Foosball Rules: All You Need To Know

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Last updatedLast updated: December 17, 2022
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Everything in life has a set of rules. Foosball rules and regulations are no exemption. Whether you are a veteran or newbie in this popular American pastime, there are basic guidelines that regulate the game, its players and officials.

Generally, in this table game, there are basic rules, called the basic foosball rules, and they regulate friendly foosball games. Also, there are the official foosball rules, otherwise called the professional foosball rules. This set of rules is often invented for those involved in competitive foosball games. That is why they are called foosball tournament rules.

Regardless of whether you are in the corner of your yard playing the foosball game or you’re on the standard foosball table, you’re bound by the same set of rules while in competition. There are no sacred cows. Everyone must play by the same rules.

How many of those rules of foosball do you know? Have you taken the time out to study them? If you score a point, for example, and it is canceled by the official, which of the foosball scoring rules do you invoke to argue your point?

Knowing that these rules are established to help ensure fair play among competitors and to build in them the spirit of good sportsmanship, why not take the time out to read this post. Bear in mind that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. This is the reason you should have a little understanding of what the rules of foosball say before getting yourself involved in it.

In this post, we have carefully picked out those dos and don’ts, both at the basic level and official levels to help you have an insight into what rules and regulations guide everyone who is involved in the game.

Just before we start, the idea of foosball was invented and patented by Harold Thornton, an American, who wanted a game that would mimic soccer in some way, but that could be played at home. Today, Thornton’s idea has grown into a big-time game and a pastime for millions of Americans and sports lovers.

Basic Rules of Foosball

Foosball Rules: All You Need To KnowThe basic rules are mostly general rules and structure of the foosball game. They also cover a few aspects of the games, including how it is played, where it is played, the measurement of the table, and the size, number, and design of tools needed, and so on.

What we call foosball, also known as table soccer or table football, is a table with rods lined up and fixed across its top. The ball is often placed in the hollow part of the table with the goals fixed at each end of the table.

At each end of the table are four poles that players turn with calculated grip in order to riffle the ball and shoot it toward the goal. Meanwhile, lay at each end of the table are eight rods. However, players are allowed to move the poles with the handgrips.

Normally, each player is entitled to 13 kickers, with each kicker painted in different colours to separate one from another. There is also a room for doubles, as you have in ping pong games, in which case two players could be at each end of the table to form a team, with one of them acting as the goalie.

  1. Five goals earn you a win 

Foosball scoring rules are pretty simple. At the end of each flick, a player or team that gets five goals is the automatic winner.

  1. Spin, but don’t make a 360° turn

Don’t make a full circle when you spin. It’s not entirely correct to say that spinning is forbidden in foosball. What’s actually illegal is making 360° or more when you spin the rod. Spinning below 360° is allowed, and the snake-shot skill will help you achieve that.

  1. Ball in, then, out…it is a goal

If you’re familiar with the goal-line technology in football, this shouldn’t come to you as a shock or strange rule. Usually in foosball, when the ball enters the goal and then bounces out of it, it is considered a goal. If you argue this a million times, whether during the match or in a post-match panel of enquiry, you’ll lose the case. Don’t just take it up in the first place.

That’s our final thought on the basic foosball rules. Meanwhile, there are other miscellaneous dos and don’ts that you may find out when you start playing with your family and friends. Get more practical.

But for now, let us shift our attention to the official rules. This is the area every foosball enthusiast eagerly waits to hear. Let’s take it one after the other. Bear in mind that this article doesn’t suffice for the ITSF rules on the game; in other words, because they’re interrelated, the rules shall be simplified in this article.

Official Foosball Rules

Foosball Rules: All You Need To KnowOfficial foosball rules are a bit more complicated than the basic ones, and here you will find a short summary of the keystones.

  1. Referee decision is final

That you’re only playing foosball for the fun of it does not still rule out the need for some basic compliance such as obeying ref’s decision. In or out of the tournament, the decision of the official is final and does not require any appeal. We’ll give details about appeal later.

In the event of a controversy which involves making decisions, the judgment of the official is binding on the teams or players. However, because you’re still learning, an appeal may be allowed when you’re out of a contest.   

  1. Start and Serve Rules

Foosball tournament rules allow for a foosball game to begin once the ball is in the field. The winning team/player decides which side or ball to choose.

To serve, a player will first hold the ball; he’ll say ‘ready’, get a response of the opponent, and then flicks it. The opposing team can only shoot the ball after it has touched two players. The team/player that gets the last point takes the next serve.

A ball is in play until a player/team calls for a timeout or hits the ball off the table. A dead ball is declared once the ball stays out of a player’s reach. The only exemption to the dead ball rule is when the ball spins near the goal, and a player is unable to catch up with it. In that case, no dead ball is declared.

  • Foosball Scoring Rules, How to score a point 

A score is won only when the ball enters the goal through a legitimate move. Otherwise, it is not counted. The decision of the referee as to which goal stands cannot be overruled.

  • How point is lost or not won

If there’s a dispute with respect to whether or not a goal is scored, the match official or referee can consult the spectators or players for information. However, if the information received isn’t clear enough, the referee can order the server to re-serve.
  1. Making a Call for a Timeout

Timeout is a familiar term in almost all games, whether indoor or outdoor, but each game has its own unique rule that guides this vital action. As for the foosball table game, timeout is of two kinds, one for the players; the other is for the officials.

  • Player’s timeout

As for the player’s timeout, each team has 30 second-long timeouts within a given match. During the timeout, teams can switch sides, grease their tools, refresh, or clean the playfield, and so on.

If the ball is out of play, any of the two players or team can call for timeout; but when in play, only the team with the ball could time out. Timeout resumes only when the two teams agree, but not exceeding the 30 seconds.

