By Peter Alegi
In September 2015, the American Subbuteo Association sent eight players—its largest delegation ever—to the FISTF World Cup in Italy. National champion and team captain Zach Walker (Colorado), Daniel Cranston (Maryland), Paul O’Donovan Rossa (California), and Andrea Gasparini (Massachusetts) competed in the Open category. Varant Kurkeyerian (California), Dario Passadore (Florida), Peter Alegi (Michigan), and Chris Sweetland (ASA President, Illinois) played in the Veteran category.
The team trained in Rome in the days prior to the World Cup. On September 9 and 10, our friends at Black Rose Roma TSC warmly and generously welcomed us to their clubhouse in Fiumicino. We played lots of friendlies and enjoyed two wonderful dinners. On the second night, members of S.S. Lazio TFC also joined us for an exciting evening of flicking.
On Friday morning, we rose early to make the road trip from Rome to San Benedetto del Tronto, a seaside town in the Marche region and the largest commercial fishing port in Italy. The 2.5-hour car ride took us through the Appenine mountains and a 6-mile tunnel under the Gran Sasso. Upon arrival, we took part in two friendly international tournaments at the Porto Grande mall. The first used Old Subbuteo rules and equipment, an interesting experiment! The second tournament featured Wales, Czech Republic, Japan, and eventual winner USA.
The feverish pace continued as we checked into the hotel and then attended the opening ceremony, draw, and dinner. The World Cup opened on Saturday at the Palazzo dello Sport “Bernardo Speca” with the individual competition. Cranston flew the Stars and Stripes high as the only American to qualify for the knockout stage.
The team event took place on Sunday. Team USA made history by winning its first-ever World Cup match against Switzerland in the Open category. Drawn with powerhouses Italy and Portugal, however, the team placed third in the group and was eliminated. The Veterans side came in last in a “group of death” that included eventual World champions Spain, Italy, England, and Germany.
In the end, this World Cup adventure was a memorable experience. We had fun, renewed old friendships and made many new ones, improved our game, and integrated the United States more closely into the global network of subbuteo table soccer.