WHAT IS RELATIONISM?

Jamie Hamilton
22 min readMar 27, 2023

Recognising Patterns in Football’s Alternative Paradigm

WHAT IS RELATIONISM?

March 3rd 2023, The New York Times publishes a piece by chief football correspondent Rory Smith. The piece, titled ‘Liverpool, Napoli and the Problem With Systems’, references Brazilian coach Fernando Diniz and his ‘apositional’ playing style.

March 14th. Tactical coach of the Euro 2020 winning Italian national team, Antonio Gagliardi writes an article for L’Ultimo Uomo asking ‘Is the era of the Position Game coming to an end?’.

March 20th. Spanish football podcast, Play Futbol releases an episode analysing jogo funcional and the ‘tactics board’ of Fernando Diniz.

March 22nd. UK based data publication, Analytics FC wonders ‘Has Juego de Posicion been solved?’.

March 23rd. Swedish national newspaper, Dagens Nyheter interviews coach educator and published academic, Mark O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan remarks how Argentina did not play ‘a positional game that other teams used. They have gone back to a tradition of their own called La Nuestra’.

March 25th. Writing via his personal Medium page, Tifo/The Athletic’s Jon Mackenzie releases ‘Taking a Position on Relation in Football’.

What is happening? What’s going on in the tactics-sphere? What connects these dispatches from across the football world? Strange phrases like ‘Functional Play’, ‘apositional’ and ‘Relationism’ keep appearing.

TRANSLATIONS

Relationism (a term I first introduced in November 2022) is a paradigm of football; it is a translated twist on what Jozsef ‘Hungaro’ Bozsik first called Jogo Funcional back in 2018. Relationism is a lens through which the game can be theorized, practiced and developed.

Positionism is also a paradigm of football, albeit a fundamentally different one.

As was explained in The Positionist (the January 21st, 2023 article I published in collaboration with Gorka Melchor and Rene Maric), the Positionist paradigm — and the styles within that paradigm such as Juego de Posicion — use abstracted, flattened space as a primary reference for player organisation. Relationism does not.

So, if not primarily through an understanding of flat ‘space’ — and of where and where not to be in that space — how can the players achieve the sufficient levels of organisation required to play competitive top-level football?

Relationism is not just players standing close together nor can it be reduced to players ‘being friends’ with one another.

Relationist players move together while communicating through signals and cues often undetectable by those schooled in various other strains of football thinking.

Imagine someone who has never danced before being asked to judge a performance of the Tango, Capoeira or Waltz. Their eyes will see the human bodies move, but they will not understand nor appreciate the complexity of the movements.

Any unfamiliar language seems like gibberish at first. The sounds and gestures make no sense. But, if you persist, patterns eventually reveal themselves.

This article will demonstrate seven of the tactical patterns and motifs commonly found in Relationist play:

  • toco y me voy
  • tabela
  • escadinha
  • corta luz
  • tilting
  • defensive diagonal
  • the yo-yo

Some of these terms are being introduced here for the first time while others are already well established in the lore of Functional Play.

This crude list is far from comprehensive let alone exhaustive. It is merely an attempt at first contact.

PART 1

IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO: TOCO Y ME VOY AND THE TABELA

El Encuentro (The Encounter) by Raquel Forner (1975)

Toco y me voy

Without this concept you will never see Relationism on the pitch. At its heart it is devilishly simple. In fact we already know it in English as ‘pass and move’. Toco y me voy means ‘I play and I go’. It is the immediate movement of the player following the release of the pass.

In positional play this movement occurs far less often — players are encouraged to make small movements within their zones to open passing lines at the appropriate moment. This zonal attack leads to the symmetrical and repeatable passing networks widely shared by analysts. Connections made possible by toco y me voy are neither symmetrical or repeatable.

In Relationism players are free to move in much larger spaces. They can explode forward at any moment. He who dares wins. Think of Yaya Toure’s long, languid strides rampaging elegantly through the centre of the field.

The principle can be more or less extreme. Perhaps only certain players are encouraged to perform it, or in certain areas of the field. But at its most potent, a team’s entire attacking style can be based around the idea of playing and going, of changing the picture constantly, of daring to instigate a penetrating movement.

Figure 1.1 — via Gorka Melchor

In 1960's West Germany, the Relationist Bavarian Schule was built around a furiously proactive game of collective toco y me voy.

In a group-stage match of the 1966 World Cup, Figure 1.1 shows how numerous West German players — including the left-back — show no hesitation in charging forward into the ball zone immediately after the pass has been released.

This perpetual dynamism sacrifices an overall zonal team structure in favour of localised emergent structures.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2 shows Riquelme performing a toco y me voy. As soon as the forward pass is made he accelerates into the space to arrive at the appropriate moment.

Relationism is about movement and change. It is a process of becoming rather than of being.

Figure 1.3

With players like Zico and Junior, the Flamengo team of the early 80's (Figure 1.3) encapsulated toco y me voy. Regardless of position or zone on the pitch the players made forward movements as they released the ball.

At their best, teams like Flamengo swept upfield with a spontaneous, collective comradery all but lost in so many of today’s games of static chess-like attrition.

