Ever since the earliest recorded form of football was played in 200 BC, various forms of the Beautiful Game have been invented and reimagined over the years.
From futsal and beach football, to more recent iterations that have seen it combined with other sports, such as footgolf and footvolley, different variants of football are constantly evolving.
The latest is Teqball; born in Hungary, it already looks to be taking football-mad Brazil by storm.
The brainchild of former professional footballer Gabor Borsanyi – who co-founded the game with businessman Gyuri Gattyan and computer scientist Viktor Huszar – Teqball involves playing with a football on a surface that resembles a curved table tennis table.
Played as singles or doubles, it requires players to take one touch to control the ball and return towards their opponent at the other end of the table.
READ: Neymar, Bale, Coutinho – The loneliness of the megabuck soccer star
READ: World’s best footballers are ‘reaching threshold of human endurance’
Ronaldinho, Teqball addict
Among its official ambassadors – or “Teqers” – Teqball counts World Cup winners Carles Puyol, Robert Pires and Christian Karembeu, Portuguese legend Luis Figo, Premier League legend Gianfranco Zola and, as the latest addition to its list, two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho.
The former Barcelona star is a self-confessed Teqball addict since discovering the game a couple of years ago, sometimes playing for up to six hours consecutively.
The 39-year-old last played professional football in 2015 for Brazilian club Fluminense and has since had stints playing in India’s Futsal Premier League, although the thought of returning to football as a manager is not something he has ever entertained.
“No, no, no, it’s not for me,” he laughs. “I don’t see myself as a coach, it’s never gone through my head.”
Such is his enthusiasm for this new game, Ronaldinho and his brother will now start the official Teqball Federation in Brazil.
“When I am at home, I play it everyday,” he tells CNN Sport. “Once I discovered it, I started playing regularly with my friends. Today in Brazil, nearly everybody plays it, on the beach or wherever.
“I had already played it a few years ago but not on a table like this and when I saw the new table formats I liked it a lot. Since then we haven’t stopped playing.”
Known for always playing with street football flair and a grin on his face, Ronaldinho says he fell in love with Teqball first and foremost because it involved a ball.
“I’ve always been like that since I was small, the funnest part of my day was when I had a ball at my feet,” he says. “That’s why I was always smiling, because whenever I had the opportunity to be with the ball it was always the happiest part of my day.”
Despite Brazil already being addicted to the 11-a-side version, beach football and footvolley, Teqball has managed to break through and become one of many Brazilians’ favorite pastimes.
“In Brazil we play on the street, but this game is different,” Ronaldinho explains. “We’ve always loved footvolley on the beach but when it rains we want to play inside.
“Now we play almost everyday and everybody likes it, nearly every football club has a table inside the dressing room for warmups and training. It’s something that is growing a lot.”
Ajax, Arsenal, Chelsea, Flamengo, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are just a few of the clubs around the world that Teqball now count as official users.
“It helps a lot with the technical aspect of your game,” Ronaldinho says. “To make sure the ball doesn’t leave you, you have to move and have a certain technique that you need to improve.”
Later this year the sport’s organizers will stage the third annual Teqball World Cup.
The 2017 and 2018 editions were hosted in Budapest, Hungary and Reims, France and the gold medal winners last year in singles and doubles – top dogs of 90 competitors – were given $10,000.
Co-founder Huszar says one of the organization’s legacies is their donation of the tables to the host cities for use in schools and public parks.
Despite his renowned skill with a ball, Ronaldinho insists he won’t be representing Brazil in 2019.
“No, no, I’m not at that level yet,” he laughs. “I like to play but there are others who are very, very good.”