American Subbuteo Association
Interview with ASA Nationals Weekend Winners
August 8, 2019
Jonathan Smith (ASA President): Tell us about your recent experience at ASA Nationals weekend in San Francisco.
Daniel Cranston (Maryland): I had a great experience meeting new and familiar people for a competitive yet easy-going atmosphere that the ASA frequently balances well. It was great to see Varant, Conan, George, and Peter Vahle again from the Northern California region, and to also meet Jordan and Vincent from their club for the first time. It also isn't often that two new faces to the U.S. subbuteo scene take a flight to make their first tournament appearances, but Shaun Kidsley [from Phoenix] and Luca Varriale [San Diego] did just that. I hope they had an enjoyable time as we showcased the community side of the ASA with the competition and desire to improve. Varant Kurkeyerian and Peter Vahle were dealt a tough hand having to find a venue in San Francisco [after the original host city Oxnard, CA, pulled out] and then managing thirteen participants (an organizer’s worst nightmare!) but, wow, did they pull through. The venue was top notch; the pitches were in great condition; and Varant, as tournament director, was able to fit everything in with referees for all games besides the Mary Jane (consolation) rounds. Overall, it was a memorable weekend for my 15th consecutive Nationals and I am looking forward to the next!
Christian Filippella (California): The weekend in San Francisco was great. Varant, Peter and all the local players welcomed us and made us feel at home. Everything was perfectly organized and the tables were ideal to play on. The venue was also very nice, spacious and clean. I thought the level of play was good. I was happy to see that there are some pretty good local players who have a nice clean flicking technique. I felt that most new players lacked a bit in tactics and experience but that’s normal. I am sure that participating in the ASA Nationals weekend will help them grow as players. I was also happy to see Benny Nuger [from Colorado] playing. I think he has a lot of potential and he proved he has talent by reaching the final in the Nationals (Open). He played a good final, especially in the second half. He still has a lot to learn and that’s only a good thing.
Peter Alegi (Michigan): I left San Francisco wishing I could play in these high-quality tournaments more often. They are serious fun! I would also like to thank my fellow ASA Board members for making the weekend such a success. Jonathan Smith, ASA president, worked tirelessly with the Board all year, holding monthly conference calls and keeping the organizing train moving when it needed to move. Bryan Arnold did phenomenal work filming and broadcasting matches on the ASAtv YouTube channel and on FB Live. Last but not least, Varant and Peter secured an attractive venue and ran the event very well.
JS: What were your competitive expectations coming into the weekend?
CF: I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t played since November 2018 with CCT Eagles Napoli in Italy’s Serie A. In the past, I used to have some friendly games with Paul O’Donovan Rossa a couple of times a month, but now that he retired from subbuteo there is not a single player anywhere near me whom I can practice with. It’s also been an extremely busy and complicated time of my life and I wasn’t sure I could make it to the tournament until just a few days before. In fact, I just drove on Friday from Los Angeles to San Francisco and came back on Sunday night right after the International Open (IO).
PA: My aim was to reach the finals in both Nationals (Open and Veterans) and at least the semifinals in the FISTF IO. I managed to reach two of these objectives. Complicating matters was that I arrived in San Francisco from Ireland on Friday. Due to jet lag and the eight-hour difference I was awake at 3:30am and this probably took a little away from my performance in the afternoons when I needed to be mentally and physically sharpest against the strongest opponents.
DC: To defend the National Championship. Unfortunately, I fell short of that, but was able to end the weekend with a victory in the FISTF IO on Sunday.
JS: How do you feel you played in Saturday’s Nationals and Sunday's FISTF IO?
PA: I was fairly satisfied with my performance. On the positive side, I was consistent throughout the weekend. In the last two years I’ve been working a lot on reducing the ups and downs in my play within each game and during entire tournaments. My pace was not too fast and not too slow and my goalkeeping was solid. The Veterans title was a nice result, especially after losing three finals in the last four years. On the negative side, I lost 0-1 in both the Open and IO semifinals despite having multiple chances to score. My opponents, Benny Nuger and Daniel Cranston, deserve lots of credit for keeping clean sheets, but I also felt I could have finished more clinically.
DC: I struggled with shooting consistency in high-pressure games all weekend, but was able to get most of the results I needed. My offense outside of shooting was average on the weekend, I struggled to find consistency when picking up speed of play and therefore tended to play too slow which hurt some potential for creating good scoring chances. My defense did a bit better than I expected, I was able to primarily force low quality or deflection chances (with exceptions of course) and made a couple very accurate blocks during the weekend. I felt my goaltending was extremely good all weekend and made the difference in the Sunday IO final against Christian who dominated the game in terms of number of chances to score.
