I gave up on that idea when I saw there was a complete soccer team with management and supporters put out by Edeka as a promotional item and that I could get them fairly cheap (15 figures posted to my door for under £10 seemed like a bargain compared to the Schleich ones). They are about 4cm tall, which is smaller than the schleich ones, but should work out better to make them look more like miniatures and less like toys.
Downside: they are of the smurf movie variety and I hate that look. So I set about trying to convert two of them to the classic, more cartoony smurfs, as a test. The first steps were to resculpt the eyes and eyebrows and fill out the brows for a more rounded head. The one with the open handpalms also had soms greenstuff applied to the fingers to make them more cartoony. The back of the heads had some lettering ("CE" and "(c) Peyo") that I also had to get rid of.
It's then that I noticed that these smurfs aren't in fact sculpted to be soccer smurfs, but rather repaints of regular smurfs. Since I already converted the heads, I decided to go a step further. I sculpted the edges of the shorts legs and added socks on one of them. I decided to leave the other one without socks to see if this step is really needed, as if this project goes forward, I'll be doing at least 22 + bench sitters and extras. I got lazy and decided not to do the sleeves and just paint those on as they would be rather tight anyway. Finally, I went crazy and added the metal spikes to the sole of the raised foot, something I'm sure I'll regret when I do the others.
That left me with these:
They looked ok, but only a lick of paint would reveal whether the conversion worked. I decided to go for players from two different teams (which also allows me to do half of them in socks if I'm so enclined, instead of all of them). Generally soccer smurfs tend to be depicted with a little shield on their breast, so I reproduced that here. I initially did them without any blacklining, but towards the end I felt they needed it to make them pop a bit more. The blue I used is darker than the original blue they came in, but pretty close to the Schleich blue, so, I don't know if it's good or bad. Also, the "10" on the back of the red one is seriously off-center, so I'll have to redo that lest it will drive me crazy. Overall though, I think the conversion worked, they no longer look like the movie version and aside from the fact they are smaller, they could pass for Schleich smurfs I think.
A side by side of the originals and painted conversions:
Now this leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand they ended up looking pretty good I think, but there was a lot of conversion work, so I could have stuck with my smaller metal versions and converted those instead.
They have the advantage of being rather cheap (for £20 to £25 I could probably get 3 teams worth and some extras) and being plastic, they are easier to cut up and create different poses. I also don't feel I have to be as neat or use highlights and shades on these, which is a timesaver. My metal ones would be harder to convert, but would open the option to do one team, cast them and use different heads, including perhaps a black smurf team. The smaller size would mean the field could look bigger too. Decisions, decisions...