Friday, 3 June 2011

The reasons why I started the WASPA project

After reading may messages on different forums, I realized it was time to make something public to explain why I started the WASPA project.

For those who don't know me, it's important to know that I'm involved in the game for more than 21 years now and that I have worked a local, regional and national level before being involved in FISTF back in 1998. In 2002, FISTF was not going well at all and I was asked to become president. My goal was to make unity between all players, clubs and associations in the world. With limited resources and with the help of just a few people, I think I managed to make a good job (sorry to be arrogant). FISTF had more players, clubs, associations and tournaments and things kept growing till 2009.

In the general meeting 2009 in the Netherlands, I saw problems started to occur. Italians in particular but also some people from Greece, Malta and Spain started to criticize a lot of decisions. For instance they didn't accept the world cup 2010 should be held in Denmark because "Denmark was not playing the world cup 2009". There were also a lot of requests to change decisions and rules. Most of the rules were not acceptable. As a sign of good faith, under the pressure of Spain and Italy my Board accepted to adopt the rule of the "0-5", which is according to me one of the silliest rules ever.

Because a few Board members had stopped working, I also offered a chance to Piero Capponi, a man with a great business skill but also a very poor knowledge and experience of the game, to become marketing director. Capponi was a man full of enthusiasm. Despite I was thinking (and I still think) he's living in his dreams and is unable to make the difference between dreams and the reality, Piero started a lot of projects. Absolutely nothing happened and after two months, Piero resigned because "the Board was not professional enough".

In January 2010, with the help of Italy and Malta, a new Board was elected during the extraordinary meeting in Frankfurt (Germany). I never accepted the fact that my Board had just a few months to work and instead of being thanked for all the work people like Thossa Büsing, Heinz Eder, Fred Vulpes and myself had done for the sport, we were blamed for our lack of ambition and the lack of professional work (people easily forget that we were only volunteers). It was also because of the same few people that the world cup in Denmark was cancelled and a last minute decision pushed us to award the WC 2010 to Rain (Germany) and the WC 2011 to Rome (Italy). I could also insist on the fact that the results of the elections were manipulated (it was confirmed some nations were pushed under presure to vote for the new team) but once again, Capponi and his friends will answer you that I believe in unbelievable stories of conspiracy.

After having been humiliated by people who, according to me, don't know anything about FISTF and the situation of international table football, it was impossible to offer my services to work for a new Board without having any power of decision. That was a personal choice and I don't have to give any justification for that. I can also say these happenings had also a positive influence in my life as I realized there are more important things in life and 11 months later (on december 18, 2010), I became a father for the first time. ;-)

After a few months, I believe there were many internal problems inside the Board and despite the new president Silvio Catania had promised to organize new elections in september during the world cup week-end, Catania refused to hold the elections in the last minute. Catania had even the support of the italian and spanish associations and Stefano De Francesco even said during the meeting that "Italy would quit FISTF if elections were held". Nobody had the balls to tell it was a very unfair situation and things continued to go down till the next extraordinary meeting in Madrid (Spain).

This meeting was something unbelievable for many reasons. Not only because on the italian forum it was clearly written that Italy and some other associations from Southern Europe were going to start their own international association if they were losing the elections (the "Mediterranean association") but also because in the last minute, despite some nations had send votes by post, by fax and even via lawyers (!), the elections were biaized by the last minute candidature of Piero Capponi for the job of president. Capponi candidature was justified by the fact that Belgium had announced "they would not vote for Stefano De Francesco as sports director". It was simply unacceptable to change the rules in the last minute so that only nations who could afford to travel to Madrid could vote.

At personal level, I had indeed promised I would give my support to the three candidates for the job of president (Alan Collins, Markus Jurik and Vesa Kouvonkorpi) and that I would be ready to offer my experience and my energy to be communication director again. Due to the way elections were held, I decided after Capponi was elected to remove my candidature as communication director. It was clearly said by phone to the belgian representative in Madrid. Capponi refused my decision because he didn't have a "written document" from me...

