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It is a game played on every continent and every nation. It is the mechanized child of the planet’s most popular sport played with little men skewered onto sticks and placed into a desk-sized playing field with a walnut sized ball.

The game is foosball, sometimes called table soccer. But what happens when one game is all you have left?

“In one word...WOW!”
- Jim Waterman,

About the Story…

This is the story of American foosball.

Already popular in Europe during the 1960’s, the game was introduced to America by an American service man that borrowed the German word for soccer, fussball, and named his first table “Foosball Match”. The game was advertised in magazines such as LIFE and Esquire and soon over 10, 000 tables were being shipped throughout the United States.

As the game’s popularity grew, manufacturers quickly pounced on the opportunity to manufacture tables. Players frequented arcades and high schools created teams and sponsored tournaments. Gamblers traveled around the southwest looking for foosball, money, beer and fights.

It was the blind leading blind, until a Missoula, Montana tavern owner named Lee Peppard held a $1500 tournament in 1972. Peppard, a recent college graduate looking for a business opportunity, quickly recognized the appeal of the game and started what would later become Tournament Soccer. And in doing so, ushered in the Golden Era of foosball.

Foosball quickly became a national phenomenon and the 8th largest sport in the world. Around this same time, a young teenager playing the game while working at a local arcade noticed posters for foosball tournaments. Unable to play other sports due to his small size, Johnny Horton quickly became addicted to the game. At the age of 15, he also recognized the appeal of the game, quit school and went on the road in pursuit of his dream to become a world champion as a teenager. Raised by his grandmother, he recalls her last words as he ran out the front door, “If you don’t win, don’t come home.”

Meanwhile, on a kitchen table in Dallas, Texas, a bearded engineer was designing what would later become the most dominate foosball table in America and most of the world, Tornado. Bob Furr would later co-found Tornado Table Soccer and hired a young rodeo cowboy that had fell in love with this table.

Scott Moreland, now stricken with Multiple Sclerosis, worked for Tornado during the 1970’s when Tornado was merely a Texas based operation. Scott watched as Lee Peppard and the Tournament Soccer promotional machine gave away huge purses including hundred of thousands of dollars, corvettes, porches and trucks. But his loyalty to Tornado and the “Texas Style” never wavered and he waited patiently for his table’s turn in the limelight.

The mid to late 1970’s saw Tournament Soccer dominate the nation’s foosball scene. Other foosball companies were unable to compete with the promotions that Lee and his team offered. Kids traveled the country in their vans following the Tournament Soccer tour, living off foosball and Mountain Dew. The foosball phenomenon was featured on ABC News, Sports Illustrated and 60 Minutes.

Around 1979, with foosball at its peak, another product began appearing at the local arcades and barrooms: video games. Game distributors quickly realized that they could place two to three video games in the place of one foosball table, eliminate the need for constant maintenance, and make several times more money.

In 1980, it was the beginning of the end for Tournament Soccer. Pac-Man and Space Invaders stormed across the United States literally pushing all the foosball tables off to the side. Table-sells dramatically dropped. Interest in the game waned. Finally, sensing the end of foosball, Jim Wiswell, one of the games greatest and most popular players, committed suicide and all-but drove the final nail into Tournament Soccer’s coffin.

Following the death of Wiswell, in 1981, Peppard, looking for a way to save his company, partnered with the video game manufacturer, ATARI, for a $400,000 Tournament Games Spectacular to be held in Chicago. The first of its kind tournament would feature the foosball world championships along with air hockey, pool, darts and video games.

A smaller than anticipated turnout created a prize money shortage. Players threatened to sue to get their winnings. ATARI withdrew support. The Illinois State Attorney General began an investigation into fraud. Bankruptcy followed. Foosball was dead.

This was the last Tournament Soccer tournament. The last tournament of the Golden Era and a little kid’s last chance to fulfill his dream, so he could go back home to his grandmother and say, “I won.”

This is a story about foosball’s struggle to survive. This is a story about having something to lean on when every thing else has gone wrong. This is a story about what happens when all you have left is a game. This is foosball.



FOOS - Be The Greatest ©

The History of American Foosball DVD
A Robert Ismert Documentary
A foosball movie video documentary about the players, promoters, history and passion of American foosball ( also known as table soccer, baby foot, and table football ).


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