From "Dahlemer Diwan" on Radio Charlie 87.9, June 9, 96
by Florian Cramer
[6 minute feature with excerpts of a studio interview with Luther Blissett, broadcasted as part of a radio hour on "literature and soccer" on the second day of the European Soccer Championship]
"Don't you feel in my songs / that I am one and double" - that's what Goethe wrote in his "West-Eastern Diwan". He didn't tell us whether the sum of his equation would be two or three. However, the competition of these numbers is much older.
Christianity kicked off with both the trinity and a dualist eschatology. The heretics countered with masonic pyramids, but simultaneously drew up an alchemistic pair of micro- and macrocosm. When the opponents were substituted in the 19th century, the number two had already scored its winning goals. Marxists exercised their dialectical systems while the national state played off a collective "self" against a collective "other". At the same time, soccer came up and positioned itself in the midfield of proletarian culture and nationalism.
Today's soccer is in keeping with the times because it allows multiple identities. The spectators are skilled in switching between local, regional, national and international levels, and they adapt their identification accordingly. Those who cultivate their hatred against Bavaria Munich every Saturday can join Lothar Mattheus & Company in their longing for the UEFA cup nevertheless. The national team may even unite Bavarians, Dortmunders and even Bremen hanseatics, and if everything goes wrong, Inter Mailand or Ajax Amsterdam will provide refuge.
The good thing is: Despite everything, the game remains always the same. Team one against team two, our boys against the others. Only the direction changes, after the half-time break. Every attack builds up the drive until it's being increased in the midfield. There's frustration in the defense and collective climax as soon as a goal is scored.
The referee however doesn't fit into this logic: He creates an obscure grey zone, since he is both a player in the game and not. He may become a much-hated third party as soon as both teams get stuck. Then, players and spectators declare him the new enemy.
It was Asger Jorn who came up with the idea of a genuine three-sided soccer game, a game where three teams would play simultaneously on one field. With these rules he hoped to overcome the dialectics of the old game by "trialectics". Nevertheless, the concept was everything which Asger Jorn and his collaborators of the so-called "Situationist International" left. Diminished from perpetuated expulsion rites, they could have rarely ever set up a single team.
Two decades later, in 1993, some people rediscovered Asger Jorn's concept and founded a world league of three-sided football. A coach of that league, who just travels through Germany in search for talents, tells us the details:
"The Luther Blissett 3-sided Football League is a sort of European secret society. Since 1993, there have been more or less 30 games in London and Rome, and we are organizing a European secret championship which is not on a national basis, but on a town basis."
The Luther Blissett League doesn't use conventional football arenas. All games are played on a hexagonal field. The goals are positioned at every second boundary line, and instead of a half, each team holds two sectors of the hexagon. The winning team is not the one which scored the most goals, but that one which got the least. In order to charge the game with symbolism, the teams wear hieroglyphs of the Renaissance magus John Dee.
But what is the motivation for such efforts?
"In three-sided football, there's no 'us' and 'them'. It's a thrilling mind game, a sort of Middle East where alliances are continually changing and unpredictable. It's a game of deception. It's like intelligence activity."
Over the hexagon of these transcendental players moves an urban legend, the collective phantom Luther Blissett. Bands and writers have adopted his name, just as the three-sided football league:
"It's named after Luther Blissett because he's a famous football player. He started to play the three-sided football in the late 70s when he played in the Watford football club whose chairman was Elton John."
The three-side players of the 90s are amateurs, hence they avoid such dilemmas. Is there rivalry to conventional soccer anyway? What does our coach think about the ongoing two-sided European championship?
"I only watch TV sports chat shows, but I don't watch games anymore, I don't watch matches."
Here we may prick up our ears: Is the question of all those Luther Blissetts, balls, hexagons and rectangles actually about dialectics or trialectics? Perhaps, they all might have a common motivation - namely the hope that the game might go on forever. Goethe, too, knew to describe this in the "West-Eastern Diwan":
"That you cannot end, that makes you
And that you never start, that is your fate.
Your song is spinning like the stellar frame
Beginning and ending, they're always the same."