I’ve never been a big fan of the “beautiful game” it has to be said, but as a kid even I wanted a Subbuteo table football (or flick football as I called it back then) set to play with. There’s something about those little men on the plastic hemispheres that stirs some inner urge in men across the country to try and flick an oversized ball past a goalkeeper on a stick.
Subbuteo was invented by a chap named Peter Adolph. He initially placed adverts in The Boy’s Own back in 1946 for the game, but it wasn’t until the following year that final sets were sent out to eager customers. Initially Adolph wanted to call the game simply “Hobby”, but his application for a trademark was turned down, so instead the game became known as Subbuteo.
Why Subbuteo? In a rather convoluted piece of logic the name comes from the latin name Falco subbuteo, which is a bird of prey more commonly known as the Eurasian Hobby, which links back to Adolph’s original choice of name.
The first sets were quite simple, with wire and paper goal posts and cardboard cut out players attached to weighted buttons. It wasn’t until 1961 that the more recognisable three dimensional plastic men would be introduced, which in turn saw various changes and refinements until we reach the Eighties, when the nicely painted “lightweight” figure was introduced.