CF: I think I played pretty well on Saturday, much better than I thought I would, considering that I hadn’t trained or played in months. I tried to stay focus as much as I could, even if my thoughts were somewhere else all day. I was tired as I hadn’t slept much for two nights. I played a great semi against Daniel [Cranston] and a very good final vs Benny [Nuger]. In the end, I think my gaming was solid and I deserved to win the title again. On Sunday I wasn’t sure I was going to play again, as I was overwhelmed with recent personal stressful situations. In the end, I decided to join the guys and I played well up to the final against Daniel. At that point I was pretty exhausted. In that game I think Daniel was also more determined than me to win the game. However, I believe I had many more chances to score than him, but I could not stay focused and finalize them. My defense was solid and I didn’t give him any clear chances to shoot. But towards the end of the game, on a counterattack, he gained a difficult shot and scored an incredible goal. I am happy for him as he has lost several finals with me and I know he really wanted to win this time! Daniel is always very dedicated with his training. Before the World Cup in Gibraltar last year, Team USA held several training sessions where I showed the guys how to improve their defense, and I think it shows. Daniel is one of the players from the U.S. national team who has improved the most during these last years.
JS: What was your favorite moment of the weekend?
DC: I suppose it has to be beating Christian for the first time to win the FISTF IO on Sunday. As someone who loves the challenge, strategy, and precision that high-level subbuteo can bring, being pushed to improve and reach a higher level by someone else is extremely important. Christian has been that mark for me in the last several years, so finally securing a win over a world-class player like him helps bring some confidence and experience to future high-stakes matches. Many other moments that stick out in mind when recapping the weekend and I could go on and on but will leave it there!
CF: Probably when we ate pizza all together and celebrated after the Nationals on Saturday night. It was great to see that in the end we are just a good group of friends having fun. It’s much different here than in Europe where everyone is extremely competitive and not all players are fair.
PA: The highlight of my weekend was refereeing the IO final in which Christian and Daniel both played with unpainted figures on orange bases. Just kidding! My favorite moment was my IO barrage match against a very in-form Benny Nuger. I was “in the zone” all game—you know, when “thinking” and “doing” merge into one and everything is flowing. I defended well, converted my chances, and won 4-0. One of the best matches I’ve ever played. Sipping beer out of the Veterans trophy was also memorable.
JS: What advice would you give U.S. subbuteo players who are considering attending Nationals in 2020?
CF: Train and play as much as possible. As Team USA captain, use my experience, knowledge and advice to improve your game. Playing in the World Cup is a completely different story. Last year in Gibraltar, I arrived one tiny step from the final because I was physically, mentally and technically ready. The last month before the World Cup is very important and one should play at least two hours a day before the event. Had I played the last World Cup the way I played this weekend I would have not even passed the group stage. I am very proud and honored to not only represent United States but to be the captain. I would love to see the 2020 World Cup team on the podium. Personally, next year’s World Cup may be my last tournament as I may go back into subbuteo retirement, like when I didn’t play from 2000 to 2015. So I really want to prove myself and finally become FISTF world champion. The USA has never won a world title and it would be a great way to say my goodbye to this beautiful game.
PA: I agree with Christian about the importance of playing and training regularly before big competitions such as Nationals and the World Cup. This is not easy for many U.S. players due to the enormous size of the country and the small number of competitive players in many areas (the Washington D.C./Baltimore area being an exception). Having said that, it helps to train solo at home (“20-30 minutes a day keeps the table soccer doctor away”), play in ASA Opens (Colorado in September anyone?!) and a couple of majors like the Holiday Silver and Flicko de Mayo. Of course, traveling to Europe to compete in big-time tournaments would be an ideal way to further develop tactical, technical, and psychological skills.
DC: Don't expect to win, that will be me (kidding . . . well, kind of kidding as I'll do my best to reclaim that title!). But for a serious answer: don’t be intimidated. Enjoy meeting the unique personalities and range of subbuteo experiences of people in attendance as I believe it makes us all better people in the long run. Also, reach out to people in the ASA who are organizing and participating and feel free to raise any questions or concerns; I expect you will have engaging and helpful replies. See you at the 2020 Nationals!