Published on November 30th, 2012 | by Seb
Everyone has a story. Mine starts as a nine year old in Warwickshire. The son of a family friend, Jonathon, had been given a Subbuteo set for his birthday and was eager for opponents. It was my first exposure to the game, and after creating a hastily set-up stadium, we were ready to go.
Having not thought out the arena, it wasn’t long before we were down to approximately seven a side. Players got lost under the bed, trampled upon and a number of controversial decisions led to a number of controversial decisions had led to a faire few red cards being dished out. We also had an argument over his insistence on commentating on the game in an American accent. To me, it lacked authenticity. But it didn’t matter, I was sold.
A few weeks later I found myself in the car park of the Leicester branch of Toys R Us, it was a beautiful day and for some reason, I stuck the upper half of my body out of the car window forcing myself to be squashed as my grandfather wound it up. I was on my way to obtaining my first Subbuteo set, and in only a way a nine year old can, turned my own stupidity into the fault of my grandfather. It was the terrible guilt, which promoted me from getting the regular cloth pitch to the Subbuteo Astropitch. Nottingham Forest and Liverpool (away) were bought and I don’t think my friend Sharpey left my house for six weeks.
Subbuteopia, a new documentary from Italian director Pierr Nosari captures the heart of this beautiful game in such a sublime fashion, it makes the viewer yearn for a simpler time when the biggest problem one faced was when they could only afford to but the Manchester City team when the one they really wanted was Manchester United. Beautifully shot and stunningly sound tracked, you can almost feel the little plastic bases of the players crashing against your fingernail as you are transported on a nostalgic journey told by some truly fascinating characters.
Set in both England and Italy, Subbuteopia brilliantly tells of how a simple table top game became a continent wide phenomena, whilst subconsciously detailing the history of the game from it’s humble beginnings in Tunbridge Wells in 1947 right up to the ceasing of production by US gaming company Hasbro in 2003.
The cast list is endearing, early on the film, we meet Giovanni and Arturo Parodi, two Italian brothers whose father first imported the game to Italy after seeing his sons invent a similar game using bottle tops. All these years later, the passion they have for the game remains to be seen, as they challenge the halt on the production in order to continue with their family business. We also meet Andrea, the Subbuteo Junior World Champion of 1978, who tells of the time he was crowned Champion in London. As everybody around wanted to hug him and shake his hand, the first thing he did was pack up his team and put it back in the box. It’s this love and attention to detail that resonates throughout the film, and although all the subjects featured have a different story to tell, the same love and passion rings true throughout.
Back in England the story is told by neighbours of Peter Adolph (the creator of Subbuteo who sadly passed away in 1994) as well as super fans Stephen, Mark and Jim. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that this isn’t just a game of the past, lost to the latest incarnation of FIFA and the iPad, but a thriving subculture with many a dedicated fan willing to pay top dollar for the most sought after collectors items.
As a man approaching the dreaded 3-0, it’s comforting to know that this world still exists. Subbuteo is a tangible game limited only by the player’s imagination in a way that FIFA ’13 could never be.
For many different reasons, Subbuteo became a way of life for so many and for so many different reasons. Told in a heartfelt and sensitive manner, Subbuteopia takes on a journey into this world and leaves you wondering if your 1991/92 Carlisle United captain is still underneath the spare bed at your mum’s.