In August 2009, and again in August 2011, I found myself referring the games of 3-sided football staged as a part of the Alytus Biennial in Lithuania. I don’t attend many biennials, but since the one in Alytus has evolved into a jamboree of post-artistic practices – and it is also a delightfully intimate event – I’ll always make an exception for it.
But let’s get back to 3-sided football. It was Asger Jorn, the Cobra artist and founding member of the Situationist International, who first came up with the idea of a football match involving three teams. However, it appears that Jorn considered it impossible to stage a real life game of 3-sided football, and so never attempted to do so. As far as I know the first game of 3-Sided football was organised by the London Psychogeographical Association at a Glasgow Summer School in 1993. Since then there have been many games of 3-sided soccer, and in the 1990s they were particularly popular with people involved with the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (who were running an independent proletarian space exploration programme at the time).
3-sided football is played on a hexagonal pitch with each team being assigned two opposite sides for bureaucratic purposes, but only one of these two sides has a goal. The winning team is the one that concedes the least goals, not the one that scores the most. This means that strategic alliances can arise between sides, since it is in the interest of the teams that are losing at any particular point in the game to work together against those that are ahead of them.
In Alytus the pitch was marked out in the city’s forest park, meaning that not only was it difficult to kick the ball all the way across the pitch – because there were trees in the way – but also that as referee I wasn’t always able to see what was going on in the match. On both occasions I refereed in Alytus we had three teams of seven players and I ran the game in three thirds of fifteen minutes each; with two third-time breaks of five minutes. I rotated the teams around the different goals and sides of the pitch during the match, so that each team spent one third of the game defending each of the three different goals. Also, because I’m a lousy referee, I didn’t enforce offside rules (which are a more complicated in 3-sided football than conventional soccer).
The 2009 game was competitive but the teams did seem to understand how to make strategic alliances and we had an excellent match (with the team mostly made up of anarchists from Vilnius winning). This year I was a little disappointed that the two best teams were so competitive and antagonistic towards each other that the worst team won. At one point the two better teams had the ball in front of the worst team’s goal with only one defending player anywhere near them. Instead of co-operating, those who should have been attacking the worst team’s goal tackled each other. This was blatantly stupid since who scored the goal was irrelevant, I was only keeping a tally of goals conceded.
The better teams missed innumerable opportunities to thrash the frankly awful side of footballers who were mostly from London. I had complaints that since I was from London, I was biased in the worst team’s favour, and while I admired the sneaky way they played their superior rivals off against each other – and thereby won the game – I’d also be the first to admit that as athletes they sucked. Given the way the winning side tactically conceded the first goal and continually exposed their football skills as being utterly rubbish, and by such ruses goaded the other two teams into attacking each other, I’d hate to engage any of these lousy sportsmen in 3-sided chess (this is another game that interests them).
Although I was disappointed by this year’s 3-sided football game, the 2011 Alytus Biennial – which ran from 22 to 28 August – also repeated and improved upon a number of events from 2009. The monstrations – demonstrations lacking demands that would be comprehensible to a capitalist politician – were even more of a party than at the previous biennial. We marched with brightly painted placards celebrated the rise of the psychic worker and their solidarity with their dead comrades. The slogans were mostly incomprehensible and some placards even mixed languages and alphabets within words and phrases. This year we not only demonstrated during the day, but also had a late-night march. The way we threw fireworks around in the streets, banged drums and chanted, delighted the Friday night drunks hanging around outside bars.
The scratch music session was also an improvement on 2009, because it was more free form and didn’t become bogged down in rock idioms. Likewise, the 2011 discussions were both more impressive and considerably more global in scope than in 2009. We also did some cloud busting, and that gave me a remarkable sense of deja vu, since it was neither better nor worse than two years previously! I want to keep this short, so I’m not gonna describe everything that went on, but suffice to say that once again the Alytus Biennial proved a complete groove sensation!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!