Lionel Messi and his son Thiago are the latest stars to be captivated by the brand new sporting craze this Christmas – Teqball.
Videos featuring football’s biggest stars playing what looks like ‘foot tennis’ on a curved ping-pong table have been spreading like wildfire on social media since this summer’s World Cup.
And the Christmas period has been no different with the likes of Lionel Messi, Marcelo and Jamie Redknapp getting in on the action with the year’s must have new football skill based game.
The list of Teqball fans is like a league of legends. Neymar, Messi, Hazard, Suarez, Alves, Coutinho, Marcelo, Ronaldinho, Figo, Puyol, Pires – you name them, they probably either already play Teqball or own a Teqboard (the curved table the game is contested on).
The national teams of Brazil, France, Belgium, Germany, England and Poland own Teqboards, as do European club heavyweights like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Chelsea and Ajax.
Robbie Savage loves the game so much that he has even integrated it into his weekly BT Sport show on Saturday mornings, taking on all comers for his Teqball crown.
So what is Teqball, and why is it proving so popular with the football industry?
Viktor Huszár and Gábor Borsányi, two of the three Budapest-born-and-bred co-founders, explain:
What is Teqball?
VH: Teqball is played on a Teqboard, which looks like a curved ping pong table but is designed for football. The curve is the essence. It makes the ball bounce out to players’ feet. A Teqboard is 250 times more durable than a ping pong table and is weather proof. We named it Teqball because, in Hungary, a skilful player is called a technical player. Technology has also been fundamental to Teqball’s evolution but the ‘ch’ in ‘tech’ has no curve, so we replaced it with a ‘q’.
What do you need to play Teqball?
VH: A Teqboard, size five football…and an opponent! It can be played in singles or doubles formats, or even by bigger teams. The recommended space for home use is eight metres by six metres. At competition level, it’s 16m by ten metres. Teqball can be played on any surface – tarmac, concrete, grass, sand etc.
What are the rules?
VH: The official guidelines are very simple. Players have a maximum of three touches to return the ball, without it touching the floor, across the transparent net onto the opponent’s side of the Teqboard. The ball cannot be touched by the same body part in succession, and physical contact is not allowed with the opponent nor Teqboard. Within a play, the ball can only be returned via the same body part twice in succession. There are other tweaks depending on how many players are playing, but that’s basically it. The first player/team to 12 points wins.
Who is Teqball aimed at?
VH: I loved watching Neymar, Coutinho, Alves and Marcelo play the game. In an interview, they described Teqball perfectly, saying it’s a game for those who like to play with the ball. We created Teqball for anyone facing the same challenges we do. We love to play football but we have families and less time. I often can’t play five-a-side because my friends are busy or the pitches are booked up. You just need one or three more people to play Teqball in your garden and it’s very competitive. It is also good exercise and works up a real sweat. I don’t like to run, but it is like jogging without jogging! Teqball is bringing football back home and transfers the beauty of the game – the skills, the silky touch, tricks and flicks – to another format, leaving behind the things I hate, like diving and bad tackles. It’s a game for all the family. Teqball players’ ages range from 12 to 70-plus. With no physical contact, there are no restrictions on who can play, be it same sex or mixed teams, or men against women. As well as being a fun game, it is a sport in its own right and can be used to improve technique, concentration levels, fitness and aid rehabilitation.
Who invented Teqball?
VH: The three co-founders have all played a role in the creation of Teqball. I’m the computer science/engineering guy. György Gattyán, the founder and owner of Docler Holding, is the strategic guy who is creating the path for the brand. Gábor Borsányi is the creative guy. After playing as a forward for Ujpest, Gábor retired from professional football at a relatively young age to pursue a business career and the game is his idea. György and I have helped him make that idea a reality.
Gabor, when did you come up with the idea?
GB: Remember as a child, when you played loads of invented games with your friends and then grew out of them? Well I never did! I lived in a poor area of Ujpest. When I was 12 or 13, my friends and I often got bored of normal football so we played ‘foot tennis’ on one of the concrete table tennis tables you’ll find all over Hungary, relics from communist times. It’s still there today, surrounded by high-rise blocks. We enjoyed the game but it wasn’t perfect because the table was horizontal and the ball didn’t always bounce out towards the players. I thought there and then if we curved the table, the ball would bounce out and it would be more fun to play. It was a simple idea but I was only young so there wasn’t much I could do at the time!
