Football VS Table Tennis – Which Sport is Harder?

Over the years, I’ve had debates with many people regarding football vs table tennis. Both I and my good friend Louis Lancaster, (currently coaching a national men’s football team) often discuss which sport is harder to master – Football, or Table Tennis?

We are both very proud coaches and pride towards our beloved sports goes without saying which naturally leads to heated debates.

Ronaldo playing table tennis
Which sport is harder to master?

Personally, I don’t enjoy every sport but I do respect them all and appreciate each has their own set of special skills. I have provided a personal list of, Pros & Cons for both Table Tennis and Football. Let’s try and come up with a conclusion as to which sport is harder.

I play Sunday league football and have spent a lot of my time watching Watford FC train alongside joining some training sessions. But I am not an expert and can only draw upon personal perspective. Therefore, this blog may be viewed as slightly bias which is why I have opened it to a discussion.

Table Tennis vs Football

Football Pros:

Multiple skills required: The player needs to be able to control the ball with many parts of their body (obviously excluding hands and arms, unless you are a goalkeeper!)
The physical aspect: Those who play need to have speed, endurance, strength and balance to play at the highest level
Awareness: A player requires a special 360-degree playing awareness, unlike table tennis.

Football Cons:

Size of the ball: Due to a much larger ball compared to a table tennis, this provides players with: more reaction time, ability to control the ball more, and less spin. A young child can quickly control and develop their ball skills due to a larger contact surface and reduced speed and spin.
Team sport: There are 11 men on both sides of the pitch compared with 2 (singles) or 4 (doubles) on a TT table. A football team can win even if they have weak links, fewer men/women, no goalkeeper, unlike table tennis where you must rely on yourself to win.
Positioning: In football, everyone has a given position or role to play, making their task slightly more simplistic compared to table tennis (where they must cover all roles to enable a positive performance).

Table Tennis Pros

Reaction speed: Table tennis has been scientifically proven to be the fastest reaction sport, with balls reaching over 100kph at a short distance. Furthermore, you are unable to stop the ball and then make a decision. As soon as you connect with the ball it’s gone. Make the wrong decision and you will incur a fault or an opportunity for your opponent to capitalise.
Spin: Table Tennis, produces more revolutions than any other sport (up to 120-revs per second). Controlling the spin is extremely hard which is followed by understanding spin. Even then once you have read what spin is on the ball you must identify approximately how much spin is on the ball. You are challenged to do so after a player disguises their shot.
Playing surface: Table Tennis is the only sport which has the ball off the ground and then comes off the playing surface. A unique element which the ground is not used as the playing surface and you legs are based on the ground, producing an element unseen in any other sport.
You are at fault:  There is nowhere to hide! you are 100% responsible for your personal game.

Table Tennis Cons:
Not as physically demanding as football: Football includes a lot more strength. Players are at constant risk of being brutally tackled which can end careers. Table Tennis does not face such risk, thus allows more freedom to express oneself.
Awareness: Table tennis does not require 360-degree awareness unlike football makes playing more simplistic in that aspect.
Equipment: Table Tennis constantly develops new high tech materials; blades and rubbers providing huge advantages over those who don’t have access to them or struggle to adapt. The equipment creates many variations of play allowing certain styles to overcome players who are technically better. In Football the equipment used only offers small marginal gains, which allows clear skill-based players to shine instantly.


Of course there is so much more to cover and I would love to see a scientific viewpoint but currently, that’s unavailable. I am interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions. I will gather will gather further information hopefully provided by the readers. From there, I will publish another article. with a more conclusive answer to the question.

written by Eli Baraty

eBaTT (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis)
Coach Me Table Tennis 
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