Interview – Billy Pappas

Billy Pappas is without a doubt one of the most talented foosball players of the planet. He just won the National Team Event at the World Cup 2017 in Hamburg, which was once again proof of his outstanding capabilities. It seems like he can do everything on a table.

When you have ever had the opportunity to watch him play a pickup game you constantly ask yourself, what and how he does the things he does and you probably catch yourself standing in joyful appreciation.

Furthermore, he is known for is physicality on the table. His speed and power are almost unrivalled and it seems like his pull shot and snake make a different “pappaesk” sound.

In addition to that he is just an extremely nice and approachable guy who loves the game of foosball. For all those reasons, I am more than just happy, that he was willing to give me an interview!

How and when did you start playing foosball and what was your main motivation to keep playing and improving?

I started when I was 7 years old. My mum and her boyfriend played and her boyfriend told me how to play. When I was growing up, we had a decent local scene. But until I was 17 or 18 years old I wasn’t getting any results. My talent was like super high at that time but still I wasn’t winning. Then one day some guy said something that bothered me. I don’t want to say, what it was. It was a negative thing he said to me, but also it was true. (laughs)

A lot of people think it was because Tony (Tony Spredeman) got good results before me, but that had nothing to do with it because I am not like directly competitive. Before that I never cared about winning and loved playing just for fun. But I was too good talent wise, not to win. So at some point, you have to play the game to win. Then when you first beat a pro-master (höchste Kategorie auf der US-Amerikanischen Tour) it gives you a good feeling in the sense that you can play on the same level as those guys from now on. This alone brings you to new next level.

I had this one tournament, where I just won randomly and then the next tournament, everybody picked me to win, for some weird reason. So, I went to the tournament and I played great and only lost to Fred (Frederic Collignon) in the finals. It was the first time for me to beat Terry Moore and Todd Loffredo and then from there you have the feeling at that time you could beat anyone in the world.

At such a point your mentality is strong. If you want to improve beyond a certain level, it has nothing to do with your game anymore and anything to do with their game. Cause your talent will only get you to a certain level. You just can’t be better, then you are going to get. So, you must analyze your opponents and find their weaknesses and tendencies. Videos help for that matter.

Who is the player you learned the most from?

The most I learned from my mum’s boyfriend, because he taught me how to play in the beginning. After that I learned a lot from Terry Moore, but more by watching him play than by getting direct advice from him. His approach to the game is on the one side totally reasonable and in its simplicity remarkable. I think if people want to learn foosball, they should watch videos of Terry play.

This is a general advice. If you want to learn from players watch their game. Play a tournament with them or watch videos and follow their decisions. Pick holes with them together when they have the ball. Try to understand their decision for a pass or a shot. This way you will learn a lot about their game and the game in general.

Do you have an idol in foosball? Who is your favorite player and why?

I don’t have an idol and I also don’t have a favorite player, but I like certain aspects of the game of different players. When it comes down to foosball, I call those qualities “sexy”. For example, I think that Trevor Park has the sexiest five bar on the planet. How he can drag the ball and with what power he plays certain passes is remarkable. Only for being able to watch his five bar, it is worth playing with him a tournament. (laughs)

Another great thing to watch is the smoothness of Rob (Robert Atha). Everything he does looks effortless and elegant and still he is effective by that. When it comes down to trickshots and ball handling I think that Terry Rue is impressive. He is a guy that seems to be able to do everything on a foosball table and normally people say that about me, (laughs) but he is up there with me.

When it comes down to the actual game I am impressed with Fred’s left hand. Especially the five bar offensively and defensively can do everything imaginable and the blocking in the goal is exceptional. When Fred was playing a lot he was by far the best defensive player in the world.

Another thing is the two bar of Terry Moore. Although I would say, that I have the best two bar in the world (laughs), Terry scored an insane amount of goals in a game with almost only two options of his pushshot.

What was the biggest success in your foosball career and why?

My biggest success was winning the 2005 Tornado World Championships in Singles and beating Fred in the finals. I beat some of the big names in foosball at that time and the feeling was unbelievable. Especially beating Fred in the final was great, because it was exceptionally difficult to beat him in general, but even more difficult to beat him in a final at that time.