That was almost 30 years ago, so how did the idea develop?
GB: I didn’t give the curved table idea that much thought until I was in my late teens and saw a guy beating everyone at ‘foot tennis’ on another concrete table on the beach at Lake Balaton, a popular resort in Hungary. I challenged him to a game, not knowing he was a Bundesliga player, but I beat him – his first-ever defeat! This was the next wave in my mind: “The game is fantastic but the equipment isn’t – the table needs to be curved.” It wasn’t until over a decade later that I met and became neighbours and friends with Viktor in some very strange circumstances…
How did a prolonged legal battle lead to the first Teqboard being created?
VH: In 2010, we bought apartments in the same Budapest block that was being built. Suddenly, the bank stopped financing the construction. We’d both invested a lot of money in our new homes but everything stopped. The bank didn’t want to give us back all our money but Gabor and I successfully fought a long legal battle. The construction finally finished a couple of years later and we ended up being the only residents in a 60-flat block! We had worked brilliantly as a team to fight the bank. Gabor knew I had an engineering background and that I was president of Budapest’s University of Technology football team, which obviously comprises engineers, so he invited me over to share an idea he’d had…
When and how was the first Teqboard made?
VH: Gábor asked me to calculate curving a table because without a curve, the gameplay is annoying. We came up with the first, adjustable, wooden prototypes fairly quickly. In a local garage, we developed the gameplay over a three-year period, changing the degree of the curve and the table’s dimensions until we were happy. We had to make further adjustments when we realised not everyone is as tall as Gábor and I! The rules developed organically. We released a video of the final prototype on Thursday, June 12, 2014. We chose that day because we would always remember it – the opening game of the World Cup in Brazil! As fate would have it, two of Teqball’s most famous players were on the scoresheet. Neymar netted twice as Brazil beat Croatia 3-1…with Marcelo conceding an own goal! It was the release of the video that led to György, who I’d known a long time, getting involved. The three of us co-founded Luxembourg Teqball Holding, which owns all intellectual properties, in April 2015 and we sold our first Teqboards that year.
Did you seek advice from the football family, and what persuaded you to go to market?
VH: Absolutely. We invited friends from the national team to try the game. One of the first guys we approached was Zsolt Lõw, a very good Hungarian friend of ours who is now working with Neymar and Dani Alves etc as Thomas Tuchel’s assistant at Paris Saint-Germain. He loved it and now has a Teqboard in his garden. Zsolt saw the potential which gave us confidence we were onto something. More and more credible football people said it was fantastic. We started to think if everybody loves it, maybe we should start doing something with it. We finally launched the video after a visit from Henk ten Cate, who has managed Ajax and coached at Barcelona and Chelsea. It took me five attempts, over a long period of time to get him over. He kept saying ‘I’ve worked with Messi and Ronaldinho, you can’t show me anything new in football’. Then we showed him Teqball, and he admitted he’d been wrong, saying ‘this is new, simple and useful’. That’s when we really believed Teqball could work on a global level, not just as a game in our garage!
How big has Teqball become?
GB: The likes of Brazil, France, Belgium and Germany took Teqboards to the World Cup. Probably the best feeling was seeing the Brazilians playing Teqball in their dressing room before their vital match against Costa Rica. The likes of Messi and Suarez also have Teqboards – as do many other stars. If I’d told my friends back on my humble estate in Ujpest that, in around 30 years, some of the biggest players in the world would be playing my game, they’d have thought I was crazy!
So what’s next for Teqball?
Teqball is both a brand and a sport in its own right. Teqboard orders are growing all the time and one of our long-term goals is for Teqball to be recognised as an Olympic sport. We had 42 Nations competing in France at the Teqball World Cup this yea, which underlines how quickly the sport is growing. We estimate that between 3,000-4,000 people are currently playing Teqball, mainly in Europe, but we’re getting Teqboard orders from all around the world. The future for both the business and sport is very exciting.