Panaji, Feb 11: Things are a bit different for sporting events around the globe this season. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all competitions to be played behind closed doors, resulting in the imposition of a slew of restrictions on the teams.
The advent of bio-bubbles — an ostentatious name for trapped lives in the precincts of hotels, buses and grounds — has made the psychological aspect associated with professional sports more relevant than ever before as teams look for innovative ways to keep their personnel motivated amidst packed schedules.
Although SC East Bengal have had a mixed run in their maiden Hero ISL campaign so far, they have scored over their rival teams in terms of using the latest technology and off-field activities.
While people have already seen images of the team using Hi-POD in training, the term 'Teqball' doesn't quite ring a bell, or does it?
Put simply, Teqball is a fusion of football and table tennis, which can be played between two players as a singles game or between four players as a doubles game. A brainchild of former professional soccer player Gabor Borsanyi and computer scientist Viktor Huszar, the sport is played on a curved, knee-high table with soccer balls. Each match comprises best-of-three sets, and a set is played until a player/team reaches 12 points. Its signature hashtag is #WorldIsCurved.
You would be surprised to know that the sport has its own world championship event, drawing participation from several footballing luminaries like Ronaldinho, Carlos Puyol, Nuno Gomes, Simao Sabrosa, and Robert Pires, to name a few.
A Teqball table recently made its way to SC East Bengal's team hotel in Goa, courtesy Head Coach Robbie Fowler. It's his New Year present for the red-and-gold brigade. The Liverpool legend feels that the sport has a dual utility - it can help the players enhance their technical skills besides keeping them in good spirits on off days.
'Well, it's a contraption, which helps you improve your skills. It's good for your touch and your communication as well. It's essentially a ping-pong table for football. Wherever I've gone, I've tried to use it. I think the lads do benefit from it as you can see them play behind us. They are enjoying the sport thoroughly, and hopefully there will be a lot more tables in India soon. It's a great means for budding footballers to grow and get used to the game,' Fowler said after playing out a doubles match against some of his players with Assistant Coach Tony Grant as his partner.
'I and Tony are the UK champions. I just think that it's good for everyone as it gets everyone smiling. It's good for the team morale and camaraderie. I reached out to Andy Moore (UK Sales Manager, Teqball), and the Teqball team kindly sent one over for us. We are delighted with it. It's a good way for the coaching staff to engage with the players,' he added.
Fowler has also called for the inclusion of Teqball at the grassroots, thereby accentuating its untapped potential in India. 'Some of the boys here are really good at it, considering that it's the first time they are playing. It will be good for any football club in the country, especially at the grassroots. The amount of things you can learn about football by playing Teqball is amazing,' he opined.
'I had one back in Australia when I managed Brisbane. Regardless of what happens with me, the table will always remain with SC East Bengal. This is a sport that can really take off in India. You can watch some of the great players of yesteryear play this sport online. It's really entertaining,' the 45-year old added before signing off.