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Foosball  A Brief History

Foosball: A Brief History

Black and white photos of people playing foosball in the 1940s

Foosball was created in 1922 by Harold Searles Thorton because of the popularity of soccer, which in his country and most of Europe is called football. Which I guess makes sense, since you do play with your feet and American football is played with hands? Anyways, his reason for developing a table based game was so everyone could enjoy the challenge of playing soccer, even if they didn’t live near a field or were unable to run since polio was still fairly common back then. I got to say, that’s some pretty forward thinking for his time!

First Foosball Video Games

Foosball was a hit, sweeping Europe and crossing the oceans to America by 1950, which is a brief amount of time before the interconnected world we’re familiar with today. The popularity kept on rising continuously over the years until the first video games were released in 1970.

Photo of 1950s style Foosball table

First Foosball Prize tour

In 1972, the first prize tour started with a prize of $1500; back then that was a LOT of money. When this tour proved to be an immense success, it was followed immediately with the Quarter Million Tour, which bosted prizes of up to 20k for official tournaments. By 1978, there were million dollar prizes on the largest competitions.

Foosball held its ground against video games pretty well for nearly a decade and is still holding well in some places. However, in 1981, Tournament Soccer, who was funding all of the prizes for US-based tournaments, filed for bankruptcy. This was a sad day for dedicated tournament fans, but some bars, pubs, and clubs who had their tables kept the game alive by hosting local tournaments for those who still had a love of playing for a prize.
photo of Vintage Foosball Goalie

Female tournaments

By 1990, Foosball brought recognition for the female tournament players. Sure, the primary tournament circuit had closed by this point, but foosball players are known for good sportsmanship. On the bright side, female players maintain full recognition in the International Table Soccer Federation circuit, which was founded in 2008.

Though all of this time, almost a full 100 years of foosball, the game has been picked up in practically every country. People in every country play the game differently. American, or “Texas” foosball, is performed on a thick table top with a dense, heavy ball. This, combined with our triple goalie gameplay, make for fast, competitive games; where speed is the priority. French foosball is played on a thin, slightly tacky surface with a cork ball to slow down the balls speed and make passing easier because their priority is based on strategy. German tables are made with even softer materials than tables produced in any other country, because this enables them to make dramatic long shots. Finally, Italy is known for glass balls for extra precise handling between your players.

In conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand the effect that a century can have on a classic game. From the sequence of popularity gain, the top off and eventual decline, to inclusive gaming and globalisation. Foosball has been through a lot, and it has come far despite all of the ups and down

Photo of foosball table players dressed in old west clothes

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