Retro Review: Subbuteo | Manchester United News

Retro Review: Subbuteo

Every child in the country who had a love for football in the 80’s, 90’s and even beyond either had it, played it or wanted it. Put simply, this was a piece of green cloth laid flat with the markings of a football pitch, a set of goals, a ball and 2 teams of miniature footballers that sat on a base. The game would essentially be played against another person although you could play doubles, or even on your own when your friends had to go home for their tea playing as both sides… yes it was that addictive!

Rules – yes there are rules to this game. You have to flick your footballer, striking the ball in the process, the same player can only touch the ball 3 times in succession before another player must touch the ball next. You had to score in your opponent’s half and your opponent’s goalkeeper was controlled by him (or her) with a stick they held attached to the back of the keeper, able to move it left or right. I am sure there are variations to this rule and each household made up their own but in my house if the ball was flicked onto the opposing team then they gained possession and it was your turn to be on the back foot.

I don’t know how old I was when I got my first subbuteo set but I won’t forget it. It was Christmas and I was hoping and praying I had been good enough that santa would bring me what i wanted. The first present I unwrapped, a box, Subbuteo sized (let’s say I was looking for it) was found. The rest of my presents went unopened for a number of hours as my excitement grew and I assembled my masterpiece. Without fully understanding the rules, and quickly realizing the game actually required a bit of skill and thought to it, my brother and I resorted back to opening the rest of our presents.

After a few games of playing the game on the floor, on a rug, a few players missing, disappearing under the carpet, the game finishing 9 a side and completely oblivious to our missing henchman, with an incline on one side of the pitch and a big divot by the corner flag due to the uneven surface of playing on a fluffy rug the greatest ‘lightbulb’ moment of my young life came to me…. Stick the pitch on my pool table! Oh how the holy grail has landed! The surface was now smoother than my baby faced 8 year old cheeks and added a whole new dimension to the game. Now you could play, actually pass the ball, in a fashion anyway. No more flailing footballer’s vanishing from your eyesight, the only place you could lose the football was down the pool table pocket! Stood at one end of the pool table, my opponent at the other. The game was perfect.

Boxing day and I was front of the queue in Argos picking up a man holding a tv camera, a grandstand, a referee and 2 linseman. This game just got real! Over time I would add to this extra teams, a scoreboard, even a stadium with fans in,either side of the pitch and behind the goal, what more could anybody ever need? Well… seeing as you have a referee you must introduce fouls and with your newest addition bought (a player whose head you pull back, release and a shot is fired off) you add free kicks and penalties to your game.

Over time the game got better and your imagination raced on, the table would inevitably become tattered with general wear and tear, holes would appear and the dreaded bobble’s would appear, players lost would now be found as your mother cleans under the couch and rugs, albeit now headless thanks to your dog’s appetite for chewing anything it shouldn’t. The game would be boxed and stored away in the attic but every few months you would pull down the stairs to the loft, blow the dust off and resurrect your career; the greatest Subbuteo player of all time.

This is a timeless classic, this is game you could play right now with a friend and have a whale of a time in the process!


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