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A little bit of history

 

Football, in the version of tabel soccer, was born in England round the of the XVIII century, and had right from the start an overcoming number of estimators. The legends says that the first rudimental soccer table, was introduced by some English sailors, who could not practicr football on board due to the limited spaces. So they manufactured with some led, the first miniature players, that the used to kick a ball, that was as big as a ping-pong ball. This is probably the true origin of table soccer, and probably it ispired W.L. Keelings in the of miniature football. Two editions were made (we are in the first 20’s in England during the economic crisis) and they were called “ Blow Football” and “ Shoot”, but they both had a lack of realism with the game of football.

The Newfooty

After having studied for a long time the best way possible to reproduce exactly the game of football, W.L. Keelings, created his table soccer, by cutting some gum stands used as the bases for the players, and profiles of cardboard for the players. After various experiments, he managed to find the most adeguate measurements and provided to make the goals in metal and the ball out of cork. The pitch was made with the lines in chalk on a blanket, and soon after, he started with the compilation of the rules of the game, with the introduction of the notorious finger “flick” as to move the players round the pitch. The last realisation at the time, was making a staff for moving the goalkeeper. The success of this first edition was enormous, so that its author decided to commercialise the game soon after having obtained a brevet on the 25th of May of 1929 with the name of Newfooty. The first edition saw the bases made in London by ACME Seals, the miniatures of the players made in Bristol and the balls imported from Germany. W.L. Keelings was personally in charge of the manufacturing of the goals in metal, that had a special anti-rust treatment in the luxury edition, whilst they were normal in the economical edition. A rectangle pitch with lines in chalk and with the circle of the midfield as big as a vinile record, completed the confection that was delivered esclusively by post (it was sold in this way up till the 50’s). In 1933, the volume of the business helped him change to a bigger house, shifting to n. 38 of Barlow lane, in the district of Fazakerly in Liverpool, where he managed to increase the production for the several appassionates of the game. Infact, the number of newcomers had incredibly grown, even though the only publicity was from word-passing. This all lasted up till 1939, year in which the II world war exploded, and this made the development stop alongside with the production of the game till 1947.

 

After the war 

After the war, the problem to solve was in finding raw materials, that imposed a new reproduction of the game, mostly in its components, with the goal to keep the price in reach of most. The production was demanded to Austin de Speke for the miniatures and the boxes, the balls, now available in two types, were made in France, whilst the pitches were made in Liverpool and Manchester. In this period the shooting area was created, as it is nowadays. The technique of the materials starts to develop and in 1948 the miniatures have a radical transformation. The base, in origin blue or red, started to receive a revolutionary development. The miniature started to have more stability thanks to the introduction of a small ring inside, introduced since 1952. In 1949 plastic is introduced for the manufacturing of the miniature players and goals both made by U.K. Plastics of London.

The birth of Subbuteo

Between 1945 and 1947, Peter Adolph a real passionate of table soccer, decided to give a touch of reality to the game by introducing tridimensional figures. The result of the first range of products was extraordinary, and he decided to patent his table soccer with the name “ Hobby” that is the English name of the famous bird, but he had to change the name of the game in “subbuteo” which is part of the latin name, as the first one was not accepted. From there he founded the company Subbuteo sports game for the manufacturing of the game, that was quite similar to Newfooty. In the meantime W.L. Keelings agreed along with some partners to start an industrial manifacture of the game. In a very short time business grew tremendously and the distribution was no longer made through the post but through shops that sold the game. The popularity of the game reached also the football teams that used the game to explain the evolutions of tactics applied to football. The popularity was also gained thanks to promotion through Sir Stanley Matthews and Nat Lofthouse. In 1965 the Newfooty company bought a factory up in Kirkdale but soon after W.L. Keelings decided to retire from business and sold to Subbuteo Sports Game. In the peak of its business, only in Great Britain were sold 5 million teams. The game has declined in the last ten years also because the introduction of electronic games such as playstation, etc. Even though thanks to the web, in the last few years many players have put themselves in contact and in the last three world cups Italy has made a great impact winning in almost all the competitions, individuals and for teams.

