There are many different ways to develop your football skills. Positional and tactical knowledge is best worked on by getting involved in organised 11-a-side league football, while technical ability and close control can often be better put to the test in a highly-charged 5 or 7-a-side match. It's also possible to hone your talents in a more unusual setting; recently, a football-related sport has developed that allows players to practice their quick reactions, aerial control, first touch, and close range passing in a competitive format, and the game has quickly gained recognition from some of the world's biggest soccer stars.
The format in question is teqball, a ball sport that due to its many visible benefits has been adopted by some of the biggest clubs and individuals in world football. In this article, we'll be providing a detailed account of exactly what teqball involves, the history of the sport and the reasons why it has become so popular.
Teqball is a ball sport that is played on a curved table. It combines elements of table tennis, football, and sepak takraw, a Malaysian team sport also known as "kick volleyball" played on a badminton-style court.
But teqball is played within a much smaller area, centring around a 3 metre-long, 1.7 metre-wide teqball table.
In a game of teqball, players use this table to hit a football back and forth either as a 1v1 match or as a doubles match between four players. The game is set up much like a table tennis match, with two separate teams/individuals on either end of the table, attempting to win points by hitting difficult shots at their opponents.
In teqball, the ball can be played with any part of the body except arms and hands (much like football), and the essential premise of the game is that each team gets a maximum of three touches to hit the ball against the table and toward their opposition. For example, in a doubles match one player might control a high ball with their head, the other may then play a cushioned lay-off using their chest, and the original player could then play a volley onto the table, aiming to bounce it once and make it difficult for the opposing team to control and return the ball. When an opponent is unable to return a shot successfully, a point is won by the other player(s).
In August 2018, teqball became the world's fastest-recognised sport when its highest governing body FITEQ was officially recognised by the Olympic Committee of Asia (OCA), with the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) also recognising the sport the following year. At international level, the sport is represented by the International Federation of Teqball.
In November 2020 FITEQ was granted full membership of the Global Association of International Sports Federations, demonstrating how far the sport had come in just a few years. But where did this new sport emerge from in the first place?
Teqball was invented in Hungary in 2012 by football fans Gábor Borsányi (a former professional player who retired at the age of 24 due to injury concerns) and Viktor Huszár (a computer scientist and fellow football lover), with the support of co-founder Gyorgy Gattyan, a Hungarian businessman who has helped develop the sport's business strategy over the years.
Gábor Borsányi was the creative engine behind the idea, his experiences playing football on a table tennis table causing frustration as the table's horizontal design meant the ball rarely bounced well to the players. As a result, Borsányi decided to design a curved table that aided the ball's bounce and made for a more enjoyable game; having developed the basic idea with Viktor Huszár, the first ever teqball table was created in 2014.
This specialist equipment and its availability on the official Teqball online shop, where the teqball table price comes in at over $3,000, means that the invention has not only been a serious sporting success but also a business phenomenon. According to Huszár, the game's success has created a sense of "pride in Hungary that we have given the world more sports," naming the pair's invention "a table and a curve that we believe will change this world."
Unlike the vast majority of other sports, the name "teqball" is trademarked and the teqball table is patented, meaning that only Teqball International or others with a license from Teqball Holding SARL may legally manufacture tables and hold competitions. This little detail reflects the ambition of the project; having secured a place on the programmes of the 2021 Asian Beach Games and the 2023 European Games, teqball is now aiming for inclusion in the world's most prestigious sporting event, the Olympic Games.
We've given you a general idea of what a typical game should look like, but it's important to drill down into the official teqball table rules. Below are the teqball guidelines as stated on the official FITEQ website:
The exact dimensions of the TEQ™ table and court are also important. Courts should be rectangular and a minimum of 12 metres (39 ft) wide, 16 metres (52 ft) long, and 7 metres high. The teq table should be exactly in the middle of the court, the net parallel to the shorter sides' perimeters, and this table should measure 3 metres in length and 1.7 metres wide, with a 14cm-high net in the middle of the playing surface.
In terms of the ball itself, this should be a regular sized 5 ball, but with a lower pressure than a normal football.
Each year, the best teqball players in the world come together in a regular competition organised by FITEQ, the Teqball World Championships. This tournament, first held in Budapest, Hungary (where the sport was invented) has both Singles and Doubles competitions, and is contested by both men and women, who are allowed to participate together.
The first ever tournament featured more than 20 participating nations, and the number of people involved in the sport is only continuing to grow. The 2023 event will be held in Bangkok in late November and early December, with Thailand becoming the first nation outside Europe to host the Championships. With 153 national federations now affiliated with teqball, it's expected to be the biggest tournament yet.
Budapest was the location of the first ever World Championships, and it was also the place where on 18th October 2016 teqball gained a new official ambassador: ex-Brazil legend Ronaldinho, who played for clubs including Barcelona, AC Milan and PSG in a glittering career from 1998 to 2015.
And Ronaldinho (who reportedly has a teq table at his house) isn't teqball's only high-profile ambassador; teqball is a new favourite game of many famous professional footballers, including the likes of fellow Brazilians Neymar and Phillipe Coutinho, and World Cup-winning Argentina captain Lionel Messi.
This reflects a broader relationship between teqball and professional football which it's worth diving into in a little more detail.
In recent years, many clubs have begun to use teqball as a beneficial training method for top pros. It allows players to practice close control, build up their teamwork and communication skills, work on cushioning the ball after powerful strikes, and improve their ability to shift rapidly between the use of their heads, chests, thighs, and legs to control and pass the ball.
According to Teqball's Gergely Muranyi, "it is a great way for football enthusiasts to develop their technical skills, concentration and stamina." Top clubs including Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Chelsea embraced the sport years ago, before the teq sales promotion team even got stuck into them. The primary reason for this is that the game is extremely enjoyable.
This fact was evidenced at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where the tournament's Official Fan Parks used teqball as a way of getting fans active and increasing connection with some of the best players on the planet; alongside ordinary punters, former international footballers such as England’s Sol Campbell, Iceland’s Eidur Gudjohnson and Denmark’s Peter Schmeichel were all said to have enjoyed a game of teqball.
It's also worth mentioning that teqball tables are UV-protected and can therefore be used indoors and outside. This versatility is useful for footballers, who can benefit from the advantages of the game both in warm weather outdoor training camps or mid-season gym sessions where they want a break but it's too cold or wet for a pleasant game outside.
The teqball benefits are varied; ultimately, it's easy to see why this simple curved table sport has been able to attract people from across the globe, whether they're professional soccer stars or just amateurs looking to improve their skills while having some fun. Teqball looks like it's here to stay.
This sport is all about enhancing technical skill, but it's far from the only way to work on this aspect of your game. For a deep dive into how to improve your ability to strike a football effectively, whether from a free kick, corner or open play, check out our interview with the world's leading ball striking expert, coach Bartek Sylwestrzak.