Subbuteo Tribute Website.
Old Figures - New Manufacturers.
Subbuteo Football Clones in the 21st Century.
In the 2000s, Subbuteo's own production has been very much a stop-start affair, so the field was open for smaller more dynamic companies to offer specific table soccer products to targeted groups, be it players or collectors. Most of these products have lead to full editions of the game. Some of these companies I have spun out into full pages, and some are currently restricted to this list.
Giving this page a thorough spring-clean and update in 2020, it occurred to me just how many of the now established clones were originally produced due to two events. The exclusive distribution deal by Astrobase and Subbuteoworld for Parodi's licenced Subbuteo in 2003-04 led directly to Santiago and Superfooty. Hasbro's refusal to renew this licence in 2005, caused the return of Zëugo, and the introduction of Soccer 3D.
Although the Stefan Corda company and the Tchaaa4 range do not have full boxed editions, both are included here because they both produce their own playing figures, and both are changing the look of the game in ways other base or accessory manufacturers are not. (in my view anyway).
Once again, I am shocked to find that my website has lived through all of this era, and once again my own reputation as a Subbuteo historian takes a bit of a battering. I did not make a note of all the release dates, or important events as they happened. In this regard, the internet proves to be quite ephemeral, and perhaps only the long lived Subbuteo Independent Forum has contemporary records that are helpful.
Zëugo Table Football. (1997-date)
We start with what is really the father of all Subbuteo clones. It showed that a game didn't need an official Subbuteo licence, and that the design of the product could be taken in different directions.
Zëugo is an Italian Subbuteo table football clone that was first introduced in 1997. It was designed by Edilio Parodi, and is produced by the company that bears his name. Edilio Parodi had been Italian distributors for Waddingtons since the early 1970s. When Waddingtons were purchased by Hasbro in 1995, the new company advised Parodi that the distribution deal was not going to continue - that Hasbro would be doing their own distribution. Rather than let all their knowledge and experience go to waste, Parodi decided to produce their own table football game, going back to their most successful period, the 1970s, for inspiration. It was a great idea!
The game's original run was 1997-2001, when Parodi started to produce their own branded Subbuteo products. When that license was not renewed, they returned to Zëugo production, and the game has been produced ever since.
Zëugo is such an established brand now that I can't cover them in detail here. So they have their own history page, and of course their original team range has long had a dedicated appendix.
Santiago Table Soccer.
Whilst many of the products on this page are designed for the 21st Century player, Santiago Table Soccer unashamedly looks backwards at the history of Subbuteo, and is none the worst for that. Santiago football teams are based on the classic heavyweights of the 1960s and 1970s, both in style of player and in base type.
Santiago was originally created by Chris Stapleton, a fellow member of the Worthing Five-Star table football club. The brand came about in 2003 as a result of the exclusive deal arranged with Subbuteoworld for distribution of Parodi's subbuteo products in the UK. Suddenly, Chris's fledgling online Subbuteo retailer "That's Magnificent" had a lack of stock. As Chris decided to have a go at designing his own products instead, and as he was both collector and player the new range would reflect both these interests. As Zëugo had returned to the 1970s figure beloved of the Italians, so Chris originally went back further to 1960s Subbuteo and a recreation of the v-necked, short sleeved teams of the period. (I approved wholeheartedly - it is my favourite figure of all!).
The figures were sold on his website in a variety of appropriate 1950s and 1960s colours, some covered by Subbuteo at the time, and some not. There were a few modern teams for which a short-sleeved outfit looked appropriate - such as Ivory Coast. In all, I think there were more than 70 teams on the site, and I know that many more "specials" were done as requests, or for ebay.
The success led to calls for the popular 1970s classic heavyweight to also be recreated, and so it was... This was a period when Zëugo was not in production of course, and the Santiago version was a more accurate recreation. I don't recall Chris having a range of painted teams for this figure - it was mostly supplied unpainted (as with many successful a painting business, time was beginning to be a factor!).
