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Peter Upton's

Subbuteo Tribute Page.

The North American Experience  (Part two).

The Jokari Company link-up - 1982.

In 1982 Waddingtons/Subbuteo Sports Games joined with American company Jokari to export Subbuteo to the North American market. This was designed to cash-in on the Soccer boom that had accompanied the North American Soccer League in the 1970s. Sadly, their timing was not so great. By the early 1980s, most of the famous players who had graced the NASL had retired, and the league was limping to bankrupcy. I've been told that although Jokari were still selling Subbuteo in the late 1980s, their customer services had clearly lost interest in it.

My site has full details of Subbuteo's North American Range Just follow the link.

 

However, there was a second side to this North-Atlantic co-operation. The Subbuteo Sports Games trade catalogue of 1982 featured a Jokari section, with the American games offered to Subbuteo's European retailers. Although I have had scans of the 1982 trade catalogue for years, I assumed this was just a sharing of space, and that the two ranges had no actual physical link. However, Italian collectors who have been picking up Jokari products, have found that the Subbuteo logo was added to both the boxes and instructions. As this site is designed to catalogue all Subbuteo branded releases, it seems appropriate to add a page to cover this quirky and short term venture.

It is also worth noting that the 1982 catalogue has a third section devoted to "Harrier" products. I was so disinterested in this section when I borrowed the catalogue, that I didn't keep any scans or photocopies of it at all. I think they were wooden gliders, but perhaps someone can enlighten me....

It is also worth a quick appreciation of the 1982 catalogue cover, which looks as if it was knocked up on a ZX Spectrum, another important product from 1982. Computers. They are the future you know.

Jokari - The Game.

As Subbuteo is both the company trade mark, and the name of a distinct game, so it is the case with Jokari. Jokari the game is a paddle ball affair, which according to Wikipedia, was invented in France in 1938 by Louis Joseph Miremont. The game consisted of a rubber ball attached to an anchor by means of a long elastic cord. The ball is hit with a paddle, and the string stops it disappearing over the neighbour's fence..... Like the classic Swingball, the game could be played by two people, or solo. The difference being the lack of a pole. More bending is required....

Jokari®: One, Two, or Four Player Game (primghar.com) is a useful little website for Jokari details. (I always love an enthusiastic amateur website). The game was apparently at its height of popularity in the 1950s. Even my mother remembers it.

It seems a strange link-up for Subbuteo, but actually it did make some sense. The company was called Subbuteo Sports Games, and it was at its height in 1982, with table rugby, cricket and hockey still in production. Even in the 1990s Richard Payne mentions that Subbuteo head Trevor Spencer was still open to "the right opportunities" in regard to extra sports. When you look at the simple items that periodically take hold as school playground crazes (yo-yos are a great example from my youth), it was possible that one of the Jokari products would take the UK by storm.....

In the early 1980s, Subbuteo made an attempt to number all their vast collection of sets and equipment into a unified range. This numbering gave the table soccer sets Sxxx numbers, whilst Hockey was H100, and Sport Billy B010. Even the pens and mugs from the UK Subbuteo Assn were given UKxxx numbers. Here then, is Subbuteo's Jxxx range.


Jokari Company products.

J100 Jokari Original.

The proper game, with two wooden paddles, the anchor (in red) and attached ball. Subbuteo Sports Games editions have an additional Subbuteo logo sticker on the front of the box.

J500 Shuttle Volley.

 

This one doesn't feature in the 1982 catalogue, but an Italian version exists in the collecting community with Subbuteo branding. The box actually states that the game was made in Taiwan, under licence by Subbuteo Sports Games. The 1981-82 Tyne and Wear address dates the set alongside the others shown here.

Shuttle Volley is a badminton style of game with wooden paddles, and a low moveable net, designed to be used by two-four people, inside or out. The shuttlecocks ("birds") apparently have real feathers and are especially designed for shorter indoor play.

The Italian instructions are a rubbish photocopy, with the all important Subbuteo name on the top. In fact, the game logos look hand-drawn. A labour of love, or just a lack of expense!

J620 Kikari Soccer Trainer.

"Now there's a new exciting way to improve your soccer skills. It's called Kikari. And it's from Subbuteo, makers of the worlds famous table-top game. Kikari* can be played alone for training, or by two players. And because the ball is secured to the ground by a stretch cord, you won't spend half your time running after it! Which means more intensive training and a faster game. The two nets included in the set will fit both a size 4 and 5 soccer ball."

*Please note ball not included.

   

An amusing pun on Jokari. This item used the same general principle as their more famous product. So this is a football that you can't (hopefully) kick through the neighbour's greenhouse. The product is strange, because it doesn't actually include the football. All you get is a metal prong to stick in your lawn, the elastic cord, and a pair of nets, into which you place your football of choice. That sounds a bit lame frankly.

However, Subbuteo clearly had some faith in it, as this product was picked for an advertisement on the reverse of the Panini Espana 82 World Cup sticker book. In theory this would be a huge cross-over market. Here, the Kikari was offered with the classic green Subbuteo sports bag (C200) for only £5.99 (plus £1 postage, and 30 empty sticker packets). Clearly Subbuteo had over produced this bag. It turns up everywhere...... The blurb at the top of the section came from this advert. Did they make it seem more exciting than I did?

If you are wondering, the box has a picture of NASL local hero Kyle Rote (in a classic mid 1970s Dallas Tornado kit), and he also features on the instruction booklet. I imagine this was met with some confusion in the UK market. Kyle who? How much would it have cost to get Glen Hoddle to repeat the picture for the UK market?

J701 Racquetball for one player.

This appears to be an upgraded version of Jokari, with a nice looking metal framed racquet instead of a wooden paddle. The anchor/ball combo turned blue, but I don't know if they is any other difference to the weight of the ball or anything.

J702 Racquetball for 2 players.

How many different games can you produce from one basic product anyway? This is essentially the same set as J701, but with two racquets in a different colour box. There isn't much more to add really. It's a ball on a long elastic string. Annoy the hell out of your dog.....


As I've mentioned, the Jokari company lost interest in Subbuteo in the late 1980s as the original US soccer boom waned. I don't know how long Subbuteo Sports Games persevered with a Jokari range, but suggest that it was an even shorter affair! The craze clearly never happened.

The Jokari company in the USA still exists, but apparently no longer produce any game products. So the game is fairing even worse that table soccer. Is it time for a revival? No? Okay, suit yourself..... Time to visit another page then.


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