The origins & birth of fistball

1919 Team

(Photo: TV Seelbach - 1919 German district fistball champions)

How to Play Fistball

When exactly the game of fistball was “invented”, is not known. What is certain, however, is that the roots lie in the southern part of Europe, perhaps in Italy. The earliest known written mention of the game is by Roman Emperor Gordian III and dates to the year 240. Rules for an Italian version of fistball were recorded by Antonius Scaiono in 1555, and in 1786 Johann Wolfgang Goethe mentioned fistball games between ‘four noblemen from Verona and four Venetians’ in his diary An Italian Journey.

It was only in 1870 that fistball was introduced to Germany, led by Georg Weber. The sport was mainly played by gymnasts and was soon seen as a gymnastic sport. Fistball was first presented in 1885 at the German Gymnastics Festival in Dresden. In 1894, Georg Weber, along with Dr. Heinrich Schnell, drafted the first German rules that outlined a sport with competitive elements. The play and scoring however differed significantly from fistball as it is known today.

During this time the sport spread to the surrounding, mainly German-speaking, neighboring countries, and German emigrants also spread the sport in all continents, particularly in South America and West Africa. Fistball was first introduced to the United States in 1911 by high school teacher Christopher Carlton who had experienced it first hand on a summer vacation to Italy.

At the 1913 German Gymnastics Festival in Leipzig, the first German men’s championships were held, where LLB Frankfurt won against 1879 MTV Munich, winning 114:101. Due to the First World War, no German Championships were held between 1914 and 1920. In 1921, the first women’s fistball championship was held, with Hamburger Turnerschaft emerging victorious against TV Krefeld, winning 91:90. Fistball, while still a game affiliated to the Gymnastics Association, began to grow independently. In 1927, almost 12,000 teams played organized fistball in Germany.

Due to the rapid spread of the fistball game and improved game skills, further changes in the rules were necessary, with a greater focus on winning points through forcing errors. This style of play was more athletic and dynamic, and tactics began to changing significantly.

In order to encourage development and improve performance, the International Fistball Association (IFA) was founded in 1960, and is now the umbrella organisation of all national fistball organisations worldwide.

The first IFA World Championships for men were held in Linz, Austria in 1968, with West Germany winning gold. The first IFA World Championships for women were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994, with Germany winning gold. Men’s World Championships are currently held quadrennially, while Women’s World Championships are held bi-annually.


History In Australia

(Photo: Fistivus I - the first official Australian fistball tournament on record, held in Melbourne on March 17th, 2013)

Despite the long and storied history of fistball around the world, prior to 2013 there had been no recorded history of it ever being organised in Australia.

This all changed early in 2013, when good mates Rolf “Godfister” Petersen and Richard "Buckfist" Williams - after some detailed and enthusiastic research into the sport - reached out to the IFA for help in setting up the sport in Australia... and in February 2013, the Fistball Federation of Australia (FiFA) was officially born.

The first officially documented game of fistball occurred on the 7th of February, 2013, when an enthusiastic group of men and women gathered at a park in Tullamarine, Victoria to form two teams and punch a volleyball over a rope in the hope that it resembled “fistball”.

Shortly after word of this successful fistball outing reached keen ears, official fistball teams were formed and the first ever Australian fistball tournament – aptly named Fistivus – was held at Royal Park in Parkville, Victoria on March 17, 2013. With four teams competing, the Fistroy Lions topped the Westside Mortal Wombats in final to become the inaugural Fistivus champions (see photo above).

In January 2014, the IFA sent out an official IFA trainer & representative to both further educate our keen fistballers on the skills required to compete at an international level and to officially induct FiFA in the IFA, becoming the sixth continent officially recognised as playing fistball!

As a national team, Australia competed in their first ever international tournament in April 2014 – the 1st Asian Fistball Championships in Lahore, Pakistan - and sent their first ever men’s team to the Fistball World Championships in November 2015, in Cordoba, Argentina. The first women’s national team competed in the 2015 Women’s Fistball World Championships in Curitiba, Brazil.

Since those humble beginnings, the Fistball Federation of Australia has only continued to growth from strength to strength, spreading slowly across the nation while still consistently competing at an international level.

Significant Milestones for Fistball in Australia

  • Dec 2012 – Idea of Australian fistball assocation is conceived, International Fistball Association (IFA) are contacted shortly after
  • Feb 7, 2013 – First officially documented game of fistball in Australia
  • Feb 12, 2013 – Fistball Federation of Australia (FiFA) is incorporated in Victoria
  • Mar 17, 2013 – First organised fistball tournament is held in Australia, featuring 4 teams and titled ‘Fistivus’, the winning team claiming the Peter Norman Trophy
  • Jan 19, 2014 – FiFA officially becomes member of International Fistball Association (IFA)
  • Apr 10-11, 2014 – Australia competes in Asian Fistball Championships in Lahore, Pakistan, finishing 4th of 4 teams and without a win
  • Nov 14-21, 2015 – FiFA competes in Men’s World Fistball Championships in Cordoba, Argentina, finishing 13th of 14 teams and with 3 wins (all against South Africa). Men’s Australian National Fistball Team records first ever international victory on Nov 15, crushing South Africa 11-9 11-2 11-4
  • Oct 25-30, 2016 – FiFA sends first-ever women’s national team to the Women’s World Fistball Championships in Curitiba, Brazil, finishing 7th of 7 teams (without a win).
  • Feb 4-5th, 2017 – FiFA hosts its inaugural international tournament with the Trans-Tasman Fistball Championships against the New Zealand Fistball Association, with both men’s and women’s teams competing, as well as club teams.