As a youngster I was not a Subbuteo opponent that my friends much relished coming up against. It wasn’t because I was a feared, hyper-dextrous genius who saw off all-comers in a whirl of finger-flicking frenzy – if truth be told, I was rubbish at the game and never really cared for it much anyway.
The actual reason can be explained by Johan Cruyff, or at least an adaptation of Cruyff’s famous quote about Italian teams: I could never beat you at Subbuteo, but you could lose to me. Subbuteo taught me the concept of catenaccio, years before I knew what catenaccio actually was. When I was coerced into playing with people who were better than me – shorthand for everyone – I knew victory was near impossible, so, instead, I set out to make victory impossible for them too. My team would be positioned in a blanket defensive formation around my penalty-box with a solitary figure forlornly placed in the opposing half. He was my Roberto Boninsegna, my token attacking gesture; only there because the rules stated he had to be there.
My resourcefulness worked. In the handful of games I competed in, I was unbeatable and unplayable. No-one could beat me as no-one could score against me, the succession of goalless draws assuming moral victory status as far as I was concerned. The unplayable bit, well that came when people simply refused to play me anymore in a gesture of protest at me failing to get into the ‘true’ Subbuteo spirit. I prefer to think that they just lacked my forward-looking vision and tactical acumen. Also, I could never find that section in the Subbuteo rule-book covering ‘spirit of the game’.
Ugly football; beautiful results. How much better a complexion would have been put on my attritional approach if, instead of the drab store-bought kits available in the early 1980s, my team of plastic pantomime-villains had sported a unique, customised Westwood Table Soccer kit. Westwood Table Soccer is a UK-based, family run business specialising in creating Subbuteo teams to order. Trading since 2010, the team have already created a wide range of diverse and often obscure kits from A (AC Milan 1988) through to Z (PEC Zwolle 1973). Basically, if you have a picture of any old team from history, new team from the present or even an imagined team you would like Subbuteo-cised; Westwood will more than likely be able to create it at a surprisingly reasonable cost.
Some of the more unusual jobs Calum at Westwood has undertaken range from creating individual players to look like real life customers, through to painting 750 players entirely silver. Some kits are obviously a lot harder to paint than others: Calum reckons the most demanding are the ones that have a stripe inside another stripe – like Nantes ’65, Sheffield United ’75 and Gremio 2010. The Wanderers kit in particular took him a long time as he had to mix up two of the colours from scratch, paint all the hoops individually and hope that the colours didn’t dry out or run into each other on the players. The biggest job that Westwood has taken on was the creation of Subbuteopia Documentary teams, a task that entailed painting a logo onto 200 teams and 2000 players by hand. You can see the results in this video.
The slide show below shows a selection of some of BTLM’s favourite Westwood kits. You can see the full range of work Calum and his team have created at the Westwood website. So, whether you are a Subbuteo fan, a football fan, an unabashed nostalgist or all three: contact the guys to have your own team created. BTLM has already and we will look forward to showing you the results soon.