How to play human table football

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The Independent Culture
In a world where people leap off cliffs with only a piece of elastic between them and certain death, and leap down canyons in nothing but their Speedos in the name of fun, you could be forgiven for thinking that humans have found the ultimate in adrenalin sports. But you'd be wrong, because, being inflated at this very moment, is an entirely new concept in sporting endeavour.

What's 60ft long, 40ft wide, inflatable and requires 16 people to have a good time? Not the latest Ann Summers blow-up range, but a human table-football pitch. There aren't many pub games you could inflate: anyone for blow-up cribbage? But human table football is already upon us: you've played the pub game often enough... well, now you can clamber on to the table and see how it feels to be a 3in moulded piece of plastic with a giant ball repeatedly ricocheting into your midriff.

As it goes, the principle's pretty much the same, except, here in the human league, it's 16 flesh-and-blood players rather than 22 red and blue figures being attached to metal rods and generally maltreated. Fortunately for everyone involved, the only other major difference from the pub game is that spinning is neither permitted nor humanly possible (and pints are strictly forbidden on the tabletop.

That apart, the rules are relatively simple: two teams of eight willing table footballers are harnessed to the poles attached to the sides of the inflatable pitch. When the whistle goes everyone shuffles from side to side, not forwards or backwards, in an attempt to kick/block the ball; pretty much like your average Beazer Homes League clash although, luckily for those who don't enjoy being strapped into a harness for too long, this is not a game of 90 minutes. Playing time is usually about quarter of an hour to 20 minutes, depending on your pre-season fitness levels.

What with all the new Fifa directives, coupled with the fact that you're strapped to this metal pole, you can expect a fairly clean game. Should things turn ugly, there are two referees on hand to dish out the red and yellow cards for offences ranging from handling and deflating to kung-fu attacks and back-chatting the ref. Persistent offenders can also end up doing a stretch in the sin bin, although the French bebefoot authorities are disputing this ruling.

HTF, as it is known in inflatable dug-outs around the country, is already gaining attention from the higher echelons of football society and El Tel himself is rumoured to have requested a pitch in training for next year's European championships. But, for now, the pitches are available for hire or purchase from adventure sports company MotivAction. Prices for hiring the pitch can be high, depending on the location, but in today's transfer market, it'll probably cost you considerably less than one of Dennis Bergkamp's toenails.

DOMINIC EARLE

Pitches can be hired on their own or as part of an entertainment package from MotivAction, Church Farm, Ardeley, Stevenage, Hertfordshire(01438 861821) Fax: 01438 861864. Also from The Finishing Touch (corporate entertainment only, 0181-878 7555)

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