Triad City Beat: Good Sport: Foosball World Cup at Old Salem

by Chris Nafekh

Six French foosball tables. Twelve orange foosballs. Sixteen teams of two. Thirty-two competitors. Two giant inflatable foosmen. Fifteen Games, five goals to win, four brackets, one winner. It was all part of the 2015 World Cup Foosball Tournament, part of an attempt to bring younger patrons to Old Salem, the historic village and gardens. The evening was more amusing than competitive, but a few die-hards came to win. None of the attendees were professional foosballers, but everyone anticipated stiff competition.

At the front desk, event coordinator Tabitha Renegar welcomed spectators who were still streaming in.

“It’s the perfect amount of competition,” she said. “It’s not cutthroat, nobody’s going to the regionals.” Food, wine and Old Salem merch was the packaged first-prize for the winning team.

The two-player teams were diverse; some were friends with strong shared foosball history. Around the room were likely pairs, like father-son duo Ken and Vince Nocito. There was Patrick Schell and Ben Schroeder who played for Carolina’s Vineyards and Hops, which catered the open bar and supplied Nuevo Rouge, pinot grigio, one keg of Mother Earth’s Weeping Willow Wit and another of Working Man’s Lunch from Fullsteam in Durham. Putters Patio and Grill donated 150 chicken wings, 120 quesadillas and 120 club sandwiches.

“I wonder if that counts.” Joey Papuga said after his slap-shot bounced out of the net. “It probably doesn’t.”

“We’re okay.” Dan Watson, Papuga’s partner said hopefully. “We’re going to win tonight.” The two were practicing foosball shots on a table in the Old Winston Visitors center before the competition. They wore matching blue shirts and red shorts. The back of their Ts displayed team nicknames. Papuga’s read “Polish Hammer” and Watson’s read “El Savor,” which is Spanish for “the goalie.” Together, they called themselves “Foos-Me? Foos-You!”

“I’m more of a defensive specialist,” Watson explained. “That’s how my grandfather’s game was, and his father before him; it’s in my blood. Joey’s a little bit different. He’s an offensive genius. He’s Steve Spurrier and I’m Bill Parcells.”

Like soccer with fewer concussions, foosball has a number of rules that the World Cup tried to follow. To start, no windmills were allowed — players couldn’t spin the sticks wildly in hopes of a strong shot. Teams must toss a coin to see who places the ball first, and no tilting the table. In an average competition, after a team makes a goal, that team rotates offensive and defensive positions. But nobody enforced this rule.

In their first game of the evening, Foos-You played Kelly and Wes Benson. The Bensons played foosball together as elementary school friends, and later fell in love and got married.

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