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Triolympic Tournament

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.

tourn 3

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.

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Game 6


A curious game which began life as the long awaited four a side, expanded after first rotation to five a side and grew again at last rotation to a six a side spectacular with a crowd of willing players waiting on the sidelines for a possible fourth rotation.

Teams were evenly matched in terms of ability but for the first time the ‘gentlemen’ contingent (+40) self-organised into a senior side – apparently in response to an ongoing conversation concerning end game tactics – their theory being to try and enter the third with scores even, cause a few late goals and then close down a “Chelsea Wall” to secure victory through stubborn defending of a slender lead.

The red and yellow youth teams began the first at furious speed, putting two goals against each other in fairly quick succession while the blue seniors effectively stood back and watched. Play remained unaligned (no team joining forces with another) for the whole of the first – which came as a surprise as four a side had been posited as a perfect blend between the tactical coherence of three a side with the positional efficiency of five a side. (In the event the opposite seemed to be happening – still too much ground to cover – but no correlative increase in team consciousness). With a two goal advantage the second half of the first inevitably saw blue face a red yellow combine but good goalkeeping and a left, right and centre back defensive rigour ensured a blue clean sheet at the close.

The late arrival of three regulars now transformed the game as it moved into the second. The dynamic of a fixed goalie (rather than the nominated rush goalie of the four a side game) lead to a catastrophic lack of coherence within the yellow team and an opening score of 2.2.0 rapidly ballooned to 5.2.1 without blue and red needing to work together at all.

A second monstering (see game 5) seemed to be on the cards but an injection of concentration and application within the red team and careless goals conceded by both blue and red stemmed the flow. Indeed a reinvigorated red now turned single handedly against both blue and yellow, scoring some excellent goals to see the second rotation close at 5.5.2.

The blue tactic had been to try and enter the third with scores level but a three goal advantage was never going to distract the efforts of the opposition for long enough to allow a last minute lead to build. It went without saying that a red/yellow combine would now turn on the blue goal – and that is exactly what happened. It didnt help that the blue goalie suffered a mini crisis at the same time but it took less than two minutes for the thtree goal lead to evaporate.

The tying of the scores at 5.5.5. now co-incided with the arrival of another five players eager to join the game. Six a side had already been proven in one of our earlier games and so the sides were augmented yet again – and with similar consequences. Inter-team coherence was once more stretched by the tactical shift required of the additional player and it was again the ‘youth’ teams which came out worse. Indeed the ability of blue to now ring fence the goal with three senior defenders while the two fresh legs rode shotgun on the backs of either red or yellow as they pitted themselves against each other saw a blue lead open to 8.7.5. with almost all the goals resulting from the numerical advantage of the two blue outfield players joining with either team.

While this was going on however there were constant attempts by either red or yellow – and occasionally both in concert – to attack the blue area but the tactic of the three man permanent defence withstood every attack. One blue player was left on the line between the red and yellow areas and every time an attack was repulsed the blue defence punted the ball over to this lingering outfielder who was able to turn in the direction of the least defended red or yellow goal, bringing the relevant defence out of the blue danger zone.

As the minutes went by the ever increasing coherence of the onslaught against blue did prise open a glimmer of hope as an outstretched leg in a packed goalmouth poked home a obtuse deflection. Blue now brought back all five outfield players into the area to try and ride out the last minute and held on to take the game 8.7.6.

I think we’ve really started to get the hang of this. The next stage of the experiment is going to be to form fixed teams and see if team identification evolves the tactics in a different direction. It has certainly been speculated that the forming of a mini league or tournament with positional advantage being sought in a league table would be likely to generate alliances lasting longer than the brief period within a game necessary to level the scores. This time a leveling of league positions would presumably be the balancing quotient.

Watch this space.

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Game 5


The long awaited monstering finally takes place!

