In the fast-paced world of competitive foosball Canada is one of the best. It’s a game most people associate with bars and basements but Canada Foosball is trying to change that image.

The non-profit organization that oversees Canada’s regional and local table soccer clubs, or foosball clubs, estimates there are about 700 recreational players and about 300 competitive players in Canada.

About 50 of those players took part in the National Foosball Championship that wrapped up Sunday, February 21, 2016 at the TailGators Sports Bar in Ottawa’s west end. The two-day event was a qualifier for the 2017 World Cup in Germany. Six players will go on to represent Canada at the international event.

“We are still small when you compare us to pool or darts,” said Jesse Haw, the National Championship tournament director.

“It’s a small community, but there are a lot of good tournaments spread out across North America to go to.”

According to the International Table Soccer Federation Canada is currently ranked 11th in the world out of 47 countries. Team Canada members receive no funding and rely on sponsorship to help offset travel costs.

“It’s really competitive. We are very strong,” said Matthew Bijault, a former world team player.

Competitive foosball in Canada is pale in comparison to many European countries where tournaments are broadcast live and thousands of dollars in prize money is up for grabs. For players like Francois Veilleux the money is a bonus to playing out his passion.

“It’s a lot of practice and stuff, so to get in there and to play for Team Canada is a nice accomplishment, “ Veilleux said.

Aside from a few Americas, Haw said most cannot make a living playing foosball.  He said most players, especially in Canada, have other jobs and practice in their spare time. Instead of a living, the game is a passion and a hobby with a competitive edge.   

Olavo Tavares is a pro foosball player who travels the world playing the game. He said at the beginning of his career he practiced 8 to 10 hours a day. Now he said he plays in tournaments more than he practices, but still spends time in the gym to prepare.

“My right arm is an inch bigger than my left arm, just from shooting,” he said.

When asked the question about whether Foosball is a game or a sport, almost every player agreed it’s a sport.

“Anything that makes you sweat is a sport,” Salvatore Rovito said.