Lionel Messi has probably never played Subbuteo before as, roughly translated from its original Argentinian, means, I’ve been substituted.
With World Cup fever still gripping (like the last Ice Age) memories of playing Subbuteo in the bedroom of my fourth-floor Balham flat in the 60s and 70s, still puzzles me: Why did the little men break so easily? If the pitches in England were as unironed as the Subbuteo playing field felt were you’d never play a single game. And why was it so hard to get the Red Star Belgrade away kit in any toy shop on Balham High Street? Was the loathing of Marshal Tito so bad in SW17 in the late 60s?
I learned to iron attempting to flatten out my Subbuteo pitch, although a consequence of this is that I can now only iron shirts made out of green felt – and having given up modelling for canned and frozen vegetables, this is now a rarity.
Many Subbuteo games for me were ruined before they even started – I had a mouse who would eat more Subbuteo goal-nets than he did sunflower seeds; my knees, as a kid, clearly had a mind of their own and were obviously anti-football as they would, with unerring accuracy, invariably break several players before kick-off and there was always that inherent looming fear of getting carpet burns on my index finger (which was needed to play the violin badly).
Rather than having penalties in World Cup games, I’d like to see an introduction of thirty-minutes of Subbuteo with the winner being the person with the most intact figurines remaining at the end of that half an hour. Or, if it were held in my Balham flat, the fewer mouse turds on the pitch was the deciding factor.