You can find this game in many college dorms, bars, recreation centers and military day rooms in America. And although it’s been popular in this country for more than 50 years, the details and strategies of the game are a mystery to most of us.
What game is this? Foosball!
Also called table soccer, while the goal is somewhat simple, foosball rules and strategies can be complex.
A typical foosball table has eight rods and nine balls are used per game. There are usually either two players or two-person teams.
The first person or team to get the ball into the opposing team’s goal with five of the balls wins the game.
Sounds easy, right? Well, it can be surprisingly hard to get good at this game. Read on to learn more about mastering all the foosball rules.
There are six types of tables used in the table soccer world, usually associated with their country of origin.
The American-style table is made of a sturdy material known for its speed and rigidity. While the dimensions may vary, they are usually a standard 36 inches high and contain eight rods. The older models have one goalie on each side, but the more modern American brands have three goalies per side.
Even the type of men used makes a difference. The traditional man has a round, slick toe design that isn’t designed to let players to pass back and forth on the same rod. Today’s men have pointed toes and a cross-hatch design that allows players to pin the ball down for more complicated shots like the snake shot or to bank shot off the walls of the table.
On the surface, there’s not a lot of high tech to the game of Foosball, but technological advances over the last few years have made the game much more precise. Using counterbalance or counterweight to the men means that now there is the same amount of weight in the head as there is in the toes.
In the past, players had to turn their men upside down to get the weight needed to prevent them from falling down during a defensive play. Now with the weight distributed equally throughout, players can keep their men upright during defensive play.
Golden Foosball Rules
According to the pros at foosball.com, there are three golden rules to the game of foosball:
- There are nine balls in a game and the first player or team to reach five goals wins the game.
- If a ball goes into a goal legally it is a point, no matter who hits it.
- Under no circumstances does the rod ever spin.
While very basic, there is a standard set of rules that can make games more structured and uniform. The U.S. Table Soccer Association has established a set of rules to govern the game. In addition to the golden rules of table soccer, there are an additional six basic rules that make the game less of a free-for-all.
Coin toss: The coin flip determines who serves first. After the first goal is scored, the serve goes to the person or team scored upon.
No spinning: A spin is when the rod completes a 360-degree rotation without touching the ball. It’s illegal.
No jarring: Players cannot slam their rods against the wall of the foosball table in an attempt to jar the ball loose from an opposing player.
Dead balls: If the foosball stops during play, the ball goes to the player or team who was last scored upon. If a dead ball occurs on defense, the player or team must move the ball back into the playing position.
Out of play: If a ball comes off the table or hits a top rail and drops back onto the table, the last person or team scored upon gets the ball.
5-bar passing: During 5-bar play, a player is required to pass the ball from the 5-bar to the 3-bar within 10 seconds of the initial serve. After the initial serve, a player has 10 seconds to make the pass. A ball cannot be stopped and must touch two men on the 5-bar before advancing and can only touch the wall twice in a row.
Before learning the basics of offense and defense, knowing how to grip the foosball handle is just as critical for speed, accuracy and overall performance.
The most common mistake when gripping the handle for beginners is holding it too tight. Foosball is a game of finesse, so it goes to follow that keeping a loose grip is a key to success.
For your most basic grip, make sure there is a small gap between your hand and the handle when you place your thumb and forefinger onto it, and when you turn your wrist quickly you should have about a 180-degree spin. Having white knuckles and a tight grip is not the way to start a game.
Using an open-handed shot will give you the leverage you need for some of the more complex shots, such as the snake shot. Your hand should be in the open position with the bottom of your hand and beginning of your wrist touching the handle.
Stance is also an important part of a successful game. Slightly angle your body and feet at a diagonal with the left side of your body close to the table and your right side further away. The objective of this stance is to allow your right arm to move more freely as you move the foosball rod in and out.
Like any sport, the fun of the game comes with knowing the game. With a few basic offensive and defensive strategies, a beginner can learn to look at the table with funny men on a rod in a whole new light.
On offense, there are two basic types of attack.
One is to get the ball across the table in one swift kick and the other is to set up the game by passing the ball to several players before attempting a goal. Making several passes allows players to get better control of the game, and conventional wisdom says you can’t shoot too often. One good offensive tip is to shoot off the tip of your man’s foot at an angle to catch your opponent off guard.
One of the more basic offensive moves is called the pull shot. According to foosballsoccer.com, it involves pulling the rod toward your body and kicking the ball in one fluid motion toward the goal. It’s important to get the basics of this shot mastered before working on speed.
To set up this shot, make sure you offensive 3-bar is pushed as far against the wall as possible. This maximizes the real estate your opponent has to cover.
The men on the 3-bar should be angled forward toward the goal so a ball striking the back of a man will stop beneath your 3-bar.
Set the ball on the inside of the middle man and pull the rod toward your body. Spin the Foosball man’s toe around the back of the ball to get behind it and kick the ball in the hole.
Another common offensive move is one just the opposite of the pull shot and for obvious reasons is called the push shot. The push shot is one where you push the rod away from yourself in a fluid motion toward the goal.
Other popular moves include the snake shot and the bank shot. The snake shot involves passing from an outside man to a middle man and shooting from the tip of the man’s foot toward the goal, while the bank shot involves bouncing the ball off the wall at an angle toward the goal. Over time, you’ll learn the best moves for your particular game.
There are several strategies and styles that can help players be good defenders, but one of the most basic rules to defense, regardless of style or tactic, is to stay unpredictable. Learn to alternate your patterns and timing and try not to stay with the same pace and maneuvers.
One of the most basic strategies of defense is to tilt your defensive bar so that your men are angled inward toward one another. This reduces the amount of space between men, which subsequently reduces the number of balls entering your goal.
You hear a lot of coaches in sports harp on their players to “keep your eye on the ball,” and it’s no different in Foosball. Don’t get distracted with the action and keep up with where the ball is on the table.
If the ball is on the right side of the table, your defenders should be there too. For one-on-one games, use your thumb and pinkie finger on your left hand in front of the bar handle to play both defensive rods at the same time.
Like anything in life, practice make perfect, and becoming an accomplished foosball player is no different. Applying some of these techniques and strategies could go a long way to transforming you from an interested bystander into a seasoned player.