3SF World Cup (part 1)

vm jorn fodboldThis has been a bit of dream project for some time now. In fact ever since the  Deptford X tournament during the London Olympics in summer 2012 we have joked about the day when three sided football would become so popular that there would be a need for a World Cup.


After the Regents Park Rotorende the idea was raised again – and it got us thinking about the origins of the game within the situationist project – a project which has at its heart the desire to oppose the passivity of modern life within the capitalist spectacle by the concrete organisation of lived experience – of transforming dreams into candid reality through direct action. So we had to ask – why dream of the day when a world cup would be possible when all it takes is for us to organise one ourselves – right here – right now.


But what should such a World Cup be – where would it happen – who would play? And as we were speculating on these essential issues along comes the kind of bolt from the blue that good ideas thrive on for their verification. If you are familiar with this blog then you have probably come across various exchanges we have had with Museum Jorn in Denmark – the keepers of Asger Jorn’s collection and the tenders of his flame. Back in 2013 they asked us whether we intended doing anything to mark the 2014 Centenary celebrations of Jorn’s birth. We hadn’t – as it happened – but then again we figured there would be nothing lost if we proposed they host the first ever Three Sided Football World Cup – in Silkeborg (where they are based)  – in conjunction with the programme of events they had planned. Well its taken a couple of months for them to respond, but they have now got back to us to say they want to do it – and they have asked if we would like to organise it.


Game on – stay tuned.


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News travels fast

Dan Curtis from BBC Stop/Start reports on our January game.

Three-sided football: A game of alliance and betrayal


It seems like a typical Sunday afternoon game of football, but there’s a big difference – there are three teams on the pitch.

Deptford 3S Football Club is playing Philosophy Football FC and Strategic Optimists FC, at the same time.

This is the complex and curious game of three-sided football, an invention of Danish Situationist philosopher and artist Asger Jorn.

Played on a hexagonal pitch, the rules are similar to normal football, but it is the team that concedes the fewest goals, rather than scores the most, that wins.

This leads to all sorts of tactical subtleties, as BBC News discovered at a match in New Cross in London.

Video journalists: Dan Curtis and Tom Beal.

Click the hexagon to watch the film


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Time Out

As reported in the last post, Alexi Duggins of Time Out came along to play in the November game. His report has just been published.


Full report here:


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Season 3. Game 2



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? 

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The Rumble in the Jungle


Our Game in the Wood, set amongst the mature plane trees of Victoria Park a fortnight ago, was a resounding success, with a number of experienced players expressing the belief that ‘ordinary’ three sided football would never feel the same again. The classic version of 3sf we have played over the last two years has frequently been described as an amalgam of football, chess and poker. The introduction of pinball to this beautiful blend was a master stroke.

Setting the game amongst trees was done in an effort to reunite some of the current players with aspects of the game’s earliest incarnations and this particular set up brought together Stewart Home’s Alytus games and the constraint methodology of WNLA.

Although the workshop for non-linear architecture (wnla) are only understood to have played a single game of three sided football after being introduced to this aspect of Jorn’s thought by Fabian Tompsett at the 1994 Glasgow Winter school, their resulting game was undertaken in an unusual manner. Following a pattern they had practiced over the previous year, the playing of the game was subjected to the constraint techniques of the Oulipo, whereby the pure flow of an otherwise unrestricted derive/constructed situation was directed in its apparent randomness (and given an element of control over its protagonists) by the application of parameters; and in this case, the parameters were a seriously undulating pitch. The application of parameters to experimental situationist activity was discussed by wnla with Fabian & Stewart and the playing of a game under such constraints had actually been suggested by Stewart at the time of Winterschool game on Glasgow Green.

As we intend to recreate this game in a future match (once a suitable pitch is found) I will refrain from a detailed description until the relevant post. Its applicability to our game in the wood stems from the fact that it was only with Stewart’s breathtaking genius in setting the Alytus games amongst trees that the real potential for constraint games was fulfilled. By detourning the fledgling rules of 3sf in such a way Stewart not only made the game more fun –  thus alluding to the essential ludic nature of situationist activity – but he made an important contribution to the avoidance of the recuperation that the game will inevitably face by undermining the seriousness with which is it played – and in which it is held.

