Whether for a interesting alternative for electronic game consoles, a more space-friendly option than a pool table, or a cool conversation piece, a Foosball or Soccer Table makes for an excellent purchase. The options range from cheap and cheerful models through to sophisticated, brand name tables approved for competition by the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) and a wide variety of these are found on eBay at any given time. If you haven't had much experience with them and are considering buying one new or second hand, here are a few pointers to assist;
Solid VS Telescopic Rods - These are the two different types of rods that the foosball players are fixed to used on all tables. Solid Rods extend outside the playing field of the table when the handle is pushed fully in. Telescopic rods expand and compact in on themselves when they are moved. Some serious foosball players like Solid Rods because it is believed it there is less friction and a smoother action. Telescopic Rods offer safety advantages of no metal rods shooting out the opposite side when the handle is pushed in, which is something to consider particularly if children are to be playing.
Left: A Garlando F20 Foosball table featuring Solid Rods
Left: A Garlando G500 Foosball table featuring Telescopic Rods
Three Goalkeepers or One - You have noticed that different tables offer a variety of different player combinations on each rod. Generally, the different configurations can be grouped into a Three Goalkeeper, or One Goalkeeper category. The Three Goalkeeper design is to assist players to reach the ball in the corners of the table. The One Goalkeeper design relies on slightly banked corners to allow the ball to roll into the centre of the playing field to reduce the amount of dead spots (areas of the playing field where no player can make contact with the ball due to limitations of the table - all tables have dead spots). The decision to select a Three or One Goalkeeper configuration simply comes down to personal preference. Generally, the Three Goalkeeper design is most popular with American made tables, whereas the One Goalkeeper features in tables from Europe.
Left: A Foosball Table with One Goalkeeper
Left: A Foosball Table with Three Goalkeepers
Bearings and Springs - Have a look at how the rods are fixed to the sides of the tables. This may be simply though a hole, or could be held with a more advanced bearing system. This will obviously offer a more smooth movement of the rods. Springs or rubber rings attached to the side of the table will help absorb the shock of the player hitting the sides and reduce wear and tear.
Players - See how players are attached to the rods. More expensive tables have the players moulded directly onto the rods. Some are held in place with screws that run through the player's chest. This hole creates a weak point which can cause the player to crack and break across the chest after extended vigerous play. If the table has this configuration, it might be worth seeing how available spare players are in the event of some breaking.
Check for eBay surprises - Occasionally, brand name Foosball Tables such as Garlando, Roberto Sport, Bonzini and Tornado are auctioned on eBay. These manufacturers have been recognised and approved by the International Table Soccer Federation for their competation level quality and are definately worth looking at if they are within your budget. Make sure you search for "Foosball" as well as "Table Soccer", and you may also like to try some of the commonly misspelt terms for the sport such as "Fuseball", "Foozball" and "Fizzball".
Good Luck and enjoy your Foosball!