Europeans sure love their football, don't they? When we covered Trick Kick back in 2013, we thought it'd be the last live action, football-based pub game we'd see for a long while. We were wrong. The new game of Teqball arches the ping pong table's back, pulls out the paddles and challenges players to put their football skills to work.
Designed by a UK-based start-up company with international roots, Teqball is part football training tool, part competitive table game and part hybrid sport. The game relies on a regulation football and a special table that the company calls the Teqboard.
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The Teqboard looks like a basic table tennis table, that was put through a bending machine. However, the company explains that it was carefully designed, empirically tested and fine-tuned over a two-year period such that the ball can bounce off "all parts of the board so that it can be reached and controlled in all cases." In other words, it's not just an arched ping pong table, but a purpose-built piece of Teqball gear. The table is split into two sides by a polycarbonate/plexiglass "net" that provides a solid divider for the ball to bounce off.
Teqball can be played one-on-one or two-on-two and can even accommodate a larger group. We won't get into a full tutorial on the rules – the company offers a YouTube video and 23-page PDF for that – but the idea is to volley the ball back and forth using only the parts of the body allowed in football. Each side can have up to three touches (a bit of volleyball sneaks in) before returning the ball to the other side's court, but can't use the same part of the body two times in a row. The center line essentially extends out infinitely, so you don't have to be square with the table and can return the ball from the side. As in table tennis and other volley sports, a team gets a point when the other team fails to complete a return or commits a rule violation. The game is played to 12 points.
In addition to being a fun, challenging game for the football-crazed, Teqball is meant to serve as a training tool for all levels of football players. It's designed to help improve technical skill, concentration and stamina in a safe, no-contact environment – the rules bar any contact with other players or the Teqboard itself.
Teqball does look like a fun practice tool for football players of all ages, but unlike table tennis or foosball, it appears to require a high level of skill just to effectively play, let alone play well. Juggling a football and directing it onto a compact playing surface doesn't seem like something that anyone can just pick up and try. I remember spending many frustrating hours as a kid just trying to perfect basic soccer ball juggling skills.
After completing the rules of the game and design of the equipment, the Teqball team's next objective is putting extra "teq" into the game. It is developing what it calls the Teqbox, essentially a virtual referee. The stand-up device will use a combination of motion sensors, cameras and computer hardware to track ball and player movements and provide scorekeeping and rule enforcement. It will also pair with a mobile app and deliver performance feedback.
The game seems a little out there to this American – I prefer the simpler concept of Headis – and judging from last year's cancelled Kickstarter, people aren't rushing to be the first to fill their game rooms with tabletop football. Selling people on an all-new product is difficult; an all-new sport has to be even more difficult, especially when it's not really football but requires some football savvy.
Looking at Teqball's Facebook page, it does seem that the company's had some success in bringing the game out to events and communities around Europe and beyond, getting the word out and getting people playing. In that vein, it does seem like Teqball could make a nice addition to recreation centers and parks. We're not so sure that the average home or backyard is properly set up for it, though.
If your home is and you want to get your very own set-up, Teqball offers email orders via its website. It doesn't list pricing information, but the table was being offered at pledge levels as low as £179 (approx. US$275 today) on the 2014 Kickstarter campaign, where shipping was estimated in the $50 to $100 range. The game was a finalist for a 2015 ISPO BrandNew Award, but lost out to other innovative products, including Tentsile tents, the Zehus Bike+ and the HEXO+ drone.
To really get a feel for Teqball, you'll have to watch it in action. The short video below provides a good look at gameplay, and there are plenty of other videos on Teqball's YouTube Channel.