As it turned out, a lot of the game turned out to be better in theory than in practice. Yes, it was neat that you could “dribble” the magnetic ball across the pitch, but it also meant that games were far less tactical than Subbuteo, and just became more about randomly slamming players around the pitch. The “tap to shoot” mechanism never really worked as well as it should have – and meant that there was little to no skill involved in actually taking shots on goal. About the best thing about it was the fact that goalkeepers could catch, as well as deflect, the ball – and the method of taking a “clearance” (by slamming the keeper down on the pitch so that they flung the ball away) was also pretty good.
Like Subbuteo, the makers of Pro Action Football (Parker Brothers) attempted to build a market for collectible teams, with an initial range of assorted club and country sets. These generally weren’t the easiest to track down, however (especially in those pre-internet days) and the lack of a thriving collectors’ market might be one reason why the game never really took off. Nevertheless, it’s remained a pretty consistent presence in toy shops ever since, having gone through several changes of both name and ownership. Having briefly been Michael Owen Total Action Football in the late ’90s, it’s continued to live on as Total Action Football ever since. However, the sets you can now pick up are – players aside – much cheaper and less appealing than the original sets, with rubbish plastic goals and a ball that doesn’t even have the Telstar panels painted on it.
Still, it’s impressive that it’s stuck around for so long – and it was even being advertised on TV as recently as 2011: