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Teqball new Premier sensation

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HYBRID: Spurs players play teqball. Pic: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

HYBRID: Spurs players play teqball. Pic: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

PA

HYBRID: Spurs players play teqball. Pic: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Harry Maguire, Sadio Mane and Wayne Rooney are among the stars to have embraced teqball during the coronavirus lockdown - a mixture of football and table tennis that has quickly grown from a Hungarian garage to a burgeoning international sport.

What has long been a common sight at training grounds is increasingly becoming more frequent in players' gardens as they look for a fun and challenging way of filling the void left by the Covid-19 lockdown.

From Neymar to England internationals such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham, numerous players past and present are embracing teqball at a time when the footballing landscape has been decimated.

"We miss football and all the players miss football - everyone misses football," Viktor Huszar, one of three co-founders and inventors of teqball, said. "This is just bringing back a piece, a little piece of football with teqball, joyful things.

"We see now, if you check Sadio Mane's last picture, you see the football goals, all the different exercises... and the teqball table there.

"The same happens with many of the players that you see as part of their everyday training routine. This is how they keep up."

The sport is the brainchild of former semi-professional player Gabor Borsanyi and Huszar, who took their love for football and adapted it to their limitations in terms of time, numbers and space by using a curved table tennis-style table to face one another.

Initially played between friends in a small garage in Hungary, continual positive feedback led the first prototype tables to be developed in 2014 and within three years the Federation Internationale de Teqball (FITEQ) was established.

The big moment came in 2015 when Barcelona great and current Holland manager Ronald Koeman gave the sport the thumbs up.

"Southampton, that's the first table we have in the Premier League," the FITEQ chairman said, having visited the then Saints boss and assistant Erwin Koeman, the ex-Hungary manager.

"And now, as I remember, we had 18 out of the 20 Premier League clubs or players using it, so sometimes I even say that probably teqball is the most advanced sports equipment with the Premier League clubs."

Increasing numbers of players are embracing teqball and the third annual teqball world championships was held in December, just months before coronavirus changed the sporting world.

"Teqball is about developing your touch and your cognitive skills because you have to make such quick decisions that you're under pressure all the time.

"Even Premier League players, they need that perfect touch and in teqball you get used to that - you literally get it every second and you just have to make sure that you have a quick reaction before you touch the ball.