Last Updated on
Table football has pretty much survived everything that has been thrown at it down the years.
First, it was simple board games such as Monopoly and Snakes & Ladders, in which luck played a massive part in deciding who would end up as winner.
Roll the dice, pray for plenty of sixes, and hope this will be enough to see you over the finishing line in first place.
Then came games such as Scrabble, Connect Four and Trivial Pursuit, where a little more skill and knowledge was needed before victory could be claimed.
Trivial Pursuit, in particular, was an overnight sensation around the world. The brainchild of three Canadian men, this game was released in 1981 and never looked back.
In 1984 alone, more than 20 million games were sold in North America and by 2014 it was 100 million worldwide, after becoming available in 26 countries and released in 17 different languages. But table football survived this most successful of opponents and continued to flourish.
There was also the distraction of amusement arcades, once referred to as penny arcades, which proved to be another competitor for table football to fend off.
Slot machines, pinball and the brilliant Air Hockey were just three of the activities which thrived in the downtown atmosphere of amusement arcades and, in the late 1970s, witnessed the introduction of video games which proved to be particularly popular.
Of those released into the wild around 40 years ago was Space Invaders, invented and manufactured in Japan.
First introduced in 1978, the aim of Space Invaders was to remove the threat of wave, after wave of descending aliens, which moved horizontally and then downwards across the screen.
Of course, few players survived to the end of the contest but it was a mesmerising spectacle and by 1982 Space Invaders had made a net profit of $450 million for its manufacturers.
But even Space Invaders failed to dent the popularity of table football, which continued to grow.
By far the greatest threat to table football was the introduction of computer games, which have been around for more than three decades and are becoming more and more sophisticated with each release.
As laptops and software have become more high-tech, thanks to the skill of programmers and computer engineers, with thousands of coded instructions now being digested and executed in milliseconds, hundreds of new games have flooded the market.
One of the most successful is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds which was only released in December 2017 but has already sold 50 million copies, and can be enjoyed on Microsoft Windows, Android, iOS, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
An earlier invention was StarCraft, first sold in April 1998, since when 11 million copies have been purchased. This game is compatible with a number of Macs and Nintendo 64.
But still, they couldn’t kill off table football, a game which has hardly changed in almost a century and can still be found in university halls of residence, pubs, leisure centres and many more places.
With its traditional eight handles – four for each team – which slide across the table in both directions, and with the aim of blasting the ball into one of the small gaps (goals) at each end of the playing arena, table football is the same game now as it was when invented in 1921.
Type the words ‘table and football’ into a search engine on your PC and there are many companies manufacturing one of the simplest but most enjoyable games of all time.
Called foosball in North America, its origins date back almost a hundred years when Britain’s Harold Searles Thornton made an application to patent the game in October 1921.
Tables vary in size but a typical one is around four feet in length and two feet wide, with rows of miniature footballers made out of plastic, metal, wood and sometimes carbon-fibre, mounted on horizontal metal bars.
Yet table football is not simply limited to family homes, workplaces or pubs, it has continued to grow despite the onslaught of all these highly technical computer games.
There is now the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF), a non-profit organisation based in France and set up in 2002.
More than 60 countries from all corners of the globe are now affiliated to the ITSF, such as Algeria, Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Hong Kong, India, Ivory Coast, Latvia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and USA – plus many more.
The ITSF organise a World Championships and World Cup, which nowadays attracts around 400 players to its tournaments.
And just because you cannot find these tournaments listed by major bookmakers, this does not mean there is no interest in events organised by the ITSF.
Murcia in Spain has, only recently, hosted the latest World Cup, with the ITSF website listing results and names of the champions in each category.
The titles on offer at these events are Open Singles, Open Doubles, Open Combined, Women Singles, Women Doubles, Mixed Doubles, Junior Singles, Junior Doubles, Senior Singles, Senior Doubles, Disabled Singles and Disabled Doubles.
Each category has its own ranking system and in 2019, Twan Hermans from the Netherlands was crowned world open singles champion.
But the ITSF calendar is not restricted to the World Championships and World Cup. There is also an official World Tour, with meetings staged in Hong Kong, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Bolivia, Slovakia, Turkey, Kuwait, South Korea, Denmark, Bulgaria, Japan, Russia, Slovenia and Argentina – to name but a few.
There are more than 50 tournaments on this year’s ITSF schedule, such is the increasing popularity of table football.
There is a whole world of table football experts playing the game competitively but, for millions more, it remains a pastime or hobby, a vehicle for socialising.
Table football is not just surviving, it is alive and kicking.