How can one imagine the life of the ITSF president? Do you work fulltime or maybe part-time combined with another job? Do you do it voluntarily?
Many table soccer players are president of their own club or federation and have the same „life“ as mine. I was president of my own club for 18 years (starting in 1991), president of the french federation for 12 years and now in charge of the ITSF since we started it in 2002.
The job is full time and you have to travel as much as possible to support federations, partners, learn and be part of international sports meetings, world events, trade shows. I am a volunteer, as I don’t have any contract, but it’s been two years since I‘ve received 1 000€ a month as President of ITSF.
As we are now an observer member of GAISF, all of us will have to work harder and it concerns each federation president in the first place. On a personal side, I have been in charge of movie companies (Capricci, capricci films, …), a movie magazine and movie festivals (Sofilm), for 18 years.
Have you still got enough time for your private life? How often do you play table soccer?
Thank you to care about my private life :-), I try to organize most of my life around my family (wife and two kids) to be there for all important moment and it starts by going to school every morning whenever possible.
I try to play table soccer and have fun with friends once a week and play 3 to 4 tournaments a year (local or national) but even if I qualify I can’t play the ITSF World Cup and World Championships, this is really one of the less enjoyable parts of my job.
The ITSF was founded in 2002 and the headoffice is located in Nantes, France. Since then you are the president. How many administration workers were employed in 2002 and how many are there today?
I worked alone from 2002 to 2004. These were very exciting times as we had no budget, but we travelled around the world more than 120 days a year in order to try and bring the idea to start an international federation.
We hired our first employee in 2004, Christine Cabrera, and now 2 people are working as staff (soon 3), most of the work is done by a group of volunteers involved in differernt commissions.
An International organization as ITSF has to care everyday about:
federations relationships, sports organization and rules, tournaments and software, working with international sport organizations (IOC, GAISF, WADA, …), accountancy, general administration, communication, store, commission coordination, players support/questions, partners relationships, main event organization (Wcup, WCh, ECL, ICC, Masters, congress), application, table soccer for all, … more or less what a federation should do too.
Do you know how many active tablesoccer-players exist worldwide? How does the future trend looks like?
We can’t really give a number of active players. We know that most countries in the world are playing table soccer as a traditional activity - which means millions of foosball fans.
I can give you some examples of organized federations playing league with a serious number of players. Spain may be the first one with 12 to 15 000 membership players (12 000 only in FEFM), Germany with around 8 000, Italy 6 000, Belgium and Benelux around 4 000, … most are located in Europe but some other countries like Iran can claim dozen thousands of players too. The future will only depend on federations and how they can create youth programs, leagues, … I think we should also encourage „small“ foosball countries such as China.
Today the ITSF counts about 55 member associations worldwide. Are there any more memberships planned for 2018?
Some countries are on their way to join ITSF. I think about Nepal, Mexico or Democratic Republic of Congo. But since we became an observer member of GAISF, getting more members isn’t the most important issue right now. We need real solid, strong federations, some who’ll be able to become part of their National Olympic Committees, in order to develop table soccer for all with their government‘s support.
Where is globally considered the biggest growing market and in which areas is increase to be expected?
Europe is certainly the biggest market right now and the potential is still huge. Although Asia, especially China, that whishes to become fully involved, may change numbers for this continent in a very short time.
Africa is certainly the place where table soccer is really played everywhere, a lot on the streets. We will need time to organize strong federations there, but we have started and first results should soon start showing.
South America is a foosball continent, and table soccer there is a very traditional game. The activity is important in each country on this continent; federations are motivated and I am sure we can make table soccer something big there if we manage to get governement support. North America was the world stage for foosball during decades, the potential is still here and it will be a huge work to make it the first world place again but we are starting.
How is according to your opinion the international reputation of table soccer and how can one succeed in making it even more popular for all people worldwide?
The reputation of table soccer is very good. Of course, depending on countries, it can be seen as a bar game, school game, leisure game… but it is always popular, and fun. Few people, even if it is more and more, know foosball as a sport, and this is a part of the federations and ITSF‘s job to let them know.
Many new, or old sports, dream of having our audience. The number of people who practise table soccer and buy tables is just constantly going up. We have a lot of work to do to connect leisure players to federations, and it starts by giving a place for all players, including leisure players, kids, … and all style of foosball game.
