Category Archives: Culture

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

The Wider Interests of Football…

I must be the only person in the world to have stopped supporting AFC Wimbledon this season.

A campaign in which, consistently competitive in a national league for the first time in decades (an incarnation ago), the Dons (re)gained Football League status through their play-off final victory over Luton Town.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Crawley Town being the Met Police FC of the division, the Dons would surely have walked automatic promotion.

And I was there, at the beginning.

Starting the season living on South London’s historic Garratt Lane, and ignoring the existence of clubs like Fulham on the other side of my other side of the river, and given the recent move of Tooting & Mitcham FC from the former to neither, AFC Wimbledon were my local club. (They would have been my huperlocal club if they still played at Plough Lane, but oh well…)

As documented previously, I had started seeing the Dons in January 2010, taking in the second half of their debut Conference season in which they ultimately fell shy of the play-offs.

The new season, however, started brilliantly. The Dons looked bolt-on for a special year – a season of Excalibur proportions with the modern mythology round these Wombling parts: AFC were going to get their league status back.

But as the football (which of course never stops) learched to one of its annual business ends I moved eastwards from Garratt Lane to the Dog Kennel Hill Estate. And the Dons were no longer my local club. I now live three minutes’ walk from Dulwich Hamlet.

And this came at a time when I had been thinking a lot about locality, and it’s relationship to football…

I’m not interested in bullshit notions of ‘authenticity’ regarding “support your local team”. Rather, it had occurred to me that a basic foundation in the inequality of the football economy was how acceptable it is to not support your local football club. Now, obviously, this process is multiplied at a geometric rate by the technological possibilities of television, computing etc. and the regulatory liberalisation of globalisation, but its founding stone lies in the simple act of a sepia-tinged flatcap’d man walking past one football ground to go to another, more popular.

Indeed, a massive contributing factor in Wimbledon FC’s original (and still continuing) problems of place was that swathes of matchgoing southwest London handily ignored them to support other ‘local’ clubs such as Chelsea, Fulham, Arsenal. The Dons were dismissable. And even now, with the Milton Keynes move widely derided and now firmly institutionalized against, Merton council are still seemingly disinterested in the club, who – as they did throughout the ’90s – have to make do playing miles from anything like a ‘spiritual’ home, groundsharing again (though this time as dominant partners) in the relative backwater of Norbiton.

For these reasons, combined with the difficulty of fitting travel to Norbiton around work, I stopped going to AFC Wimbledon.

I could have chosen to have enjoyed the glory, and it was exquisitely tempting. But I felt to carry on at Kingsmeadow, an approx. 80 minute trans-transpontine journey rather than the hop, skip & a jump to Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill, would be to play my small role in the contemporary capitalist logic of consumption that was itself the breeding ground of the madcap move to Milton Keynes.

I did it for you, Dons…

Thinking Points

1) The Status Quo Returns? For many, Wimbledon’s return to the Football League just that, but it simply isn’t the case. The past decade has made the Dons everyone’s second favourite club (particular fans of big Champions League level teams – like an anti-guilt mechanism) rather than the inconvenience many regarded them as previously.

Wimbledon, having spent years as a gigantic whale in a garden pond, now view themselves as synonymous with ‘good’ football, short passing rather than desperate long hoofing of their days in the top tier of English football.

2) Arrogance & Oddity There was certainly a feeling amongst some fans that rising through the non-league pyramid was an absolute inconvenience as they approached that which they were righteously owed. And sometimes this arrogance grated on non-league fans. But others, both Dons & (blown away) rivals, embraced the oddity of it all, particularly in the first few years where thousands would invade afterthoughts of pitches more used to the proverbial two men and a dog.

3) The Power of a Creation Myth AFC Wimbledon have the most powerful facilitator in the development of a strong fan culture: a sense of profound injustice at the heart of their foundation. The Milton Keynes mockery unites ALL football fans more than anything I’ve ever come across, thus allowing the Dons a position of unequaled righteousness. It is another reason why they are culturally a far stronger unit than ever before.

4) A Political Act? Well, of course, in a world where everything is political, of course the formation of AFC Wimbledon is. Even an idiot could apply new social movement theory to it. But for me, it wasn’t outright ‘political’ enough. It was, after all, the richest (in terms of average salary) matchgoers of the late ’90s Premier League setting about bringing back the status quo.

Don’t get me wrong, the move to Milton Keynes was ridiculous. I have no time for anything surrounding a subterfugeous redevelopment scheme (which is in essence what was going on in Milton Keynes. Ask Asda.)

What was noteworthy about Milton Keynes wasn’t that it heralded the invasion of capitalism into our sacred and unspoilt football, but that it was done so cackhandidly that people were appauled by it rather than lapping hungrily from the bowl as they usually do with, for example, the restructuring of the Champions League to facilitate monopolisation by big clubs.

AFC Wimbledon do not challenge this.

I think – or hope – football can go deeper as a canvass for cultural resistance.  FC United are a ‘reformed’ club who take the idea of footballing rebellion an ideological step further into the abstract, responding instead to a change of ownership at the ‘parent’ club. But I’d like to explore even more possibilities. Why form clubs in the idealized image of the ancien regime? Why adhere to the footballing aesthetics & values that now seem so distant, so privatised, so globalized?

We should form a truly new club for all London’s discontented football fan. And groundshare somewhere other than bloody Norbiton. If the club was truly rebellious I would get off my arse and travel. As it stands, football clubs seem so homodox that to visit any other than your nearest one is frankly a waste of effort.

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Filed under AFC Wimbledon, Culture, Dulwich Hamlet, Politics, Rebellion

The Ritual Which Is Not, or, Seaneen Molloy versus Dulwich Hamlet

Dulwich Hamlet, my local three-minute-walk-away team, agonisingly missed out on promotion yesterday in their Ryman Division One South playoff final away to Leatherhead. Leading 3-1 with seven minutes to go, they lost 4-3 in extra time.

I didn’t go. I had planned to. But I slept through it. Yes, I slept through a 3 o’clock kick off, like a total wastrel.

And I feel guilty. Very guilty! Which is absurd, and counter to much of this blog’s attempts to meander towards a more rationally aware controlled-irrational sporting consumption. I’m sat here wondering – could they have held on the few extra minutes with my voice joining the chorus of what I assume were increasingly desperate howls of “C’MON DULWICH!!”?

(I am aware that the most basic Beginner’s Guide To Chaos Theory suggests that the merest act of me waking up at midday, never mind catching the train, turning up at the match etc. would have altered the course of events and Hamlet could have been 5-o down at half-time whilst a tsunami destroyed Bognor Regis…)

I have clearly got myself a bit caught up with Dulwich Hamlet. I was warned about this, but I worried not. Me? The undercover researcher? A charmingly aloof football flâneur? What chance I’m going to get bogged down in what the anthropologist Clifford Geertz would no doubt label shallow play, in a regional sub-section of the 8th tier of English football?

Well, I seem to have. Bugger. And, indeed, it makes a silly sense that I should be feeling guilty.

But there is a limit to my guilt.

You see, football is not the ultimate ritual to me. There is one that I so adore, I so worship that even admitting it MIGHT be a sociologically definable language game is tantamount to stamping on a little deer’s face, repeatedly, whilst dressed like a Nazi stormtrooper…

Ladies, gentlemen & everyone else – I believe in Love! Courtly Love. Romantic Love. Heart-and-stomach-overflowing-with-aggghhhhh Love. I am told that reading Roland Barthes’ (whose Mythologies was a great influence on me starting this blog) A Lover’s Discourse can make someone stop using the phrase “I Love You.” Fuck that! I’m terrified of such a book! Bring me a copy of it and I shall bring you a glorious bookburning.

The reason I slept all of yesterday was because Seaneen, my girlfriend, and I had one of our impromptu all nighters of drink and fags and conversation. For about 12 hours we sat around, dreamily each others’, eyes burning madly at each other, hearts straining at ribcages. I don’t believe in Love so much as I believe in Seaneen. She is a magical goddess of a woman. Rationalism can go fuck itself. Religious nutters can blow up as many people as they like. Just let me and Seaneen survive. Thank you.

When it comes to Love I am as rabidly, simplistically, uneducatedly partizan as the average football forum user. And proudly so.

I feel almost dirty for mentioning Seaneen on a blog about sport. She is above it. And I certainly won’t be making any bloody football analogies*. I will not compare her smile (which is beautiful) to a not-forgotten moment from whichever World Cup is currently nostalgically fashionable. I will not compare her eyes (gorgeous, big, blue) with a monolith of a football stadium. I will not compare her intellect (quick, aggressive) with a deep lying foot-on-the-ball playmaker. None of it!

But I will tell you that, with the morning sun pouring down and Dog Kennel Hill Estate waking up, Seaneen walked out onto our walkway/balcony outside our flat. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to do.” She smiled, and pulled off her purple nightdress, and shook her knickers down. She turned slowly – vividly, perfectly naked. I melted inside. And now consist of 76% molten myself.

When we retired to bed at around 11am I had earnest but implausible notions of awaking an hour later to travel Surreywards for the Leatherhead game. I eventually got up about ten hours later. I missed the match. I possibly even cost Dulwich Hamlet promotion. But I woke up in the same bed as Seaneen (this name sends shivers down my spine) Molloy.

Oh, and she can write a bit too.

* – Apart from the title of this post. Ooops.

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Filed under Culture, Dulwich Hamlet, Love, Ritual

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

By Far The Greatest Teams The Worlds Have Ever Scene

I’m pretty certain every English football match I’ve ever watched above a certain level (the lowest being Dorchester Town in the 6th tier) has included the chant, ‘We are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen!’

