Sunday, 23 October 2011


FIFA 2012 – what’s all that about? It’s in the game apparently...

Now in my day it was table football – and Subbuteo in particular. Flick to kick! None of this Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 malarkey – but real plastic playing pieces on hemispherical bases (which were self-righting and allowed a dribbling movement of sorts) with a football the size of a small planet proportionally speaking. You moved the players across the pitch with a flicking action, usually with the index finger - no pushing or shoving allowed. I had such a set which I had built up over the years. Tremendous fun! Not just domestic teams either but teams from all corners of the globe were there – Cameroon, Italy (away strip), Uruguay, Argentina and not to forget Belgium...

Of course not everyone in our family appreciated the aesthetic and pleasure to be derived from staging a mini-World Cup tournament within the space of an afternoon. Especially younger siblings.

Enter sister dragging a limp, lifeless doll behind her complete with a vacant expression – and I’m not talking about the doll either. Plodding into the living room (now converted into a comprehensive playing area complete with floodlights and commentary box) with not a care in the world and trampling over the plastic players preparing for a free-kick; she didn’t have any clue the havoc she was causing! Considerable damage and carnage was wrought, I can tell you!

There was no explaining to her the mash-up she had made on these occasions! All she could offer was senseless, childish babble! In truth that was all she was reasonably capable of at that developmental stage of her life to be fair! After guiding her off the playing surface, with a few harsh words for good measure, the scale of the destruction was assessed. Peter Osgood (headless), Norman Hunter (missing left leg – probably no bad thing in his case), Gordon Banks (supine and unlikely to be upright again), Bobby Moore (missing bracelet) and it went on... You couldn’t repair them either – no amount of skill with an Airfix glue kit could undo the needless mutilation.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, I’m told. Now kids can be cruel – we know that. After a particularly distressing incident where most of the Brazil team was butchered after another thoughtless heavy-footed incursion onto the sacred green baize, I decided to teach the little minx a lesson – once and for all. Now I’m not proud of this many years after the event – but all I can say is the howls of pain and heartrending sobs at the discovery of a much-loved Tiny Tears doll – bereft of lachrimal function due to enucleation  – has lived with me for a long time. Truly traumatised, my sister was, with more tears and sobs than the doll had ever provided. After the eye removal the doll looked more like the spawn of Chucky than anything that could be taken to bed for comfort and cuddling! Not nice, though! Hang your head in shame...

I was chief suspect, of course – but then as now – have a habit of shrugging my shoulders on such occasions and adopting an implausible but at the same time credible aura of innocence – as if to say – “Surely you don’t think I would do such a thing? The very idea!” It’s an invaluable skill to have – so use it...
My dad – although given to bouts of ergophobia – was quick to act on the disharmony that existed between his two youngest offspring and entered into “resourceful dad mode”. He laid out the green baize pitch once more – but this time on its own bespoke chipboard base – which provided the necessary grip to bring about a perfect, smooth playing surface. Like Portman Road on the opening day of the football season. It didn’t end there, by Timothy! Goals were installed with mini clamps to keep them in place and the floodlights were repaired and were brighter than ever. The whole assembly could now be positioned on the kitchen table, which after tea was ready for some finger-flicking fun! Turning the kitchen lights off and relying on floodlights alone brought a collective gasp of wonderment - "Ooooooooo!"-  from school mates preparing for the evening ahead. Magical! Truly floodlit football - just like the Bernabéu Stadium on European football nights it was. Good work, dad!

I revisited my Subbuteo years later when I moved into a very nice studio flat in Crouch End and acquired additional playing resources. However the revival was as short-lived as a David van Day comeback, due to lack of playing partners, and the whole show was consigned to a closet for the duration of my time in north London and remained in closets and attics since then on my later travels elsewhere.

Why bring all this up now? Well I have recently decided to sell the remaining teams that survived along with those I acquired somewhile later. Seemingly there is a thriving market for these things which I have only just become aware of and some interest has been shown from dealers and table football enthusiasts alike. In truth the teams have lain untouched in various attics and hallways across the country for nearly three decades - and the proceeeds from their sale will pay for a decent night out or two. Some serious money can be trousered for the rarer teams, I can tell you. Italy (2nd strip -  ref 443 - see below) - £40.00?

It's funny but I have bonded once more with these little plastic fellas in recent weeks, but they have been boxed up (25 teams) and sent off to a dealer who has offered a decent wedge for them. I hope they get the opportunity to grace the baize once more. I miss them already.

Interesting fact - tin cans and tin foil are constructed from aluminium, not tin.

Saltburn Conservative and Unionist Club
1 Balmoral Terrace,
TS12 1AS
Tel: 01287 622473

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