Calcio balilla (Foosball)
Truth to be told, there is a clue that leads to place the first appearance (if not the invention) of this pastime in Italy in the early 1920s. The word ‘balilla’ is an ancient Italian synonym of ‘kid’, but it really took hold during Fascism, when it was used to indicate the paramilitary corps of youngsters supporting the actual soldiers. Given the political climate, it is very improbable that such a loaded word could be used for a popular game, especially by the many dissidents and after the fall of Mussolini, unless it had been strongly established before fascism became controversial. In short, foosball must have been popular in Italy sometimes around the year 1918 – well before its mentions in other countries. Putting the matter of the invention aside, there is no doubt at all that Garlando, a manufacturer of burial caskets, immediately rose to be the biggest builder of foosball tables worldwide and it still is. The game quickly became a staple of Italian bars, youth clubs, penny arcades and beaches: if today it is still very popular, in the Fifties and Sixties it was plainly inconceivable not to find a foosball table pretty much everywhere.