Recently, we were asked to conduct an interview, ostensibly for BA’s In-flight magazine, although we suspect this may have been a ruse for certain hostile parties to gather intelligence on our activities. Nevertheless, we entered into the spirit of the matter and replied as best we could. The following presents a transcript of that conversation:
Sorry for the delayed response, I was away in Lithuania; appropriately, I was actually playing three-sided football – with the aid of a triolectical moving goalpost machine and two dozen school kids – to mark the occasion of the conjunction of Ceres and Mercury.
Here are some answers to your questions:
What attracted you to 3SF initially, and when was that? How has it grown in SE London (and elsewhere)?
It was initially the rather spurious “Situationist” connection that attracted me to 3SF. Only later did I realise that the game’s allegedly Situationist origins were a ruse, introduced to obscure a far richer history, dating back to festive games played since at least the medieval period and probably beyond. I had been aware of the writings of the Situationist International for some time, initially through various zines, newsletters and flyers that had circulated around the myriad psychogeographical groups who were actively reimagining Situationist positions during the 1990s. One such text, from a group called the Workshop for Non-Linear Architecture, described a game called Incidental Urban Poker – in which players participate with poker hands made up of cards they find in the street, a game that could stretch over long years and cross continents. Upon reading the text, myself and a few comrades began our own period of extended drifting, around London, Glasgow, Manchester and elsewhere, travelling here and there, staying in Travel Lodges and empty studios, going by the collective name of Ernest. It was as part of these researches that we started our own game of Urban Poker, initially between London and New Dehli. Suddenly it was like casting the psychic nets into an abundant ocean; cards began not only to wash up at our feet, but almost, it seemed, to throw themselves up at us, out of the deep blue yonder. Then on the evening of 23rd May 2013, Ernest met “Ron” [name changed to protect the identity of this individual – Ed.]. The occasion was a reception celebrating the reissue of original Situationist Michele Bernstein’s psychogegraphic novella, The Night.
Here Ron and I began discussing Urban Poker and coincidentally it turned out he had participated a certain organisation crucial to the game’s early development. To add further coincidence, he was also an avid three-sided football player, having been involved in the early Glasgow experiments and playing – of all places – down the road in my local park, although he was having some trouble getting the numbers together for regular full games. Upon hearing this, I managed to convince some ex-comrades of mine from the nomadic invisible college that had for the previous three years gone by the name of the University for Strategic Optimism to simultaneously disband the University and establish a three-sided football team, Strategic Optimism Football: to give up activism for 3SF (although the futility of this gesture was highlighted from day one, when we played our very first game under a banner of solidarity with the Rosa Montana movement against neo-imperialist gold-mining concurrently being bitterly resisted in the Transylvanian mountains). Bizarrely, I was aged exactly 33 and a 3rd. From this injection of players, regular games began to emerge in S.E. London, eventually morphing the Luther Blissett Deptford Three-Sided Football League. The location of this league in S.E. London is another remarkable coincidence, given that this is an area of acute psychogeographical significance, sometimes considered to be centred on the so-called New Cross Triangle, having given birth, variously, to the London Psychogeographical Association, Chaos Magic and the Sex Pistols, as well as having been crucial in stopping the onward march of neo-fascism in the UK, at the so-called “Battle of Lewisham” in 1977.
That is not to say that the game has in any way been limited to S.E. London. As I say, its origins have been contested and may lie in Glasgow, Scandinavia, Mexico, China or Africa. There have been extensive debates and numerous papers submitted upon this very topic. It made for lively discussions at the 1th Three-Sided Football World Cup in Silkeborg, Denmark in 2014 and will doubtless do so again at the International Congress of Three-Sided Footballers arranged to coincide with this year’s World Cup in Kathalytus. Games have been played from Australia to Alytus, Belarus to Bilbao, Borneo to Bogotá, Malawi to Milan, New York to Malaysia; in ancient stone circles and Soviet fuel silos; from a game against the dead workers of Highgate Cemetery, to a midwinter midnight game in a remote mountain forest in the Czech Republic; from games in Greenwich with goalposts made of bicycles, to games on the shore of Baltic Sea with a giant football the size of a Ford Fiesta.
