Bubble soccer bursts onto intramural sports scene

Chico State students test out the suits used to play bubble soccer at the Wildcat Recreation Center. Photo courtesy of Jay Ferrick.

What does a mix of contact sports, soccer and giant, inflatable plastic-ball suits look like?

It looks like bubble soccer, which is essentially soccer with the addition of giant plastic protective suits and physical contact.

Two teams of six players compete, and their objective is to score more goals than the opposing team by the end of four quarters each lasting five minutes.

The game begins with both teams on opposite sides of the soccer field with the ball placed in the middle. Once the whistle is blown, the two teams sprint towards the ball, resulting in collisions with players flying in every direction.

Two referees on the field help the players who fall and have a hard time getting up. They also help players get the inflatable suits on and off.

Bubble soccer originated in Europe, but it is now spreading globally.

Chico State’s Wildcat Recreation Center recently got a hold of a few bubble suits that will be available for students to use in intramural games.

Strategy is not a huge part of the game, said Daniel Rueger, a junior intramural sports intern.

“There’s pretty much no rules,” Rueger said. “It’s soccer, but it turns into a demolition derby.”

Senior intramural sports supervisor Vicente Gutierrez was one of the first people to play bubble soccer at the WREC this year. The collisions are the most fun art of bubble soccer, Gutierrez said.

“It’s fun going after one another,” he said. “You always have to be on the look out. I think all the participants enjoyed hitting more than actually playing soccer. It’s exciting hitting the opposite team.”

The plastic ball suit comes equipped with inner backpack straps and handles to keep the player inside the protective ball during the game. Health risks are moderately low in bubble soccer, Rueger said.

“I was worried about people getting laid out into the wall, but they just bounce right off,” Rueger said.

The only times players experienced any discomfort was from skinning their knees or ankles on the indoor soccer field, he said.

Other aspects of bubble soccer that take a toll on the players are heat and dehydration, said Steve Riccomini, director of intramural sports.

“It’s so hot (in the suits), their bodies are sweating,” he said. “It would be hard to do an hour or half-hour game. We would have to do three-minute quarters or something like that.”

The WREC plans on having its first bubble soccer game in the next month or so, Riccomini said.

For anyone interested, the best way to find information on upcoming bubble ball events is to follow the official intramural sports Instagram, @Chico_imsports or its Facebook page, Chico State Intramurals.

Lars Gustafson can be reached at [email protected] or @larsonsports on Twitter.