Part of the lineage of a wider range of sports-based models (the original baseball/basketball versions, which UK readers might be most familiar with via their appearance in the film Home Alone, were called “Starting Lineup”), these figures were produced for the European football fan market between the late ’80s and early ’90s by venerable toy company Kenner, though over here they’re more commonly referred to under the name of Tonka, the company that owned Kenner at the time.
In many ways, they were the precursor to Corinthians’ famous “Prostars” range – but rather than being player-specific caricatures, they consisted of a relatively small selection of generic poses and heads, which were then simply painted with the correct kits and hair/skin colours. This meant, at least, that it was possible to produce a quite impressive range of players – something that Kenner maximised by producing different series for different countries (they were known as Sportstars in both Germany and France, albeit with different logos, and “Forza Campioni” in Italy).
While they rarely bore more than a passing resemblance to the players in question, these were a pretty exciting range for kids of the era to collect – and despite missing the manufacturers’ logos (presumably for rights reasons), the machine-printed strip details were actually quite well done. The vast quantities that were apparently produced mean that they frequently show up not just on eBay, but in charity shops and at car boot sales – but it’s seeing one in that exciting green packaging that still brings back the childhood thrill I used to get when browsing them in the local pound shop and dreaming about which one I’d buy next.