Category Archives: Art

Three Sided Football

UPDATE! A game of three-sided football will be going ahead (provisionally) at Saturday Feb 25th. 11.00am in Deptford Park. Get in contact via the comments if you want to join in, or even just observe.

 

This story begins with a triangle.

In outward appearances I seemed a fairly football-obsessed child. But, in truth, I must have got quite bored of it very soon. I was always daydreaming, drawing and writing of changes, improvements, implausibilities. Ranging from statistically anal fan fiction about goalmachines plucked from non-league obscurity to re-imaginings of the rules of the game, at the tender age of maybe 10 years I was already dissatisfied with the real-world limitations of the game (but clearly utterly enamoured with an essense of its form).

One of my idle fantasies was imagining a three-sided version of the game. I pictured this being played on a triangular football pitch, with goals on each equilateral side, with thrilling match-ups like Manchester United versus Sheffield Wednesday versus Wimbledon FC. I thought this could replace the much maligned League Cup! It was only the realisation that stadiums couldn’t be moved around for a midweek triangular game that killed the idea for me (yes, at that tender age my imagination was stuck with pre-existing organisations and a desire to make the fans pay…  a capitalist realist…)

Nearly two decades later, I have stumbled upon a three sided game that actually exists (as in, it is played by real life people).

It’s not a triangle, it’s a hexogon – as soon as my eyes fell upon the image, I realised the foolishness of the three sided pitch.

It’s not a new game either, and in fact existed whilst I idly daydreamed something very akin to it. Asger Jorn, the Danish situationist, apparently invented it (presumably before he died in 1973), to explain his trilectics (an upgrade of Marxian dialectics) and generally oooh-errr people’s view of football.

As a result, it seems to be mainly played by philosophy students, situationists, psychogeographers, lefties without too much of a stick up their arse et al. The Luther Blissett lot are involved. As is Stewart Home. But I have also heard mention of it being used as a training game for young players.

Interestingly it is the team that concedes the least goals that wins. Whilst in regular binary rectangular football that would probably lead to a horrifically negative game, in heterodox trinary hexagonal football it leads to (distrustful) alliances, i.e. the two teams losing (or likely to lose) can team-up against the superior team with a double man advantage – whilst it suits them.

I really want to play a game. Not really because of the intellectualism surrounding it, though that does indeed whet the appetite, but because I still have that greedy maximalism of childhood. I wasn’t daydreaming of three-sided football at the age of 10 to challenge the role of proletariat and bourgeoisie or the fucker and the fucked. I was doing it because, wow, an extra team, that would be amazing!

But, sadly, attempts to contact people involved with it have been unanswered. It’s as if I’m tring to blag my way into a situationist freemasonry lodge…

If you know of a game, or would like to set one up with me in sunny South London, get in touch. (Warning: I am rubbish.)

(Here’s Sid Lowe writing for Sports Illustrated about it…)

I want to play it oh-so-much…

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Filed under Art, Culture, Football, Personal Memories, Politics, Rebellion, Three Sided Football

Real-Barça-Windsor

How come the FT can today have the headline “Royal theatre captivates the world” whilst the far better – lurid, melodramatic, guttural, miasmatic, transpontine – spectacle of Real versus Barça is castigated?

If the tourist-friendly sterility of the Royal Wedding – or indeed a routine, incident free, overpowering, freescoring win for either Spanish giant in a regular Liga match – is the world’s best then I am happy to slink into my stinking underworld of sporting deviance. As the Notorious B.I.G. once said, It don’t make sense going to heaven with the goodie goodies… no sleeping all day, no getting my dick licked. That is how I view football, music, art. And I like it. Welcome to hell!

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Filed under Art, Culture, Politics, Ritual

An Orgy of Simulacra

Here in the glorious Dog Kennel Hill Estate, the flat upstairs are, I believe, playing one of the football video games, presumably FIFA or Pro Evolution. The crowd sound FX are realistic enough to occasionally make me think, Shit! Dulwich Hamlet are playing at home and they’ve got a crowd of 20,000!!

But in-between the songs playing on my girlfriend’s Spotify playlist, in the moments of fade in/out quiet, it sounds like an orgy is going on up there. A man-on-man orgy. A grunting, wild, and – in ways metaphorically so – utterly utterly penetrating orgiastic ritual.

Either Clifford Geertz‘s “deep play” of important sporting rituals has transfered to the simulacrum of digital football simulation, or one of them has got a really big, hard cock.

That is all.

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Filed under Art, Culture, Dulwich Hamlet, Football, Sexuality

In Celebration of the Vuvuzela

How very dare you, you sick fucking cunts!!!

There’s a buzz about the 2010 World Cup. The constantly wavering hum of the vuvuzela. More swarm of angry bees than musical instrument.

I’m quite amazed. Just when you though the FIFA World Cup was a homogeneous and sterile experience that would be the same in any city, in any continent, changing only over time with the desires & technological capabilities of the very many vested interests, such as Coca-Cola & Adidas… Just when you thought that was the case, here is something, some little tiny sensory invasion, that offers the difference that is promised in a World Cup but never delivered.

Rejoice! Rejoice? Television broadcasters, corporate sponsors, audiences and – amongst others – the frankly pathetic French national team want vuvuzelas banned from stadiums. And the World Cup organisers are considering it. But these lot are exactly the kind of distant power sources I thought us little people are meant to “reclaim” football from…

There is a lot of lazy fairytale talk amongst football fans about the game being, in essence, “ours”. Ignoring the historical problems of whether this has even been the case, there is a latent feeling that we have a right – as normal fans, whatever that is – to take football back. From the Glazers, the Murdochs, the Blatters and other pantomime figureheads of contemporary footballing hierarchy.

And yet it would seem that the majority of romanticist armchair-fairytale football fandom and it’s hierarchal masters/servants (delete as appropriate to your own view on simple pluralism) agree on the Sonic Plague of the Vuvuzela.

But I say, Gods Save The Vuvuzela!

My reasons? (1) We are lucky to be made to feel uncomfortable watching football on television. It’s a vulnerable position. There’s little else in the world that can so tempt me into such an open sluice of repeated attacks of advertising like football can. I suppose because it ensnared me, and most of us, in youth. Nostalgia. Knee-jerk romanticism. You’ve got my balls in a vice-like grip. The ease of consuming football leaves you openmouthed to the sluice. Yum.

(2) FIFA et al. got what they wanted. Or claimed what they wanted. They said they want the colours and sounds and happy poverty smiles of the negroes. They wanted this to be Africa’s World Cup. But the first hint of the developed world’s media and rape industries getting upset at the slightest hint of heterodoxy and it’s time to wipe that beaming I-can-beat-AIDS smile off that filthy negro face. Well done FIFA. Well done postmodernity. Well done all. Enjoy your identikit world and identikit megaevents. For me the vuvuzela should be merely the beginning. For you, you want it to be the continuation of the end. Or something that feels – and sounds – like the end.

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Filed under 2010 World Cup, Art, Culture, Football, Rebellion, Ritual, Sociology, Sport, Vuvuzela

Eric Cantona versus Crystal Palace, 25th January 1995

Wow, was it really 15 years ago today?! Eric Cantona did this…

… and football was never the same for me. It expanded. It grew. It matured. It became erect. Glorious. Huge. Profound Multifaceted. Interesting!! Interesting enough to hold my interest, my fascination out of the simplicity of childhood and into the complexities of adulthood.

I was at this game. I had turned 13 years old only 5 days before. My United-supporting mother had managed to get hold of some tickets – amongst Palace fans, in their dreary Croydon hole of Selhurst Park. Their bitter jealousy of United electrified me, made me proud. I was only young but I knew resentment like that was a compliment. I was always slightly embarrassed by United being the best supported team in the land, but always exhilarated by them also being the most hated. I really feel the paranoid arrogance of that identity helped forge the person I’ve grown up to be, for better and for worse.

The Palace fans’ hostility towards United manifested itself most spectacularly, most venomously, most complimentarily in their seething hatred of Eric Cantona, as the figurehead and catalyst of United’s recent and long awaited success (strange to think nowadays, but they hadn’t won the English league championship for twenty-six years, between 1967 and 1993).

The Cantona “incident”, the splendid kung-fu attack, the madness, the red mist, the Kicking Of Racism Out Of Football, happened after he’d been sent off for what I believe was a second bookable offence – a nonchalant little kick out at some anonymous waste-of-cultural-space Palace player. He was walking off the pitch, Matthew Sommons, mouth bomber jacket wearing Palace fan, ran down the stand to hurl abuse at Cantona, who then landed not only the above flying kick but also this rather tasty jab to the face…

… The followed a predictable moral panic, a lengthy ban (9 months), rumours of transfers to continental clubs or even retiring from football, and of course the brilliant “Seagulls” line:

My favourite experience of the night came after Cantona’s event. Myself and two similarly young friends stood on our seats amidst the increasingly hostile Palace fans and heartily sang “UNITED! *clap clap clap* UNITED! *clap clap clap* UNITED! *clap clap clap* UNITED! *clap clap clap*” repeatedly. In response HUNDREDS of  enraged Palace fans turned their backs on the game to respond “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” A number of policemen rushed over to shut us up as we were on the verge of sparking a riot. To feel such hatred was an incredible buzz (an ecstatic feeling that I’m still yet to better).

