Polder Cup | Football pitches in the Dutch polder | Maider López

Polder Cup is a one-day football championship in the polders. The special features of the typical Dutch landscape imply that the football pitches are crossed by water channels or that the field is muddy, which requires adapting the rules and inventing new strategies for the game. Thus, a standard global practice is reinvented by inserting it in a specific context, acquiring a local character.

“The facade of the Witte de With art institute in central Rotterdam was adorned with a grass-green banner featuring images of meadows marked with white lines and criss-crossed with straight ditches. Together, the meadows formed four football pitches, one large and three smaller, and the chalk lines appeared ragged compared to the perfectly straight lines of the ditches. The ditches divided the playing fields into asymmetrical blocks that were dotted with hollows and bumps. The banner invited passersby to participate in a football match in the polder, but the unconventional playing fields were a warning that the rules would have to be adapted to suit the situation.

Passersby were confronted by the changes to the rules and the disruption of recognisable scenes. The football pitches re-divided the familiar landscape of parcelled polders, and the ditches and the marshy ground that characterise this typically Dutch landscape determined how the game was played.

(…) As well as being demarcated by the white chalk lines, the boundaries of the football pitches were delimited by real corner flags and real goalposts. Balls that ended up in the ditches were recovered with nets and missed shots were retrieved from the banks using canoes and oars.

(…) The game activated and actualized the geometric polder landscape of ditches and meadows, investing it with a degree of individuality. The event transformed, in De Certeau’s words, a stable and incontrovertible ‘place’ (lieu) into a dynamic ‘space’ (espace).

(…) In Polder Cup the tall grass, the pollen and the squishy ground restricted the players’ movements. The ditches not only transect the pitches, but the presence of water also meant that the official rules of the game have to be ‘rectified’. Players were not allowed to leap over the ditches, which meant a defender could never move to the opposite side of the pitch. Consequently, the players had to discuss and revise their tactics and devise new strategies in the heat of the moment, without them being formalized.”

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Images: Maider López

Text: Ilse van Rijn