The Deptford Green Hex was packed to the gunwales this afternoon for our second outing of the 13/14 season. Philosophy FC brought along a very strong team, the Poles were out in force, SOFC had their best turnout yet and D3FC had an eight man contingent. We even had Alexi Duggins of Time Out (with camera crew on board) to sample and report on the special football brew that Deptford now forments.
Faced with so many players, the temptation to swap over to a four team rotorende, rather than a three team standard, was considerable. Discussion between the teams however decided on a standard game with 8 players per team; six on the pitch at any one time and two rotating subs able to swap over when fitness – or injury – determined. SOFC graciously stood down as a team and distributed themselves amongst the remaining three, secure in the promise that if this kind of turnout happens again then they are guaranteed a show.
Philosophy are clearly going to be the team to watch; not only have they brought their brightest and best but their recent games in Regents Park and Istanbul have given them a serious tactical edge. The first rotation certainly goes their way, with the scores at 2.2.0 as the first period comes to a close.
The break before the second unsurprisingly sees a D3FC delegation head towards the Poles and the expectation is of a joint attack on the Thinkers goal once play resumes. But Deptford get it wrong and a feigned alliance quickly sees the Poles unite with Philosophy to grab a quick third against the home team. Stung by the doublecross, Deptford resort to close defensive play to try and encourage The Thinkers and the Poles to play against each other. Happy with their three goal advantage though, PHFC have also closed play down and are now operating with a single lone striker and a four man defense. Their goal is looking impregnable.
A strange stalemate settles over the game. Whenever Deptford have possession they try to turn play against the Philosophers but, unable to trust the Poles (whose right back persistently rushes at the Deptford goal whenever he has the ball), their attacks break down as they feel unable to involve a Polish shirt. The last five minutes of the rotation are noticeably ‘lonesome’ (every team playing only for themselves) and the second ends at 0.2.3.
With the start of the third the Polish front three seem at last to decide that an all out burst on the Thinkers is now a necessity and Deptford tentatively send players out to join them. The attacks multiply and numerous shots are parried or sent off target. This is certainly the kind of play required to get the loosing teams back on level pegging. As the attacks multiply and trust between the Poles and Deptford begins to re-established, the Polish team again break the alliance. The Philosophy striker picks up a loose ball and heads towards the Deptford goal. Rather than help repulse his advance, the Polish captain and their right half connect with him in a wonderful one two and put the home side on four conceded. Frustration finally boils over and Deptford players begin a high volume critique of the Polish tactics; one half of the team cursing their Slavic inheritance and the other shouting words of passive aggressive applause; “Come on Poland, you can do it. We believe in you – you don’t have to always come second.” The Philosophers can only but be bemused.
Depford however are simply confused. 4.2.0 down and ten minutes to go. No way to beat the Thinkers now and every direct query to the Polish team just results in a big smile and a nonchalant shrug. The Deptford team dynamic starts to break down – half now attacking the Philosophers for all they are worth and the other half blinded by a red mist of revenge. For reasons best known to themselves, the Poles now launch themselves at the Philisophy goal but D3FC are unable to unite sufficiently. After it quickly becomes clear that the Thinkers goal is not going to give, a three man band of Deptford defiants turn the play and rush the Polish goal. Carelessly guarded by only the goalie and the right back the attack succeeds and the difference reduced to one.
As play recommences the Philosophers pull out of their defensive diamond and urge the Deptford renegades to join them. Against this mixture of PHFC skill and Deptford determination the Poles have no hope and a fourth is quickly despatched. 4.4.0. Only a few minutes to play. Philosophy are clear winners after a text book Sun Tzu masterclass of securing victory by luring the opposition into internal discord. The last two minutes finally see the Poles and Deptford unite in a secure alliance with every player focusing on trying to get at least a single consolation goal against the Thinkers – but in vain. The Philosophy goalkeeper plays a blinder and the final whistle gives them all the honours.
The writer of this report, who played for the Deptford team on the day in question, was eager to understand the reasoning behind the Polish strategy and decided to interview the Polish captain. What, I wondered, was the thinking – if any – behind the decision to keep attacking Deptford when victory could only be secured by allying with us? The response was suitably prosaic.
“We had originally figured on getting D3FC well out of the game – with PHFC collaboration – at which point we would turn on them and – with your support – start scoring against them. When it went to 4.2.0 most of us then did start attacking Philosophy – but Robert had a sore leg and didn’t want to leave his right back position to cross the field and attack them. So instead of just staying in defence while we got on with it – he decided to have a bit of fun and rush at your goal whenever the ball came to him. I did advise him of what the outcome would be but he didnt give a toss!”
McKenzie Wark recently pointed out in his essay ‘This Ludic Century’ that “play has to trifle, it has to be indifferent to what (…) is considered a win”. So maybe it was Robert, with his gammy leg, who was the winner in the end?