Magazine article Insight on the News

Subbuteo, Anyone?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Subbuteo, Anyone?

Article excerpt

Describing the game may be harder than playing it: Two players crouch, over a 3 1/2-by-2 1/2-foot table, jump from side to side and flick their index fingers in rapid succession to coax a tiny ball across a field of green felt. "It's everything that soccer is, but it's on a tabletop," says Gregg Deinhart, reigning U.S. champion of Subbuteo, the tabletop soccer game.

Laugh if you must, but Subbuteo (pronounced soo-BOO-tee-o) has been around for 50 years. The game may not be well-known in this country, but it boasts 10 million followers worldwide. The Federation of International Subbuteo Football has chapters in 30 countries, Recently, 23 teams from France to Singapore showed up in Chicago for the Subbuteo World Cup.

Subbuteo works like this: Each player uses an index finger to flick pinky-size figures with slightly rounded bases against a 1-inch plastic soccer ball. "They're electric-football-size guys," explains Deinhart, 30, a communications coordinator for a Washington trade association. The game combines strategic finesse with the raw action of the real sport. With the proper fingering, players can make the figures jump over each other, swerve, spin and thruts the ball into the net.

Deinhart's split-level townhouse in Alexandria, Va., is Subbuteo Central. As he speaks, cries of anguish come from Rick Wilcox and Marco Silva, who are busily flicking away. "It affects your back, your legs, your knees and your feet," says Wilcox, 26, a private-school fund-raiser. "I've never had any finger pain," Deinhart says, smiling, "but I have cut my fingernail too short."

According to the rules, one can use only the index or middle fingers to play. Like soccer, each Subbuteo team -- modeled after real soccer teams from all over the world -- has 11 players, with the goalie controlled by a long stick. …

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