Without any previous alliance having been agreed, a beleaguered red team faced a sustained ten man blue and yellow onslaught which lasted the whole of the first rotation. Partly due to a careless defence, but perhaps also to the team having few experienced three siders, every time either yellow or blue took possession the direction of attack turned relentlessly in the direction of the red goal. Scores going into the first break sat at an incredulous 6.1.1 and it was with some trepidation that the red players retook the pitch for the second period. Would the unplanned assault continue or would an (expected) rebalancing begin to occur?

Early probing runs on the red goal began immediately after kick off but an invigorated red defensive line soaked up the pressure to such an extent that the inevitable blue yellow face off began to materialise. By midway through the third, each team had leaked only a single goal as defensive focus was well attuned. With the red team becoming more accustomed to the nature of play however a calculated and deliberate attempt to force an alliance with a hesitant yellow contingent gradually began to take effect such that by the end of the middle third the scores had resettled at 7.4.2.

The yellow team, as would be expected, began the final rotation in a defensive mood – thoroughly expecting a red blue alliance to try and reduce their advantage. Much to the surprise of the blue team however, and to their evident frustration, red confirmed their alliance with yellow and used the growing annoyance amongst the blue team to try to level themselves out. But two goals later, at 7.6.2, a misplaced pass was picked up by a yellow bluff who turned on red and won a man on man sprint with an isolated goalie.

At last the blue appeals to red were heeded and both teams, with less than ten minutes remaining, set out to try and level the tally. This was the first time in the game that yellow had even faced a joint blue red strike, never mind one of the cohesive ferocity which now materialised. Four goals were shipped in as many minutes and at 8.6.6 the game was rapidly reaching its denouement. Could blue or yellow sink a final goal in one of each others goals to clinch the game? A frantic final thirty seconds saw a penetrating blue attack on the yellow goal frustrated by a fine save. A long ball then thrown from the yellow goalie towards the blue penalty area was picked up by an unmarked red winger who ran straight at the blue goal and shot a fine volley between the outstretched fingers of the blue goalie and the left post.

8.7.6. Yellow victory – what a cracker! This was certainly the most enjoyable and exciting game to date. It gets better all the time.

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Game 4


A fast paced, three a side spectacular of end to end play resulted in a high scoring 8.8.7 blue victory on an overcast and rainy morning.

The first rotation saw the score unevenly weighted at 3.3.0 to an opportunistic yellow strategy of one permanent defender and two roaming midfielders assisting the attacking team from the two opponents.

As was only to be expected, the second rotation saw yellow come under a concerted attack as the red and blue teams tried to even the game. Their potent alliance not only levelled the scores but quickly saw a further two put through the yellow goal to place the early leaders at a 3.3.5 disadvantage.

The alliance was brought to a swift conclusion towards the end of the second however as a cheeky pair of bluffs saw blue turn on the red goal in the middle of play, assisted on the second attempt by a relieved yellow outfield, to end the rotation with a blue lead of 5.5.3.

The final third commenced with no effective pairings and an anarchic five minutes of end to end play and tired legs saw an incredible eight goals conceded across the board to bring the game to 8.8.5 with only five minutes to play.

Sensing looming blue victory, red and yellow joined together to focus their attention on a blue trio now tightly packed in their own goal mouth. Despite constant pressure and two scrambled goal-line efforts, the blue team held on to their lead to take the game.

This was by far the most fluid and graceful of our games to date. The three a side variant, despite taking its toll on unaccustomed legs in a 30m sided hexagon, seems to benefit from better communication, allowing all the team members to understand the strategy of the moment. Five and six a side games have yet to reach the level of team consciousness necessary to prevent multiple strategies and alliances occurring at the same time.

A four a side game seems to offer a tantalising balance between the pros and cons of our variants to date. Let the experiment continue.

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Game 3

25.03 12

A host of new faces and balmy spring sunshine saw the third game of our three sided experiment finish 6 5 5.

With the blue team dominating early play to lead 3 2 0 an alliance between red and yellow quickly formed to claw back to 3 3 3 at the end of second rotation.

The arrival of fresh legged substitutes for both red and yellow saw the playing abilities of the three teams levelling out and alliances became hard to adhere.

