BROWSING in a book shop yesterday, and trying not to act suspiciously lest it show up on the CCTV, I was stopped in my tracks.
There, on a display table, stood Subbuteo, a game I played in my early teens. Football mattered to me then, and I followed my local team's dogged misfortunes with a fervour that seems alien to me now.
Subbuteo was an extension of that. It was a table-top game, its green baize pitch marked out like a real football field. There were two teams, each in their respective strips, with the players atop weighted bases, waiting to be propelled by a flick of the finger. The goalkeeper was moved by means of a long handle. There were goalposts, and outsize plastic footballs.
The more advanced accessories included pitchside photographers, a TV tower, a grandstand with spectators and floodlighting pylons. Unless my memory is playing tricks, I also remember a miniature TV commentator in the sheepskin coat that was once de rigueur in football circles. My grandad, who was good with his hands, built me a plywood pitch surround.
I devised domestic and European leagues, and collected foreign teams, intrigued by their mystique, their colours – the single red stripe of Ajax Amsterdam, the blue-and-black stripes of Inter Milan. I was lost in my little football world.
Today's figures are much more flexible, their strips more detailed. Some players have shoulder-length hair: I thought at first that Subbuteo was now doing women's football. Some have skin colours that reflect the modern game's ethnic mix. A nostalgic glow had me momentarily reaching for my wallet but when I saw that a team would cost £12.99, and the basic, boxed edition £39.99, I realised, not for the first time, that nostalgia often comes at a price.
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