Istvan Martonfi at a glance
Marching on an inspiring trail of success and sportsmanship
World and European Sectorball champion, Istvan Martonfi, believes that the skills and mindset that have seen him achieve the highest honors in sport, have also stood him in good stead in his working life.
As a winner of both the European and World Championships in Sectorball, I’ve been a passionate player of this sport all my life. For those who are new to Sectorball, this is a specialized form of table football originating from the popular Hungarian game, Button Football.
Dating back to the 1940s, Sectorball started as a social sport and grew in popularity. It became so widespread in Hungary that the first national championships were organized in 1962; and the first international tournament took place in 1992. Besides Hungary, Sectorball is played in countries like Serbia, Spain and Brazil.
The game follows most of the rules of conventional football, but is played like chess in terms of tactics, and like snooker in terms of shooting angles for the ‘buttons’ as the ball moves through each ‘sector’ of the table or pitch towards a goal. Expert hand-eye coordination is crucial to winning this game.
During my childhood in Transylvania, Romania, I started playing Button Football with friends on rainy days. Sharpening my skills, I joined a local club and began playing with members who were much older than me. In 1992, I travelled to Hungary to participate in a professional tournament – an unforgettable moment in my life when this sport became much more than an after-school pastime. I advanced further in 1994, competing in the first European championship, finishing fourth in the U16 category.
Moving to Hungary, finding mentors
Shifting residence to Hungary in 1995 at the age of 14 was a turning point in my life. The country offered immense possibilities to refine my skills and compete in Sectorball tournaments. I joined a training club and practised several times a week, improving my strategies and tactics. I found mentors who offered support to up my game and also provide pastoral guidance as I had started living alone for the first time. While improving my stature as a professional player, I kept up my focus on education and continued to chart my path in IT.
In 1996, I proudly competed in my first World Championship, finishing 3rd in the U16 category. Soon after, I experienced a string of successes starting with winning my first Hungarian Team Championship in 1999 – a feat that I repeated in 2001 and 2003. In 2000, I won the U20 Hungarian Championship and also finished 2nd in the U20 World Championship. Reaching the pinnacle of this sport by winning the individual title in the World Championship in 2004 was an unforgettable and most cherished achievement in my life.
“Everything is possible with hard work and persistence”
So when I joined TCS in 2006, I had already been crowned the World Champion. I continued to compete and win titles throughout my time in TCS. In 2009, I finished 3rd in the World Championship and in 2012, I was 2nd both in the individual and double categories of the World Championship held in Rio. I won the European Championship in doubles in 2014 and in the next year, won the World Championship in team category. Most recently, in November 2018, I competed in Lisbon and finished 2nd in the team category.
World Champion AND Employee of the Year
At TCS, I’m a Server and Voice Team Lead in the Internal IS team. I’ve had a successful 13 years with the organization and I’m proud to have been the ‘Employee of the Year’ twice as well as receiving multiple ‘Star of the Quarter’ awards. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my wife and two young boys.
Regarding future plans, I’m committed to growing the popularity of my sport. As Vice President of the International Sectorball Federation Management for the EMEA region, I want to get young people interested and motivated to pursue it.
Looking back, I realize how much this sport has impacted my life. Not only has it given me a sense of achievement and fame, but also real-life skills to deal with different situations and people. It has taught me how to win adeptly, lose graciously, manage my mistakes and overcome failures. It has helped me to hone my reflexes to focus, plan and resolve issues ahead of time. Most crucially, this sport made me determined with the mindset to never give up.
A Superstar’s message to us all:
Whether at play or at work, I apply the traits of sportsmanship I absorbed, interconnecting the personal and professional with astounding results. Concentration, discipline, dedication, accuracy, team work and practice are essential to succeed in both realms. Through sport, I’m proud to have imbibed these ideals and values from an early age, along with the strong belief that everything is possible with hard work and persistence.