For The Love Of The Game: Teqball taking off

SINGAPORE – Professional soccer players, or even some weekend warriors, would have no problems juggling a regular football with their feet.

But landing it on a 3m by 1.7m table, curved downwards on each end, presents a tougher proposition, and this is the unique challenge that attracted Khairul Fahmi to teqball.

The 21-year-old national footvolley (a combination of football and beach volleyball) player, who has played teqball for six months, said: “Juggling is easy, but feeding the ball to your partner with the right weight and at the right height, and then aiming for the table, is hard.

“It’s like a combination of football, sepak takraw, and table tennis. The curved part of the table, which can change the direction of an incoming ball, adds another dimension to the game.”

Despite its relatively young age – teqball was invented in 2012 in Hungary by footballer Gabor Borsanyi, businessman Gyuri Gattyan and computer scientist Viktor Huszar – the sport has become a hit, with football stars like Lionel Messi, Neymar and David Beckham among its proponents.

The main rules of the first-to-12-points, best-of-three-sets game are that each player or team has two attempts to complete a successful service, and is allowed a maximum of three touches to return the ball with any body part except the hands and arms.

The unique rules are that the ball cannot be touched by the same body part consecutively, and a player or team cannot return the ball with the same body part in back-to-back plays. Also, in a doubles match, both players from the same team must touch the ball before it is returned.

Amirul Iskandar, a 26-year-old who won a football bronze for Singapore at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, said: “Teqball is a fast-paced sport that trains your focus and control in both your finishing and receiving.

“With smashes, drop shots and spin involved, it is really fun because it is so challenging either on your own or playing with a team-mate.

“I hope the sport catches on and grows here and we can get the chance to represent Singapore in international competitions.”

Since its inception in 2017, the International Federation of Teqball (Fiteq) has added 90 national federations and hopes to expand that to at least 150 by the end of 2021, with Fiteq president Huszar aiming for a spot on the Olympic programme in the near future.

The third edition of the Teqball World Championships – with singles, doubles and mixed doubles events – featured 57 countries when it was held in Budapest in 2019 prior to the global coronavirus outbreak.

Realising the potential teqball has in a land-scarce country like Singapore, former Lions defender R. Sasikumar has made it his mission to popularise it in the Republic, where only a handful have played the sport.

The 46-year-old said: “This is the perfect sport for us in the current coronavirus pandemic. It does not require many people to start a game, and the tables are portable and convenient to stow away.

“You also don’t have to be big and tall to be good at the teqball, which means the average-sized Singaporean has another opportunity to be a world-class athlete.”

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With a group of like-minded enthusiasts, Sasikumar is in the midst of setting up the Teqball Association of Singapore (TAS), a national sports association which he will helm. The aim is to grow the sport and eventually set up a national league and a national team.

TAS committee member Jeanne Soon, who is also Bundesliga International’s marketing and communications manager, said: “We are creating this teqball community in Singapore because we identified it as one of the fastest-growing sports globally and we also believe it has a strong appeal to a variety of age groups and genders.

“We think many Singaporeans will enjoy the sport and in the long term, we hope to see teqball as a SEA Games sport and eventually an Olympic sport.”

In April, Sasikumar and his team were involved in organising a youth exhibition event with the ActiveSG Football Academy and the Hungarian embassy at the Marina Bay Floating Platform, where 20 doubles teams took turns to experience the sport across four tables.

After trying it out for the first time, Chua Teng Han, a 16-year-old from St Patrick’s School, said: “I’ve only previously seen it on YouTube and always wanted to try it out because it looks fun.

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“I think it helps me to become better in basic football skills, such as heading and passing in tight positions, so that I won’t hesitate or panic in those situations.”

And Singaporeans will have more access to teqball as Sasikumar has imported 30 patented tables, most of which are placed at 20 ActiveSG stadiums islandwide for the public to use for free.

Irfan Ismail, a lecturer at the National Institute of Education, went as far as to spend $1,500 on a table to play teqball with his children.

The 43-year-old said: “My kids love football and they wanted to try this unique sport after seeing it online, so I decided to get it for them to play with their friends as we can wheel it to a nearby park.

“It is good for them to hone their ball control and a good way for family and friends to bond.”

If you want to take up teqball

Who

The Teqball Association of Singapore is being set up. There are plans to create clubs and a national league.

Where

Teqball tables are now available at 20 ActiveSG stadiums islandwide for the public to use for free.

Cost

The ball is a regular size 5 football. The Teq Lite teqball table is available at $1,500. Email Sasikumar at [email protected] for more information.

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