Philly Sports Live

Chinese Football: The Childhood Game You Still Love

Sometimes you need a little not-too-serious competitive fun, and a game like Chinese football can come in handy. Or maybe you just need something to break the doldrums. You have plenty of other choices, of course, but almost everyone knows Chinese football.

You probably do too, at least if you’ve been through grade school. All it takes is paper, fingers, a flat surface, a little aim and a basic (very basic) knowledge of American football. Heck, you can mostly do without the knowledge. The rest is just physics.

An American Pastime

Yes, Chinese football is one of the favorite pastimes among the truly bored in America. It’s also big among the constantly competitive, the momentarily creative and the low-grade artistic. It goes by a host of other names: paper football, FIKI football, finger football, Biren football, flick football and tabletop football.

The idea is simple and requires two players. You take a piece of paper, fold it into a triangular shape. You then use it as a football as you field it back and forth across the surface between you. To do this, you flick the paper with one finger and send it flying through the air on its way toward your opponent’s end of the “field.”

Field Goals vs. Full Games

In its most basic form, this may involve simply flicking the paper toward the upward-pointed fingers of your opponent — if it passes between them, you score a “field goal.” Or you can play a full game of football, going so far as to include kick offs, penalties, downs and other elements of the real thing.

The version of Chinese football you play determines just how fine-tuned your skills need to be. A simple game of field goals doesn’t require much more than aim, while a more elaborate game demands greater control of the paper, since you’ll need to send it down the field in shorter increments.

Chinese Football and Its Roots

Chinese football is an older game than is generally known. Most people learn it in primary or secondary school, and that’s probably where it got its start. It dates to at least the 1950s, when students in the Midwest played it with matchbooks instead of paper triangles and students in Connecticut played it with quarters.

Chinese football is similar to another game that started around the same time and is still popular today, penny football, also known as coin football or shove ha’penny football. In that game, which originated in 1959, players slide pennies across a table in formations to create drives and touchdowns.

The Education Connection

Most variations of Chinese football evolved in schools, with game times often following class periods. Since distractions are common in that setting, games are often played quickly. One classroom version requires players to answer quiz questions correctly before they can take possession of the “ball” and drive it down the field.

It doesn’t take much to work up a game, and it can be the perfect cure for a spell of boredom. With so little required, it’s one of the easiest games you can whip up on the spot. And you can play Chinese football almost any way you want. You really can’t go wrong if you need a little fun.

V. Kunze writes about sports and enjoys writing about the the best football board game, Chinese football.