foosball name origin

What is Foosball? All About Its Name Origin and History

Foosball, the smaller sized version of the world’s most popular sport, soccer, has a fascinating story that is definitely worth telling. There are many other ways to call it, some of the most popular ones include table soccer, footzy and table football.

Undoubtedly what at first can look like just a simple table game from an external point of view can end up being very addictive due to how competitive and entertaining it can get once you get involved.

One of the many things that make it great is the fact that it is an inclusive game that can be played by soccer fans looking to play their favorite sport in a different and even more comfortable way. It is also great for anyone who wants to pass some time without killing it, since it can be productive, testing the agility of any of the participants.

Don’t forget to check out our foosball table buying guide!

What is the origin of foosball?

Although many variations of it have been around since the 1890s (and even earlier), the first person to patent the foosball table was Harold Searles Thorton in 1921, a British man that created the game, gave it its name and claimed that the idea came from the popularity that soccer had in Europe during that time.

If you look at his patent of the foosball table, you can clearly see that it is very similar to the modern foosball tables. The number of players is the same, the number and placement of rods as well as the curve in the corners madde to prevent the ball from stopping in the middle of the game.

Thorton's pattent of the foosball table

One of the most common questions people may ask about this game, specially if they strangely have never heard of it before, is where did the name “foosball” actually come from? Interestingly, the inspiration that Harold had for it came from the German word for soccer “Fußball”, which is pronounced “fussball”.

The possibility of having a sort of “replicated” version of football from the comfort of your own home inspired Thorton to come up with the concept of this tabletop game using only a box of matches by placing a couple of matches around the box.

Turns out that this creation would eventually become so relevant that first professional leagues were formed in the 1950s. To this day, many more groups come to life to compete in incredible foosball tournaments filled with talented players and fans from all around the world.

foosball in italy
Source: http://www.ganzomag.com/foosball-vintage-italian.html

The game of Foosball is very often associated with young people and pub culture,
which is true to some extent, but only a fraction of these occasional players know that foosball is a real sport.
It is a strategically and technically a very demanding sports discipline that develops hand to eye coordination and precise hand movement and control.

Foosball is a game for 2 to 8 (usually played by 4 or 2)  players where team A tries to score as many goals as possible and
at the same time get as few goals as possible. The game of Foosball is most typically played in two-on-two or one-on-one configuration. The foosball table has 8 bars on which foosmen are placed. Each player controls 2 rods
with different numbers of figures (in a 2v2 game). The back player’s main objective is to prevent the opposing team from scoring a goal. The back player controls the goalie (or 3 “goalies” in some foosball table configurations) and the neighboring rod with 2 defenders. The forward player’s main objective is to attack and score goals. This attacking player controls 5 midfielders and 3 attackers. The number of players is, therefore, the same as in normal soccer. (except for the 3-goalie rod configuration)

While the defensive role is a priority for the back player, quite often
There’s a good chance to score a goal from the goalie or defender rod. The shot from the back is useful, but it’s not what decides the game in most cases. A quality made pass from the defensive player to the offensive one is one of the most important aspects of play (often decisive), especially when it comes professional players. There’s a much bigger chance to score a goal from the offensive player rods. A professional match is often decided by one mistake, therefore responsible play is needed from both the front and the back player.

The front player too must perform both gaming tasks. The front tries to prevent the opponent’s back player from both shooting and passing to the attacking opponent. At the same time, his goal is to gain control over the
ball and score a goal. An important task is to keep the ball on the opponent’s half and give him the smallest possible possibility to get the ball under control. For this reason, it is often
the quality of the backup (the five-rod) that is decisive. The fewer balls going through the backup, the smaller the chance that the opponent will have a chance to score. Ideally, the ball should not reach get into your own defensive half. The quality of the “five” is in the ability to process the ball as fast as possible and pass it to the attacking 3-rod with a good shooting position.

What parts does foosball need to work?

The foosball table consists of a table and a base. The table is made of solid plywood
reinforced with metal construction. From the outside, it’s protected by a durable film from a hardened laminate. The inner part consists of the play area, goals and sometimes included lighting. The top part of the table may be covered with a safety glass (usually found in coin-operated tables often used in pubs)

The only moving parts of the foosball are eight steel rods with players. Rods from the stainless steel stretch through the holes in the side walls of the table. On one end of the rod, there’s always a handle, usually made of wood. A sophisticated system of springs and rubber dampeners eliminates the risk of a mechanical damage to the foosball table.

A base made of solid steel profiles is attached to the table from the bottom and the sides (this depends on the manufacturer) Keep in mind that a heavier base leads to a better stability of the foosball table.

Now that you know the basics of how the table works, where can you play some foosball?

Main responsibilities of the back player

The back player should be watching the ball and the game at all times to respond promptly at any time. His game should be disciplined and he should avoid unnecessary loss of the ball to the attacking player. (usually happening after an unsuccessful shooting attempt)

Preventing the opponent from scoring the goal

The back player must stand to minimize the angle in which the attacking player can shoot the ball (at all times and in maximum effectiveness). He should do so both in the static play or in motion.

Crucial is the ability to read the opponent’s game and keeping up with the tempo of the game.

The most ideal thing is to keep moving all the time, as it is much easier for the attacking player to score a goal versus static defense. It’s also important to be aware of the edges of the goal, as a ball bounced from the back wall can easily slip through there. Such a goal always adversely affects the player psyche.

Minimizing errors

If the back player loses the ball on his half, the chances of conceding a goal are greatly increased. It’s therefore important to avoid losing the control of the ball at all times. If I am about to lose the ball, at least try to deflect it so the opponent has a harder time catching it.

There’s a chance the ball will get to your backup players (your teammate).

Passing the ball

Good back player not only shoots well and responsibly but in the first place passes the ball to his front teammate. Passes should always be accurate and not too fast, so your teammate is able to receive them without the ball bouncing off to your opponent. If an opponent does a great job defending the pass, the back player can use the sidewall to his advantage and pass using a bounce off the wall.

Shooting the ball

A shot from the back player can be very effective, but only if the opponent makes a mistake and creates free space for the ball to pass. An experienced opponent does not give you much space to shoot. In that case, the back player should pass to the attacking player.

Rear Player Positioning During Defense

The basic position of the two back rods of foosmen is where the goalie figure and one of the defenders are in such a position, that minimizes the angle at which the goal can be scored. It’s very important to correctly assess the opponent’s abilities.

If the opponent is moving with the ball, the defender needs to move with him (copy his motion) to cover the largest angle. Assuming that the defender maintains the position and correctly estimates the opponent’s pace, he should not concede a goal.
If he must change the position of defending players, then it’s very important to time it well for the time when the opponent is the smallest threat.

blocking the ball
Goal possibilities vs defending positions

Foosball tables are commonly placed in pubs, bars, universities, workplaces, hospitals and can be one of the most attractive fun activities in a party or gathering.

Chances are that if you haven’t been a part of this game before, you’ve probably walked past a foosball table at least once in your life. But if you haven’t, there is absolutely nothing to worry about! You can always get to the nearest place that has one and live the experience or buy one to have a lot of fun at home.

We bet you’ll fall in love with it immediately!

2 thoughts on “What is Foosball? All About Its Name Origin and History”

  1. Can anyone tell me what we called table soccer in the 50’s ( at the International School of Geneva)?. It was vey popular with the boys in the Internat, but was not called “foosball”)

    1. Hi Beedy, there are some other names such as “kicker” or “babyfoos”. But it could have been just some local nickname used just by the students at the campus 🙂

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