Alejandro Finisterre, the Spaniard who invented table football – futbolín in Spanish – has died, just a month short of his 88th birthday. He was born Alejandro Campos Ramírez in 1919, one of ten children of the radio-telegrapher at the lighthouse in Finisterre, which he adopted as his professional name when he became a poet and publisher. He left Galicia when he was 15 to attend school in Madrid. He was still in the capital when the Civil War broke out in 1936 and was nearly killed by one of Franco’s bombers in November that year. However, he was rescued seriously wounded from the rubble and was sent to Barcelona to convalesce. It was then that he invented the game that he and the other patients in the hospital would be able to play despite their war wounds. He told an interviewer many years later: “I liked table tennis, and so I thought, why not invent table football?” He was persuaded to patent it by an anarchist leader in Catalonia, which he did at the beginning of 1937. However, the patent papers were turned to mush by rain during his flight from Spain over the Pyrenees to France at the end of the war. In Paris in 1948, Finisterre found out that a friend from the hospital in Barcelona had patented the futbolín, which was being manufactured by a company in France. He claimed his right to the patent, and emigrated to Ecuador with the money he received from the company. He manufactured the game there and later on in Guatemala, where he moved in 1952. His business went well until the military coup in 1954, when Finisterre was kidnapped by Franco agents and put on a plane to Panama, on the way back to Madrid. He escaped by wrapping a bar of soap in silver paper as if it were a bomb, and shouting: “I am a Spanish refugee, they’ve kidnapped me, and I will stop this plane from arriving at its destination if I have to!’ He was let off in Panama. He lived many years in Mexico, publishing works by Spanish exiles, returning to Spain after Franco’s death. He died at his home in Zamora and his ashes were scattered in the Duero River which flows through Zamora to the Atlantic, off the coast of his homeland at the end of the world, Finisterre.


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