Saturday, 22 May 2021

2011-2021 : 10 years of WASPA tournaments

Dear Subbuteo friends,

When I decided to create the WASPA circuit in 2011, I never imagine dit would become such a big thing. When some players in California asked me to organize the first WASPA tournament in May 2011, I never thought there would be thousands of other tournaments to come and that almost 4000 players from 64 different countries would be part of the circuit.

After ten years of tournaments, it’s time to remember all the ups and downs of the WASPA circuit. Here is a selection of different facts that people will probably remember.

Enjoy the reading.

Vincent Coppenolle, founder and organizer of the WASPA circuit

California, where things began for the WASPA circuit in 2011

The ups

Having to balls to start something new

Creating a different Subbuteo circuit when the FISTF circuit is already working well was a real challenge. In the early days, some influent figures of the game didn’t believe the WASPA scene would raise and become so important. It took time to gain respect from a big part of the world leaders and even now, some people still see the WASPA circuit as a wrong idea. Numbers prove the WASPA circuit has received a major support of the Subbuteo community and there is no reason to believe things will change in the future. WASPA is the way to go to create a strong base of players and hopefully some of these players will later compete at international level.

Sweden : a new hope

T-shirt produced for the Stockholm tournament in August 2011

In August 2011, one of the first WASPA tournaments was played in Stockholm, Sweden. It was the real first time a Subbuteo tournament really took place in the country. Lars Löfgren, the organizer, had the ambition to create a real club in Sweden. The positive thing in this experience is that the tournament was a success with players from Finland, Germany, Australia, Italy and France taking part. Unfortunately, there was no future for the local group. We have the feeling newcomers felt a big difference between playing for fun and playing at competitive level. We still hope there will be a another tournament in Sweden in the future. We are convinced there is no reason why table football should not work well in this beautiful country.

Prestigious winners

Massimo Cremona, one of the prestigious winners in the WASPA circuit

We are very proud to see some of the world’s top players having won WASPA tournaments. People like the Scheen family (Pascal, Daniel, Sébastien) or Delphine Dieudonné in Belgium, Massimo Cremona, Charles Aquilina and Mark Gauci in Malta, Chris Thomas and Darren Clarke in England or obviously Carlos Flores in Spain have been some of the big names in the records. We will never thank them enough for their support.

More nations ? Not always

Some people have sometimes found very weird to accept some nations in the WASPA circuit. In my time as FISTF president, I had to accept bad words from some people because Monaco had become a member of the world body. In the WASPA circuit, we were glad to give some recognition to the Isle of Man but we never accepted the offer of the « Basque Country » because we had the feeling they wanted to play table football only if they could play under their own flag. The love of the game and the wish to develop table football should be the main reasons for us to accept some kind of recognition, not political reasons.

Youth is the future

Juniors, here in Cyprus, will always be one of the main priorities of the WASPA circuit

Looking at the future is a priority for the WASPA circuit and for the game of Subbuteo in general. We believe it’s important to focus on young players. We have no miracle solution to get more young players joining but we pay attention to the fact that juniors deserve to have their own ranking and that clubs who have a youth programme should get rewards for their efforts. We have created a ranking for the best clubs with at least three junior players and we hope to see more of these clubs involved in the future.

Small is beautiful

Some people sometimes don’t take the WASPA circuit seriously because some small tournaments with just three players count for the ranking. We believe that any kind of tournament is a way to promote the game and to have a chance to attract more new players. We have seen local organizers doing their best to start a project at regional level. Sometimes there is no strong base of players but the simple fact to organize a tournament is a way to attract visitors and possible new players as long as the event is correctly promoted. This is the way to go and all kind of players deserve to play competitive games even if there are not many opponents in their area.

Australia : the way to go

The first WASPA tournament in Australia 

We are very proud that the WASPA circuit helped the Australian Association to restart. There was a first tournament in Penrith in September 2012 and at this time, nobody expected Australia would have more than 370 other tournaments to come. Now the country is one of the most active nations in the circuit with clubs in different cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane,... and many european nations are far to have a good domestic circuit like the Aussies. Well done !

Always more nations

We can be proud to have had games in some « new Subbuteo countries » like Romania, Hong Kong, Chile, New Zealand, Indonesia, Sweden, Malaysia, Russia and Peru. Even the Isle of Man association held a tournament. We are convinced there are many other nations who could later join our project and we also hope to see long-term projects in new cities and regions.

World cup or World festival ?

Players during our big event in Budapest in 2018

Several people asked us to organize a WASPA world cup. We believe the name « world cup » should remain the property of FISTF but we have been glad to host a « world festival » in Hungary in 2018. It was amazing to see players from different nations taking part and even a winner coming from California. The idea was to have a special week-end every year (or every two years) and unfortunately the Covid prevented to organize the second edition in 2020 but hopefully we will be able to have a great week-end again in the future.

