- Teqball is a fast-growing hybrid of soccer and table tennis that is vying for a spot in the 2028 Olympics.
- USA Women’s National Team legend Carli Lloyd is the first female ambassador for the sport in America.
- He sat down with Insider to discuss discovering the sport and helping to make it famous.
Once she said goodbye to professional soccer, Carli Lloyd knew she would need “another outlet for my competitiveness” away from the field.
The two-time World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist thought, “Maybe this is golf?” on the edition of the US Women’s National Team announcing her retirement in August 2021. She even teased a possible transition from the soccer field to the gridiron to hit for an NFL team.
But now, more than a year later, Lloyd is on to her next big sporting venture – in a sport you’ve probably never heard of.
The 40-year-old is the first female ambassador for Teqball, a cross between soccer and table tennis that is rapidly growing in popularity. The sport, which was invented only a decade ago, has ambitions to make its debut at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“This year, what I’ve been doing is really going to as many tournaments as I can and just helping raise awareness of the sport,” Lloyd told Insider during a photo shoot at Teqball in New Jersey. “It’s been really fun. It’s a really fast-growing sport – it’s great.”
What the heck is Teqball?
Invented in 2012 by a trio of Hungarian soccer enthusiasts, Teqball combines the strategy and playing surface of table tennis—albeit with a specially designed curved table—with the ball and skills known in soccer. Like tennis, players can compete in singles, doubles or mixed doubles.
A game begins when a player, who is positioned two meters behind the table and within its edges, uses any part of the body other than his hands or arms to serve the ball over the net and into the opponent’s side of on the table. The opponent — or opponents, in the case of doubles — must play the ball after a single bounce.
Similar to volleyball, players are allowed a maximum of three touches before sending the ball back to the table. But a player cannot use the same part of his body to control the ball twice in succession, nor can he use the same part of the body on two successive returns to the table.
Does it sound difficult? It might be, says Lloyd, but “you can improvise” and “play to your strengths”.
“It’s fun because you get to play with someone who maybe isn’t as skilled and can use different parts of their body,” he said. “You can use your head, you can use your chest. So I think that’s really cool. And even the serve, you can use your head. You just obviously have to hit it in the right part of the curve and you can so I can take it there.
“But yeah, I think that’s the beauty of it,” Lloyd added. “Anybody can pick it up and play it, and I think you can have a wide range of skill sets. That’s what makes it fun.”
Like many other superstars, Lloyd first discovered Teqball as a way to train for soccer
When COVID-19 shut down the world as we knew it, few of us escaped 2020 unscathed in one way or another. Lloyd, who had yet to retire from either the national team or the National Women’s Soccer League club at that point, was no exception.
For the first time in her illustrious, multi-year professional football career, the prolific striker has gone under the knife to deal with a knee injury. Although the Tokyo Olympics – originally scheduled for the summer of 2020 – were postponed by a year, Lloyd still had a relatively narrow window to return to top form.
That’s when a Teq table arrived at her door.
“I got the table and obviously everyone was home, so you saw Beckham and Ronaldinho and all these big players playing at their tables,” Lloyd said. “So I started playing and I started using it as a form of rebound addiction. Because the table can be turned over, I could play it as if it were a wall.”
The 2015 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year noted that “your first touch in football is so vital” and an aspect of the game that even stars of her caliber must constantly hone. Typically, players of all levels will juggle or play “soccer tennis” — “putting a net on the ground and even sometimes have a higher net because it just works in different parts of your game,” as Lloyd describes it — for to work their touch.
But Teqball is just as effective and a lot more fun. No wonder it attracts fans with some of the best footballers on the planet.
But Lloyd had no teammates to play against during the early days of the pandemic. However, she found a formidable enemy “playing with my husband.”
To no one’s surprise, her highly competitive instincts kicked in when there was an opponent across the table.
“My husband Brian played football in high school and he’s very athletic, so he’s pretty good,” Lloyd said. “And when I was playing, some of my practices would be indoor games and he would usually play on the opposite side.”
“We’re getting competitive,” he added with a smile. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Bringing Teqball to the masses — and to the Olympics
Not long after hanging up her panties for the last time, Lloyd received an offer from Teqball bosses that she couldn’t refuse. They wanted him to become one of the faces of the game and “help hype the sport,” CEO Ajay Nwosu recalled to Insider.
“Essentially Carli’s name came up several times based on our due diligence,” Nwosu said. “She’s been the right fit for us overall at the world level, and it’s been fantastic so far. She’s amazing. She’s a respected and recognized former Olympian, so it’s been great.”
Lloyd loves it too. She has traveled to many tournaments, met some of the top players on the women’s side of the game and learned more about the unique culture of Teqball.
“The whole awareness part is the most important thing, because there are still a lot of people who have no idea about Teqball,” Lloyd said. “They have no idea that it’s on ESPN, they have no idea that there’s prize money for men and women, that it’s played indoors and it’s played on the beach, or that there are tables that are just placed in different locations around. USA.
“So I think once you bring awareness and once you let people know it’s there, it’s quite addictive,” he added. “You’re just watching, you’re just following that ball side to side like a tennis or ping pong match. And it’s incredible what they’re showing.”
Nwosu and his fellow Teqball executives are confident Lloyd’s influence will help attract more players and fans. They also hope that, with one of America’s most recognizable Olympians in their corner, they can bring Teqball to the biggest stage in all of sports.
The Summer Olympics will descend on Los Angeles in six short years, and Teqball has already met five of the seven requirements necessary for consideration by the International Olympic Committee. Nwosu explained that, in general, the IOC looks for sports that are popular and accessible, have the institutional support of federations around the world, are not too expensive to run and can attract millennial and Gen Z fans.
“We’re literally ticking all these boxes,” Nwosu said. “And so I think for us it’s just a matter of not if, but when we can get our international Olympic recognition. And then from there we can add to the Games in Los Angeles.”
Teqball signed a broadcast deal with ESPN in January, so fans interested in seeing the top Teqers can tune in to watch on their televisions or via live streams. The partnership is just one of the many aspects of Teqball’s growth that has Lloyd excited about the future of the sport.
“When this opportunity came up, I think what I was most excited about was that they want to grow the sport,” Lloyd said. “For me, being able to help grow the game of soccer here in the U.S. has been really great. And there’s a sense of pride knowing that you’ve helped bring something.”
But the ultimate question remains: If Teqball earns a spot at the table for the 2028 Olympics, could fans see Lloyd gracing the Stars and Stripes?
“I mean, never say never,” Lloyd said with a laugh. “But as of now, I’m completely at peace with my life.”