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Human foosball: New form of soccer developed for pandemic

A football-starved community in Argentina has found a way to play the game they love in a time of coronavirus.

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Men play ‘human table soccer’ at a club in Pergamino, Argentina (Natacha Pisarenko/AP), Wednesday, July 1, 2020. In order to continue playing amid government restrictions to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, the club divided its soccer field into 12 rectangles to mark limited areas for each player, keeping them from making physical contact. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Men play ‘human table soccer’ at a club in Pergamino, Argentina (Natacha Pisarenko/AP), Wednesday, July 1, 2020. In order to continue playing amid government restrictions to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, the club divided its soccer field into 12 rectangles to mark limited areas for each player, keeping them from making physical contact. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Men play ‘human table soccer’ at a club in Pergamino, Argentina (Natacha Pisarenko/AP), Wednesday, July 1, 2020. In order to continue playing amid government restrictions to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, the club divided its soccer field into 12 rectangles to mark limited areas for each player, keeping them from making physical contact. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

A group of football-thirsty Argentinians have made an innovative return to playing after more than 100 days under suspension, with a social-distancing format locals call “human table football”.

In order to continue playing amid government restrictions to address Covid-19, owners of one five-a-side pitch have divided the field into 12 rectangles to mark limited areas for each player, keeping them from making physical contact.

The ball can be passed across rectangles and players can dribble inside their areas, but leaving one’s permitted area incurs a penalty.

The modified game emphasises passing and shooting over running and fancy footwork, and of course there are no rough tackles.

With just five players per side, the game also meets quarantine guidelines allowing outdoor activities with up to 10 people.

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The new-look game allows people to play while observing social distancing (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

The new-look game allows people to play while observing social distancing (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

AP/PA Images

The new-look game allows people to play while observing social distancing (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

The new-look football kicked off late last month in Pergamino, 150 miles north-west of Buenos Aires, where pitch owner Gustavo Ciuffo hatched the idea after his business was hit hard by the suspension.

“Soccer for Argentines is as important as mate,” said Ciuffo, referencing the country’s traditional tea-like beverage, and adding he was happy to have found a solution “at a very hard time”.

The ban on sporting activities is still part of the country’s official measures against the coronavirus outbreak.

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Players are not allowed out of their designated zones (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

Players are not allowed out of their designated zones (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

AP/PA Images

Players are not allowed out of their designated zones (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

That includes professional football, where players are still waiting to resume training sessions.

Argentina’s strict lockdown started on March 20 and, after some easing of restrictions, was renewed in Buenos Aires this week.

Argentina has had 67,197 Covid-19 cases registered and 1,363 deaths, according to official figures.

PA