HE’s the Portuguese Pele of the plastic pitch – and he’s bringing his sensational table soccer skills to an International tournament at Easter Road.
Portuguese sensation Vasco Guimarães – described as arguably the greatest player the world of table-top football has ever seen – has arrived in the Capital eager to display his flicks and tricks for an admiring crowd.
Guimarães has jetted in from his home in Porto for the International Subbuteo Championships being held this weekend within Hibs’ home ground.
The former world champion who has enjoyed a glittering career is joined by 60 players from all over the UK and Europe – from countries such as Belgium, Italy, Malta, Austria and Germany.
Also there will be former world number one and world cup finalist, David Baxter, 50, from South Queensferry.
He said: “It should be a good competition. There are some very good players such as Vasco competing, he’s one of the elder statesmen of the game now.
“Subbuteo is more popular abroad than people sometimes think, in the UK some people dismiss it as just a toy but on the continent it’s never had that history – they take it a bit more serious as a game.
“Playing in Edinburgh is a big draw for the foreigners I’m sure but I’m a lifelong Hibee so to get to compete at Easter Road is great. Hopefully I’ll do well.”
The tournament has been running for 16 years and is the most prestigious annual event to be played in the UK and one of the oldest on the European circuit. It has played host to a multitude of world champions and other top players over the years.
Although Subbuteo has existed since 1947 – when it was invented by Englishman Peter Adolph – and was once considered a national pastime, it has been marginalised in recent years by the rapid growth of video games.
Mike Burns, Hot Club d’Ecosse organiser and marketing director for the Scottish Table Football Association said: “I don’t think any of the guys competing think that the game will ever return to the level of popularity it enjoyed back in the 70s and 80s.
“Computer games have more or less finished it off in regards of attracting younger players but at the major tournaments in Mons in Belgium or the World Cups you still see hundreds taking part.
“There’s a lot of skill and tactics involved. You get to meet people rather than just sitting on a couch pressing buttons. There’s also a real community vibe to the game, everyone knows each other and it’s always great to catch up. I’ve been all over the world attending tournaments in the US, Canada, Italy and Malta.”
Those wishing to revisit their younger days or try their fingers at the game are invited to head along to the event, being held today and tomorrow, at Easter Road.
‘Pele’ in his own words
When did you first start playing? I started playing at home with my dad and cousins at maybe around seven or eight. I wasn´t even tall enough to reach the table and flick properly, I guess!
Which was your first ever big tournament? My first big tournament was the Portugese national U13 championships in 1987. Internationally my first big event was when I won the Junior World Cup in Rome 1990.
What was the best goal you have ever scored? Probably a moving jump shot against Luis Machado back in the 90s.