Goals, glory and tackles: the art world thrashes it out on the football pitch

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Tate was crowned the winner of the second iteration of the OOF Cup this weekend. The art world five-a-aside football competition (organised by the magazine and gallery OOF) took place at the N17 Arena, a pitch which is part of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium complex in north London, and saw teams from ten major UK galleries and art institutions (including this publication) competing to win a Mark Wallinger-designed trophy.

The tournament was split into a group stage and two semi-finals before a deciding final. Group A featured teams from Frieze, White Cube, The Royal Academy of Art, The Art Newspaper and Momart (the sponsor of the tournament); group B was made up of Stephen Friedman, Castor, Pilar Corrias, Victoria Miro and Tate.

Playing in a tight, fast-paced, five-a-side cage in blustery but sunny conditions, the day started frenetically and aggressively with The Art Newspaper’s team succumbing to a tightly fought 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Royal Academy before Stephen Friedman beat Castor 2-0, Momart drew with Frieze 1-1 and Pilar Corrias lost 3-1 to Victoria Miro.

The Art Newspaper’s museums editor, Tom Seymour, tackling a member of White Cube’s team Photo by David Owens © OOF Ltd.

Quickly, the standout teams established their dominance: Tate, White Cube, Frieze and Victoria Miro were obstinate opponents and all remained unbeaten through the group stages. Pilar Corrias and Castor managed a handful of wins and draws between them, but sadly The Art Newspaper lost all four of its games.

The group stages were not without drama. Three spectators were struck in the head, and there were injuries to players from Frieze and Momart. A player from The Art Newspaper was the only one to be sent off for a wild tackle against Momart, while a player from the Frieze team was reprimanded by the referee for ‘childish’ time wasting after scoring and then throwing the ball off the pitch (that same player would go on to be the tournament’s highest scorer, with seven goals to his name).

The top two teams from each group progressed from the group stages, leading to two electric, tense and highly competitive semi-finals. Frieze managed to thrash a valiant Victoria Miro team in the first semi 5-0, while Tate just scraped by White Cube in a 1-0 victory. The stage was set: the final would be between Frieze and Tate.

It was the cagiest game of the day, with the score remaining 0-0 until the final two minutes when Tate finally managed to break the deadlock. Frieze fought back valiantly, creating multiple chances, but was unable to equalise. Tate did have a bigger squad of substitutes to pick from, and former Tottenham Hotspur captain Ledley King was heard saying that Frieze was the better team on the day, but the results don’t lie: Tate emerged as deserved winners of The OOF Cup 2023.

Tottenham Hotspurs legend Ledley King presenting the trophy to the winners Photo by David Owens © OOF Ltd.

King presented the trophy to the team in front of a rapturous crowd of spectators in the shadow of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. This year, Tate emerged as the art-world champions, but rumours of a much expanded 2024 edition of the tournament promise an even higher level of competition.

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