The idea of 3-sided football was developed in the early 1960’s by the situationist artist and philosopher Asger Jorn, who saw it as a means of demonstrating his own notion of trialectics – a trinitarian supercession of the binary dialectic of classical Marxian dogma – and that of detournement – the situationist practise of extrapropriation of dominant norms through antagonistic couterposition.
There is no record of any games played by Jorn or the situationists and it is believed the first ever game to come to fruition was organised by the reconstituted London Psycho-geographical Association at the Glasgow Anarchist Summer School in 1993. The game was later developed by the Autonomous Association of Astronauts during the late 90’s and over the last few years a number of one off performance events have been held at Museums and Arts Festivals around Europe.
The key to the game is that it does not foster aggression or competitiveness, rather it deconstructs the mythic bi-polar structure of conventional football, where an us-and-them struggle mediated by the referee mimics the way the media and the state pose themselves as “neutral” elements in the class struggle.
Unlike two-sided football, no team keeps a record of the number of goals they score. Instead they keep a tally of the goals they concede, and the winner is determined to be the team which concedes least goals.
The pitch is hexagonal with each team being assigned two opposite sides for bureaucratic purposes should the ball be kicked out of the play.
The goal side is called the back line and the opposite side is called the front line. When the ball goes out of the play on the frontline, a throw-in is conceded. This is carried out by the team whose frontline it is, unless they had last touch. In that case the throw in is taken by the team whose goal is the nearest. When the ball goes out of the play at the backline, the defending team has a goal kick, unless they had last touch, in which case a corner is taken by the team whose goal is nearest.
The semicircle around the goal functions as a penalty area and any penalty given is taken from the apex of the semi circle opposite the goal.
In open play, the teams are free to form (or break) alliances in order to gain advantage against the opposing team(s). While tactical planning plays a role in such manouevres, the penetration of the defence by two opposing teams imposes upon the defence the task of counterbalancing their disadvantage through sowing the seeds of discord in an alliance which can only be temporary. This will be achieved through exhortation, body language, and an ability to manoeuvre the ball and players into such a position that one opposing team will realise that its interests are better served by breaking off the attack and allying themselves with the defending team. Bearing in mind that such a decision will not necessarily be immediate, a team may well find itself split between two alliances. Such a situation opens them up to the possibility of their enemies uniting, making maximum use of this confusion.
3-sided football is thus seen as a game of skill, persuasion and psychogeography..