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A brief history of football table

Table football is first and foremost a good reason to get together with your friends. It’s a social activity full of cheerfulness and camaraderie. Considered as a sport in its own right by the most enthusiastic players, table football is currently at the heart of negotiations between the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). 

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The history of table football is pretty nebulous. It’s quite difficult to attribute its invention to one person. In this section, you will find information on the “possible origins” of the game and a couple of anecdotes that will astonish anyone.


The very first patented football table was from the United States (1901). However, it is generally accepted that it is a European invention. Many countries in the same period tried to claim ownership of the football table, each one further elaborating the concept and trying to pass this brilliant idea as their own.


The football table would have simultaneously been invented in the region of Creuse in France and in Germany between 1880 and 1890. At the beginning of the 20th century, a myriad of patents was created. Several historians think that Lucien Rosengart (who worked with André Citroën’s company) was the true creator of the football table but that Alejandro Finisterre was the one to patent it in 1937. However, drawings much older than that have been found.

So as it was, the football table would have come out of a Citroën factory. Apparently, an employee named Lucien Rosengart created the football table to entertain his grand-children when it was raining.


Another plausible scenario is that the football table was invented by a Swiss called Knicker. The name might sound familiar, as it is a brand that still exists to this day in Eastern Europe. After designing his first football table, Mr. Knicker created his company and started the production. His football tables were very successful in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. 

In Belgium, the invention is imputed to G. Staav, without any given evidence.


For the English, E.J. Lawrence was the one responsible for the creation of the table football. He patented it in 1913.


Finally, some believe the football table was invented in the United States, with its main purpose being physical therapy for soldiers that had hand wounds. Supposedly, Americans quickly developed an affinity for the game, which became increasingly more popular and ended up as a true craze.


In France, the two main football table manufacturers, Bonzini and Sulpie, were founded respectively in 1930 and 1952. These two companies came up with the telescopic rod that truly revolutionized the world of table football. Plastic players were first used in 1955 and foldable legs were first featured in 1970.


In the United States, table football is called foosball (the players are called “foosers”), the German term for actual football (or soccer), because the first football tables they used came from Germany. 

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Larry Patterson was the first one to commercialise football tables in the USA. He started with a table he had manufactured in Germany in 1962 and named the game foosball. At the time, soccer wasn’t popular at all, as Americans preferred the more virile game of (American) football. Foosball was as popular as soccer then, which is to say, not popular at all.


The 250.000 returning American soldiers that had been sent to German bases popularised the game in 1969. That was the moment when foosball took off in the United States. Some trivia: more than 2 million Americans play table football at least once a week.

The Golden Age of table football was during the 1970’s as well in France. At that time, you could find one in every café of the neighbourhood. Since then the number of public football table has been drastically reduced in favour of private tables set in people’s homes. Since 2000, the number of homes equipped with a table keeps growing.


Worldwide, the football table is as popular as ever. Its shape can vary according to the different countries but the game remains unchanged.

Last anecdote: the world’s best table football player is called Frédéric Collignon. This 38-year-old Belgian has won almost every international championship since 1999. He is also the only player who has won on all the ITSF-approved tables. The number of titles under his belt is impressive: 118 single titles and 306 double titles, including 54 world champion titles.