Which is problematic. They can’t all be, can they?

But football is subjective. That seems to be what I argue on this blog. It’s like music. One man thinks The Beatles are the best, another opts for Cannibal Corpse. Meanwhile, I loudly decry everyone as racist for overlooking Parliament/Funkadelic. But then we probably interject the debate with how we like the rivals.

But football doesn’t fit in like that. Or rather, that’s not the rules of the football watching game.

Even a 1990s vintage Manic Street Preachers fanatic, the real Cult of Richey types, would happily consume the music of other bands, of comparables. Could you imagine that dedicated a football fan allowing themselves to do that?!

And fans singing the Greatest Team song (ignoring boring elite clubs who stand a chance to reach what MIGHT be accepted as the Objective End of football, winning the Champions League)… Why do they make this claim? Are they aware of their own subjectivity? Are they ironically making a wild joke? Or do they actually believe it?

And if they are aware of their own subjectivity, why not escape the trappings of a rationalist winner-comes-first mode of football? Why still celebrate goals? Why cheer their team on to promotion? Why despair at failure? Why not go the whole hog and declare themselves the situationist hooligan wing of whichever economically castrated small club they support?

THIS IS NOT A FOOTBALL SCARF.

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Filed under Culture, Football, Rebellion, Ritual, Subjectivity

Death, Ritual & Missing Two Riots (Part Two)

This is the second part of this post.

BUT! I didn’t go to the 26th March march either… After over a month of gradual excitement and being halfway through making a splendid protest sign (one side pink & blue, “THIS GOV’T IS SO BAD I’M FORCED TO MISS DULWICH HAMLET FC TO BE HERE TODAY“) I didn’t turn up.

Two days previously my mum had rung me to say my grandpa has been diagnosed with cancer. Pancreatic cancer. The “silent killer”. Undiagnosed, indeed, unnoticed, for a year or so, the black mass has taken hold of him from within.

I had the chance to be driven with family to visit him. On Saturday. The 26th. The day of the march. I had a second of “ahhh, shit…” A strange mix of selfishness and civic duty. But not for long. Of course I was going.

I’ve always viewed my grandpa as something of a great man. Strong. Quick-witted. Handsome. Humorous. Silly. Cheeky. Very very charming. (If I had half of what he has I’d have half of London following the ambitious guff I write here). And given certain family complications, he filled a fair few father figure roles.

This is a ritual. Another ritual. I didn’t go to the football. I didn’t go to the protest. But I did join my family in visiting my ill grandpa. There is a hierarchy of ritual. Some you only ever play with whilst some are so entrenched that they Simply Are. They feel natural, right, part of you. So much so that I feel deeply uncomfortable writing about dying and death in a knowing, rational way.

I fear I’m devaluing my experiences, those of my family and even grandpa’s own, with this Diet Roland Bathes decodifying…

But rituals aren’t a bad thing. They are a fact of life, a vital part of our existence as social creatures. Animals who live for meaning and the buzz of connection.

I feel ashamed to say family tragedies are rituals, but I should be even more ashamed at the thought of lying and saying they aren’t.

The undercurrent to this post, though I shirk from the agony of conclusively admitting it, is that the “realness” of the emotions surrounding death are as unessential, spatiotemporal and kind of pretentious as those of celebrating a goal at a football match… But two points:

(1) Without wanting to be too postmodernist, there is probably a lack of essential truth, and even if there is one, to adhere to it would be so Sovietgrey, so joyless, so rigid that I don’t think it would be living. What moves us is all important.

And (2) Death, “the cult of death”, is the most historic, the most enshrined, the deepest foundationed ritual of all. And therefore the least escapable (not that we should wish to…) Mircea Eliade noted that prehistoric burial sites, having lasted thousands of years for archaeologists or even passers-by have survived whilst the more practical day-to-day living quarters of those ancient societies do not. It “testifies to a very important cult of the dead.” Indeed it does. As does my family’s current activity.

In a thousand years time we won’t be discussing benefit cuts or even western liberal democracy. We certainly won’t debate goalline video technology or even association football. But we will go to funerals. And we will be funereal.

So, in the struggle of three rituals, one emerged gloriously triumphant over the others. I can put it in a league table:

1 Death
2 Politics
3 Football

And as football clubs’ fans tend to claim, but seems to be true in this case, the upper echelon of this table has more history, more tradition, and are – deep in your gut – more real.

I couldn't find a lovely picture of my grandpa holding me as a baby, so I've gone to the other, gratuitous extreme. Here's a Chinese funeral stripper. Enjoy.

Oh, and he votes Tory…

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Filed under Culture, Death, Dulwich Hamlet, Football, Personal Memories, Politics, Ritual, Sociology