Last month we stumbled across a piece of footballing gold. A trailer to a forthcoming film being made by Italian director Pierr Nosari on the beautiful Calcio Tavolo. Stuart Fuller tracked down Pierr and his colleague Enrico to tell us the inspiration behind the project.
What first got you interested in the concept of Table Football as a project for a film?
Pierr: My previous documentary was about an Italian indie band, the OfflagaDiscoPax. One of the members of the band, Enrico Fontanelli, is passionate about Subbuteo, and in late June 2010 has involved me in his project to realize a documentary about Table Football. I liked the idea immediately, so we started to talk about and work on the project over the next weeks and Enrico became the author of the documentary together with me. I don't know exactly what interested me in his idea but something told me that it's a good project.
Enrico: I don't remember the precise moment. I am a musician but have always been interested if not sometimes involved in making documentaries. The rediscovered passion for flicking as an adult brought me to a different approach to the subject. The bet could have been, if I can't persuade my friends to play some games with words, we need something stronger. I knew Pierr since he approached my band in order to film a doc about us. Knowing his skills and passion for soccer, the offer came naturally.
What has been your approach for the project? An educational view or something a bit more Noire?
P: My style as a director is different every time. I want the visual approach of my works to come out directly from the theme of the project. So, regarding Table Football, my direction will try to show the world and the dreams that this game can create. In my idea, this "world" is a place that is everywhere and, at the same time, nowhere. A non-place and a good place, at the same time. Just as the place of the Thomas More novel "Utopia". Obviously, in this place, there are people (the players, the collectors, the passion...) that can tell the history and the rules of the game to cover the necessary educational part of the documentary.
E: Absolutely we don't want to educate, apart from telling some parent they might have thrown away a fortune in the trash..Joking apart, we'd love to "paint" Subbuteo and what came along it through its history and its aesthetic power, but also with the obvious participation of the many marvellous fans and leading actors of the game.
As a youngster, did you play the game yourself?
P: No, when I was young I didn't play Table Football. There was a friend of mine that had two older brothers who had Subbuteo and, maybe, I played just once or twice. I was more interested in video games, especially soccer video games such as Kick Off for Amiga.
E: I had three phases of playing, the first as a child pushed by my older brother, a period in which I stopped as my friends considered the game too childish (I don't recall perfectly but I think I did not). A second phase came as when I was 20 years old, and a friend of mine came out with a pitch...Those were afternoons and nights of tournaments. When he moved to England to study, it stopped again due to lack of space. The third phase came three years ago, when I got his pitch, then brought life back to my old dear teams, and digitised the word on the famous online research engine.
What aspect surprised you the most in your research for the film?
P: I was surprised to know so many people that love this game so much to spend a lot of their time and money to feed this passion. And I was surprised more to know that this is growing again, not just in the late 1970's or in the 1980's.
E: Mostly that the game is much more than still alive and kicking, or should we say, flicking.
Why is table football still so big in Italy?
P: I don't know. I hope to understand at the end of this documentary.
E: We should discover it through working on this project. Telling you that it's its strong reference for soccer passion is stating the obvious. But it's no joke when we say that we used to find groups of players in every neighbourhood during the 80's.
Who are the heroes of the game?
E: Every person involved in it.
Was there a boom in popularity in the game after the 2006 World Cup win?
P: I'm so lucky to be old enough (but not too old!) to have seen the victories of 1982 and of 2006. I can say that in 1982 there was more enthusiasm than in 2006. For this reason, I don't think that Table Football has had a particular boom of popularity after the 2006 World Cup. But, maybe, at the end of this documentary I could see things differently.
E: Nowadays soccer has developed such a vast marketing sphere that every space is almost filled, not forgetting that Italian soccer had just experienced Calciopoli, so the victory was much concentrated on overcoming that moment and giving back value to the sport itself.
Do you know of any famous people who still love to get their kicks with some flicks?
P: Not personally. During our research and shooting in Italy, people continuously told us of famous people who play Calcio Tavolo – professional players as Gigi Buffon, for example. When we come to England I hope to find more!
Are you surprised that the world champion is a young girl from Belgium?
P: I was surprised that there are a lot of young girls playing and taking part in the official FISTF (Federation International Sports Table Football) competition.
E: I did not imagine that there could be girls playing, and that surprised me positively. And if they play, why not become a champion?
What other projects are you working on?
P: At the moment I'm working on a theatre project, around the "Eneide" of Virgilio, that will be premiered at a theatre festival in the north of Italy at the beginning of July. But this Calcio Tavolo documentary doesn't leave much time for other projects. It's very hard work but I'm sure that at the end, I'll be very satisfied with the result.
E: I'm quite busy with music, and am in the process of writing then recording a new album.
Do you have a passion for Calcio? If so what is your team of choice?
P: Yes. I follow the Italian Championship every week, both Serie A and Serie B. I come from Bergamo, a town not so far from Milan so my team of choice is the team of my town, Atalanta B.C. I'm happy at the moment because we won the Serie B championship. When I was a child I liked the Dutch player Johann Cruijff but now, in my opinion, the best soccer players of all time are, in this order: Diego Armando Maradona (obviously), Zinedine Zidane (but I put him in second place after the the beautiful documentary about him) and Domenico Morfeo, for me the most underrated player in Italy. Johann Cruijff is out of competition.
E: Sure, and even if it does not fit my political views, I'm still a passionate follower of AC Milan, since I grew up seeing the AC Milan with Van Basten at his peak. I also currently follow the Premier league and the Spanish Liga.
Stuart has written six books on football, and also edits the peerless The Ball is Round. Follow him on Twitter @theballisround.