For a better understanding of the flavour of the Alytus game, this link is a pretty effective taster:

Following our publicity about the holding of such a repeat game, D3FC and Polsky Budovlancy were asked by a number of participants at the London Anarchist Bookfair whether they could provide the third team. The challenge was accepted and, with the pitch all set up, their arrival eagerly awaited. Unfortunately, for reasons yet to be conveyed, the assorted anarchists failed to show. We did however have enough players to run a three a side game and instead of playing a team of Assorted Anarchists, we instead introduced a further component of 3sf past and played D3FC v Polsky v AAA. The Absent Assorted Anarchists being a mnemonic stand in for the Association of Autonomous Astronauts who played the very first ‘game in a wood’ on the slopes of the densely forested One Tree Hill in South East London in 1998:


With our teams recombined, kick off got underway at 1.00pm, with the match set to repeat the Alytus game’s three fifteen minute rotations.

Initial play was focused on trying to come to terms with the trees. To start with it was difficult to see them as anything other than obstacles to be avoided and the first rotation had the feel of ordinary 3sf but with a collection of rather motionless extra players getting in the way. By the end of the 1st a single goal had been conceded by each team, though D3FC could easily have been three or four down had it not been for some excellent defending by a carefully positioned straining trunk about 4 metres out from their goalmouth.


The second rotation got off to a more cunning start, with the crafty Poles having realized the potential for concealment offered by the thickness of the trees. It was difficult to always keep a grasp of who was where amongst the assorted timbers and they decided to plant a hidden player out of view of an attack. Just as D3FC were bearing down on their lonely goal defender, the concealed player jumped out from behind a tree, shimmied past the attacking player and passed through the boughs to the other forward who had positioned himself – invisibly – far to the right of the D3FC goal. Before the attackers could regroup an open goal was easily taken. Our first taste of the potential had been savoured.

This type of play now dominated the game, players darting in and out of cover and passing to voices rather than visible players. By the end of the second though the scores remained close with the Poles in red holding off the others 2.3.3.


By now however another aspect of the game had come into play. In the first half of the game the trees had been avoided – we had attempted to shoot past them. This had not always been effective and on a number of occasions the ball, just as in a game of pinball, had ricocheted off to change the direction and course of play. This had often had a more positive than negative affect on the unfolding of the game, so by the third the deliberate forceful shooting towards a collection of trees had become strategy rather than consequence. In tight situations where an obvious pass could not be judged – invariably because you had no real idea of who was where – the best thing became the random deflection. This flushed out the concealed players and – counterintuitavely – cleared the way for a more educated attack.

With all these strategic options now available the game rapidly quickened. AAA & D3FC utilized both to level the scores at 3.3.3 and with the alliance holding put another beyond the Poles to leave them trailing. Switchbacking on the run of play, D3FC took advantage of a sudden Polsky team up and now placed one neatly past the absent anarchists to take a solo lead. Only six minutes now remain and Deptford decide to try and hold out, taking the ball into the far corners of the pitch and hold it there.

Polsky and AAA are united in wearing this down and despite valiant efforts an equalizer is headed in from a cunning deliberate rebound from the really big tree to the left of the Deptford goal.

4.4.4. with only ninety seconds to go. Alliances break down and the game becomes a mad scramble. The ball is ping ponging around the pitch as everyone fights for a final second advantage. AAA bear down on the reds, D3FC pile in to help and a goalmouth scramble sees the Poles concede. Desperate not to end up trailing, Polish Tomasz picks up the new ball and races through the trees to find space to place a shot. Hemmed towards the AAA goal by a concerted wall of Deptford defenders and with only seconds to play he fires a beautiful arcing ball towards the far post. The goal is empty and the net assured but the same defending tree that saved Deptford in the 1st gets in a glancing block and the ball careers wide.

Game over. 4.4.5

This will be repeated.

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Victoria Would

We have located a good pitch for this Saturday’s ‘Game in a wood’ (19th Oct). Its in the East side of Victoria Park, near the bandstand.
We will be kicking off at 12.00 noon and setting up the pitch from 11.00am. (if you are around and want to come and help out).
There are lots of stations on overground and underground circling the area but each leaves a fifteen minute walk to the pitch.
The 277 and 425 buses run from Mile End station up Grove Road (between East and West park). There is a bus stop at the location marked A on the map – which is closest to the pitch.
The game is going to be held on a pitch arranged around 9 mature plane trees, in an attempt to recreate the spirit of the game held at the famous Alytus Art Strike Biennale of 2009. We will be playing in conjunction with the 2013 Anarchist Bookfair (at Queen Mary’s in Mile End) and teams will be D3FC, Polsky Budowlancy and an Anarchists FC.


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Season 3. Game 1.



An excellent turn out for the first game of the new season (six-a-side) and a warm welcome to new team Strategic Optimism FC.