Please could you talk through some of the characters in your team (and others) and their more unusual hobbies?
Three-Sided Football is a collective endeavour, we do not subscribe to so-called “great men” historiographies, neither do we condone the celebrity culture and individualism cultivated by traditional association football. As such, any talk of “characters” is alien to our sensibilities. There are varied backgrounds and interests in our ranks, from quantum physicists to musicians, chaos magicians to builders, as well as poets, boxers, journalists and proud deserters of 17 nations.
You told me about your never-ending game of poker in which players can only use cards found on the street. What was it called again (psychogeographical poker?)? And how long have you been playing it for? What has been your best hand?!
See above. My best hand was five aces.
How would you describe the Strategy Optimism shirts (you mentioned thunder, dust etc … more of that please!)?
When Strategic Optimism Football was formed, it immediately entered its “amplic” phase, expanding and growing to the point that its mercurial rise culminated in winning the Deptford League on the third “yellow” triolectical axis (the league is contested on three complementary and incompatible axes of measurement simultaneously). The shirts for this phase were constructed by three invited sex workers, during a drug-fuelled industrial sploshing session on Halloween 2013. The shirts thus collided the industrial painting strategies of the artist Pino Gallizio with ritual magic and an eroticised paint fight to produce a rather fetching psychedelic effect. After three years however, SOF entered a new “chiselling” phase, coinciding with so-called “Black Moon” of 2016; a phase due to end on the night of the next scheduled Black Moon in 2019. This chiselling phase called for an inversion of the previous colourful explosions that had characterised the shirts of our amplic phase, an inversion inspired by the auto-destructive paintings of renowned artist and striker, Gustav Metzger. The auto-destructive shirts were thus painted, splattered and dunked with a specially mixed brew of bleach and sulphuric acid, during a particularly violent thunderstorm, the torrential rain serving to streak the bleached and burned shirts in a pleasing manner, portending the teams own gradual dissolving.
And you mentioned that your aim was to get it disbanded – how is that going, and why do you want to do that?
As mentioned above, on the occasion of the October 2016 Black Moon, Strategic Optimism Football entered their three-year chiselling phase. This marks the final three years before the climax of their Nine Year Plan (and the next return of the Black Moon) in 2019, heralding a new era. The ease with which the team achieved its sweeping successes across both domestic and international arenas and the burgeoning worldwide expansion of three-sided football within sporting, artistic, scientific, philosophical and occult circles has been pronounced. SOF’s players have, as a result, grown so indifferent and bored of the game’s competitive iterations that they have decided to eliminate one element of their existence every day up to the team’s complete dissolution on August 30th, 2019 (vulg.). Thus, while everyone is trying to get into three-sided football, we’re doing our best to get out of it.
What attributes does a good 3SF player need to possess?
A good three-sided footballer must possess three key attributes: Strategy, optimism and a keen awareness of the particularly psychogeographical camber produced within the rotational dynamic of a three-sided singularity. The first can be taught, for example by studying the work of Sun Tzu, Clausewitz or Brian Clough; the second can only be unlearned, counter to our daily experiences, although children do have a particular propensity; the third is most systematically developed through driftwork and other games, such as Chess or Go, particularly in their three-sided variants.
Will you be going to the World Cup, and if so how will you be getting there (there was some talk of a van … )?
We will indeed by going to this year’s World Cup. As we are a mixture of nationalities – and anyway despise those most irredeemable of character flaws: nationalism, patriotism and the frankly incestuous vice known as the love of one’s country – we will not represent any topographical region or nation-state. Instead, we hail from the psycho-geographical territory of Meonia. There will therefore be five of us travelling over from Meonia in our new ice cream van (which, instead of playing the maudlin strains of Greensleeves or Yankie Doodle, instead subjects passers-by to a marginally less annoying barrage of auto-destructive noise and shrieking).