The double bluff – which worked so well in the last game – was attempted on numerous occasions by all the teams. But with everyone being on guard for this type of play and with the inability of alliances to form and hold it failed to achieve the spectacular results of the previous game.

Tired legs and some excellent solo efforts from the various playmakers brought the game level again at 5 5 5 but with the minutes counting down to the end of the game a spontaneous unplanned fusion between red and yellow overwhelmed the blue goal.

With three games now completed an intriguing pattern has begun to emerge. A natural levelling tendency appears to exist in which, as one team begins to dominate, the other two naturally form alliances to bring the game back into balance. At no point has any merciless Darwinian tendency developed whereby two teams decide to monster the third and put a brace or two beyond them. But it’s still early days…..

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Game 2


A last minute goal mouth scramble saw the second of deptford’s three sided football experiments finish honours even with all the sixes, 6.6.6.


A six a side game of three twenty minute thirds between blue, red and grey saw an initially dominant grey team go too far in front at 5.5.2 – only to find themselves spending the final third against a united red and blue alliance.


Tactical variations were very much in evidence this time round, with two of the strategies producing significant results.


In the first third a disciplined blue formation concentrated on a three man defence rarely moving out of the D, with the three forwards allying themselves as one with either of the opposing teams. A first rotation score of 3.2.0 demonstrated the effectiveness of their play.


The second third saw a significant change in fortunes for blue however as, combined with the rotation of goalies – which saw the entry onto the field of a dominant grey playmaker – they faced a grey and red onslaught, shipping two goals in the first five minutes. Rapid diplomatic overtures to red appeared to have stemmed the breach in the blue goal but the emergence of a ‘double agent’ amongst the reds saw another three let in before the next rotation.


The double agent bluff was astonishingly effective and difficult to counter. A combined red and blue attack of upwards of all ten outfield players into the grey third placed grey under severe threat, but just as the focus was concentrated on the shot the red playmaker reversed direction and ran with the ball towards the blue goal, scoring with each of his three bluffs. Repeated attempts to explain that he was supposed to be in alliance with blue were met with understanding and apology – only for exactly the same scenario to occur. The psychogeographers amongst the teams were in awe of this situationist bravura.


As scores hit 5.5.2  early in the final third, the grey team sensed the tide was going to turn and with the double agent now brought back on side, a united red and blue alliance left them with little hope. Despite playing 5 against 10 and orchestrating a further goal against each of their opponents three were let in. As the minutes counted down it looked as if they were going to hold on for a magnificent win but a long cross to the far side post saw a tap in from red with only fifteen seconds of play remaining.


In comparison to our inaugural outing two weeks ago the unfolding of the game had moved in a noticeably different direction. Certain plays, almost always involving bluff and counter bluff, were being played out not only on the hoof but calculated in advance. The two sided mentality of a fortnight ago was evolving ……and the sporting monster we have chosen to ride is taking shape.




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Game 1


Post first match report.

I am very happy to say that the inaugural game went ahead and went very well. We kicked off with three a side and played three ten minute thirds with scores of 4:3:2. Only nine men on a full size 3SF pitch was a bit exhausting as there was much distance to cover but the forming and breaking of alliances which lie at the heart of the game were very much in evidence. It was fascinating to see how different the ownership of goals became though all of us clearly have the rules and tactics of traditional footie locked in our DNA. More games will clearly be necessary before the full essence of this amazing game begins to be properly experienced.

Deptford Park also houses two normal football pitches for traditional Saturday morning games and our activity generated much interest. After our short three sided game we were joined by players from the other pitches and proceeded to play another game but with five players per team over three twenty minute thirds with scores of 7:6:5. This was quite different in feel; much less exhausting and with fixed goalies and the exigencies of two sided soccer exerted themselves more noticeably. It was also clear that inter-team communication of shifting allegiances needed to be better explained as sometimes half of one team were playing with/for the second team while the other half were playing with the third. Very confusing…

All in all an excellent experience and everyone has committed to playing again. We have set up four more matches; March 10th & 24th and April 7th & 21st. Everyone welcome.

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