Foosball players prepare for World Cup in Germany
Skill will get you there, but strategy will get the big wins
Deep in concentration, two international competitors prepare for battle in their basement training ground.
The ball is dropped and the players spin in place. Like they always do.
That's because this is foosball, also known as table soccer.
Will Stranks and Zoe Labelle will be part of the foosball team representing Canada in April at the International Table Soccer Federation's World Cup in Hamburg, Germany.
This will be Labelle's first World Cup as a competitor and she's ready to show her national pride.
"Canada can definitely compete hard, we are training hard here and we are practicing, tournaments, we can do it all," said Labelle, who wants to see her name on a championship banner.
Stranks started playing foosball when he was seven years old. He played all the time on a table his father had bought. Then he found himself at a tournament — and things changed.
"I thought I was really good, but I really wasn't," laughs Stranks.
"Because of the speed of the game and the amount of control, you could be used to getting 15 to 20 shots in a game and all of a sudden you play someone who is really good and you don't even touch the ball."
Stranks later trained with other players and now has won numerous medals and trophies, including a gold medal from a previous World Cup.
Stranks and Labelle — they're a couple — are part of Team Canada through the Table Soccer Association of Canada.
Hamburg is the host city for the International Table Soccer Federation's World Cup. April 11-16.
While quick hands are important to get to the championship level, it is psychological prowess that wins games.
"Once you have reached a certain level, a lot of the players have a similar skill set, shoot the same shots, use the same passes," Stranks said.
"So it has a lot more to do with figuring out which shot they are going do and when they are going to do it."
It's the strategy part of the sport that Labelle enjoys most.
"I feel like it is much more rewarding," she explains. "When you have something that you have set up and you get ready for it and plan it out and then you just smash it and hear it, you are like Yes!"
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