What is Fisct

The Italian Federation of Table Soccer (Federazione Italiana Sport Calcio da Tavolo) was founded in 1994 on the ruins of Aicims (Italian association miniature football subbuteo) that led to the creation of the federation. FISCT immediately obtained the recognization from FISTF the international federal board. The main objective of Fisct is the promotion and development of table soccer in the whole country.There are many events organised from the FISCT: some are regional tournaments others are national or international with the participation as individual and fro teams ( 4 against 4); There are also the Italian championships (the winner goes traight to the world cup), Coppa Italia (individual and teams), Serie A and Serie B (teams only). And obviously there is the world cup that takes place every year (individual and teams) where the best players are choosen through the manager. The Italian federation is directed by a committee which is elected every two years and there are regional responsables that survey on the local parties and activities.

On the Web

www.fisft.com – official site of the International federation table soccer

www.fisct.com – official site of the Italian federation table soccer

www. Subbuteoforum.it – official site of Italian passionates of table soccer

What is Table Soccer

Table soccer or subbuteo, which is the name of the commercial version of the game that old passionates of the game continue using, is a reproduction in miniature, of football, but with strategies and rules that are quite similar to billiards, strategy games, chess and draught too…..The equipment and the principle rules are very similar to football, but the way of striking the ball makes it be near to billiards but it is also very important during the game to maintain a good strategy of play exactly as in a game of chess. Tabel soccer is capable of attracting many and various players along with young and elder players. This game that was invented during  the 18th century, saw a boom during the 70’s and 80’s when many clubs were born alongside many federations and tournaments and also obviously the world cup. To start practising the game it is necessary to buy a box of subbuteo or zeugo from any shop that sells it, containing a pitch, 2 goals, 2 balls, 20 players 2 goalkeepers and the instructions of play. The pitch that measures 140cm x 90cm is practically a miniature reproduction of a football pitch. The only difference consists in the presence of the shooting area that in football do not occur, that are necessary for scoring goals. The pitch is made of a material that permits to the players to run in a realistic way. The goals, that are normally made in plastic, are very simil to the goals used in football having also a net as in football but they are obviously smaller with the dimensions of 7cm x 13,5 x 5cm. The players are slightly higher than 2 cm and are replicas of human figures, assembled on bases with a flat surface that measures 2 cm. The flat surface gives stability to the figure whilst playing, while the semispheric shape of the base helps chipping the ball and curling too. The structure of the goalkeeper is very similar to the players only difference that the goalie is moulded on a staff of 14cm that helps in controlling behind the goal. The ball is a replica, in some models very good, of the commercial versions used in football and they have a diameter of 2,2cm and a weight of 1,5 grams. The mechanic of the game is quite easy, and consists in using the forefinger to flick the bases of the miniatures, both in the defensive and attacking fase of the game. The rules of the game are obviously very similar to football and they have been adapted to table soccer in the way to have an appassionate and realistic simulation of football itself.

