Thu, May 04, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Footballpool league starts in Prague

AFP, PRAGUE

Spectators watch as players survey the playing surface at a footballpool game in Prague on Friday last week.

Photo: AFP

A dark-haired girl kicks a white soccer ball gently toward a black eight ball, then wrings her hands in despair as she fails to sink it in the corner pocket for a win.

Katerina Ziegelova, a 26-year-old clerk, is one of the pioneers of footballpool, the latest addition to the hybrid sports family.

The Czech footballpool league has just started in Prague after the sport made its debut world championships in the Czech capital in February.

A combination of soccer and pool, the sport uses inflatable soccer balls — white, solids and stripes, like in pool — and a playground with six corner and side pockets, proportionately larger than a regular pool table.

No cues are needed, as the players kick the white ball, walking on the pitch.

“I’m not much of a football fan, but I like pool and this combination is very interesting,” said Ziegelova, who teamed up with her boyfriend, Lukas.

Clad in black-and-yellow shirts complete with numbers and names, they lost their opening league tie against a team led by Jiri Novotny, who organized the competition with a friend.

Novotny is no stranger to ball games, having scored 20 goals in 89 matches for the Czech Republic national futsal team, according to the Czech Football Association Web site.

“I saw a video on YouTube where two Americans played the game in a garden, drinking beer and doing a barbecue,” the wiry 28-year-old futsal defender told reporters.

“So we designed the table, set up a footballpool association and started calling it a sport,” he said, adding that this was the first such competition in the world.

Footballpool pits two teams with two players against each other, with each player taking on each opponent in two matches.

This was the formula used at the first world championships at a shopping mall in Prague.

“We had 70 teams from countries including Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Afghanistan, Germany, Slovakia,” said Novotny, adding that a Czech-Slovak team won.

Prague is also to host the next worlds in February next year.

Shopping malls are a typical venue for the sport as Novotny said he leased the legless footballpool “tables” to companies like bowling alleys, which then charge clients a fee to play.

“This is really a game for anyone — at the tournaments we have organized, we had children, pensioners, women, men,” Novotny said.

The footballpool association has 15 playgrounds across the Czech Republic. In May, it expects to install another 20.

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