Reds see nature's tooth and claw displayed

Ally Clow reports from the Deptford X three-sided football tournament on Saturday 4 August 2012 at Fordham Park, Deptford


Each three-sided football match in which Philosophy Football has been involved has been played with different rules, different teams and even differently designed pitches. In this form of the game you must be always prepared for something novel and unexpected, even when your team contains Matt Prout, the most experienced three-sided footballer in the world. Perhaps the most bizarre twist to the three-sided tale on Saturday in Deptford was that the match we turned up for transformed into a round-robin tournament as four teams turned up, and so kick-off of the first match was brought forward by half an hour from the scheduled midday start as all four teams were ready to play earlier than expected.

Faced with this unexpected turn of events, the day's organiser, local psychogeographer Mark Dyson, created, on the spur of the moment, a round-robin tournament of four matches with five players on each side, with one team taking a break for each match. Each match had three rotations or 'thirds' of ten minutes, so every team would play 90 minutes of football, which was about as conventional as the day got.

The players from the other teams were largely new to the three-sided format, although there were a few players who have played in the Deptford Three-Sided Football Club that Mark and his co-conspirator Fabian Tompsett have established over the past six months. In fact, Matt Prout's claim to the crown of most experienced three-sided player was unofficially rubbished by the post-match revelation that there were 'two Algerian lads' who played in all six of Mark and Fabian's three-sided matches in Deptford. However, this has yet to be verified, so Matt, with five appearances, can still hold his head high.

Before play started I read out to the team the fantastic tactical suggestions which Filippo has compiled from his experiences in the format. He advised us to avoid taking the lead too quickly so that the other teams wouldn't ally to attack us, and to form temporary alliances and break them in the business end of the match. His other piece of advice, to have the substitute keep track of the scoreline and issue tactics from the touchline could not be carried out as we were only five. The Philosophy Football line-up was: Kadeem in goal, Michele as defender, Will and Ally in midfield and Matt in attack.

We followed Filippo's tactics closely during the first two matches we played and conceded only two goals, the scores being: Polish Plumbers 3 - Deptford B 2 - PFFC 1; and Polish Plumbers 4 - Deptford B 3 - PFFC 1. The second match's last third was an easy one for PFFC, and contained an astonishing display of malice which gives a perfect insight to the perils of trust that three-sided football bring up: the Poles' goalkeeper passed the ball to the Deptford A striker and instead of turning to attack us, he simply shot the ball back past the Polish keeper. The Poles were never to forget this treacherous move, as the final match was to attest. At this point the overall score was PFFC 2, Deptford B 2, Deptford A 4, Polish Plumbers 7.

After playing two matches in a row, a coin toss decreed that Philosophy would play again, in the next match, so not allowing us the breather that we so desperately needed. It was at this point that we realised we had shown a bit of naivety when the scheduled match was turned into a tournament: we should have realised from Filippo's tactics that we shouldn't have gone too far ahead too early in the tournament (which was our 'match'). Only conceding two goals in the first two matches and having no break before our final match meant that we were easy pickings for the Deptford teams who, from the very beginning of our third match, made an alliance to take us down. We were under siege from the off: one shot after the other was fired past a helpless Kadeem and we ended the first third 3-0-0 down. We tried to cajole each of our opponents to join forces with us, but they were wise and could smell blood. A further goal went against the Reds in the second third but Matt also scored against Deptford B to make the score 4-1-0. At this point we were imploring Deptford B to join with us because Deptford A were now winning, but their mission seemed to be to finish us off. The five Philosophers held out during the final third, however, and Deptford A conceded to make the final scoreline 4-1-1. Given all this, we did well to concede only four goals in this match.

The overall scoreline going in to the final match was PFFC 6, Polish Plumbers 7, Deptford B 3, Deptford A 5. While we were unable to have a direct influence on the final match we knew that we were still in with a chance of winning the tournament. The Poles were out of it as they had already conceded more goals than us, and Deptford A could easily concede two goals and Deptford B could concede four in this final match. What followed was a master-class of three-sided revenge tactics. In the first third, Deptford B conceded a goal and were only one in front of Deptford A and two in front of the Philosophers. The Poles refused to form an allegiance with either team from this point on and began attacking Deptford A at every opportunity. One goal followed another and it was clear they were not going to forgive the earlier treachery by Deptford A's striker. Their drive to pulverise and destroy Deptford A was devastating to watch; however, once they had overtaken them, there was no desire to do similar damage to Deptford B. We were shouting from the sidelines, encouraging them to turn and attack the other way to put past Deptford B the two extra goals which would put them behind us in the tournament, but they were on a mission to humiliate this one team who had wronged them earlier in the tournament, and this they achieved with aplomb. The match finished Deptford B 2 - Polish Plumbers 2 - Deptford A 10 and the final score for the tournament read: Deptford B 5, Philosophy Football FC 6, Polish Plumbers 9 and Deptford A 15.

We were pleased to finish second after making the mistake leading the tournament after the first two matches and being unable to influence the final match. Our situation mirrored that of the British team in the men's road race at the the Olympics, after which they lamented that 'no other team wanted us to win'. Our treatment in the final two matches was harsh, but it was obvious to us in hindsight that, given the way we dominated the first two matches, why should any of the other teams have wanted to side with us? Three-sided football is a form which tends to equilibrium: if one side is the strongest and takes the lead, they will soon have two teams looking to reduce their advantage. However, as we saw in the final match of this tournament, this equilibrium can be upset, and the form bring chaos, if you piss someone off.