How do you cope with pressure situations? Do you have specific strategies or do you prepare for those situations away from the table?

That is a bad question for me, because I am not a very good pressure player. Not a bad one either because I know that I can pass and score in difficult situations but then there are games where I literally score hundred percent up until the last ball and I can’t score the last ball. I know that I am dropping balls at 4:4. Although only pickups and not passes, passing is ok.

When it comes to strategies, I don’t really have any. I never practiced those situations and used not to think about it as much. When you are playing naturally maybe you just don’t worry about it. You are so often in those situations, that it becomes kind of natural because you get used to it. So, although I never had certain strategies, I still wasn’t uncomfortable.

Now that I play not as much I feel way more uncomfortable in those situations. I guess the learning is, the more you play in those kind of situations, the better you get. And remembering that it is only foosball and not the end of the world. The game is supposed to be fun, so just embrace and enjoy the moment!

What are the most frequent mistakes you see at the amateur level? What the most frequent mistakes you see at the pro level?

There are a couple of things I noticed playing tournaments in Germany. One frequent mistake is, that players go lane way too often. This pass is just way easier to take away and you should capitalize on that. Furthermore, the players are not dirty enough in singles. I mean, that players don’t capitalize on unexpected situations and rather wait than trying a quick shot for example. In addition, the general transition and pickup game of the players is not as good. Training rollerball or speedball could help for that matter.

They also score not enough easy points. Oftentimes the opponents are not ready for a shot within the first 3 seconds of a possession. If you focus on this time window you will see interesting stuff. A lot of people move always the same in the first 3 seconds of every possession you have on the three bar for example. If you remember that you can get easy points in important situations. One more thing is the defense for a push shot out of the back. Those defenses are just horrendous and you can score a lot of relatively easy points, when you are aware of that.

One common mistake I see regularly on the pro level is, that the people only have one speed for their passes. Especially for a brush pass it is very important to vary the speed of your pass. When the opponent is blocking you with the man tilted forward, the angle of the pass becomes more difficult to execute. If you try to play a fast pass, the angle becomes even more difficult and the rebound is way harder to control. The result is often a direct block to the opponents three bar. To prevent that from happening just play slow passes if the opponent has his man tilted forward. If you hit the man you will get the ball back and in the best case this pisses your opponent off. (laughs)

How do you prepare for an important tournament? How do you keep prepared for play during an important tournament?

I don’t prepare for tournaments anymore. I used to watch a lot of videos and analyze the tendencies and weaknesses of the competition. In addition, I practiced with partners the upcoming days before a specific tournament. However, I think that the best preparation and practice are tournaments itself.

During a tournament, I don’t intentionally warm up or anything. What I do is pickup matches. When the breaks between the matches get to long, I play against anyone for fun and try grabbing difficult balls and develop some extra ball handling. This translates perfectly in later matches. The main options like snake or passes I don’t train separately, they are just memorized by the muscles.

What are your favorite wraps?

My favorite wraps are master wraps. I don’t feel a big difference between the colors, but if I could choose, I would take neon yellow, neon green and rainbow in that order.

Is there an underlying principle for offensive/defensive play and how would you describe it?

There is one main underlying principle in the defense. Find the weakness of your opponent and pound on it. You must look for example for a weak pass or shot. Maybe one pass is slower or has no angle. Maybe the opponent can time only the pull side because he struggles already with executing the push side.

You must gather information on your opponent over the match and learn about his tendencies and weaknesses. Ask yourself what is the favorite pass or shot of the opponent? Pay close attention to the execution and remember anomalies and mistakes. When you do that, you can make sure that the opponent won’t get any easy points when a pressure situation comes up and you can block him multiple times in a row.

There is also one easy but oftentimes not complied principle for offensive play. Don’t change anything if it works. Be stubborn along your success. Only adapt when your plan does not work. Oftentimes you see players change their game despite they are beating the opponent decisively. Because of those changes they start to miss shots and lose momentum and maybe even the game.

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