Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Interview of Vincent Coppenolle

This week, Panos's interview is about Vincent Coppenolle, the founder and organizer of the WASPA circuit.

When did you first started to play Subbuteo and what was the first team you bought?

I remember I started playing when I was very young. I already had a set at home when I was 10 and I played with my neighbour.The first extra kit I bought a black/yellow stripped kit of Lierse/Berwick Rangers because it was one of the only kits available in the local shop.
Geoffrey Marain (right) and Vincent in the premises of the Templeuve club

How many years have you been playing and what are the best positions titles you have achieved in any level?

I play in the belgian association for 24 years but I have never been a champion. I won a few tournaments and I remember very well winning the B-category in Antwerp about 15 ago because I was 0-2 down at half-time against Holland's Dennis Landzaat but I won 3-2. I played several times the final of some FISTF Satellites but for some reasons I always lost these finals. For the last 3 years I have been involved in the WASPA circuit and I have played a lot of tournaments. I won a few tournaments but the one in Auvelais in December 2013 was something special as it was played on swiss system with some good players taking part and it was really difficult to make the difference with Geoffrey Marain, Vincent Guyaux, Ralf Grégoire and Jos Ceulemans taking part.
With Vincent Guyaux and Jos Ceulemans in Auvelais

What is the best thing about this game and why would you recommend it to someone?

I believe it's a great game and everyone is free to play at any level but I will always tell people that you have to play for the fun first. I always thought something wrong in this game is that when you have new players being involved, there are always people who will tell them "you have to play top players to become a good player yourself and you must have the ambition to become a strong player". Of course it's good to become a stronger player but not everyone can become a champion. In many sports, you can play at low level but still enjoy playing. I have played basket-ball for years and even if my team played at low level, we had fun. In Subbuteo, people will tell you you have to travel long distances to play top tournaments but I don't think it's enjoyable if you only play two games and then go back home. Playing in the WASPA circuit means you can have a lot of fun without traveling too much and without spending too much time out of home. Getting FISTF ranking points should not be the main motivation to go to tournaments. Many clubs and organizers should think about it.

Your most memorable moments from this game happy or even sad?

As a player, I don't think I have had any sad or bad moment. As a club organizer, the biggest frustration was to see young talented players leaving the club because of other priorities (girls, studies, going out...) and that caused a big lack of motivation. Many young players stopped playing because they hate being referee and once again, there is a big thing to think about as subbuteo is the only "sport" I know where players also have to be referee.

As an official, it was being sacked as FISTF President in 2010 just a few months before the end of my second term. But one the two biggest satisfactions nowadays is to see so many people are now aware it was a huge mistake.

The other big satisfaction as an official is the see the success story of the WASPA circuit as we have more and more tournaments, players, clubs, nations and organizers involved. Many people thought I was crazy to launch it in 2011 but the way things are developping is rather impressive and I still believe people who criticize the WASPA circuit must be very frustrated and jealous people... I'm very proud of how the WASPA circuit is helping the game in general but also very frustrated to see national associations of Belgium and France not supporting my efforts.

Who was your most difficult opponent to beat and who is your favorite player and why?

I have played top players such as Eric Verhagen, Chris Thomas, Carlos Flores, Andrea Di Vincenzo, Valéry Dejardin,... and they are all great but I really prefer to play against Geoffrey Marain who is the best player in our area. He beats me approximately 8 times out of 10 but when I win, it's because I played at my best level and I deserve it. In the real life I would say we are not the best friends on earth but around a pitch, we respect each other and we share the same love for subbuteo.

Is it a sport or a game ? What is your opinion about this question that many people ask?

Well, of course many players take it seriously and when you take things to a certain level, it becomes a sport but we must stop taking things too seriously. I have been involved in many other sports. I played basket-ball and I know how hard it is. It becomes a real sport when you need to practice several times a week to keep your level of excellence. I remember a world champion being interviewed by a national TV and he was asked how often he's practicing. His answer was "Never. I only play in tournaments and sometimes I play some friendlies with friends." How can you take Subbuteo seriously if even top players say this kind of things?

It will also become a real sport when people will "do the job", which means sleeping much every day, taking care of food to feel extremely good, exclude alcohol, tobacco and other drugs,... I see people who take the sport seriously but who need a cigarette after each game. That's a total joke! Being a cyclist and loving endurence rides, I really think Subbuteo is not really a sport. My body need to feel really tired to have the feeling to have done sport.

Last point: subbuteo will be a sport when it will be organized as a real sport, which means everybody can play tournament as according to his level.

What improvements would you like to see in the future and what would you suggest to improve things?

I believe our sport needs more local events so that players can play more often without traveling much. We need a strong base with many tournaments and many clubs but right now everything is going in the wrong direction. Some big tournaments attract more than 200 players and most of them play only 2 to 4 games during the whole week-end. So what's the point? Do people only travel to meet friends, have some beers, visit cities and subbuteo is not the priority any more? There will be no positive future for the game if the mentality of the players does not change.

What would you recommend to someone who starts the game now? What are the secrets for top performance.

The first thing to say is that a newcomer must enjoy himself. I will not tell him he must have the ambition to become world champion. He shoudl get a table at home, practice his technique a few minutes a day (at least 10 minutes but not more than 60 minutes) and play games against stronger opponents at least once a week. He should go to tournaments where he will not be trashed and learn something and, more importantly, he should keep have realistic dreams to achieve. I think it's funny to see sometimes clubs having young players, travelling hundreds of kilometers to get world ranking points but then ignoring tournaments organized by neighboring clubs because these events don't give ranking points. New players shouldn't pay much attention to rankings even if rankings are always a good source of motivation.

Vincent's passport

Name: Vincent Coppenolle
Age: 39
Nation: Belgian
Club: Templeuve United
Type of figures/bases used: Real Soccer
Profession: Self-employed insurance broker but also a part-time sports writer specialized in cycling
Hobbies: football, cycling, subbuteo, video games, comic books