In the match that marked Cantona’s return to football, on the 1st October later that year, against Liverpool, where he dramatically set up a goal within a couple of minutes, a Sky commentator unthinkingly uttered something rather profound: “Well, the fiction writers wouldn’t dare have this on paper.” It’s true, Fiction writers, drama scripters etc. would be too scared of being ‘obvious’, too scared of being ‘pretentious’, too scared of not being seen as a great artist (whatever that means!) Which, I think, neatly summarises the attraction of sport. It doesn’t know that its creating a story, a mythology, a fiction. And is thus both the most believable and the most absurd kind. It is the nearest antithesis to the painstaking knowingness of metafiction. It feels real. It tastes real. It smells real. And that night 15 years ago was the best reality has ever been.

Thank you Eric xxx

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Filed under Art, Cantona, Culture, Football, Manchester United, Personal Memories, Sport

“Sulky Failed Footballer”

Recently, whilst helping him paint a room white to be used as a personal gallery space, I conversed with an artist about the subject of rebellion within Sport.

Given that his artwork seems to represent romance, ecstasy, drama and a tangible sense of having something brilliant to share, and that he admires the challenging heterodoxies of J.G.Ballard and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I sought to canvass his opinion on some fledgling ideas of Sporting rebellion: What follows is an (admittedly dramatised) account of the debate… (the identity of The Artist remains anonymous to protect the innocent from my ex post facto revisionism)

I narrowed my eyes, focusing in on The Artist. What’s he got inside?! I readied myself…

“In the name of symbolic rebellion,” I began, gulping through the chemical paint fumes. “What if… I found ten other like-minded people to enter a Sunday League football competition with me, as a team of eleven, but upon kick-off we all stood still in formation, refusing to move as our opponents played (and presumably scored)?”

I asked this question with an immediate sense that this was an interesting and rebellious idea. The Artist nodded slowly, processing the scenario. “I think that would end in violence,” he said, sagely, and somewhat protectively. He was clearly far from convinced.

“Yes!” I squealed. “Violence, yes. But why would they be violent?”

“Because you’d be flaunting your inability to play football in their faces…”

“Hmmm… perhaps.” I felt the raw excitement of an intelligent person fundamentally disagreeing with an idea surge inside. At times like these it is tempting to argue for argument’s sake. The thrill of the chase, the hunt, the struggle. But not this time. Let’s build, constructively.

“…And I fail to see what ‘meaning’ of this is supposed to be…” continued The Artist.

“The meaning?! The meaning is to raise questions, challenge established ways of assumed thinking. To make them question what football is.”

“I think that meaning loses a lot by the fact you’d be a bunch of chancers who wouldn’t stand a chance of winning.”

“So you think  that sporting success and/or capability gives authenticity and authority.”

“Yes I do.”

“I think you’re right. Which says something very interesting about what Sport is.”

The Artist carried on with another line of doubt: “I also believe you’re targeting the wrong people. I see no point in doing this to a Sunday League team. All you will do is piss off a small number of people to whom their weekend football is a source of enjoyment, relaxation from the moribund rigours of day-to-day life.”

“Fuck those weasels…” I muttered under my breath. “Oh god, not this kinda sob story!” I exclaimed audibly. “We’d be giving them a Gift.”

“A gift?!”

“Yes, the gift of a cultural challenge, a chance to look at things differently. They wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth would they?” I said, half-laughing.

“They might very well punch a gift horse in the mouth…” We both roarsomely sniggered.

“It’s a match they’d remember all their lives, and that is a Gift.” I furthered.

“Yes, they’d remember it as the time a bunch of arseholes turned up to play a game of football but at the last minute decided they couldn’t be bothered to play and so acted like a bunch of prats. This would be so much better if it was Manchester United, or some other professional team. It would be more of a statement, though I’m still unsure of what, and at least it is their paid work, handsomely paid work, so you wouldn’t be ruining some miserable office worker’s weekly fun.”

“Oh god!” I threw my arms up. “Of course it would be better if it were Manchester United or Liverpool or whoever! Please tell me  how on Earth I get a Premier League team under my control, or signed up to my heterodox beliefs… Until then, practicality demands I strike at a lower level…”

“The lowest level,” corrected The Artist.

“Okay… okay… I accept there’s some ethical ambiguity about this vague idea of mine. If we should be aiming for bigger targets, what about this rebellion…?”

“Isn’t this ruining football, spoiling the match? Devaluing something that you profess to enjoy, and love?” asked The Artist.

“No, it has a role in football.”

“But how? Sports have defined rules, systems of measurements. The things you’re suggesting have no role in that.”

“But they do. Sport is a spectacle. Sport needs the spectacular. The interplay between things that fit in and outside elements, and between objective rules and subjective values, is wonderful, delightful… Exciting!”

