Category Archives: Rebellion

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

Metropolitan Police Football Club?!

Yes, they exist. And yesterday they narrowly won the Ryman Isthmian Division One South.

Until very recently a works team, they have – according to Wikipedia – relaxed the rule on eligibility and signed non-cop players. And I have heard talk of their “big wallet”, which makes them sound like a Crawley Town with the added PR disaster of kettling teenagers.

According to the statistics, they approximately average attendances of a mere 80 for home games. Bognor Regis Town, who they pipped to the title on goal difference, were getting 1,300-ish at the end of the season. Which doesn’t seem very utilitarian… or even meritocratic.

And, as a result, Dulwich Hamlet – whose late surge I am (subjectively) very pleased to say saw them reach the final play-off place – will play the unfortunate Bognor Regis this coming Tuesday in the play-off semi-final.

I have to say I would have preferred them to play the Repressive State Apparatus instead, and not only because I can’t afford the travel to the south coast, but because I think singing We All Live In A Fascist Regime would have been rather appropriate…

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Filed under Dulwich Hamlet, Football, Politics, Rebellion

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 One)

I missed the Dulwich Hamlet game yesterday, where it turns out they ran “riot” against Fleet Town, winning 6-0. I’d have loved to have seen the navy & pinks swarm over Town’s far more prosaic sky blue. Alas.

But I had always planned to miss the match. There was a far bigger ritual going on, and – dare I say it in the context of this blog – a far more “authentic” one… We brave South Londoners were to converge on Kennington Park, antiquarian scene of public executions, and march hubwards into central London to join the TUC organised (but very multifaceted) anti-cuts protest.

Protests. Probably one of my four favourite genres of ritual. But whereas with many others – especially football – I am very aware of the loose ends of logic, the pretentious suspension of disbelief required, protests are different, no? Even though I understand and accept new social movement theory, protests seem real, immediate, viscerel, objective. Public sector cuts – some at least – will increase inequality, sterilize urban spaces, even kill people…

They feel like the exact opposite of football matches. This isn’t chanting for a colour, a locality, a bizarre sense of “tradition” – it’s chanting to stop the dehumanization of Atos screenings, to keep higher education an arena of creativity, to allow families to live where they always have.

But protests aren’t solemn Sovietgrey events. They are colourful carnivals of raw energy. They are, for that moment, crowds, with the whiplashing hum of chaotic potentiality that comes with numbers and excitement. They are, in fact, what football consumption at its best is, or should be.

Greyfaced rent-a-quotes who dimlier-than-thou dismiss the so-called “madness” or (even more ridiculously) “premeditated” nature of either football hooliganism or protest violence have, simply, never LIVED, and I feel desperately sorry for any spouse they might have, for I doubt they’ve ever been FUCKED.

Numbers + Unity = Excitement

Of course, there may be a handful who come prepared (I dare say at least partly because they are addicted to the adrenaline after previous innocent experiences) but widescale violence comes from a proportionately widescale acceptance, a crowd go-ahead.

And the government had better beware. The kinds of people coming to these marches is indeed being increasingly drawn from from what Mr. Ed Miliband correctly spoke of as the middleground of society. People, nice people, bloody boring people, and they are appalled at the audaciously preemptive actions of the Metropolitan Police – who seem to think they are still dealing purely with a ragtag band of the usual suspects.

There is enormous subjectivity in protest, in political discourse.  And they are very much rituals. But as the current government is seen to be changing the rules, the etiquette of governmental/governed relationships, so too – at lightning speed – does the collectively agreed etiquette of protest. The Ritz, Fortnum & Mason – you simply wouldn’t have been hit a year ago.

We seem to be living in a moment where rules are being forged anew.

But not all rules. Some of the oldest still remain. Which leads me on to part two…

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Filed under Cantona, Dulwich Hamlet, Football, Politics, Rebellion, Ritual

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

The Glazer Takeover of Manchester United FC

Recently I’ve been cultivating the interesting habit of approaching strangers wearing green & yellow scarves and discussing the political economy & ontology of football fandom. Sort of. And this is a blog post about it. Time to address the elephant in the womb: the Glazer takeover of Manchester United FC and the various things it means, or could mean.

