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A Chat with Robby Mares about the Jan 2009 World Cup in Nantes France

March 25, 2009

Did you practice on any other tables to prepare for the world cup?
The only other table I had access to was a Bonzini. Brian Schrunk has one on location about 5 minutes from my house. It couldn`t have worked out much better because Tom Spear had been playing a lot on that table and he helped me train.

Any interesting stories travelling to France?
My travel to France was a nightmare. I was told in Denver that I had a 2 hour delay, so I went to get something to eat. I came back in 20 minutes, just in time to see my plane backing out of the gate. I still don't know how they cancelled the delay and got that huge plane loaded and backed out in 20 minutes. I caught a flight the next morning. When I arrived in Boston to catch my connecting flight, it was delayed 4 hours. At this point, I knew I'd miss the singles event. I was bummin' but turning back was not an option. The team was counting on me and we were going for gold.

How were you treated? Did everybody know who you were? Rockstar or scrub?
We absolutely received the 'rockstar' treatment. I personally knew a lot of the people there - staff and players - from my previous trips overseas. Foosball is just generally much bigger over there, and being a part of the US team is a very big deal to them.

Best match or most intense match?
That would probably have to be my singles match against the French. It was during that match when the intensity really started to pick up in the whole room. Maybe because it was a rematch from Hamburg in '06, or the fact that we were playing the French on their home turf. We really needed the win. When I scored the winning point, I just went nuts. There was a small, waist-high barrier between the tables and the crowd, and I just jumped right over it, into the arms of my teammates. It was completely spontaneous and it was awesome. That moment really seemed to show how into it we all were.

Can you talk about the team spirit?
The team spirit was awesome. Just being in another country like that, you start to band together anyway, let alone being in a competitive environment. Once the matches started and the Team USA chants picked up, everyone was so into it. Our individuality kind of took a back seat as everybody on the team cheered for each other and focused on representing the US with a lot of class. I couldn't be more proud of every single member of our team.

Did you have to change your game at all for each table?
Absolutely. There are small adjustments on every table, even if you're using the same series on the 5 and 3. Some tables bank a lot easier. The roller was so funky for me on the Bonzini (I think it was the weight of the rod and men), that I actually shot a pull shot so that it didn't mess with my stroke too much.

What country did you feel was the biggest threat? France or Austria?
Both were an equal threat to us. Both were nasty, and neither one could be underestimated. The French had the backing of their home country, and the Austrians were the defending champs. Both teams had a lot to fight for, and they were both awesome on their home tables.

Did you guys ever feel like you wouldn't win the cup?
We never took it for granted that we were going to win. But there was never a time when I thought we were not going to bring the cup home.

How did this team event compare to the normal foosball weekend where it's almost all about individual performance?
As mentioned before, individuality took a back seat. It took 5 wins to win a match. So even mathematically, you're only one piece of the pie. Just winning your part isn't enough - you have to cheer on your teammates to win theirs too. You've never been so attached to a match from the sideline, because that's still your match!!

What was your favorite table outside of the tornado?
I don't have a clear favorite. They're all four fun and equally challenging. They all run a distant 2nd to Tornado.

What did you think about changing the tornado goalie to a single man? Maybe even the ball? Since that seems to be a mess in the US.
I didn't think it was a big deal at all. I never missed the wingmen and I never heard anyone complain about it. I think we were dealing with so many adjustments with the other tables, it didn't even play a factor. I think we're all used to dealing with different balls when we show up at any tournament. The political reasons for changing to a one-man goalie are related to a completely different question.

Is foosball more or less, popular over there?
Dude! WAY more popular in Europe!! Not once do you have to explain to someone what foosball is in Europe. There were actual billboards advertising the tournament in France, just to give you an example.

Is there something they do in Europe for tournaments that you think could help the US. Vice versa, help Europe?
Some of the federations are funded by their governments (France, Italy). So that has to help. Some countries have ITSF foos clubs, where they have every table in one room (one advantage of living in a small country). The Italian federation headquarters has a swimming pool shaped like a foosman! The other big factor is there are multiple table manufacturers in Europe which creates a competitive atmosphere. As far as any one thing they do over there that we should emulate, there really isn't anything.

Do you think foosball is growing? What do you think it needs?
I think globally, foosball is definitely growing. Here in the States, it's hard to say. I think we're on a bit of an upswing right now, probably because of the Warrior/Tornado competition.

Anything behind the scenes at the World Cup? Something the rest of us wouldn't have heard or seen?
One thing most people don't know is that Dave Gummeson broke his finger while warming up for his doubles match against the French. He was so pumped, he played great anyway, and he and Tracy won!

Getting the World Cup home in one piece was a small miracle in itself. I was initially told I had to check it with my luggage. The last time I checked on a trophy it showed up in pieces. There was NO WAY I could let this happen to the cup. After a long talk with the head of security at the Paris airport I received a personal escort through security and all the way to my gate, where I was the first one to board the plane cup in hand. As it turns out, all the people in security and everyone else I ran into knew exactly what foosball was and thought the cup was awesome. I have to think it had a bearing on me getting through.

Thanks Robby for your time. You're a rockstar in my book!!

All photos from Ice's gallery.