The Christmas Pitch

13/02/21
Other Pitches

Football on the snow

Anyone of a certain age remembers watching, and sometimes playing football on a snowy pitch! ?

Just a mile away from the Stadium of Fingers you can find Roots Hall, home of Southend United FC. There was one famous day in January 1979, when Southend (just promoted from Division 4) hosted Liverpool - top of Division 1 and on the way to winning their 11th league title, with a record points total.

A crowd of 31,033, snowy pitch, broom brushed lines, an orange ball. Southend fans there remember the day! Full time: 0-0 with Southend finishing the stronger! John Lennon! Cilla Black! William Gladstone! Bob Paisley! Can you hear us Bob Paisley? Your boys nearly took a hell of a beating!

Subbuteo on the snow?

Subbuteo on the snow - could it be done?

This suggestion was put to the OldSubbuteo community, but with the exception of Rocket and Forfoxsake, who were already putting on their fingerless mittens, and Gullseye, whose immediate response was "Perfectly playable, game on!", it was received with some good humoured indulgence, but with a general sense that this was not going to start a new way of playing...

This view was compounded when it then snowed again overnight, and the players found themselves in mortal danger! ?

The pics below show how this particular scene unfolded...

A light dusting of extra snow in the afternoon
Hiding the bases - a realistic effect
The next morning! ?
The rescue effort finds the goalie alive! ?
The search goes into the night...
A bit worse for wear, but everybody survived! ?

In a start contrast with that game at Roots Hall in 1979, some 30 odd years later football supporters across the land experienced the collective disappointment of almost the entire English fixture list being postponed due to snow on the weekend of 9/10 January 2010, with all the modern development in undersoil heated pitches. What had happened to our national game??? ?

It was time for the Stadium of Fingers to lead by example, and demonstrate to the Premier League and the EFL how to keep the games on!

So after a few hours, the Stadium had been set up. Cardiff-City and Man City (in their away strip) took to the pitch and it was time for kick-off! ?

The ground staff had done their best to clear the pitch
Would the snow cause any lasting damage to the surface?
The crowd looking on in anticipation
The ball needed to be painted orange!
A keeper's eye view of the game
The game between Leeds Utd and Man City was abandoned due to inappropriate team strip! ?

The birth of the Christmas Pitch

After this mythical event in January 2010, it was discovered that is wasn't very easy to clear snow off a cotton pitch, without it melting a bit and warping the hardboard underneath the playing surface. ?

But - This had happened and couldn't be unhappened! The challenge of creating a snowy pitch wasn't going to just go away...

Around three years later, a chance encounter with a demonstration of 'Magic Snow' at Selfridges in Oxford Street, kick-started the project!

Building the Christmas Village

So after investing in some real estate from the Christmas village stores, the pitch was ready for a snowfall...

Oddly enough, the snow initially fell on the edges of the pitch - a quirk of nature for these parts...

It snowed!

After quite a lot of magic snow was magicked the next challenge was to clear the lines...

No-one really knows how this happened because it happened overnight. The story goes however that after everyone had gone to bed, four 00-scale ground staff worked all night with their miniature brushes and shovels. In the morning the designer was amazed to see the neat cleared lines in the snow and wondered "Who did this? This is perfect!"

Since then, before every event where the Christmas pitch was to be played on the next day, the lines have been mysteriously cleared overnight!

The designer decided to stay awake one night to see who was helping with the lines. Sure enough the 00-scale figures turned up laughing, singing and quickly clearing the lines!

The designer decided to give them something in return, so before the next event he made tiny warm sweaters and scarves for them to wear. When the ground staff saw them, they danced and sang in happiness as they cleared the lines, now feeling so much warmer in the snow!

Frosty the Snowman with a good view ⛄
Great view from the top of the Ferris Wheel!
The Waltzer gives a good view, and then suddenly not...
The coach and the doc discussing snow-related injuries
The clockwork train
The orange Tango ball

Ready for play!

Finally!

The pitch is ready for the first game. This was between Forfoxsake and Fingers - Why wouldn't it be? ??

The ball ran surprising well for the first half, and less well during the second half! ?

It was an unforgettable experience, and both players vowed to repeat this whenever there was an opportunity...

Before a ball was kicked...
After the final whistle...
Over several events, a number of balls have been tried out on the snow. The sponge ball works really well!
After a corner, played to FingerFox rules, The keeper has clearly panicked on account of not being able to see the opposition! ?

The Christmas Lights...

A critical evaluation...

A casual conversation with a group of postgraduate students naturally turned to playing Subbuteo in the snow...

After looking at a few pics, one student applied their analytical and critical evaluation skills and said "It's not a Christmas pitch, it's a Winter pitch - where are the Christmas decorations?"

"Good point" said the designer, somewhat deflated... who promptly went home to search for miniature Christmas lights and trees...

Fortunately, a Merriment of Santa Clauses also turned up, significantly adding to the festivities! ??

Opening a Subbuteo Continental Floodlight Edition! ?
Christmas lights around the pitch
Gerald regularly forgets his kicking keeper. Here he is posing to take a goal kick. Santa Claus as referee on the halfway line
From left to right: St Nicholas, Babbo Natale, Santa Clause, Little Saint Nick and Father Christmas

The current pitch

Since the creation of the Christmas pitch, there have been many developments and epic matches.

The snow has proved to be a real leveller, with so many memorable games.

One that sits well in the collective OldSubbuteo community memory is Ivan 'Ivo28' Bertola coming within seconds of a famous 1-1 draw with Kev 'Multiple national flats champion - The Cat' Dyson...

Then there was the game where the fuse blew in the garden room, which meant that Fingers and The Cat had to play by the glow of the miniature lights. One of the most exciting and action-packed 0-0 draws ever, with neither player actually seeing much of the action! ??

The time when the fuse blew...just enough light for an atmospheric game! ?

…And a Happy New Year!

Borto got in touch to say he was entering the Subbuteo Lab photo competition, and asked if he could use this pic of the Christmas Pitch.

This was all very polite of him, but no permission was needed - we are delighted anytime the Friends of Old Subbuteo events get publicised! ?

A wonderful picture of hope of things to come - with Old Subbuteo events appearing back on the calendar once again! ?

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