“Comprised of various perennial students, the Strategic Optimists derive their name from the now largely dissolved University for Strategic Optimism. Operative primarily around 2010-11, the UfSO was a nomadic university with a transitory campus, based on the principles of free and open education, collective learning and psychogeographical forays into enemy territories. This name was considered an appropriate moniker in terms of the team’s triolectical footballing talents – mainly reliant, as they are, upon an often dissimulative optimism.


Containing a number of dedicated psychogeografikal researchers, SOFC deemed such ludic explorations an appropriate extension of their ongoing investigations.

SOFC, who contain two Romanian players, also played on Sunday in solidarity with a day of global protests in 75 cities worldwide. Bedecking their goal with improvised banners, SOFC showed their unity with those opposing a project allowing multinational firm Gabriel Resources to decimate the Romanian village of Rosia Montana, creating Europe’s largest open-cast gold mine, complete with highly toxic cyanide lake.”


Sunday’s game pitted the two ever present die-hards, D3FC and Polsky Budowlancy against the newcomers and, as might be expected, play began at a leisured pace; the two regular teams trying to get a feel for the skills and tactical guile of the Optimists and they in turn trying to figure out what the hell three sided football was all about.



Five minutes in and the Optimists were a goal down, the entire outfield having accidentally abandoned the goalie to a two team, concerted attack. Quickly establishing the need for a dedicated defence, the newcomers now settled back while Polsky and Deptford took the play to each other. Against the run of play, Polsky shipped two quick goals toward the end of the rotation and the closing whistle saw Deptford with a handy 2.1.0 lead.


The second rotation began with a planned alliance between the Poles and SOFC get off to a shaky start as Mihaela, one of two ladies playing for the Optimists, quickly bluffed an excellent shot on the Polish goal which veered just wide of target. The alliance remained unfazed by this momentary onset of cunning and Deptford soon found themselves surrounded by a ten player assault. Shots rained down on the area but as has been noted here before, six-a-side games can oft result in maddening goal mouth frustration as the sheer numbers of players in the box can thwart any chance of the ball making it through. Body blocks and missed chances mounted, but finally, a delightful diving header found a gap and the Deptford lead was no more.


This also did for the Polsky Optimist alliance as the Poles and D3FC now teamed up again. Numerous missed opportunities kept providing the newcomers with a lifeline but with the rotation closing a crafty Polish switchback put another past the Deptford goalie to see the Optimists take an unexpected lead. D3FC now went seeking revenge and it was Polsky facing the ten man attack. A sublime shot from the centre point, deflected neatly by an Optimistic shoulder, lifted the back of the Polish net and SOFC entered the third in winning ways. 3.2.1


The last two seasons have never seen a team in the lead at the start of the third carry this to the end – but the recent game in Istanbul a fortnight ago (1) dispelled this nascent orthodoxy. Could the Optimists repeat the maneuver? Their two opponents were going to do everything to ensure they wouldn’t. As the Deptford goal had been besieged in the second, so now the Optimists were hemmed in in the third. Balls ricocheted away as a series of fearless blocks kept the goalmouth dry. Two of the Optimists were forced to retire after being practically flattened by the onslaught (fortunately a number of subs were on hand) but inevitability showed its hand and with the rotation passing the half way stage the gap was found – 3.2.2.


Polsky have little time now to try and do anything about their losing situation. Goals are proving hard to come by in this six-a-side and SOFC are looking to slow it down. If Deptford can be taken out of the shared lead they can perhaps be lured into an assault on the Optimists again. If 3.3.3 can be reached with a minute or two to go then a chance still exists. So feigning an attack on the leaders, a planned Polsky play sees a long ball whipped over to the Deptford goal as two Polish forwards rush towards it. The goalie has only a single defender and there’s space to shoot. The opportunity isn’t wasted and now the Optimists must prepare themselves for the inevitable. 3 minutes to go. 3.3.2. Can they hold on?


Rather than try to fill the goalmouth the leaders bring out the ball to their front line and hold it there. An excellent series of strategic ball killing plays time out the clock and do justice to the Optimists moniker. The orthodoxy is broken for the second game in succession and the newcomers take the honours.


(1) Philosophy Football FC invited Mark from D3FC to play with them in the first three sided football game in Turkey. Played on Saturday 14th Sept on the shores of the Golden Horn, the match pitted the Philosophers against Dynamo Windrad from Germany and Ayazma FC, the Turkish writers and artists football team. The event, held as part of the Istanbul Biennale, was organised to support the launching of an International Three Sided Football Federation. More about this important development in the evolution of the game in a later post.


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