Linda Ly says it’s the sound the table makes when you score a goal that fuels her competitive drive for foosball.
“There’s a certain ping to it,” she says. “That just keeps [you] coming back for more.”
The five-time world champion, and Calgarian, is the Team Canada captain as the group heads to Murcia in Spain next month for the World Cup, where approximately 40 countries will compete.
For some, foosball or table soccer is a way to unwind with friends at the bar. That’s how it started for Ly; as a way to relax at the University of Calgary’s arcade between classes.
The fact that you can play a game or a sport head to head with your opponent who’s standing two feet across the table from you, that to me is fun. It’s intense.– Professional foosballer Linda Ly
One year, a tournament was held on campus and she ran into local professionals, who invited her to join their local league — CalgaryFoos, which meets weekly at Juliet’s Castle Sports Lounge.
So when she graduated, and missed the campus arcade, she decided to give it a shot.
“I’ve pretty much been going ever since,” the professional foosball player says, adding that the appeal is both the camaraderie and intensity of the game.
“I’m very competitive by nature. So the fact that you can play a game or a sport head to head with your opponent who’s standing two feet across the table from you, that to me, is fun. It’s intense.”
She’s been training hard for the upcoming tournament.
“When you get to a high level like this it’s all about ball control, time of possession. Things like that. You’re basically playing one gigantic keep away from your opponent,” she says.
Ly says that at her level, much of the game is muscle memory, which frees up players to focus on the mental aspect.
“The way to beat your opponent actually is to get more analytical … in some situations they’ll, you know, try to play mind games with you and they’ll try to anticipate where you’re going to go and try to get there before you,” she says.
While the plays might be comparable to soccer, details like a player’s preference for table surface or the wear on the balls is more comparable to the hard court versus clay court debate in tennis.
But unlike soccer or tennis, it’s not a sport where the players are getting million-dollar endorsement deals yet.
Ly says winners of the largest tournaments can take home a few thousand dollars, but players have to pay their own flights, hotel costs and entry fees.
“It’s not a lucrative living by any means, but you can make a modest living out of it.”
Ly has gained some fame through her success — she’s one of the stars of the award-winning documentary Foosballers, which screened at the Calgary Underground Film Festival earlier this year.
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