Team or player’s coaches can give instructions during timeouts and before or after the match.

  • Official’s Timeout 

This is a timeout only for game officials, and it lasts for 60 seconds. It can only be called by the match officials for a number of reasons, including when a player needs medical attention, officials need to refresh, a strange object falls on the table. It obstructs play, or the foosball table needs to be adjusted. During this timeout, unless permitted, no team or player can switch positions.

  1. Foosball Spinning Rules 

Under our basic rules, we’ve said that the ‘NO SPINNING’ in foosball isn’t completely true. When you hear this, what it means is that each time you spin the rod for 360° or more, you’ve spun illegally.

Whence that happens, the opponent has the right to decide whether or not to continue the match or serve the ball. If a player spins and scores his own goal, the opponent receives a score. 

  1. Foosball Infraction Rules

Technically called the jarring infraction rule; this rule applies to the in-play infraction that causes your opponents to lose a point.

You shouldn’t hit the walls or shake the table; otherwise, you’re penalized for a jarring infraction. But, you’re free from a jarring penalty if you bang the wall while trying to shoot. But don’t use that to prevent your opponent from accessing the ball.

Again, it is against the rule to touch your opponent’s rod with the intention of making him lose the ball. Again, that is a jarring infraction. You’re also not allowed to slam the side of the table while trying to move the ball. It’s illegal.

  1. Foosball Outfit Rules 

The question here is, ‘how do you dress for foosball? What are the foosball table dress rules?’ The International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) gives the acceptable foosball dress code as consisting of athletic shorts, warm-up jackets, sports caps, sports bandanas, sports t-shirts, athletic shirts, sweatbands, polo shirts, and athletic shoes.

However, the likes of non-athletic wear (body and foot), denim or jeans, sandals, flip flops, cargo pants, and tank tops are not acceptable.

However, if you’re a ranked player, the ITSF allows you to wear patches on your sleeves, carrying your ranking position. Generally, foosball players’ wear can carry the name or logo of your country.

  1. Rules against Distraction

Distraction is a punishable offense in foosball.

The following are considered as a distraction in foosball table game:

  • Movement away from the table
  • Conversing with a teammate when the game is in play
  • Moving rod to fake
  • Removing the handle before shooting
  • Movement of hands away from the table while the game is on

  1. Foosball Table Sides Rules

Each team must stay on its side throughout the 90-second break before the start of the next match except they both agree.

Teams must be ready and set after the 90-second game. Any delay from either side could cause a penalty for the offender.

  1. Potential Threat or Injury Rules

These are rules which aim at preventing injuries to players and enhance a player’s table appearance. Don’t clean the table with any substance (sweat, alcohol, or spit) or hard object (stone, scratchy napkin) unless approved supplies. Do not leave any substance used for the handle to clean the table; however, should that happen; any residue left must be properly cleaned.

Each match must start with a brand new ball, but teams can agree to play with the current ball. No object including headphones, earbuds, wristwatches, bangles, bracelets, or any other object capable of inflicting injury on a player or opponent should be brought to the field.

  1. On-field Behaviour

No form of direct or indirect comment is allowed when the game is on. However, team players can give signs to each other. Don’t call the opposite team; otherwise, you’re sanctioned.

Abusive, inciting, vulgar language or any form of verbal attack, including curse, is against the rule foosball.

  1. Decisions and Appeals Rules 

In the event of controversy regarding the making of a decision, while the referee is present, the referee has the final say. No on-field appeal is allowed to be made.

The rules of appeal can be waved or suspended, at least temporarily, under two conditions. One, if the controversy in question is concerned with giving an interpretation to a particular foosball rule. In that case, the consent of the Head Official is consulted for an interpretation.

The other condition under which the decision of the referee can be suspended at least temporarily occurs if the referee was not present at the time of the incident. In that case, the referee makes his judgment based on equity and fair hearing.

If you’re making an appeal, especially the one that concerns a loss of a match, you have to make it only before the ball is returned to the field or before a subsequent match is resumed.

As a rule of thumb, too, appeals must go through the match official. You don’t have to bother re-appealing a case that has been decided via an appeal. Your effort will literally be dead on arrival.

  1. Reset rule

Foosball Rules: All You Need To KnowIt is at the discretion of the official to call for reset. Reset occurs when there is an infraction on the part of a player who exerts a maximum force to obstruct an opponent’s chance of taking shot or pass. However, the opponent’s possession is not affected in the long run. When that happens, the official makes recall and puts the possession time in reset mode.

Meanwhile, a reset is not a distraction, and so players are not disallowed from shooting if the chance permits. A reset can be made while the ball is on a five-man rod, but it will only reset the time spent for the ball to strike the wall.


Foosball can be as interesting as other popular games, such as football, rugby and table tennis. The rules for foosball game are not difficult just as you find in these other games, too. The best way to get familiar with these rules is to get close to the game itself. The more practice of the game you have, the better your understanding of it you’ll have.

Here’s a rule of thumb: don’t just start to engage pros. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. It’s better to start from the basis, learning to engage your 14-year-old boy at home. Gradually, you can develop your skills, learn the rules, lose some games, and win some.

From there, you can organize some kind of friendly contest among your family members where you can become the local champion. In that way, the winner in you can begin to manifest, and before you know it, things begin to take shape.

The first set of rules of foosball you should acquaint yourself with is the basic foosball rules. In respect of the official rules, learn to begin with the serve and start rules, before graduating to mastering the foosball scoring rules, foosball spinning rules, and others.

Remember that human foosball rules and regulations, as the name suggests, are made by humans and are open to modification. Professional foosball rules are made by the ITSF, the global organ responsible for organizing foosball tournament and making foosball tournaments rules. They have the final decision on what rules interpretation is given to the rules.

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