CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Steamer’s Bar in Charlotte has all the makings of a classic bar. Little do outsiders know, it’s a mecca. A hotbed. A little known breeding ground for professional athletes.
Darts, check. Pool tables, check. Lots of cold, frosty beers, got it.
“The pros are honing their games,” said Guy Turner the foosball tournament director.
In a dark room there’s a smattering of foosball tables. This is Charlotte’s underground world, of professional table soccer.
“Charlotte is one place in the US where you have a large number of pro foosball players” said Turner.
Since the 1970’s, the Queen City and this bar has played host to a lot of foosball’s finest.
“There are about 100 players in the Charlotte region” smiled, Guy.
If you’re having a hard time calling these guys athletes Guy continued, “there’s a World Cup in France. It’s held every January. Every country sends their team to the World Cup, like the Olympics”.
In fact the silver medalists, Bruce Nardoci, was in the crowd. He’s been playing for 40 years.
“I traveled all over the world playing too. England, Italy, Germany, France, Canada,” said Nardoci.
One up-and-coming “fooser” is Lane Blundell. He’s affectionately known as “Lane the Pain Train” to his friends.
“I’d play so many matches my hand would be bruised by the end of the weekend,” said Blundell
Blundell is a Microsoft engineer by day, he got started playing foosball with his co-workers. Then the game became an obsession.
“I played some very experienced players who were very good and they beat me. I didn’t take too well to that. I started practicing, and got my own table -- three to four hours every day.”
Based on the official International Foosball Professionals ranking, Lane’s got enough points to land him in the middle of the “pro” category.
Lane challenged NBC Charlotte’s Dion Lim to a duel to show her the ropes and demonstrate how a professional plays.
“You might want to put your mouthpiece in,” Lane joked.
In seconds, the ball whizzes, one after the other into the goal. Before she knew it, the match was over before she realized it began. She’s chalking this one up to the professional.
So how much money can someone make being a foosball professional?
“Tony Spreederman, the number one player in the US, just bought a house in Florida with his winnings,” says Charles Mackintosh, a tournament promoter and table dealer.
As for Lane, he just came in second place at the pro doubles tournament of the Las Vegas Hall of Fame Classic. Though, we’re told he’ll still have to keep that job at Microsoft.
To learn more about pro foosball click here.