Teqball keeps football stars busy during coronavirus lockdown

Harry Maguire, Sadio Mane and Wayne Rooney are among the stars to have embraced teqball during the coronavirus lockdown – a mixture of football and table tennis that has quickly grown from a Hungarian garage to a burgeoning international sport.

What has long been a common sight at training grounds is increasingly becoming more frequent in players' gardens as they look for a fun and challenging way of filling the void left by the Covid-19 lockdown.

From Neymar to England internationals such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham, numerous players past and present are embracing teqball at a time when the footballing landscape has been decimated.

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BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - APRIL 2: Mineirao Stadium is lit up in green, the color of hope, as a token of appreciation to all the professionals involved in the effort to minimize the spread of the coronoavirus pandemic (COVID-19) on April 2, 2020 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In addition to the lighting, the phrase "We are together and isolated" is projected on the stadium. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
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One of the venues of the EURO2020 (postponed until 2021), the Puskas Arena is illuminated by white light in honor of the efforts made by the health care staff against the new coronavirus COVID-19 on April 6, 2020, on the 25th day of the partial curfew of the corona virus in Hungary. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP) (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman stands at the temporary coronavirus treament center at the Signal Iduna Park soccer stadium in Dortmund, western Germany, on April 6, 2020, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. - A part of the Borussia Dortmund football stadium was turned into a treatment center for patients with the novel coronavirus COVID-19. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 06: A general view of an incomplete sitework at Santiago Bernabeu, where Real Madrid plays its football matches, due to coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic after the construction works has been put on hold in Madrid, Spain on April 06, 2020. (Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
dpatop - 06 April 2020, Bavaria, Munich: Robert Lewandowski from FC Bayern Munich drives his car into the underground car park at the FC Bayern training ground on Säbener Straße. The professionals of FC Bayern Munich will start training in small groups on this day. Photo: Matthias Balk/dpa (Photo by Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images)
06 April 2020, Bavaria, Munich: Robert Lewandowski (l-r), Alphonso Davies, Kingsley Coman and Joshua Zirkzee from FC Bayern Munich train on the one pitch on the FC Bayern training ground on Säbener Straße. The professionals of FC Bayern Munich will start training in small groups on this day. Photo: Matthias Balk/dpa (Photo by Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images)
DORTMUND, April 3, 2020: Photo taken on April 3, 2020 shows a medical staff wearing protective suits, standing in the COVID-19 testing center at Borussia Dortmund's stadium in Dortmund, Germany. Borussia Dortmund's stadium housed a COVID-19 testing center From April 4. Rooms in the Westfalenstadion's north stand have been prepared to take in people suspected of suffering from COVID-19. It is hoped the center will relieve pressure on the medical facilities in the city of Dortmund. (Photo by Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund to Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/ via Getty Images)
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MINSK, BELARUS - APRIL 3, 2020: Sanitary workers screen the temperatures of football fans before a 2020 Belarusian Premier League Round 3 football match between Dinamo Minsk and Torpedo-Belaz Zhodino at Dinamo Stadium. The Football Federation of Belarus has decided not to postpone the national football championship in connection with the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, with the 30th season of the Belarusian Premier League starting as scheduled on 19 March 2020. Dinamo Minsk won the match 2-0. Natalia Fedosenko/TASS (Photo by Natalia Fedosenko\TASS via Getty Images)
MINSK, BELARUS - APRIL 3, 2020: Football fans on an empty stand during a 2020 Belarusian Premier League Round 3 football match between Dinamo Minsk and Torpedo-Belaz Zhodino at Dinamo Stadium. The Football Federation of Belarus has decided not to postpone the national football championship in connection with the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, with the 30th season of the Belarusian Premier League starting as scheduled on 19 March 2020. Dinamo Minsk won the match 2-0. Natalia Fedosenko/TASS (Photo by Natalia Fedosenko\TASS via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: The official Nike Premier League match ball with a protective mask. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 40,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. on April 3, 2020 in Manchester, England (Photo by Visionhaus)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: A general view of The London Stadium, home to West Ham United as it lights up to thanks the NHS on April 02, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Members of the public are being encouraged to applaud NHS staff and other key workers from their homes for a second week, after the success of last week's "Clap for Our Carers" campaign. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 40,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: A general view of Brentford Community Stadium, the future home of Brentford Football Club, on April 2, 2020 in London, England. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 40,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: A general view of the barricaded entrance to Stamford Bridge stadium, home of Chelsea Football Club, on April 2, 2020 in London, England. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 40,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - APRIL 01: (CHINA OUT) Men wear a mask while playing football in field on April 01, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei, China. The government stipulates that residents with green health code can go out. The central Chinese city where the coronavirus (COVID-19) first emerged last year, will lift the lockdown on April 8, local media reported. (Photo by Getty Images)
QUERETARO, MEXICO - MARCH 29 : General view of empty Corregidora Stadium during the suspension period as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus at Corregidora Stadium on March 29, 2020 in Queretaro, Mexico. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 20,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Children wear face masks as they play football during a government imposed lockdown amid corona virus epidemic at kearaniganj in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020. (Photo by Syed Mahamudur Rahman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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"We miss football and all the players miss football – everyone misses football," Viktor Huszar, one of three co-founders and inventors of teqball, told the PA news agency.

