The beauty and eye-watering prices of Subbuteo’s African teams

The African Cup of Nations 2022 is an international football competition full of eye-catching kits in unusual combinations.

From Cameroon’s famous green shirts to Nigeria’s often crazy kit designs, the continent is no stranger to bright and outlandish shirts and the tournaments are usually a riot of colour.

Fans of Subbuteo will probably see the tournament as yet another missed opportunity for the brand, as special editions based on the team and with unique player designs such as Mo Salah would be sure to be a hit with collectors and players alike. But what if you want to run your own tournament using African nations in Subbuteo?

In short, it’s actually very difficult. Subbuteo’s heavyweight catalogue consists of over 320 teams but just South Africa and Zaire (the lovely reference 176) were ever produced. And even then South Africa’s reference 157 is more commonly recognised as Mexico or Republic of Ireland as South Africa wore green shirts at the time it was released.

If you were being generous you could say Congo were reference 041 (Liverpool) although the skin tone of the players does not match the international team of the era so that one is a bit of a stretch.

For a better selection of genuine African international teams from the official Subbuteo stable you will need to jump forward into the 1980s and 1990s, when teams such as Cameroon reached the World Cup and inspired new teams in the lightweight Subbuteo style of the time. However, as the teams were made in such low numbers collecting all of the small number of African teams Subbuteo produced will not come cheap.

In all there are only four proper lightweight African teams. It seems North America, South America and Europe were all more of a focus for the brand even after the rise of African nations in major tournaments. There are also some that can fall under standard reference numbers. For example, Tunisia could easily be a generic red reference 001.

However, that leaves these four with a combined price of over £200. Yikes.

Algeria – 412

An Algeria side sold for £69 (plus £5 postage) on eBay in October last year. The price is not surprising. It’s an incredibly rare team and does not appear on auction sites very often.

The players are adorned in red shirts with white sleeves, red shorts and white socks but the real eye-catching aspect of the team are the green and red bases. I’ve also seen this team with white bases but the red certainly looks better.

The team is one of the biggest and most successful in Africa so it is no surprise it was available in one of the earlier lightweight boxes of the 1980s.

Cameroon – 403

Cameroon has one of the all-time classic Subbuteo kits. Green shirts, red shorts and yellow socks mean it is one of the few Subbuteo teams that can only represent a single team. The reference 403 was timed to Cameroon’s rise in the late 1980s and early 1990s and represents the Roger Milla era of Cameroonian football.

There are four different versions of the kit and a number of base combinations. Most will go for around £20-£30, meaning it is one of the more affordable African international sides.

Egypt – 716

It seemed to take a long time for Subbuteo to launch an Egypt team but they eventually did using reference 716. Mo Salah’s nation are adorned in their usual red kit but the team is notable for the word Egypt across the chest – one of few nations to get this treatment after some versions of the USA and USSR’s famous CCCP kit.

An Egypt team can go for as much as £60 and the latest went for a little under that on eBay.

Nigeria – 810

Nigeria’s 810 reference number is one of the highest Subbuteo ever made and represents the nation’s emergence in the 1990s just a few years before Subbuteo stopped using the traditional reference numbers altogether.

The kit is a subdued green number – at least compared to more modern kits – but the team is incredibly rare and the most recent example sold for £90. That seems high and around £60 can usually get you this team when it is listed.

More modern Subbuteo has replicated the stunning zig zag Nike kit of 2018 if that is your sort of thing.

Stephen Hurrell
Stephen Hurrell
Stephen is the founder and editor of The Hobby Online and The Hobby by Subbuteo.Online print magazine. He is a giant nerd and specialises in Subbuteo, retro football kits and consumer stories. A journalist and editor of 15 years, he has written about football for some of the UK's biggest publications.

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