Foosball which has also been referred to as table soccer is a fun game that enjoys tremendous popularity across the world today. The game has s curious history with different people having diverse ideas as to how it came to existence. The foosball table began to appear in parlors across Europe around 1890. Both Lucien Rosengart and Alexandre de Finesterrer are said to be the inventors of this interesting game. Rosengart claims to have invented the game to entertain his grandchildren during winter while Alexandre is said to have come up with the idea during his time at the hospital after sustaining injuries in the Spanish civil war.
Foosball was first patented by Harold Searles Thorton and his narrative was that the idea struck him while observing matches lying parallel to each other on top of a matchbox. Foosball for him was a fun activity to engage in when home. An original patent application was filed in 1921 but was not officially accepted until 1923. The game was patented around 1923 by the UK patent office (UK Patent No 205.991). Thorton had the first official claim to the game.
Following a visit by his uncle Louis P.Thorton from the United States, an idea of applying for patent rights in the US was hatched. Louis went on to patent the game in the US in 1927(United States Patent Office No 1615.491). Louis dint however has much success with the game in the US and even let the patent expire. This could explain the uncertainty about foosball in the United States. The game’s popularity however dwindled around this time but later picked up again.
There have been more competitions of the game in Europe as compared to the United States. Around 1950, the Belgians established the first-ever foosball league. By this time, the game had gained much popularity and was being enjoyed in most cafes, pool halls, and pubs across America and Europe.
The game gained much popularity after world war II with some even believing that the game was invented to help in the rehabilitation of war veterans. Surprisingly however is the fact that to date the game is used for the same recreational purpose by several federal correctional institutions. Elee Peppard is said to be behind the tremendous growth and popularity of the game. He owned a bar in Montana and is said to have organized high-stakes tournaments where people were promised lots of money. Say between $1000 to $20000.
Around 1976, the European leagues from different countries came together to form the European Table Soccer Union (ETU). They compete against each other in the European Cup annually (see Is Foosball a Sport?). Foosball grew in isolation in most parts of the world but was played in diverse ways across different countries.
The game is played on a table surface made of hard material preferably wood with the ball being made of thick plastic. The game, therefore, is more about power and speed. The French however had their own version of the game that had more emphasis on control as the table surface was made of linoleum and they used a cork ball to play. This version aped modern-day soccer in so many ways as most importance was given to passing the ball. The German version on the other hand was more enhanced and used very soft surfaces and the style of their game demanded more guile in setting up the shots.
Kicker, a swiss company domiciled in Geneva, is said to be one of the earliest manufacturers of foosball equipment. The table they make for the game is also referred to as kicker hence the name being used popularly in Switzerland and Germany to refer to the game.
Unification remains a problem for the game across different European countries as there exist various forms of the game. For instance, there are different tables with each country preferring its own. The shape of the playing figures composition of the balls, the size of handles also differs (see one vs three goalie foosball). It is therefore difficult for players to even switch from one to the next. Competition in most countries however is no longer about prize money.
Foosball is played all over the world, in the middle east, North Africa, South America, Europe, and even the United Kingdom. Argentina and Japan have also recently shown interest in participating in the American Tournament during the world championships. The game continues to grow phenomenally across the united states.