Saturday, 31 October 2015


It's been raining round here for 48 hours. I think I might get the Red Kite bus to Consett to see the currently homeless Durham City play Seaham Red Star in the FA Vase

Consett's ground has an artificial surface which guarantees play and reminded me of this...

(My friend Jack Lowe's splendid hand-painted Newcastle United team. Jack looks after the Tomy Super Cup Facebook page. You can Like it here )

A lot of people thought that 2014 was the greatest World Cup of all time. It wasn’t. The best World Cup in history was held in a basement in Earl’s Court. It wasn’t organized by Fifa either, but by my mate Julian’s hairdresser and it was all over in a single Sunday. The trophy was four inches tall, made of solid plastic and it meant that Peru were entitled to a free cut and wash (no appointment necessary. Saturdays excluded). Yes, we are talking about the 1989 Tomy Super Cup World Cup.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Diego Maradona of Football Games let me explain. Tomy Super Cup was made by the Japanese toy giants in the mid-1980s (the box features a picture of Howard Kendal-era Everton playing against one of those Manchester United sides in which everyone looked like Arthur Albiston) and features two teams of tiny players who are moved up and down using levers, kicking the ball with a paddle attached to their feet.

This may sound a bit like the popular Casdon Soccer that came out in the 1960s. Casdon's game was endorsed by Bobby Charlton who featured on the box top wearing a bright red cardigan and grinning manically like someone listening to his fiancee's father telling his favourite story from thirty years in the double-glazing business, while trying not to fart.

In homage to the more rigid tactics of the sixties the players in the Casdon game stayed exactly where they were. The defenders never left the edge of the penalty area, the forwards tracked back less than Mark Viduka on Temazepam. In Tomy Super Cup, by contrast, the players hare up and down the field twisting and whirring. They are a blur of industry. This is because the game is – quite literally - electric.

It makes a racket. I admit. In fact, it sounds pretty much like that moment when one of your kids carries out an experiment to see what happens if you put Lego in the blender. When it is switched off at the end of a heavy session you have a ringing in your ears like someone stuck a brass pail over your head and got Karl Froch to clout it several times with a claw hammer.

The other minor problem with Tomy Super Cup is the black-and-white ball, which is the size of a flickable bogey. (Bogeys traditionally come in three calibrations: wipeable, flickable and stick under a work surface and blame it on that bloke with the Metallica T-shirt).

Since in times of high excitement the little players sometimes hoof the ball - in scale terms at least - several miles over the roof of the stadium, it is wise to Hoover the floor before you start. Otherwise you are likely to find yourself attempting to conjure a little magic on the edge of the D with a raisin, chocolate cake crumb, or indeed a flickable bogey.

Despite these quibbles Tomy Super Cup remains the best football game that I have played. Better even than Subbuteo and the estimable Teutonic game of Tipp-Kick, with its clanking metal players and their chisel-shaped kicking feet and dodecahedron-shaped ball. The only other game that comes as close to capturing the wild reality of football as Tomy Super Cup does is Balyna Super Soccer. In Balyna Super Soccer the players are moved using magnetised rods located under the playing surface.

This is a demented system because your opponent can use the reverse polarity of his own magnetic rod to chase your players around the field. As a result the whole match passes by in a frustrating attempt to influence a team who are totally out of your control and completely unable to fulfil even the lowest of your expectations - a pretty accurate representation of every fan's experience of football.

My friend Julian, who was introduced to Tomy Super Cup by his hairdresser, and has subsequently initiated just about every likely looking man he meets into the game’s arcane mysteries, says there were supposed to be more Tomy Super Cup Cups. A European League was mooted amidst excited talk of away fixtures in the cellars and bedsits of Spain and Italy. But then it all stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The hairdresser never explained why, but my belief is that the council intervened after complaints about the noise from the thrash metal band that were rehearsing the next door room.

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