Footballtennis is a hybrid sport originating in Central Europe; in English it is called Football Tennis. In German it is called Fußballtennis, in French it is Tennis-Ballon, in Hungarian it is "lábtenisz", in Serbian it is nožni tenis and in Czech and Slovak it is called nohejbal.
In 1922 the members of the football club Slavia Prague started playing a game which they called football over the rope, because it was initially played over a horizontally suspended rope, which was later replaced by a net. This new game had similar rules to volleyball, except that an arbitrary number of players - usually 2 or 3 on each side - played with their feet instead of their hands.
In 1936 the first official rules were written. The first football tennis cup was played in 1940, although up to 1963 footballtennis was essentially considered a purely recreational sport. However, in this year the Czech football tennis league was founded, though it was centered largely in Prague. In 1971 the "Český nohejbalový svaz" (Czech footballtennis association) was founded.
Up until the 1990s, the sport gained little international recognition; however, in 1998, the International Footballtennis Association (IFTA, now the FIFTA, the Federation International Footballtennis Association) was founded. European championships have been held since 2001, and world championships since 2006. Footballtennis remains popular in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also has a following in France, Hungary, Brazil, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, Croatia, Macedonia and North Cyprus as can be seen from the list of FIFTA members.
Although popular on the European continent, Football Tennis has struggled to maintain widespread recognition in the UK. A small group of Cambridge students introduced the game to the outdoor tennis courts of Girton College, Cambridge (University of Cambridge) during the summer months of 2007, after being inspired by a student from Manchester University with close ties to the College - known locally as "The Best Manchester". In 2008, 6 teams competed in the first Girton College Footballtennis cup and the first games of Girton strip-footballtennis were played. Despite an offer from FIFTA President Alberto Pastor to join as UK representatives, the game left Cambridge in 2009 following the graduation of most of the players.
However during 2010, many students from Collingwood College Durham reintroducted football tennis to the UK by holding a UK championship. FIFTA President Alberto Pastor claimed the event was "the pinnacle of Football Tennis in the UK" and that "The quality of players on show was unparalleled." The game grew so popular within the college that huge crowds began to watch the team train. A team mascot known as 'Ashman' was employed, although there is some debate as to what the legend is actually called. Variants on 'Ashman' have included 'Gash-man', 'the Stash-man' and 'Henry'.
The UK now has a national governing body who are recognised by IFTA and FIFTA. It is called the English NetSoccer Association the name is still in debate and may/not change by the end of 2010 ready for the 2011 European tournament in which an English team will be entered.
In Ireland there has recently been much media interest in a group known as Football Tennis Ireland, this group formed in late 2010 in preparation for the 2010 World Championships in istanbul.
The sport is gaining great recognition and exposure through the King of the Court Official Soccer Tennis Tournaments based in the United States.
In addition, Thomas Dolley has formed the American Soccer Tennis Association which oversees a number of national and international soccer tennis events.
- (English) Official Federation International Footballtennis Association Site
- (Czech) Official Czech Footballtennis Association Site
- (English) Official English Netsoccer Association Site
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