Do you think that table soccer will ever get an olympic sportclass? What does the ITSF do to reach this goal?
ITSF is an observer member of the GAISF. This is huge step for foosball, it took so many years to make it happen. I would like to congratulate all the people involved in this project, and we can’t miss this opportunity to go up to the next level.
We need to help 40 federations become member of their national Olympic Committee to become a full member of GAISF. This will be a huge amount of work for all of us during years. The example of Switzerland, joining their National Olympic Committee at the end of last year, gives a lot of hope to every federations if they are willing to do the job.
When we will be a full member of GAISF, there will be more discussions and we can then expose our next goals, which will include joining a lot of international sport organization (GAISF is only a mandatory gateway) and maybe one day the olympic program, but this can’t be a reasonable goal right now.
The table soccer worldcup in Hamburg was a complete success and there were many exciting matches with a great audience in the background. Many cameras were installed to record the games. Nevertheless there are no videos of the games on the Internet which you can see for free, especially not on YouTube, the biggest online-video-provider. Why not? It is known that Kozoom owns the exclusive broadcasting rights and you can watch the games there if you pay a fee, but don´t you share the opinion too that table soccer itself is still in a growing phase and that it is therefore important that relevant and exciting matches should be free to watch for anyone?
We are always looking for companies and group of people to produce table soccer images. Kozoom is, right now, the only one to be able to make high quality images for television for a very reasonable price. The question of images for free on internet is a debate. I think Jim stevens (insidefoos) has the same question and we should always keep in mind that people who can produce and comment table soccer images cannot do it for free.
Regarding Kozoom, ITSF does not have any contract and does not receive any money from Kozoom or any other producer from Internet Pay per view. The Kozoom team, Jen and Mikael, from Germany, do not receive money from ITSF to produce their images. They only can try to pay their expenses and time from this pay per view system. Like Jim Stevens from what I know.
How would you describe your relationship with Kozoom? It is said that one of the main operators of Kazoom lives in France too and is a friend of yours?
Kozoom, the company who produce World Cup images is based in France (Xavier Carrer), I‘ve only known him since he’s been filming table soccer, although he is very professional and I don’t have any personal interest in his company (a very successful one for billard). From what I know, but you should ask Kozoom, Pay per View money goes to the German Kozoom team, Jens and Mikael, to make as many images as possible and I can’t say if they are making any money at the end.
But live streaming and communication in general shall be one of the main topics for ITSF in 2018. I think next ICC and ITSF World Masters will be for free, or at least a very important part of it. We are still discussing it; I hope we will have a real table soccer TV in the next 2 years at the latest.
Currently there are five different „official tables“ and four „recognized tables“. Whats is the differences between these tables? What shall be ITSF‘s position in the future regarding the partner tables, will there be more or will there be less?
Your question is giving me the chance to greatly thanks our five official partners, all family companies which have been supporting foosball for many years. Bonzini, Garlando, Leonhart, Roberto Sport and Tornado are supporting ITSF and also many federations. I am sure that these cooperations will continue for years, and will become stronger and stronger.
Now there is also an important political question that needs to be adressed here. How can we ensure that ITSF is not discriminating against any group of players or game style? Of course we can’t manage each city or region, but at least we have to continue to look what is table soccer in each country and try to help them entering our international federation in some way. In few days we will officially have the spanish 2 legs style fully part of ITSF. This is one step in this direction, for instance. We have decided to let federations organize Pro-stour events on their own local tables if they are playing a real traditonal style of game or have real trouble accessing ITSF tables. We will also give a much better place to all „italian“ style players by rules and table modifications within the next few days.
As you are a german media, you noticed that Guardian and Ullrich Sport have joined the recognized tables category this past year. And DTFB, Silpion and Hamburg federation organized a perfect 2017 World Cup and put a lot of pressure on Spanish federation. It proves that Germany became one, if not the first place for table soccer in the World.
Where do you see table soccer in 10 years?
I hope that our sport will be recognized in most countries as a real sport, and that we will be able to build strong education programs in each country. Table soccer is a fantastic and very attrative tool for teachers to reach pedaegogic goals, as respect, team effort, coordination, concentration, learn from each other, strategy, team spirit, reflex, … It helps kids to build oneself while having a lot of fun! Then everything else you are thinking about will happen if table soccer becomes a worldwide school sport, as table soccer is one of the most played high competition sport!