USTSF APPLIES FOR USOC MEMBERSHIP

 

December 14, 2003 may become one of the most important dates in U.S. table soccer history.  It was on that day that USTSF President Kathy Brainard mailed the completed application for membership in the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

 

The USOC application form contains 23 multiple-part questions that require 40 explanatory attachments. The USTSF completed application consists of over 100 pages of text plus newsletters, posters and photos in an overflowing three-inch three-ring binder, representing more than 50 hours of volunteer work by Kathy.  The USOC Membership Committee, based at the USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, should begin its review of the USTSF application at its January 2004 meeting. 

 

The process of becoming a member of the USOC is a long one.  One USOC membership requirement is that the sport's international federation must be a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC requires that an international federation be in existence for a minimum of five years before it can be admitted to the IOC.   The International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF), which has its headquarters in Nantes, France, has begun this process with the IOC. The ITSF, like the USTSF, was officially  formed in 2002, so the soonest that membership could become a reality is in 2007.

 

The dream of Olympic recognition for the sport of table soccer has been discussed for many years. When another "table game"--table tennis-- was admitted to the USOC in the mid-80's, leaders in table soccer promotions began  to seriously consider the possibility of table soccer as an Olympic sport.

 

"In 1984, I was working with a Belgian promoter, Sidi Airouss, to establish an international table soccer association with the goal of Olympic membership," stated Kathy, who was at that time president of the newly created independent players association called the USTSA. "We had drafted an international constitution and had contacted 16 countries.

 

          "The plan was to use the American table manufactured by Dynamo as the internationally sanctioned table," she continued. "Unfortunately, Dynamo abruptly decided to discontinue its sponsorship of the pro tour, leaving the Eurpean investors in an untenable situation.  The international movement also came to an abrupt halt."

 

Today, with the advent of the Internet, table soccer enthusiasts have quickly become aware of the worldwide popularity of the sport. The formation of an international federation is a natural development that has grown out of this new awareness. Increased international communication has led to increased international competition. And as more and more players have traveled to other countries to compete, there has been a realization of the need for internationally standardized rules and ratings, as well as for the coordination of the scheduling of international events.

 

          Now, 18 years after the first attempt, the dream of an international federation has come true, and the goal of Olympic membership has been revived.  This time, the impetus has come from France in the form of a visionary and energetic leader named Farid Lounas, who is president of the French Federation as well as president of the new International Table Soccer Federation.

 

          "The more I work with Farid, the more impressed I become with his ability to get things accomplished in the international arena," said Kathy. "He brings an unprecedented level of diplomacy and professionalism to our sport."

 

          Farid posted an on-line message about the formation of the ITSF on the table soccer newsgroup in the summer of 2002.  As soon as Kathy read Farid's message about the goal of forming an international federation, she  wanted to get the U.S. involved.  A month later, at the 2002 World Championships in Dallas, Kathy met with a small group of influential players with international interests and the USTSF was formed.  This group, which now makes up the USTSF board, includes Bruce Nardoci, Jim Waterman, Larry Davis, Stacey Myers and Phil Kennedy.

 

          "Early on, I could see that the international movement, under Farid's leadership, was going to take place with or without the United States, " said Kathy. "I wanted to be sure that the U.S. was involved and that U.S. players would be able to participate in the sanctioned international competition."

 

          In order to become a member of the ITSF, a country must organize an independent players association and be recognized (or in the process of recognition) by that country's national sports federation. For example, in France and Italy, table soccer is officially recognized as a sport and receives federal funding for promotions. In the United States, the national sports federation is the USOC. This is why the USTSF has been established and why the USOC application has been completed.

 

          "As a high school teacher, I have some free time in the summer," continued Kathy, "so I decided to devote the summer of 2003 to the USOC application process.  I realize, however, that the written application is just the first step and that the USTSF and all of the U.S. players still have much work to do to make this a reality."

 

There are currently 36 sports organizations that are members of the USOC. They are as follows:


 

Aquatics

Archery

Badminton

Baseball

Basketball

Biathlon

Bobsled

Boxing

Canoe/Kayak

 

 

Curling

Cycling

Equestrian

Fencing

Field Hockey

Figure Skating

Gymnastics

Ice Hockey

Judo

 

 

Luge

Mod.Pentathlon

Rowing

Sailing

Shooting

Skiing

Soccer

Softball

Speedskating

 

 

Table Tennis

Taekwondo

Team Handball

Tennis

Track & Field

Triathlon

Volleyball

Weightlifting

Wrestling


 

Will table soccer become the 37th USOC sport? "Why not?" asks Kathy. "When you look at the list of the recognized sports, which runs the gamut from archery to canoeing to badminton to sailing, the argument about whether table soccer  deserves to be there is quickly answered with a resounding 'yes.' "

 

Stay tuned to this web site to follow the latest developments in the USTSF's quest for membership in the USOC.  For the latest news about the ITSF, including the growing list of member nations, visit the ITSF site at www.table-soccer.org.