Old rules are welcome

One of the keys to make WASPA popular was to accept all kinds of table football rules in the same ranking. We are happy to see that after 10 years, we had more than 150 tournaments played with either "old rules" (in particular in Italy and Greece but also in England, Northern Ireland and Germany) and "advanced rules". It had always been important to give the feeling to those who play different versions of the Subbuteo game that they are welcome in our family. We really hope we can continue like that in the future and hopefully we can include other versions of the game (like the "Finnish rules), too.

Club ranking vs team ranking

In the last few years, the WASPA circuit developed rankings of clubs and out philosophy remains the same: we want real clubs to develop and to give a good image of the sport/game. Clubs should recruit new players and develop their base of members without recruiting players from other clubs. We believe it's important that strong clubs support new projects instead of trying to kill the smaller clubs. We are extremely proud to see some strong clubs in isolated areas and this is also proving that there is a chance for any new project wherever the club is located. As long as there is a good local organizer and that players enjoy themselves, a club can have a good future. Results should in no case be the top priority.

Rules must remain easy

One of the reasons why the WASPA circuit is working is that there is place for flexibility of rules. The Handbook is not too big and clubs can organize their tournaments in many different formats. Doors are always open to new ideas and we remain open to new proposals. We also understand that in some countries the aims of the players are different and therefore it's also our job to accept the requests of the different clubs! This philosophy will remain as long as the circuit is not growing too much and that we can keep running the show properly.

By the players and for the players

We understand that in many sports the role of organizers is to take the best decisions for the players but the Subbuteo community remains a very special one with not many people ready to give their time for others and thinking about the general interest rather than personal interests. Therefore we usually try to hear what the players expect from the WASPA circuit and the flexibility of rules remains a very important asset thanks to the feedback we receive from many different people. Keeping this philosophy to run the circuit will remain a priority in the future.

The downs

Why do they hate us ?

Looking at the nations that organized WASPA tournaments, there is a big frustration as we don’t understand why some nations never supported the WASPA circuit. In Belgium, the national association has always been divided about WASPA. Smaller clubs give a huge support while top players just focus on international events and don’t care about how WASPA has helped to recruit new players. More and more, there is a bad feeling that the two sides don’t understand each other and in the end, there is a real impression so much more could have been done if people just worked for the good of the game.

Puylaurens is the only french club to have organized a WASPA tournament

France has also been a huge source of disappointment. From the early days of the WASPA circuit, national organizers gave instructions to the French clubs that they should not organize WASPA tournaments and the WASPA is not positive for the game. Looking now at the situation of the game in France, we feel very sorry for those who were hoping that WASPA could help to create a new source of interests for different types of players.

Other nations such as Portugal, Spain or the whole South America could have known a different story if some of the national organizers had not blackmailed us. In the end, we can not judge anyone but we feel very sad that we didn’t get more support in these countries.

The future

A new pyramid

By chance, the second decade of the WASPA circuit will coincide with the end of the lockdown in many European countries. We believe that there is a chance to start something big for the future but we must certainly not repeat the same mistakes as in the past. In the last few years, too much focus has been put on international tournaments by national associations and not enough work has been done to have stronger local clubs. If we want a great future, we need to have a strong base of players. Among those who are interested to play, only a small part of players is ready to travel abroad for tournaments and those who only want to play at local or regional level must have tournaments and meetings organized in their areas. Only if people understand that, we will be able to build a strong future.

The youth, again and again

One of the goals of the WASPA circuit is to have many more young players involved. We have a unique chance to start almost everything from scratch so it will be really important to open the doors of our clubs to juniors and to create some new projects in schools and sports clubs. There is a Junior ranking and a junior ranking of clubs and we really want to increase numbers to 200 invidivuals and 30 involved clubs by the end of 2022.

Final word

As I said several times, as long as I will have the faith in what I'm doing, I will continue to run the WASPA circuit. In 2011, I didn't get the support from many people and some influent figures said the WASPA circuit would never work anyway. I am very proud of what has been done and also very happy to see that if the international Subbuteo scene didn't disappear, the WASPA circuit contributed a lot to keep things alive. As we often hear in Belgium, "whatever you do, some people will criticize you so keep on doing things you like to do". It will remain my philosophy for sure. Most of the people who are against WASPA don't even have a valid reason for not supporting us and I am tired to see people being jealous just because they are unable to do half of what I have done for the game.

To all the players are organizers who contributed to the success of the WASPA circuit, I can only say one thing: THANK YOU! Without meeting a lof of people from so many different countries, it would not have been possible.

My real hope for the next few months is that we can have some normal activity again and that we will have a great circuit in many countries. We have been extremely successful in Australia, Singapore and in the UK for instance and we really hope to see more new projects in Scandinavia, South America and the Middle East in the future. We are convinced that there are many opportunities for the game to grow.

I really hope we can continue to have positive partnerships with FISTF and I would like to take the opportunity to thank Mr Steve Dettre for all the good things he has done for the game in general and also to give credit to WASPA (it has unfortunately not always been the case with other past and present FISTF directors).

Well, that's all for now. Thanks again for those who read all this till the end and keep on flicking! :)

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