First of all, it's a sport with its own federation (the FICB - Federazione Italiana Calcio Balilla), international bodies, tournaments and competitions. There's even a world federation based in France, representing 55 countries. If you thought it was just a way to spend half an hour at the coffee bar with your friends, you're completely off track!
Bringing us back into line is Paola Borettaz who, with his father and brother, runs Roberto Sport - one of the most famous and well-loved companies producing “football tables”. A family-owned company. A story that began many years ago with the moulding of plastic materials and the meeting with Turin brothers Armido and Luigi Roberto, who started producing these “toys” in Italy in 1947. They founded Roberto Sport, later taken over by the Borettaz family from Valle d'Aosta who quickly realised it was a good business. As we mentioned above, they came from the world of plastic; elements of a certain complexity for the big names of the automobile industry, but the charm of table football…
"It was 1987" says Paola Borettaz, "and my father decided the time had come to change direction: we moved from Turin to Lessolo, closer to our own region of Valle d’Aosta, and it was here that the second youth of Roberto Sport got under way". The task was clear: to combine the plastic moulding skills with woodwork and metalwork, to produce all the parts needed for a football table. The best tables are made in Italy. Italian players are the most demanding: there isn't much room for the far less expensive Chinese products. And even the game itself is completely different: in places like Spain, they use concave tables, while in France they use a linoleum covering. In Italy the game is hard and fast; the ball has to shoot around at incredible speed and the bounces must be sharp and defined, without any spinning or clipping. A game that requires headwork, nerves of steel, quick hands and attentive eyes.The ball's in, and we're off!
"There's far more quality and precision in Italian football tables – adds Mrs.Borettaz – than you could possibly imagine. Professional coin-operated models designed for coffee bars, but also “home” models: all made from top quality materials and following precise rules, paying the utmost attention to even the tiniest detail. And don't forget the competition models, type-approved by both the Italian and the international federation. We use plywood covered with 5 millimetres of MDF and good quality laminate - panels that we press ourselves and that we can even personalise". The list of trademarks and companies that have had football tables purposely made with their own colours or trademark, or with “special event” configurations, is a long and surprising one. Roberto Sport has even produced a one-off model that 22 players can use at the same time: 11 against 11, as if it were a real match on a pitch 7 metres long.