Viktor Huszar with Brazil great Ronaldinho (Teqball)

"This is just bringing back a piece, a little piece of football with teqball, joyful things.

"We see now, if you check Sadio Mane's last picture, you see the football goals, all the different exercises... and the teqball table there.

"The same happens with many of the players that you see as part of their everyday training routine. This is how they keep up."

The sport is the brainchild of former semi-professional player Gabor Borsanyi and Huszar, who took their love for football and adapted it to their limitations in terms of time, numbers and space by using a curved table tennis-style table to face one another.

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Initially played between friends in a small garage in Hungary, continual positive feedback led the first prototype tables to be developed in 2014 and within three years the Federation Internationale de Teqball (FITEQ) was established.

The big moment came in 2015 when Barcelona great and current Holland manager Ronald Koeman gave the sport the thumbs up.

"Southampton, that's the first table we have in the Premier League," the FITEQ chairman said, having visited the then Saints boss and assistant Erwin Koeman, the ex-Hungary manager.

"We never really pushed teqball, we just had some people and we asked what Ronald Koeman says because he is an experienced coach.

"When they said (they liked it), like Henk Ten Cate from Barcelona, Chelsea and Ajax, and Koeman, then we said 'OK, if they say this is good and they worked with Messi and all these guys, then this actually really works'.

"That's when we started to push it more as a structured organisation and then it went from one Premier League club to the other, one player to the other.

"And now, as I remember, we had 18 out of the 20 Premier League clubs or players using it, so sometimes I even say that probably teqball is the most advanced sports equipment with the Premier League clubs."

Increasing numbers of players are embracing teqball and the third annual teqball world championships was held in December, just months before coronavirus changed the sporting world.

Carles Puyol and Cafu playing a game of teqball (Teqball)

"We see that teqball is really a sports equipment that has the social distance type of sport," Huszar said.

"Actually, the table is designed with three metres length, so you're always minimum, three, three-and-a-half metres from each other.

"Teqball is about developing your touch and your cognitive skills because you have to make such quick decisions that you're under pressure all the time.

"When you look at a football game, especially when you look at the youth football game, I mean, how many touches do you have for your kid? You know, maybe he touches 12 or 20 times during the game.

"But even Premier League players, they need that perfect touch and in teqball you get used to that – you literally get it every second and you just have to make sure that you have a quick reaction before you touch the ball.

"So, and I play teqball actively, like every day, for me this is a 50 per cent mental cognitive improvement and also basically just perfecting your skill and touch and coordination, balance on a very short platform."

Players have been training by folding the teqball table and playing off half of it, with the federation offering half-priced tables to Professional Footballers' Association members during the lockdown.

Teqball is growing as a sport as much as a recreational activity, with more than 50 national federations formed and 160 athletes from 57 countries at the most recent world championships.

Nuno Gomes, Simao Sabrosa, Ronaldinho and Carles Puyol play teqball (Teqball)

"Now I see the pictures and the videos, and it is surreal," Huszar added. "But certainly the early moments were the incredible ones

"I'm quite sure that teqball is still a very early stage sport because I also look at it as a sport.

"In terms of the development, it's hard to keep up with that.

"I think that it's unstoppable, so sometimes I even made jokes with the other two co-founders that, look, whatever we do, we don't really have the chance to stop it."

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