Both diving and crouching goalkeepers were produced, and for a while Chris had fun creating other Santiago products. Still available is the Spitfire base - a cheap, useable clone of the Hasbro base, in a much better range of colours than Hasbro managed. There was also a clone of the Subbuteo rugby base, which pleasingly has recently returned to the Santiago website. There was even a short run of a Santiago badged pitch (in various colours), and the idea of a full edition was played with..... Alas, like many of us Subbuteo oldies, real life then got in the way....
In 2009, the production of the Santiago football teams was taken over by Mark Parker from his Santiago Website. His teams have moved through a variety of different boxes down the years, but have always kept that classic Subbuteo "long box" shape. The figures were originally produced in both white and flesh plastic (as with original Subbuteo), but I think only white is currently available. Also, Mark did introduce goalkeeper rods to match the full range of base colours, but I think currently they are restricted to green.
What has remained constant is the quality of paint finish to the teams available. Santiago has been blessed with great painters from Chris (and his wife!) to Mark. Painting is time consuming though, so Santiago products have always been available to buy unpainted for the "do-it-yourself" approach.
If there is one problem with Santiago teams, it is that the weight seems slightly top-heavy. It's a puzzle as to whether the base plastic is too light, or the figure is a little chunky. I seem to have less trouble with my short-sleeved teams. However, Mark leaves the bases unglued, so it you want to try altering the weight of the base, it isn't a problem. That said, perhaps we're just used to playing with different figures these days. A little while with these, and you do adjust your technique.
2012:- As well as the paint-your-own options, Mark has a great range of painted teams in attractive window boxes. You can choose from classic Subbuteo originals, to modern day kits. These teams are beautifully hand-painted in matt colours. Recommended!
A new venture for Santiago is this "vintage" figure. Unlike the other player types in this range, this new figure is not based on any existing Subbuteo player. With long sleeves, and very long shorts, he is the perfect figure for those interested in the unusual football kits of the Victorian era. The figure is compatible with the existing Santiago slotted base, and the wide range of colours available in these will come in very handy for the often colourful period outfits.
As usual with Santiago, the vintage figure is available unpainted. However, Mark has his own range of these teams entitled "Eminent Victorians", which are so beautifully painted and boxed, that you will wonder whether it is worth the trouble of painting your own.....
The Stefan Corda Company.
Another small innovative UK company, Neil Lishman's Stefan Corda was rather short-lived as a retail outlet, but their stunning modern CAD designed figures revolutionised the look of 21st century table soccer, and live on in other products.
Stefan Corda first came to attention for painting really high quality team colours on request (including advertising logos, badges, and even player names). In 2003-04 they gained a reputation for producing quality bases for league and tournament players with the Raptor. The LXPG Leukemia Research Charity Table Football event in Knutsford in October 2004 saw the debut of both a new playing figure, and a new base. The Image base was a "retro" base designed to be able to curl like an old heavyweight, but also to be able to glide the way modern players expect.
However, it was the figure that gained the lasting fame. Called the 2K4, the figure was designed using the latest CAD techniques, and was a completely different look to any other figure of its time. It had a peg fitting, and so was compatible with most "professional" table soccer bases, as well as Subbuteo lightweights of course. They were quite small and thin, and seemed well balanced in play. They also came with a choice of two different shaped heads, for black or white players. The scan (above left) shows the black player painted (by me!) as Zimbabwe away (African Nations Cup 2004) on Sureshot bases. This team had the misfortune of being used by me at Worthing Five-Star Table Soccer nights....
In another burst of inspiration, the figure was further modified for a lovely "Beyond Retro" range. This featured kits used from the earliest days of football until the 1930s, and the figure was adjusted accordingly with long shorts, high waist bands, and an appropriate hair style. The Yorkshire teams from this range are also shown above.
All the figures remain available unpainted at the various table soccer websites, and the original 2K4 has been adopted into the Superfooty and Soccer 3D ranges as well.
The Stefan Corda website is sadly no more. The trouble with home-painted teams (especially those of this high quality) is that success is rather self-defeating - there is a limit to how many a painter can physically do. In addition, posts on the Independent forum suggest that Mr Lishman felt his retail business was competing with his wholesale one - that he was competing with his own customers. I think he was also frustrated that his innovations were swiftly copied - every range these days seems to have vintage teams as standard, and Total Soccer (see below) seemed able to produce a raptor style base without asking (and without the research costs)..... But at least the 2K4 lives on.
