Deptford X, Sat 4th August
Four fast paced thrillers on the Fordham Park hexagon provided Deptford X with a stunning introduction to the performance art of three sided football.
The international aspect of the tournament lived up to billing with regular locals Deptford Three Sided Football Club (D3FC) and New Cross Irregulars welcoming Polscy Budowniczowie from Gorzów Wielkopolski, and Philosphy Football FC fresh from their recent game against Athletico Bilbao in the Bilbao bull ring.
The tournament involved a round robin of four 30 minute games with three ten minute rotations and each team sitting out one game. [abc: abd: acd: bcd]. The winning team being the side with fewest goals scored against them over the tournament.
Philosophy, NX and Polscy opened the tournament and it soon became clear that the quality of play was of a very high standard with PHFC laying down an early marker as the team to watch. Their previous experience of the Machiavellian nature of close quarter tactics gave them a great advantage and by the end of 1st rotation it was the East Europeans, whirling from a mind numbing muddle of unexpected bluffing, back play and the switched long ball who were pulling their socks up at 2.0.0. The start of the 2nd now saw PHFC probe NX with similar forensic detail, but despite their relative inexperience, the irregulars stood their ground. With the Poles holding back to lick their wounds all three teams were playing lonesome and without the numerical advantage of two on one, goals were proving ellusive. Only a double switchback in the dying seconds of the 2nd broke the stalemate; PHFC slipping one by the side of the NX keeper with a delightful one two. With the Thinkers starting the 3rd with the only clean sheet they of all people must have anticipated what would now befall them. Playing as one, Polscy and New Cross relentlessly forced Philosophy into their own D. Shots Rained in and although they held off for a whole five minutes the inevitable came – 2.1.1 with five minutes remaining. But the goal had loosened the alliance however and, smelling the disengagement, the Thinkers pounced, delivering a surgical strike on each opponent in quick succession to close the opener at 3.2.1
Game two saw D3FC take to their new home pitch for the first time since moving from Deptford Park. The clouds began to part and the Deptford Green sound system kicked into life. Unfazed by the anticipation of the home crowd it was Philosophy who began the game much as they had the first. A fast paced, concerted attack on the D3 goal, this time aided by the Poles, saw the home team constrained to their own D and despite some valiant goalkeeping the first score of the game quickly went against them. Lured into a false sense of common cause, the Poles now threw their outfield into the shared attack on the D3 goal. This classic ruse left their helpless goalie rounded on by a Philosophy switchback and the 1st concluded 1.1.0. With all eyes expecting the 2nd to open with a Polish Deptford alliance, it came as some surprise to witness a clearly calculated PhD3 merger assault the Polish goal. This was no spontaneous uniting of forces. Positions and plays had clearly been pre-planned during the interval and the Poles lay helpless in the face of a two on one advantage. Packing their goal with every outfield player kept the damage down to two goals and it was with clear relief that they held on to see the 2nd close against them at 3.1.0.
The third opened hesitantly. The alliance of the previous rotation had clearly come to its end and nothing had been successfully planned to replace it. It was obviously in the interests of the Poles and D3 to join together but early plays were proving tentative. Both teams were naturally gravitating toward the Thinkers goal but trust was in short supply. Conscious of having to man the D and without a second team advantage Philosophy couldn’t find an opening either. As the minutes passed the last rotation seemed to be heading goalless but the deadlock was broken with three minutes to play. A D3 long punt into the Ph goalmouth found a perfect volley from one of the two Polish youngsters and all of a sudden the Thinkers no longer had the lead. D3 and the Poles were galvanised. Shouts and cries sought to unite the two teams in a surge against their shared opponent and it was in this ‘togetherness’ of forged unity that the game’s decisive moment now took place. Urging on an attack, the D3 striker ran back to the Polish goalkeeper as the ball was tapped out into open play. Expecting the ball to be passed upfield to the Thinker’s goalmouth the Poles were astonished to find the striker do no such thing. As soon as he had the ball it was shot straight back into the Polish goal in a callous and risky double-bluff. The Poles now trailed 4.1.1.and a red haze of vengeance took possession. Turning on the Deptford goal they advanced with all players. The thinkers saw their moment and leapt in. One minute remained but the passion forced two goals past a shocked home team defense. The second game was brought to its conclusion at 4.3.1. The Poles would now sit out the third game and stew on their bubbling sense of betrayal.
