- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Teams wearing blue, gray, white and yellow kicked off Lane County’s first human foosball tournament, during a lively life-size version of the popular tabletop game.

The “Foos and Brews” Inaugural Human Foosball Tournament took place at Oakshire Public House. The competition was instigated by Playground Sports, in collaboration with Lane United Football Club and other sponsors.

“It’s very similar to regular foosball,” said Bec Williams, founder and CEO of Playground Sports. “It’s just life size.”

Human foosball was inspired by tabletop foosball, where players manipulate rows of soccer player figurines attached to poles by sliding them from side to side to get control of a ping pong ball and twisting the poles to make a player kick the ball past a goalie.

In the human version on March 13, each team was composed of six or eight players who stood two or three in a row. Each row of players held on to a long pole that extended horizontally from one side of the court to the other.

The poles are encased in plastic pipe, which slides over the wooden poles and makes it easy for players to move from side-to-side and try and kick a soccer-sized nerf ball.

A key point - hands must stay on the poles, and not touch the ball.

“It’s a lot more hand-eye coordination than normal foosball,” Playground Sports team member Amanda Atkins said.

The tournament, which was held on a specially made court on the second floor of the Oakshire brewpub, 207 Madison St., featured six teams with such names as We Pity the Foos, Ballsagna and Red Aces Ultra.

“We play a lot of different leagues,” Ballsagna member Justus McCann said. “This was fun.”

By the first half of the afternoon, Ballsagna wasn’t doing too well, having been defeated.

Leslie Prieto, a team member, said the game was enjoyable, though not always safe.

“I’m a lot more worried about a foot in the face than a ball in the face,” she laughed.

Playground Sports switched the initial soccer ball to a bright yellow nerf ball to keep players from getting hurt, but participants still had to sign an injury liability waiver.

Each team got the chance to play three times, leading to an evening championship.

The games combined a fair amount of hilarity with competition, as several of the more inexperienced teams kicked the nerf ball out of the court.

Some teams were competitive, including the Red Aces Ultra, which defeated another team 7 to 4 during the first round of games.

The Red Aces had sideline supporters who chanted, “We are, we are, we are the Reds” when the team scored.

Team members also belong to the Red Aces, the official fan club of the Lane United Football Club. Several of the Red Aces Ultra players helped construct the foosball court, including Adam Smith, the team captain and the foosball court project manager.

“Bec (Williams) came to us two years ago with the idea,” Smith said.

It took some time for the idea to gain traction, but in January a productive meeting got the ball rolling. “We’re all the same type of people,” Smith said. “We like to drink and play sports. Coming together just made sense.”

About 10 volunteers helped build the foosball court, with plywood donated by States Industries.

Construction started mid-February. Work parties met every Wednesday, finishing the foosball court less than a week before the tournament.

After introducing the foosball court to the Eugene area, Playground Sports plans to start a human foosball league of up to 18 teams per season.

The league will start March 27, with sessions on Sundays from noon to 3 p.m., and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Human foosballers in this league must be 21 and older. The foosball court’s shared space with Oakshire Public House means participants, as seen Sunday, might mix competition with beer.

“This thing came to life,” Smith said. “It was a big, 3,000 pound nightmare. Now look at it.”

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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