“But you are alone in your strangeness. Most people will just want to see a normal match.”

“Isn’t this just a little like J.G.Ballard’s pooing in swimming pools miniature rebellion in Cocaine Nights that you are so enthusiastic about?”

“But you must realise you are odd in this context.”

“Am I so strange? I honestly don’t think so. For example, football crowds love streakers – and before you interject, sir, yes, even the cock/thigh-slapping male streakers! – which has No Place in the semi-imagined Object-Rule sport orthodoxy. They love the surprise, they love the break from the formulaic. They love its interplay with formula. A little dose of chaos within the predictable.”

“I’m not sure…” hesitated The Artist.

I then explained to The Artist that most profound sporting memory from my youth, the Sports Day where two geeks were inches away from winning a long distance race before running backwards, away from the finishing line and away from objective victory.

“That’s amazing,” said The Artist, his genuine admiration generously palpable. “That’s really great. That’s a real two-fingers up against virtually everyone, especially the teachers and the sporty kids. What gives it the authenticity is that, even though they were geeky kids, Outsiders, they won the race -”

“- Effectively won the race…” I quickly interjected.

“Effectively won the race, earning authenticity, but upon gaining The Prize of sporting success, and some small recognition, they instead took The Bigger Prize, more glorious albeit controversial and divisive, by rejecting the existing order, by refusing membership of a temporary elite, by saying ‘we could be part of this, we have earned it, but we don’t want it’. They chose not to win.”

“Yes.”

“They chose to remain Outsiders. Which you’re not. And I believe your Insider status devalues your attempts at rebellion. People are likely to think of you, ultimately, as a sulky failed footballer,” concluded The Artist.

“I can understand that. Indeed, there is perhaps some truth. But I would describe myself as an extreme reformist. By understanding the importance of subjectivity, drama, surprise, controversy etc. in football I am in a position to campaign for its embrace of such things, and thus its improvement. I consume Sport. I’d like to aid its production…”

We continued painting the gallery space.

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Filed under Art, Culture, Football, Personal Memories, Rebellion

More Art Than Art!

The shocking death of Catalan footballer Dani Jarque, a defender for RCD Espanyol de Barcelona, brings to mind (of course) the similar passing of Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta two years ago. For me, the most striking and upsetting aspect of that situation wasn’t his collapse on the pitch, youthful and handsome yet so virtually lifeless when he had been playing top-level football only seconds before, but this image of his heavily pregnant girlfriend Mar Roldan:

It sends shivers up my spine. It is harrowing, horrible, awful. The sense of loss smacks you in the face, a bitter little taste of what you might well have to deal with yourself one day, but you know full well it will be a million times worse.

Look at this picture. Look at it! Taste the misery, the panic, the black despairing waves of helplessness, hate of the unfairness. Smell the fear, feel the gentle neverending throb of pain.

This image is so… full. Overflowing. You can drown in it. Sometimes the memory hits me, and I feel for a couple of seconds I may be drowning in a thick primordial custard of empathy, sympathy, sorrow and sad sad songs.

You can probably sense from my tone a degree of excitement about the photograph. You’d be absolutely right. It is excitingly dramatic. What a story this is! The hypernarrative of a football match in this instance floods with ease into a headfuck of emotional catastrophies. This trumps mumbled post-match interviews and sportswear endorsements with such spectacular vigourous vulgarity. Over The Top. Indeed. Gloriously so.

And look at the (accidental/chaotic/natural) composition of the photograph. My word! This could be one of the old masters. I absolutely LOVE! the way she is joined by two similarly distraught women, both protectively and/or desperately clinging – like Roldan herself – to her gorgeously strained pregnant bump.

There is something deeply sexy about the photograph. The team is dumbstruck, the nation mourns, the worldwide footballing culture purses its lips sorrowfully. But at the epicentre of pure fucked-upness is this poor beautiful woman – literally heaving with appetizing womanhood – screaming for the fallen (posthumous) hero, the father of her unborn child. I find myself desiring her on a quite profound level, a conceptual yet visceral plane. I am here, dear reader – all three of you! – hungry to snort the drama, lick the tears, stiffle the cries.

This could be a Renaissance oil, 12ft by 6 framed in opulent overkill of gold, capturing a pregnant Virgin Mary sobbing at the crucifixion… Obviously I’m playing a little here, but the point is, haphazardly unintentional as it may be, this is comparable to art (although probably not itself art – but that’s a massive discussion best avoided for now).

Only a real tragedy could do this so well… so camply… so tragically. It is more art than art. Therefore I raise my glass to the horror I sobbed with sympathetic sternfulness to only several paragraphs ago. A vulgar sledgehammer slams me in the face: once, twice.

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Filed under Art, Death, Football, Sexuality, Sport