With Philosophy leading the tournament by such a margin – and having clearly demonstrated their superior fitness and ball skills – the third game between them and the two South East London regulars was destined for only one conclusion. NX and Deptford were obviously going to team together and smash as many goals as they could against the leaders. The question was simply one of how well the Thinkers could hold out and whether they could use the breakdown of an attack to craft any opportunity to reduce the imbalance.
First rotation saw an endless series of attacks with a 6 on 4 advantage as NX & D3 left a defender each in the centre to cover the break. But only single goal by the end of the 1st saw this safety net withdrawn, resulting in a further two goals by the end of the 2nd. PhFC were trailing 3.0.0 – meaning a total of five concessions in the tournament so far. With New X having only conceded 2 in the first game and none so far in the third the Thinkers chance of overall victory was fading. Sensing the need to put goals past NX they began the 3rd rotation with a blitzkreig. As soon as the ball was in the air every Thinker rushed to the NX D and a deft series of passes saw a high cross met by a charging defender’s head to grab a much needed shock goal. Having seen their weakness so thoroughly exploited NX and D3 returned to 6 on 4 with a two man shared defense. The gap was plugged and another single shipped by the Thinkers cancelled out their early charge. As the third game faded to an exhausted 4.1.0 a lazy Deptford defense allowed a lone Philosophy striker to charge out unmarked to close play at 4.1.1.
The fourth and final game now saw the Thinkers having to sit it out. With the tournament totals at NX 3, Deptford 4, PhFC 6 and Polsky 7 victory could only go to Philosophy if NX conceded 4 and Deptford 3. The Poles, having shipped the 7th goal in the still festering moment of betrayal, could only come second. Deptford needed to score against NX. NX needed to let in less than 2. The Poles – one assumed – would just want to avoid coming last. How would the game evolve?
The first rotation was inconclusive. No alliances formed. Each team was playing lonesome. NX packed their defense, Deptford made some tentative forays and the Poles spent the time busily changing formation and experimenting with different forms of play. Each team let in a single goal. All to play for and all to a rousing chorus from the sidelines as Philosophy urged on the Poles to attack. And all of a sudden, as the 2nd got under way, attack they did. The Polish team had found their Mojo. The two youngsters, with legs well rested, each picked up a wide running role. The older player acted as hanging goalmouth striker. The betrayed goalkeeper went back in goal with a new found confidence and the previous striker now dropped back to central defense/midfield to supply the wide boys. The focus of their attack was single minded – to score against a tiring Deptford at every opportunity. Passes rained in to the Deptford D and the goals mounted. The 2nd rotation closed at an amazing 1.2.7. Deptford were well and truely out of the running having jumped from 2nd place in the league to bottom in the space of a single rotation. The Poles had climbed to third. Was this now their chance to make it to second by doing the same to NX in the third as they had to D3FC in the second. This is what the Thinkers were urging from the sidelines and what NX now braced themselves for.
But all this failed to include in the equation the glorious quality of the unexpected which three sided football has to offer – of its living, breathing status of sport at it non linear best. No calculated climb into the not quite victorious status of second best for a team still burning from the piping hot soup of betrayal. Revenge was to be their driving force and fresh legs their ammunition. Oblivious to the cries from a Philosophy team slowly and helplessly watching victory slip through their fingers, the Poles once again rounded on their nemesis. Another four goals saw the Deptford crew demoralised and submisive. Eleven goals shipped in a single game. The final whistle brought their torment to an undignified end.
New Cross the victors, Philosophy the incredulous runners up. The Poles with honour sated and for the home team a dream of victory on Deptford’s green and pleasant turf now lying in tatters.
The tournament was brought to a fitting end with the presentation of the victors laurels by the grandfather of the modern game; the London Psychogeographical Asociation’s Richard Essex, bestowing upon the irregulars of New Cross the title of Triolectical Champions.
If you like your sport with a dash of real life then this game’s for you.