Local group puts foosball on the table

Natalie Zakrzewski, Centretown News

Natalie Zakrzewski, Centretown News

Kids at the Boys and Girls Club play foosball on a table donated by the Ottawa Foosball Association.

Moves that defy the laws of physics, swift passing, goals that turn heads and a strong charitable presence – it’s not the Ottawa Senators. It’s the Ottawa Foosball Association (OFA).

Foosball, the table game with row upon row of impaled plastic figurines that kick with both legs at once is a competitive sport that requires both physical and mental skills, and a lot of practice. Ahmed Taha Taha, one of only two players in the city who has earned the rank of ‘pro’ from his tournament results, explains his strategy: “There really is a science to figuring out a player’s tendencies, weaknesses and timing and using that against them.”

The foosball association, now headed by Chris Thomas, has cultivated high-level players like Taha since 1994 while giving back to the city.

“We are a business,” Thomas explains, “We do generate revenue. But whatever revenue we get we put back into the community for foosball promotion.”

That revenue is generated by hosting several tournaments every year and running a budding foosball league out of Tailgators bar on Merivale Road. League events attract both new players and some of the city’s best “foosers.” And with good reason – previous winners have won substantial cash prizes and trips to Las Vegas, Nevada.

But the association is a not-for-profit, and it’s about more than providing a venue for players to test their skills.

Nine new foosball tables were donated to Boys and Girls Clubs across Ottawa last year courtesy of the OFA in an effort to introduce young players to the game.

Thomas says the clubs’ old tables were barely playable, so the association decided to work to get them some new ones. The kids love them, and the Boys and Girls Club is thrilled.

“The tables always have kids on them. You can imagine 50, 60, 70 kids a night playing on these tables,” says Scott Bradford, the club’s executive director. “And these [new ones] can take that kind of traffic.”

Given the interest level, Thomas intends to organize a tournament and training session at the club. “The kids have really taken to the tables. That’s why we want to get in there and teach them the tricks of the trade.”

Bradford wants to hold the event during March Break or in the summer.

With that underway, the association is now taking steps to donate tables to seniors. Thomas is in talks with the Good Companions Seniors’ Centre in Centretown on Albert Street. He says foosball was very popular in the 1970s, so he thinks the tables might really help the seniors enjoy themselves.

Thomas says he was seeking government funding for seniors’ centres, but is now considering going it alone on a smaller scale at Good Companions.

But charity doesn’t overshadow competition on the tables. Ottawa hosted the second best player in the world at a tournament late last year, and several players out of Ottawa are competitive on the international scene. Thomas himself has represented Canada at the Foosball International Championships three times.

As the association grows, so do its charitable ambitions.

“Our organization is always looking for community projects to help promote the game of foosball” says Thomas. “If someone is interested in placing a foosball table in a location – we can help.”

League games are played every Wednesday at Tailgators until mid-March.