United. Fuck me. What an evocative word. United. United. I Love that word. United. United. United, United, United, UnitedUnitedUnitedUnited. A lot of snottynosed political correctionists erroneously claim that there are several clubs all with an equal claim to the name United. They are wrong. There is only one United. Admit it! As I wrote elsewhere, “The truth, the terrible thrilling dynamic truth, is that there is only one United. The others are wandering, aimless, undead. They’ve been fucked. And we stood back and watched it happen. Though I dare say it was so wrapped up with wider socio-economic transformations that the only way to save these (non-existant) golden years was a vigorous anti-capitalism over the entire post-war period. Too late. Absolutely too late.”

I grew up as a United fan. My mum had been a quite zealous fan since the late 60s, enticed by a decades-spanning crush on George Best. Nothing quite compares with something you learn to adore as a child. You mind is drunk on a nostalgic warmth since before you can remember, your own time immemorial. Wildly subjective, yes, but they did and do mean a lot to me, deep in my guts. My intestines slither like snakes for them.

But my manchild adoration of United hit enormous difficulties when the controversial takeover by the Glazer family finally went through in May 2005. I like many fans had been against it, and had campaigned against it. The takeover was financed by incredible levels of debt, and many of us had very romantic (and impractical) notions of the supporters “owning” the club… The Glazer takeover was a double insult.

Ever since the takeover I have had a lonely sense of detachment from my childhood sweetheart.

The green & yellow (or, gold – apparently) has been adopted as a visible sign of antiGlazerism, that simultaneously manages to be both challengingly subversive and highly traditionalist/conservative (green & gold were the original colours of the club, back in the 19th Century when they were known as Newton Heath). The best of both worlds. The authenticity of both progress and history. Well done! I would say this is the very epitome of what fandom desires. And I’m quite sure once the instability of Glazernomics are sorted out Nike will relish producing a green & gold commemorative kit to celebrate the passing of a regime they had happily worked with.

When I speak to these antiGlazerists in the scarves we talk inevitably about the takeover being “wrong”. No discussion. No question. It was wrong, we assume. But was it?

Of course, as widely predicted beforehand and coming to rotten fruition now, the takeover is bad on a basic level for United fans, in the simple sense that they want cheaper ticket prices (or at least less wildly rising ones) and team improvement.

But one thing that surprises me is that rival fans sympathised a great deal with the plight of United. Why? Why on Earth not take the opportunity to drive a hated rival into the dirt? Why not exploit this moment in the same way United’s former owners were so willing to (with the moves away from shared gate receipts, the formation of the Premier League etc.)? I think this is because, to use Foucaultian language, the discourse of Sport & Sportingness still dominates the more visible discourses of tribal loyalty (one club fandom.) But the fact remains United have historically been… economic… with this sporting ideology. And are thus very lucky to still have good will.

This is perhaps the result of skill media operation, both micro and mass, by the self-organised United fan pressure groups such as Shareholders United who campaigned very publicly against both the Glazer takeover and the earlier (defeated) Murdoch takeover attempt.

So… well done. And now that the tide seems to be turning, that the fans are growing more and more vocally antiGlazer as the oft-predicted financial difficulties seem to be becoming undeniable and affecting United’s sporting progress (i.e. the inadequate replacement of Cristiano Ronaldo)… I’m left wondering how I will feel if the Glazer family is indeed bought out and replaced with a more “fan friendly” (whatever that means) regime. Will I get rid of the sense of detachment? Will I flock back?

I fear not.

The years since the takeover have coincided with my own re-imagining of what sport is, what it means. In many ways this is liberating. Allows me to experience and enjoy things on various levels. I can be in and above the ritual simultaneously. But it also seems to have broken the link between me then and me now.

I write this blog floating deeper and deeper into sport space.

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Filed under Football, Manchester United, Personal Memories, Rebellion, Sport