Monday, 8 April 2013

Palitoy Pocketeers 'World Cup' (1975)

Think of the phrase 'Flick-to-kick' and you're immediately likely to summon up images of the hemispherically-anchored figures of Subbuteo. The trouble is, Subbuteo was never very good as a game to play in the back of a car on a long journey.

Luckily, there was one game worthy of the slogan. Kind of. 'World Cup' was one of a whole range of games by Palitoy called 'Pocketeers'. Their aim was to provide fun entertainment that kids could easily buy with whatever pocket money they had. There were no batteries to fit and no computer gadgetry involved; all the moving parts in each game were built around clockwork mechanisms and manual interaction on the part of the owner, and that was all.

There were many games to collect in the series emulating everything from angling to motor racing, and all of them fitted snugly in an average school child's pocket. Inevitably football came into focus for the Palitoy boffins and in 1975 they came up with a design that simulated the end-to-end cut and thrust of the beautiful game... in plastic.

There were two 'teams', one in red and one in blue, and both had four 'players' - actually flicker switches - situated in opposing pairs at set places on a contoured pitch that can only be described as ‘mountainous’. Above it, the pitch markings were printed on the clear plastic lid for added realism.

To play the game, a small white ball was flicked into play ‘pinball-style’ by the use of one of the flickers at either end of the pitch. At this point, the ball would roll randomly around the pitch’s peaks and troughs until it finally came to rest in between a pair of players. Depending on where the ball stopped, one player would have the advantage of flicking the ball towards their opponents to score a goal or, if they were skilful (OK, lucky), they could delicately flick the ball towards one of their other players on the pitch.

In reality, this rarely happened, and so an average game of Pocketeers ‘World Cup’ would usually result in a frantic and unending series of forceful switch flicking not unlike a session of Hungry Hippos on amphetamines.

Shortly after its release, Palitoy’s ‘World Cup’ was renamed ‘Big Match’ in a move that no doubt pleased the legal staff at FIFA as much as it irritated the producers of ITV’s Sunday afternoon highlights show. Even so, the game continued to be made until the late 1970’s and was a staple in toy shops up and down the UK.

Looking back, the game had enough charm to reel in many a curious kid four decades ago, but speaking as someone that once owned this game, the novelty wore off all too quickly. With no way to easily control the ball and nothing but a fiddly switch to flick incessantly, satisfaction and variety were at something of a premium.

Cheap and capable of inducing a nominal sense of cheer, Palitoy’s creation had the right intentions at heart, but it was never going to be the ultimate flick-to-kick game - even if it was easier to play on a long car journey.

(Advert image reproduced by kind permission of combomphotos)


  1. I remember playing this, myself. It was stupid and should have been banned under an international treaty for unnecessary C02 emissions and the landfill space it no doubt still occupies.

    1. Finding it difficult to disagree, Tel... :)