This was the second "clone" (after Santiago) that came about due to Parodi's Subbuteo products becoming a Subbuteoworld exclusive. Another retailer, and old friend of this site, World Table Soccer found themselves at a loose end, and so they too launched their own version of the beautiful game called Super Footy.
The beautifully presented set was launched in three "flavours". The budget version was the U-Paint Set, where the customer could pick his/her own base colours, and the figures were unpainted. The standard "Classic" edition had painted teams, whilst the "Pro" edition features GT Turbo bases (which were based on the old reliable ptf sureshot base).
The Superfooty figure was originally a hybrid style, looking like a old heavyweight, but with the modern round base fitting. The figure was quite chunky, which made it easy to paint, and robust for younger players. I was very fond of it personally! Unlike other modern games, Superfooty also had a "retro" style cotton pitch. Later versions of the game included a rules/playing guide DVD.
More recently, Superfooty is one of the games that has switched to the Stefan Corda 2k4 figure, which had proved to be very successful among table soccer players. It does make the game design appear forward-looking, as opposed to backward-looking. You can decide whether that is to its advantage.
Recently, a new Superfooty website has arrived, selling teams, players, Superfooty and PTF bases, and more. The box set looks as if it is currently unavailable though.
Soccer 3-D by Astrobase (2004 onwards).
Astrobase are the leading Italian supplier of table soccer items, and are run by Enrico Techiatti. Techiatti's astrobases are regarded as the best quality pro bases, and come in a bewildering choice of sizes. Techiatti also designed Parodi's Subbuteo base and also his Subbuteo accessories such as the goals and fence.
With the ending of the Parodi/Hasbro agreement, Astrobase launched their own range of teams using the base and playing figure designed for Parodi, but obviously without the Subbuteo logos. This range was originally produced in conjunction with Subbuteoworld in the UK, but this agreement seems to have ended, with Subbuteoworld concentrating on heavyweight style Zëugo teams, and other UK sellers having 3D stock.
The packing is lower quality than the black box Subbuteo. The card box is thinner, and without the hanging tag. The white plastic interior is thin, and suffers the same problem as many late Subbuteo boxes - the indents are really too small for the assembled figures and their heads stick out. Some of the bases don't have as crisp a fit as the Subbuteo ones, but it is not a major problem. The painting style is glossy, and quite distinctive. It is not to everyone's taste, but they do look effective in play, and I'm pleased with the ones I own.All the teams are well illustrated on the Astrobase website (front and back) allowing customers to pick the teams they like with ease. However, don't visit if you do not have Broadband - too much video.
The team range has grown continually, and the number of different teams available is staggering. A look at the Astrobase website shows the 2005-08 range stretched over twenty-nine pages. With twenty-five sides on most pages, you are talking about 700+ teams. The 2009 range adds a further 170+ teams.... At this rate, there will soon be more Soccer 3D outfits, than were produced in the original fifty years of Subbuteo production. With table soccer a minority interest (even in Italy), it does make sense to sell many teams to the same customers, but the sheer quantities here seem overwhelming. It might be possible to collect a theme within the whole range, such as a particular league, or away kits of your chosen team, or World Cup groups.... I wonder how many of each kit is actually sold, and whether it is more of a "paint by request" service, within chosen parameters.
What this does illustrate is a problem of a modern day Subbuteo. The global game has thousands of teams, and fans tend to demand unique kits. With home, away, and third kits, all updated regularly, it is impossible to keep up. The Soccer 3D range gives good coverage of the Italian leagues, and English Premiership of course. There are World Cup teams featuring most of Europe and Africa (there are more than 50 nations in each of these qualifying sections alone!). There are some smaller English sides, and a reasonable spread of top European sides. There are world cup minnows, non-fifa Islands and regions (Cocos, Kosovo, Alaska, even Isle of Wight). The whole of the European Championship finals in 2006 (home and away) is covered, and many of the teams from the 2003 Subbuteo range (260+ teams in itself) have transferred across. There are a few South American and Mexican sides as well. The decision to sell named teams rather than numbered does leave far too many similar teams in the range. There are countless red/white/red kits that could have been covered with one team. Some teams also sneak back in as a later dated kit, or as a different side (the old Subbuteo Fulham is Salamanca in the 2009 range). Nevertheless, the range is still an immense undertaking, and something to be marvelled at!
