tribbiani and Chandler Bing from the Friends TV show (1994–2004, US) often play table football. Foosball was a prominent part of the episode "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" on Community, a popular TV series.

Foosball has also been the subject of movies such as Longshot[13] (1981), and Underdogs (2013).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BFA – Table Football". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "1923 Patent abstract". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  3. ^ Welcome to the official ciCMS: Foosball League Website
  4. ^ a b "ITSF" (PDF). 15 January 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "Patent abstract". Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "Patent abstract". Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "Official Table Partners - International Table Soccer Federation". Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Article from New Scientist
  10. ^ "Top Bots excel at wide variety of tasks". University of Akron. 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  11. ^ "TeamFoosbot's channel". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  12. ^ Automated table football table project home page
  13. ^ Longshot (1981, US)

External links[edit]