The rest is history. I have now realized that FISTF is just an italian association run by Italians with all types of decisions taken only if they fit the Italians. It wasn't surprising to me to hear that Antonello Rodriquez had been offered the job of communication director (despite Capponi, who is italian but living in Spain), and De Francesco are alreay Italians. By the way, when I was thinking to be back in the Board, I had asked Antonello to be the new FISTF secretary. This offer was refused by the italian Board (!!!)

I believe there is no future for FISTF because people like Capponi don't understand the needs of the players. Capponi and De Francesco speak all the time about the ways to recruit new players but they don't care how to make the current base of players happy.

There is also a problem of communication because players from smaller associations have no contact anymore with FISTF. So many times I have received messages from South Africa, Brazil, the US, Canada, Singapore, Australia,... asking me is FISTF is still existing. I felt like I was still needed to do something for the game.

Another reason is that it will be impossible to work for FISTF as long as people like Capponi and De Francesco will be in charge. I have no problem with them as people but they are just the wrong people to work in a Board. Stefano De Francesco has never done anything for the sport... outside Italy. I believe he's a great person who loves the game but he has too many personal interests and will always work in favor of his friends. The way the world cup 2011 was moved from Rome in september to Sicily in july (which makes the travel costs extremely expensive for many players) is a very sad example proving that.

About Capponi, I don't know what to say apart from the fact it is an insane situation where a person who works for a company distributing table football material (Total Soccer) is also president of FISTF. People seem to forget that FISTF was created to have a subbuteo association totally independant of the producers of the game. There are now more than rumors that Capponi's company has reached a deal to use the brand name "Subbuteo" in the future and therefore I believe it's absolutely impossible that someone like that remains in charge at FISTF. I also believe Capponi doesn't care of the game itself. If he was really crazy about the game, Total Soccer would be a better brand with material that can be used in tournaments, now just figures that don't glide, bad pitches and goals that you can't even fix on a table...

I'm also against the idea that "table football has to become professional". I believe it's just a game. A great game, maybe a small sport but it's impossible to have the ambition for instance to become an olympic sport. Our priority should be to take care of our players, to offer them something they like: great tournaments, a well-organized circuit, a newsletter, rankings, international meetings, making new friends who share the same hobby,...

Of course, Capponi has based his politics on promises he will probably not be able to keep. He promised to bring huge sponsors and to get tournaments on Eurosport. I believe Eurosport will not take much time to realize that subbuteo can be a great game to play but very boring to watch. I have been involved for many years and every time I see the game on TV, the reporters spend more time to explain the basic rules and the way the circuit is organized instead of explaining why Carlos Flores is a great player or why the team of Mattersburg is so strong.

And last but not least, I believe FISTF Board members should be able to speak the official languages of FISTF (english and french) or at least one of them. And right now there is a huge problem of communication at this level.

So what about WASPA? Basically, WASPA was just an idea. I realized that if Italians were ready to create their "mediterranean association", there was no reason to offer something to all players in the world who play at regional level and don't have the opportunity to travel every week-end to the other corner of Europe to play a tournament. FISTF has become a federation of rich players who believe they are professional sportsmen. When you have a job and a family, there are more important things to do in life than taking three days to play sometimes 2 games. WASPA will have different goals such as developping friendly relations between players, playing games in a friendly and fair spirit, enjoying the game without taking things too seriously.

I believe WASPA will succedd if people understand the philosophy of the association. I have had positive feedback from the US, Canada, Denmark, Malta, Australia, ... and even from Italy (!) but the Italians are scared to be suspended by the italian association if they play in WASPA events (!)

The decision of the FISTF Board to suspend for 3 years players who have played in WASPA events is a total disgrace. I'm sure that, even if Capponi and De Francesco (the 2 persons who take all decisions in the FISTF Board) have their personal interests (and attacking players is just a way to attack me personnally), good faith will win and the "decision" will be changed soon. After all, Stefano De francesco has always been a by fan of the "Old Subbuteo" movement and I don't see how he could be suspended by FISTF for 3 years for having showed support to another association :-)

Well, that's all for now. I think it was just good to give some personal feelings and I hope good news will be coming up soon!

Vincent Coppenolle - vincent.cop@rsca.com