Fuller Flavour: The brilliant football game which is now largely forgotten

Subbuteo was once the most popular football game - but now the likes of FIFA have long since replace

Subbuteo was once the most popular football game - but now the likes of FIFA have long since replaced it. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2012

In this week’s column, Karl Fuller reminisces about one great passion of his football-loving childhood - Subbuteo!

A Subbuteo game in action Picture: ARCHANT

A Subbuteo game in action Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2012

Whilst this was a big feature of my football life during childhood, another great constant in my life was the game that gave me many hours of entertainment as a boy that was Subbuteo.

I was lucky that although having been born in late 1971, and being a mere youngster by the end of the late 70’s, I had an older brother who was further down the road in terms of all things football related and what he had, I would have too.

I was envious of his prized Subbuteo set which was gradually building up nicely with each team, stand, floodlight and many other types of accessory having been bought with his pocket money – which meant I also got to play with it without having to spend a great deal myself!

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Subbuteo, for those of you that have not got a clue as to what it is all about, is a game with little men stuck on a semi-circle of a base that you have to flick towards the ball to move it forward and eventually to try and score a goal.


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It probably took over from ‘Blow Football’ for those of you older than me and can remember that game. Back in the day when football kits were plain and very similar amongst several teams, you could buy a team that consisted of 10 outfield players and a goalkeeper on the end of a long, plastic stick that pushed through the back and bottom of the goal net and that team would represent the colours of more than one team.

An Ipswich Town Subbuteo player

An Ipswich Town Subbuteo player - Credit: Archant

For example, on the side of a Subbuteo box containing a team with red shirts, white shorts, and red socks, it would list Nottingham Forest, Bristol City, Barnsley and any other side relevant to those colours.

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For me, buying a team either meant I liked them or the colours without even having heard of that club, which gave me an affinity towards them in the years ahead, one such case coming around in about 1980.

My mum took me to a toy shop in Frinton-on-Sea to buy a team and I quite liked the look of one sporting yellow shirts and red shorts. The most obvious team I had heard of then listed on the box was Watford.

When I got the box home, I noticed the name Albion Rovers on there too. I had never heard of them and did not know that they were a Scottish side. The only two Scottish sides I had heard of were Celtic and Rangers, obviously, and with Celtic already being my favourite Scottish team, Albion were adopted as my second favourite and still are to this day.

The Subbuteo pitch was made of cloth material and was about 30” x 47” in size and as this was my brother’s pitch, I did not have my own until about 1983 when Luton and QPR had astroturf pitches laid and Subbuteo brought out an equivalent with a plastic backing that could be rolled up rather than folded when put away.

Star Memories
Subbuteo final at Everybodioes Hobbies in Ipswich March 1985

Star Memories Subbuteo final at Everybodioes Hobbies in Ipswich March 1985

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I like to think that our set-up was quite a grand affair. We had a fence around the whole pitch, a main stand on one side and open terracing around the other three sides. A floodlight in each corner made for authentic night-time games and we had a whole host of other accessories including supporters glued into place in the ground and a World Cup trophy too which was about 20 times the size of the players!

I would often have my own FA Cup competition where I would write the names of 64 teams on a piece of paper and conduct my own draw. It might not surprise you to know that Ipswich won every competition that I ever played!

The game is still played today, but stockists of equipment tends to be specialised outlets and with the world of the average child today being taken over by technology, I rather suspect it is not played in anywhere near as many households as it was back then – and certainly with a lot less passion.

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