My life has completely revolved around soccer from my first memories playing the sport in the local playgrounds of Wales where I grew up through to my adult years living and working in the United States where I now reside.
Thinking back, my favorite game growing up was undoubtedly Subbuteo. I must have gotten my first set when I was seven. At the time, I played the game every weekend when my cousin would visit me. A typical Saturday for us would be a combination of playing soccer in the street and then coming indoors to play Subbuteo if it started to rain, which it often did. We would play the game of Subbuteo for hours until the sports program Grandstand came on TV and we would then listen attently to the final scores of all of the professional soccer games that were played across Britain that day.
What I remember about Subbuteo in those days was the cloth pitch that we would stretch across the carpet, but we soon realized that the playing surface was almost impossible to play. Later, we upgraded our playing surface to a large wooden board. It wasn’t perfect but it certainly elevated the game to a more competitive level.
The memories that come back to me from those times are a combination of disappointment and utter joy. The disappointment would come from my brother who would — perhaps out of jealousy and his lack of interest in anything to do with soccer — walk across the board and attempt to crush the players. We quickly became experts at using super glue to bring the players back to life although some of the figures would be missing legs or arms.
The utter joy came more from the reenactment of games instead of the competitiveness. The reenactment came from reliving memorable moments from professional soccer and acting those out on the Subbuteo pitch such as Archie Gemmill scoring that amazing goal for Scotland against the Netherlands in the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
It was only in my adult years and after joining Garage Soccer did I truly enjoy the level of competitiveness from playing in leagues and tournaments. Everything prior to this had simply been for the fun of it although I’m sure we kept scores when I was a youngster too.