what is philosophy football?

Mention Philosophy Football and the uninitiated mind goes into overdrive: football is the religion of the masses? I kick therefore I am? Philosophy Football is the thinking man's fantasy league team. Managed by Mark Perryman and graphic artist Hugh Tisdale, the "team" is represented by a set of mock strips, each carrying the philosopher's name and position number on the back, with their footie-relevant quote on the front. Thus we have goalkeeper, Albert Camus, keeping them at bay with "All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football".

Kicking in at number 7, Eric Cantona sets the midfield ablaze. A keen subscriber to the theory that attack is the best form of defence, he says: "I play with passion and fire. I have to accept that sometimes the fire does harm. But I cannot be what I am without these other sides to my character."

"It's such a simple idea," Tisdale says, "that it's hardly an idea at all." The duo began by making up a few Camus shirts to give to friends for Christmas. They were so successful that it seemed logical to create a whole team.

There are five shirts currently available, with the sixth, featuring Pele ("Football? It's the beautiful game"), available from 30 June. Simone de Beauvoir is currently being head-hunted. "She'd bring a bit of moral backbone to our midfield," Perryman reckons. Philosophy Football also has designs on Nelson Mandela and the Pope.

All good, clean fun, or so you'd think. But not Umbro. A recent advert in the New Statesman announced: "The official Philosophy Football Eric Cantona memorial shirt... 100 per cent cotton in pure United red, as worn before Umbro and the profit motive combined to ruin the United strip."

Umbro took umbrage and declared the advert libellous "in that it denigrates the quality of Umbro's design for Manchester United's kit". They went on to accuse Philosophy Football of falsely selling the shirt as an official strip.

While Perryman and Tisdale are doing battle with Umbro to keep the philosophy of football alive, Philosophy Football FC are busy killing the game on the field. Set up by lecturer Geoff Andrews, the club is, he says, "the most politically correct team going". The team is not yet a force to be reckoned with - the PC FC recently took on Time Out and lost 2-1 despite the distinct advantage lent by the team strip. "We all wear the Shankly shirt," Andrews explains, "which causes confusion for the other team when someone shouts `Mark number 4!'."

So you've bought the T-shirt, watched the team slithering to defeat - surely there's more to Philosophy Football? Yes, there is. Profits from the sale of the strips are being put towards a cultural soccer extravaganza to be held at the South Bank in London on 1 June, 1996, to kick off the European Championships. The event, entitled "They Think It's All Over... It Is Now", will include film, comedy, art and poetry, all with a football slant. T-shirts will be printed in the languages of all 16 countries taking part, with the message "Football yes, violence no!".

And that is the philosophy behind it all. Stun your opposite number with Nietzsche and Engels, not kneecaps and elbows. However, as Andrews says, with apologies to Marx: "Philosophy only interprets the game: the point is to play it." Let's hope his team figures that one out.

VALERIE BOLCINA

For a free catalogue write to Philosophy Football, 28 Wargrave Avenue, London N15 6UD

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