In our semi-regular series of interviews with Australian Subbuteo players, we ask them about their history in the game, their views on the game today and other bits of trivia about themselves. (To see previous profiles on Benji Batten, Steve Dettre, Robert Green and Luke Radziminski, click here)
This time, we talk to Raffaele Lombardi. Raffaele is originally Italian but has spent large chunks of his life in Australia and is now a permanent resident here. He is part of the Subbuteo Parramatta club but lives in Berry on the NSW South Coast, about 2 hours south of Sydney. He combines his Subbuteo playing with his regular business trips to Sydney.
Tell us a bit about how you first started playing Subbuteo. Where were you and how old were you?
I was 11 years old, in Italy. Every kid my age played the game and I just had to join in. It was 1983.
What were some of your most memorable Subutteo moments growing up?
Going to my first National tournament organised by Guerin Subbuteo, age 13, in Salerno city – 40 minutes away from my home town. My mum drove me there.
Guerin Subbuteo was the best Tournament. Anyone could win those years as players from all over the country, even the ones without a club, were showcasing all their skills.
Another moment was when I attended the first International tournament in Napoli. I skipped school and never told my mum to this day.
It was the first tournament as Subbuteo Sorrento.
I remember you once telling us a great story about how your first club closed – can you tell us the story again?
As Subbuteo was played only in major towns and cities around my area, growing up in a more touristic area (Sorrento/Amalfi Coast), the closest town was Castellemmare di Stabia, where I was actually born and where my family came from. This city, in those years, was very dangerous and I was not allowed by my parents to attend any games played there at such a young age as the train stations were a no go zone at night.
So, I then decided to create my own club called Subbuteo Sorrento and had only myself as a member.
When I started going to tournaments I was the only kid making decisions amongst these older men and its was all overwhelming for me until one day a heated argument started and I found myself between these older men going at each other. After this incident I decided not to attend tournaments anymore as I was just too young without having any support from my family or friends. I stopped playing in 1991. Once I left Sorrento, as the only member, it meant there was no club there anymore!
When did you start playing Subbuteo again?
Just last year (2014). I sent an e-mail and heard back just before the Spring League in September, so I joined that. I had e-mailed the contact addresses on some websites a few times since I permanently came to Australia (early 2000s) but none of those ever got replies. Then, last year I saw the Facebook page and saw some photos of a tournament in Melbourne (I remember seeing photos of Benny) so sent a message through that to Steve Dettre. He replied to me and put me in contact with Subbuteo Parramatta.
Have there been any big changes in the game since you were a kid that you’ve noticed in the last year or so?
So many, as far as I can remember from the late ’80s my style of game has changed 100%. For me it is all new now and I’m still trying to catch up on all those years that I lost. It has been 24 years since I played. Please remember that!!!
This year you went to the World Cup in Italy. Before you went, what were you hoping to achieve in the tournament?
Score at least a few goals as I knew already the level of those guys is freaky.
How did you go in the tournament – did you do better or worse than you were expecting?
I managed to take home 1 point but I really thought I was going to win my last game as I was 2-0 up. I think I blew that game as I was all over the Swiss player (John Imbrogiano) and could have taken the 3 points home. Never mind. Next time.
What did you notice about the players from different parts of the world and the way they play the game? Do the different countries use different styles or are they all the same once they get to an elite level?
At that level everybody is the same. Any game can be lost or won 8-0 by any opponent. An example was the Grand Final in the open category. Flores won 7-2 against Nastasi, which are the two top ranking players in the world. At half time Flores was 6-0 up. How do you guess that result? AND Flores was almost knocked out when he was 2-0 down against Bari (who I lost 5-0 in my group) with 2 minutes to go and ended up winning in golden goal in the quarter finals. You just can never guess.
What are some of the hints you picked up at the World Cup that you’re trying to work on in your own game now?
No big hints…just be calm. That’s all. But then again everybody knows that, and nobody does it. I am the first offender!
You also have a sideline in importing and selling some of the high end equipment from Italy. How much do you think equipment plays a part in your own game?
They have changed everything in my game. As I said before it has all changed for me and I can assure you that quality in the new bases and pitches makes the difference. And of course high sensibility in your flicking!!!
What football teams do you follow?
1. Juve Stabia – Serie Lega Pro (the team from where I come from)
2. Napoli – Seria A
3. Barcelona – La Liga
4. Juventus – Seria A (but only in Champions League!)
5. All Italian teams in the European leagues!!!