There is also a Soccer 3D "heavyweight" range, which seems to be consist of the original Zëugo figure and base. This has yet another selection of teams, that this time includes most of the original (and now hard to find) Zëugo colours, in addition to an mix of old British sides, and some strange bits and pieces. It does look like an attempt to cover the teams produced by every other table soccer manufacturer on h/w style figures (i.e. Zëugo, Santiago, World Table Soccer), which gives this second range a rather cynical feel.
Soccer 3-D also have a range of accessories which nearly match the teams for sheer choice of finish. You can have fences, referees and balls in just about any colour you fancy. In addition, the new Soccer 3D version of the Astropitch has been very well received by the table soccer community.
Although it doesn't have a full boxed edition, the Tchaaa4 range does have it's own unique playing figure, and does seem to be redefining the whole look of the table soccer community.
The range was designed by veteran FISTF player Daniel Scheen, and has actually been running for a few years, builting up a range of different shaped bases for different styles of play. The actual playing figure is designed to be perfectly balanced - "front to back, and left to right". The players are available in a wide range of colours, so they can be used unpainted without clashing. This is either a colourful modern take on the serious abstract sport of table soccer (like table tennis), or it is a travesty that ruins the whole look of the game, depending on your point of view.... (Games Workshop stopped you fielding an unpainted army in their war gaming tournaments. I'm just saying.....) If, like me, you have a football kit obsession, then "paint-your-own" white players are available, as are some expensive decal teams of a very fine quality. Base decals are also produced, and look great. The range also includes many of the other useful items for the modern game such as polish, goalkeepers and handles, a measuring tool, and practise walls for shooting.
Top Spin are essentially an Italian manufacturer of heavyweight clones, along the lines of Santiago (and also Zëugo and Astrobase I suppose). However, I think their delicate heavyweight clone figure just about shades it in terms of accuracy. Like Santiago, their bases are also a heavyweight replica.
Top Spin have always flown under the radar in the UK. They don't have a UK distributor, and their website is solidly Italian.... Their products do appear on ebay, and old time collector and painter Paul Lloyd uses their products in his football and rugby sides... but details on the range are hard to come-by here.
They also produce modern hybrid figures - i.e. heavyweight style players on pegs to be used in modern flicking. Their "club edition" set is shown above.
Total Soccer (2009-2011).
A new product for 2009, these teams and sets were made in China by Spanish company Netcam, essentially for the Spanish market. The original range was solidly La Liga based, but other famous national club sides and sets appeared later. Netcam have licences with individual clubs for other figures/collectables such as FT Champs. This means that they can sell officially licensed products, which certainly helps the look of the range.
There were two different styles of box set, and a team range. The larger "Big Match" box sets feature two famous rivals in an appropriately illustrated box. The version shown here is the original "el clasica" version featuring Real Madrid and Barcelona. Alternatives included the Madrid derby, and the Milan derby. A cheaper "play set" came in a more generic box, and a Liverpool version is shown here. The second side in these sets was usually an unnamed team.
Total Soccer now has its own page if you are interested in collecting the teams for this range (or you just want to browse the selection shown!)
Pegasus five-a-side Editions.
Big UK Subbuteo retailer Subbuteoworld have long been producing their own range of highly regarded Astropitches under the Pegasus brand. However, their new five-a-side pitches are sold as a box set with goals, balls and players. That moves them from accessory manufacture to full clone production in my book. Of course, the Pegasus pitch remains the main draw here - these surfaces are now available in a range of "mown grass" styles. The details on their website of the other contents is slight. I think they are using items from other manufacturers to complete the sets.