History of the Subbuteo Football Figure
Probably the most asked question by curious visitors to the site who have unearthed their old Subbuteo collection from the loft is for me to explain the differences between heavyweight and lightweight figures. Although not an expert and dates are approximate, the images below should guide you in the right direction as to if you are in possession of a heavyweight, lightweight, zombie, walker or scarecrow!
Flat Figures
The first Subbuteo figure was the flat two dimensional cardboard figure first seen around 1947. A stronger celluloid version followed which was still available in the shops until the early 1970's and covered the references 1-55
The Heavyweight
The three dimensional heavyweight oo scale figure was introduced in late 1961 on two tone coloured bases. These early figures are known as vintage heavyweights by most collectors and saw the start of the 'Continental Range' of teams and accessories. Available teams were numbers 1-54 in the catalogue plus some special World Cup teams for the 1966 finals. Interestingly, this innovative new figure along with the ever expanding accessory range was probably one of the main reasons that in 1963 Subbuteo's main rival, Newfooty, ceased production as the company was still plodding away producing the now dated flat figures that had remained largely unchanged since 1929.
In 1967 probably the most loved and memorable of all the footballing figures was released, the Classic Heavyweight, which was more than likely designed by the sculptor Charles Stadden who was also responsible for other accessories in the Subbuteo range such as the World Cup trophy and various stadium figures. This highly detailed player was available until around 1980 increasing the range of teams to some 330 in total. Today, this is the most sought after figure type of all by collectors.
During it's long reign, the Classic Heavyweight remained the standard figure for the growing number of available kits in the catalogue but other designs of player were used in the boxed starter sets and also for the eight 5-a-side Football Express teams. These differ in that the figure is moulded onto the white disc which fits into the base, rather than being on a bar. These figures types have gained the name 'Moulded' but each version has been given a further tag for identification purposes. From left to right... The Walker, The classic Moulded Heavyweight, The Scarecrow and finally The Winged Shorts. Technical stuff and I am particularly fond of the Scarecrow and remember getting a set of these in red with my first Club edition, painting all the white in the kit with red Airfix paint to create a makeshift Liverpool until I got the 'proper' thing for my birthday. Although mainly found in generic red and blue kits only, or references 1 & 2, a moulded version of England reference 154 is often seen in larger World Cup and International Edition sets.
Very occasionally and in limited reference numbers, another type of heavyweight can be found. Known as the 'Dwarf' the figure stands slightly shorter and stockier than the classic heavyweight.
The Zombie
By the late 1970's, Subbuteo Sports Games Limited were selling so many teams the painters couldn't keep up with demand and a new figure was needed that could be machine painted for the growing home and overseas markets. The 'Zombie' was born (named so after it's likeness of a Zombie from a long forgotten 'B' movie or Michael Jackson video) and I remember well the fights at the toy shop as the last of the classic Heavyweights were snapped up, leaving the shelves of Zombies to gather dust. If you've just gone up the loft for the first time in 25 years and found a hoard of mint Zombies and thinking of booking a long haul holiday, don't. I know two people who collect Zombies. Having said that, the early hand painted ones are quite nice as seen in the reference 81 Liverpool away on the left. The Zombie also saw the introduction of the 'plug' style fixing into the base for the first time, rather than the bar fixing on the original three dimensional figures.
The Lightweight
With the Zombie conceded as a near fatal mistake for the game, 1980 saw a hastily redesigned new figure suitable for machine painting, the Lightweight. With the machines pumping out up to 10,000 sets of teams of the popular kits in one run, it is odd that some of the lightweights can be found hand painted. Machine printing doesn't seem to be in full flow to around 1981 so probably explains why the first of the lightweights were hand painted along with the left over stocks of unwanted Zombies for a year or two. I should image also that some teams didn't require huge amounts of stock and it would have been more cost effective to hand paint the kits that sold in lower numbers. The Manchester United 2nd (reference 325) on the left is a nice example of a hand painted lightweight and these teams have become quite desirable in recent years. With the machines came the more intricate kits and by the middle 1990's it was possible to buy Premiership teams, still on the two colour bases with sponsors logos, very fine detail and for the first time since the one off Heavyweight France team in the late 1970's, mixed race teams that included three dark skinned players. The final incarnation of the lightweight comes on the single colour Hasbro one piece base on the far right, the figures are very slightly thinner and less well made than the first lightweights but for actually playing the game seriously, the new lower flat bottomed bases were a vast improvement, although lacking in fancy two tone colour combinations.
With Subbuteo production at a halt, Hasbro granted license to an Italian firm, Edilio Parodi in 2002 to manufacture a new range of teams which was short lived and ceased in late 2003. A new generation of figure, known as the 'Parodi 2003 figure' saw a return to the hand painting technique with only some machine work on the more intricate kits. The Jamaica team pictured above is hand painted, with the shirt detail printed afterwards. The 2003 teams also brought a new flatter 'professional' two tone base, much the same as the Hasbro one piece in profile, but with a beveled edge for easier chipping which has gained many fans amongst the players.
The 2005 Figure
After much speculation and anticipation, Hasbro released a new figure and two base designs in early 2005. They say things go round in circles and it seems that the Subbuteo footballer is no exception with this latest offering, which has reverted back to a flat two dimensional style similar to the early celluloid 1960's figures. The photo real players are no longer sold in single teams and are now sold in sealed packets containing a random selection of players from different clubs, which means there is the extra enjoyment of 'swapping your doubles' during lunch break to make up complete squads so that you can eventually play a game. For the more mature collector like myself, who just wants to own complete teams, this does prove a little tricky and have only just escaped being arrested on two occasions while hanging around school playgrounds attempting to swap one of my fifteen Ze Maria's for that elusive Michael Owen.

 

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