A few people claimed to have invented foosball in the 1930s. That has to be wrong, as it was patented in Britain in 1923. However, that patent lapsed, and the game may have been invented much earlier anyway.
The world would have been a much quieter place if the game had stayed as just a children’s plaything, but it spread like a prairie fire. The first league was established in 1950 by the Belgians, and in 1976, the European Table Soccer Union was formed. Although how they called it a ‘union’ when the tables were different sizes, the figures had different shapes, none of the handles were the same design and even the balls were made of different compositions is a valid question. Not a unified item amongst them.
The game still doesn’t even have a single set of rules – or one name. You’ve got lagirt in Turkey, jouer au baby-foot in France, csocso in Hungary, cadureguel-schulchan in Israel, plain old table football in the UK, and a world encyclopedia of ridiculous names elsewhere around the globe. The American “foosball” (where a player is called a “fooser”) borrowed its name from the German version, “fußball”, from whence it arrived in the United States.
So it is possible that such a game arose in more than one place, but after it arrived in the U.S. in the early '60s, it took off like wildfire. Read what we really know about the origins of foosball at Smithsonian. Link
(Image credit: Rue des Archives/The Granger Collection, New York)