Bubble soccer gets a big bounce at UNL as interest grows

  • Players go head to head as the referee starts a quarter.

If you’ve seen people in giant, inflatable balls crashing into each other recently, you should know the activity is more than a crazy stress reliever. It’s the rapidly growing sport of bubble soccer, which is becoming more popular not only internationally but also in Lincoln.

The game has made several appearances on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus this semester.

Kyle Soflin, director of the campus organization NextGen, said his group hosted a bubble soccer event because they wanted to do something big for their kickoff event.

“The game itself was actually pretty challenging,” Soflin said in an email. “The bubbles weigh about 30 pounds each. It was also a hot afternoon which, being in those insulated bubbles only multiplied the amount of sweat on our shirts.”

NextGen was only one of several UNL clubs that hosted bubble soccer events this fall. Kelsey Moss, on the board of directors for Scarlet Guard, said the group chose bubble soccer for a promotion in late October.

“We had heard about bubble soccer being a good event,” Moss said. “It looks super fun, and it was really fun. Totally different than anything I’d ever seen.”

Few rules are needed beyond “get the ball in the goal.” Groups often adapt rules from online, keeping what works for them. The game time is usually kept short, since many players find it surprisingly tiring.

Beyond one-time events, bubble soccer is also establishing a competitive presence in Lincoln. This fall, UNL intramural sports hosted an official bubble soccer tournament for the first time. [youtube]https://youtu.be/Qs0P_SRNehc[/youtube]

Zac Brost, assistant director for intramural sports, said he learned about the game from YouTube.

“It looked hilarious first of all. But it looked like a lot of fun,” Brost said. “We started doing some research to see if we could get the equipment, if in terms of risk management, it was something we could pull off.”

Surprisingly, risk management for the wacky sport isn’t a problem. Brandon Dallmann, co-owner of Defy Gravity in Lincoln, said that there have been few injuries nationally.

“We’ve had none,” Dallmann said. “The worst injury that people tend to get is kicking somebody else in the shins.”

Defy Gravity hosts bubble soccer at its indoor soccer field, where guests rent time to play – $275 for a private group for an hour. Other bubble soccer businesses in Omaha and Lincoln have popped up in recent years to rent out the bubbles, with prices varying by time and number of bubbles.

The past and future of bubble soccer

The origins of bubble soccer trace back to a 2011 video, where Norwegian comedians Henrik Elvestad and Johan Golden created the sport as a joke on their sports entertainment show.

The game took off. It’s sometimes goes by “knockerball,” and is on Wikipedia under the name “zorb football.” Now, in the U.S., bubble soccer even has leagues under the National Association of Bubble Soccer, as seen on the reality show Shark Tank.

Moss, Soflin and Brost all said to expect more bubble soccer at UNL when the weather warms up again.

“We had a good turnout. Everyone that was there really enjoyed themselves,” Moss said. “Just watching was fun and playing was really fun too, so we’d definitely do it again.”

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