Interview with Peter Alegi (Grand Rapids TSC, USA)
By Clinton Gahwiler, Cape Town City Subbuteo Club
* You were at the FISTF World Cup last year in Italy. Give us one or two of your strongest impressions?
PA: I learned so much at the World Cup in San Benedetto del Tronto. But two things stand out. First, the quality of play was extraordinary. Let me give you a few examples. I lost 0-1 to a German player who capitalized on a defensive error of mine and then kept the ball for basically the entire final seven minutes of the game. Then our USA team in the Veterans Team competition faced the mighty Italians, who were heavily favoured to win the title. I was matched up with their top player, Gianfranco Calonico (2016 Veterans Individual World Champion). Leading 4-0, Gianfranco flicked a figure from inside his defensive zone, struck the ball inside my shooting area, and chipped it over my keeper and into the back of the net. An impossible goal! On the defensive side of the game, all the best players made superb blocks and rarely caused “back” violations. The second thing I took away from the World Cup is that, for me, Subbuteo will always be a fun and social game, regardless of what happens on the table.
* What bases do you play with mostly?
PA: I’ve tried different types of bases before settling on Extreme Works. The team I use regularly is a Juventus (2013-14 yellow and blue away kit) set on blue EW Universals, with .2 weights inside. I like their balanced glide, delicate touch, and chipping capability.
* Where did you first discover the game?
PA: I was born and grew up in Rome, Italy, where Subbuteo boomed in the 1970s and 1980s. For Christmas 1973, my brothers finally got Subbuteo: the “Continental” set. According to family lore, Dad stands up after the meal and proceeds to walk over the cloth pitch on the floor, crushing the figures. Only six players survive the massacre. With this tragicomic debut, Subbuteo entered our home forever.
I was probably about five years old when I started playing against my older brothers in fierce family derbies. I entered my first official tournament at the age of eight: the Lazio regional qualifiers of the Guerin Subbuteo, the most prestigious tournament in the country, sponsored by Guerin Sportivo, a football magazine. By the early 1980s, I had started tagging along with my brother Daniel, traveling by train all over the country for tournaments and for nationals. These weekend trips were quite adventurous and so much fun.
* What are you most proud of in your table soccer career to date?
PA: I am most proud of having represented the United States of America in the World Cup.
*How does the level of play in the USA compare to that in Europe?
PA: The level of play in Europe is much higher than in the United States. The Italians, Spanish, Greeks, and Austrians are outstanding, and the Belgians, Maltese, French, and Portuguese are right behind them. The existence of many well-established table soccer clubs and national federations, and the relative ease and affordability of travel, allows European flickers to compete in major tournaments almost every weekend. And when they are not on the road, they are practicing at their clubs with very skilled teammates. In the USA, we have less depth in talent and are less experienced. Another difference is the massive size of our country, which makes it difficult and expensive to play outside one’s local area. I’m sure South African Subbuteo players can appreciate the importance of this challenge given the distance separating Cape Town and Gauteng. But overall the competitive gap between the U.S. and Europe is beginning to narrow. The American Subbuteo Association is launching a national league in 2017 and several Italian clubs recently signed USA World Cup team members Zach Walker, Daniel Cranston, Christian Filippella, and Dario Passadore.
* What does table soccer add to your life?
PA: Subbuteo has done wonders to keep the 12-year-old in me alive and well. And as our recent matches in Cape Town proved, Subbuteo is also a wonderful way to meet people and develop friendships with people all over the country and the world.
* How does an Italian-American get to own a South African national team set (by well-known Subbuteo artist Tim Tumminaro)?
PA: I have been obsessed with South African football for a long time. I first came to South Africa in 1993 to work as a sports instructor at Ikhusi primary school in Khayelitsha (site B). I experienced first-hand how football was a way of life for township kids much like it was for me growing up in Rome. When I started my postgraduate research on the history of black football in South Africa, it just so happened that Bafana Bafana won the 1996 African Cup of Nations. A few months earlier, I had had the honor of meeting Clive Barker and Neil Tovey at the School of Excellence, which connected me personally to that amazing team. Fast forward two decades and my friend Tim Tumminaro from Chicago mentioned he was ready for a new artistic challenge. I immediately thought of the 1996 Bafana team’s very busy Kappa kit with lots of lines and multiple colors. I was thrilled that Tim agreed to do it. A few weeks later when I opened his mail parcel, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was not a Subbuteo team. It was a piece of art!
* What advice would you give Subbuteo players in South Africa?
PA: Play as much as you can, enjoy the camaraderie, and do your best to spread the game to the younger ones. And one more thing: subscribe to Serge’s CFTP TV YouTube Channel, it’s a great way to watch and learn techniques and tactics from the best players in the world.