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History and Rules of Foosball

History and Rules of Foosball

Almost everyone has played a game of foosball once or twice in their lives. Many grew up with a table in their basements, and they still reside in bars all across the country. However, you may be wondering about the history of foosball and if it has any official rules.

The History of Foosball

No one knows for sure where, when or by whom foosball was invented. Many historians track it back to Europe during the 1880s or 90s, when it was a popular parlor game. There are two leading theories on who came up with the game:

  • Lucien Rosengart, a French automobile engineer from Citroën, is said to have invented foosball as a means to keep his grandchildren occupied during the winter.
  • Alexandre de Fiesterra claims to have come up with the idea for foosball when he was recovering from injuries in a hospital following the Spanish Civil War.

What is beyond dispute is that Harold Searles Thornton of England lays claim to the first legitimate patent on the sport. The one he claimed in 1923 is the same method by which so many people play the game today.

The Rules of Foosball

To many people, the rules of foosball are clear and simple. You drop the ball (often from a slot on the side) and then both sides work to move it to the opposing team’s goals. You can play one-on-one or two-on-two.

However, this sort of approach would not fly with seasoned players who take the game far more seriously. In America, the game is often called “Texas foosball” and has its own unique rules.

For the most part, tables are made out of mahogany and the ball is formed of thick plastic. The actual figures are made from a harder type of plastic. All of these choices are made by the manufacturer to ensure a faster game.

Another notable difference where Texas foosball is concerned is that three figures are on the goalie bar, whereas others only have one. This ensures that the ball doesn’t get stuck in the corner of the table.

In contrast, in France, the game is played on a “tacky” table that slows things down, especially in combination with the cork ball. These games tend to have more focus placed on passing the ball around and strategically lining up the shots, like in actual soccer.

If you were to play foosball in Germany, you’d find the tables there softer than any other. This provides even greater amounts of ball control and, therefore, creates a greater demand for that control. Goals are also bigger on German foosball tables, which provide some degree of forgiveness for how much easier shots and passes are to block.

Finally, foosball in Italy gives you a mix of both styles. A lot of the tables here are made from sandblasted glass, which makes for extremely fast gameplay. Otherwise, there are plastic tables that slow things down quite a bit and reward precision handling.

Official Foosball Rules

There is no officially-recognized, universal set of rules for foosball. Generally, it depends on whose home or establishment you’re in when you’re playing.

That being said, the following rules are nearly always accepted wherever you’re playing throughout the globe. These include:

  • No Spinning – You’ll almost never find someone who advocates the opposite of this rule. It states that you can’t simply spin your players so that they do multiple 360s at once. This could be done with one hand or two, but no matter the method, the result is the same: a violent strike of the ball that is uncontrolled and may easily end in a goal that had zero real talent behind it.
  • Service – To start a game or after someone scores, the ball is served through a hole in the middle of each sidewall. The player providing service can elect to spin the ball (e.g. by putting pressure on it with the thumb and pressing down quickly to put it into play with lots of spin) in an attempt to influence where it goes. A coin toss is used to decide who will serve first; after that, the person who is scored on provides the serve. Prior to serving, the other player must be asked if they are ready.
  • Scoring – 5 goals have traditionally been the path to victory, but newer tables can accommodate up to 10 goals or even more. If a ball goes in the goal and then comes back out, for whatever reason, it is still considered a goal and play stops. A ball that is served and ends up in the goal without any outside influence does not count.
  • Dead Balls – On some tables, it’s possible for the ball to end up in a position where no player can reach it. When that happens, the ball must be served again by the same player who did it last.

Foosball is an extremely popular game thanks, in large part, to how easy it is to play. All you need is a table, a friend and the above rules to begin playing right away.


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