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All-round winner – game where money is not god

KADEEM SIMMONDS on a sport where enthusiasm rules

MARK DYSON, co-founder of the Deptford Three-Sided League, hopes to bring the Three-Sided World Cup to London in 2017 while keeping money out of the game.

Three-sided football has grown immensely in the past two years, culminating in the first World Cup last weekend in Silkeborg, Denmark. 

Local side Silkeborg YMCA lifted the trophy, defeating rivals Silkeborg IF and English side Jorn Three in the final. Jorn himself played for the club in his youth and his brother Vagn Ove Jorn had a life-long association as a player and coach.

Despite the fact that it was the Danish artist who came up with the idea, the game was “found” by Fabian Tompsett, who came across the concept while reading through the works of Jorn. 

Dyson has since expanded on the work of Tompsett by creating the first three-sided league in Deptford and plays for one of the clubs D3FC.

“Three-sided football was found by Fabian when he was reading through Jorn’s text during his translation of an article called Open Creation and Its Enemies, something that really interested Fabian,” said Dyson after the final on Saturday.

“When he came across it he thought ‘that’s really interesting, I wonder if Jorn ever played it’. 

“He did a bit of research and found that it had never been played and back in 1993-94 he came along to what’s become known as the Glasgow anarchist winterschool, with the proposal that we all played three-sided football. So we went down to Glasgow Green and that is how it got ‘founded’.”

After the initial match in Glasgow, the game spent a number of years trying to find an identity. There were games on hills, in woods . . .

Because of the extra team on the pitch the key to the game is the making and breaking of temporary alliances to gain advantages over the other teams. And Dyson believes this has attracted left-sided thinkers to the game.

“The idea of a sport in which collaboration is the way in which you win, as opposed to direct confrontation, is an obvious metaphor for leftist ideas.

“It attracted left-leaning people to start with, partially because of the way in which Fabian spun the game. 

“All Jorn did was suggest three-sided football and said it would be the team that conceded the fewest goals that would be the winner. But all of the stuff that you read about on websites, ‘defeating the bourgeois dialectics,’ all originated with Fabian.”

And after a successful tournament, attention turned towards the future of the game back in London and the next tournament, with plans to stage them every three years instead of the usual four, starting with London.

Dyson added: “It would be great to bring it to London because that’s where most three-sided football playing clubs are, the Deptford league is in London and over the next few years it will only grow.

“I think there will be more teams interested in the game. The amount of publicity we have had in the past six months has seen it grow. I think London is the natural place to have it (the World Cup) — loads of people want to come to London.

“As for where is it going? There are two different strands to it: there’s very much the artistic performance, situational side to it; and, as we saw a little bit in the final on Saturday, there’s also a really serious football side, in which the techniques of football, the ball skills, the ability to play the game, takes it into a different dimension than the artists take it to. 

“Whether those two can stay together or whether they go their separate ways eventually, who knows? But the seed was planted, it has now sprouted and let’s see what kind of fruit hangs on it when it grows.

“I find that money is one of capital’s most insidious weapons. It is one the most powerful of the methods by which it divides and conquers. 

“It lies, for me, at the root of the us-and-them separation. It pollutes participation. So keeping the game that we all play together free from the negative affects of finance has certainly been something I’ve tried to steer towards. 

“We always play in communal parks without any park cops — like Deptford Park and Fordham Park. 

This means not only no park fees to pay but also no nosey parkers telling us what to do and laying down rules. 

“We also don’t do club houses. All this means there are no match fees — you turn up and you play. Money never enters the equation. The only requisite for getting involved is that you want to give it a go. Everyone gets a game who wants one. 

“While this communalism is not inherent to three-sided football per se, it certainly played a large part in Jorn’s life and it seemed absolutely the way to develop the playing of the real game.”


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