The free-jazz of Relationism differs in kind from the classical scores of more Positional styles.

Figure 1.4

Like the Jogo Funcional of their Brazilian neighbours, Argentina’s indigenous style of La Nuestra (Figure 1.4) is based on a collective appreciation of toco y me voy.

When the players harmonise — like in this move finished off by Pablo ‘El Payaso’ (the clown) Aimar — dazzling sequences of forward movements are possible.

Figure 1.5

We saw the perpetual motion of La Nuestra, powered by the player’s hunger to perform the toco y me voy, even in the last moments of the World Cup Final in Qatar (Figure 1.5).

Figure 1.6

Today we can see this style in teams such as the River Plate of Demichelis (Figure 1.6).

We can see the players performing the toco y me voy with a ferocious intensity and desire to push the opponent into an unbalanced state.

Figure 1.7

Even from the kick-off, Relationist teams like River dare to utilise toco y me voy to slice directly through the opponent’s defensive organisation (Figure 1.7).

It is very important to appreciate the difference between players moving into space to receive and the more positional, Guardiolan idea of waiting in the zones to receive.

There are often many rotations and much movement in styles like Juego de Posicion, but emphasis is placed on the ball moving to the players in their zones and not vice-versa.

Tabelas

If toco y me voy is a foundational principle of Relationism then its beautiful twin must be the tabela. The pair are inseparable. Without a partner to dance with there can be no Relationism. It takes two to Tango.

Literally meaning ‘table’, the tabela is found wherever Relationist football is played. For the player who desires to toco y me voy there must always be a teammate available to tabela with. Together the two players approach each other with the proposal to ‘make a table’. They build the tabela together — a raised platform from where some higher ground can be seen. Relationist teammates meet at the tabela, like family members sitting down for dinner and connection.

In English we refer to the play as a ‘one-two’. Numbers. Why always numbers? Just like our desire to describe ‘formations’ with drab numerical notation we once more reduce the intimacy of human exchange to the coldness of digits.

Of course, tabelas occur in paradigms like Positionism too — tabelas will always happen in football. But in Relationism these exchanges are a seen as a systematised advantage. Just as el tercer hombre ‘the third man’, is a concept systematised for in Positionism, so too will it situationally emerge in Relationism.

It is also relevant to note that the term tabela is most commonly used in Brazil. In Argentina, the move is known is tirar paredes, meaning ‘to throw down walls’. This metaphor has a playfulness in its contradictory double-meaning — are the walls of a new emergent structure being hastily built or are the walls of the enemy defences being torn down?

Figure 1.8

The great German teams of the 6o’s and 70's combined the aggressive thrusts of toco y me voy with the reciprocal understanding of the tabela.

In Figure 1.8, striker Muller approaches the advancing Beckenbauer to offer the tabela.

Perhaps the most important attribute of a Relationist number nine is the ability to tabela.

Figure 1.9

In Figure 1.9, Argentinian striker Figueroa positions himself in anticipation of his compatriot Riquelme’s toco y me voy while playing for Manuel Pellegrini’s Villarreal.

Figueroa holds off the defender to open the passing line and make the tabela with Riquelme. A fourth Argentinian, Sorin, also moves to support the attack.

Its important to note that a tabela does not have to be made in one-touch (this is lost in the English translation).

The tabela is about timing and close reciprocal understanding.

Figure 1.10

In Figure 1.10, Soler attempts the tabela to connect with a trademark toco y me voy from Neymar.

But here we see the problem of a mistimed tabela. Soler attempts the one-touch pass when a slightly slower ‘hold-and-release’ technique such as Figueroa’s is required.

Figure 1.11

In one of the most iconic moments of toco y me voy and the tabela, Socrates plays to Zico and embarks on a heroic sprint to conquer the space behind the Italian defence (Figure 1.11).

Zico knows he must wait for his comrade to arrive. He holds off two defenders with a conjurer’s trick before returning the pass to his swashbuckling captain.

Poetry in motion.

Figure 1.12

One of the best Relationist strikers in modern football is Benzema. His ability to approach teammates like Vinicius Jr and offer them tabelas is vital for Real Madrid’s attacking style (Figure 1.12).

Benzema is happy to drift wide and drop deep towards the ball carrier if it means he can find opportunities to meet teammates with a tabela.

While more positional teams use regimented structures and passing between zones to facilitate ball progression, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real rely heavily on these relationist exchanges to advance and create scoring chances.

Figure 1.13

This season Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli team are demonstrating a style animated by players like Kvaratskhelia’s desire to roam freely in search of opportunities to relate with teammates.

Figure 1.13 shows Kvaratskhelia moving inside from the left to tabela with midfielder Zeilinski who has approached the wide ball zone from the centre.

Notice how all three of Napoli’s midfielders are in close proximity to the ball zone. In a positional organisation, it would be more common to see the number 8’s (interiors) occupying the half-space zones behind the opponent midfield line.

Figure 1.14

Jack Wilshere’s goal against Norwich in 2013 (Figure 1.14) enapsulates the Relationist football of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.

Wilshere tabelas with Cazorla, makes the toco y me voy to tabela once more with Giroud (Giroud is another modern master of the tabela-number 9 role). Wilshere moves again to slice through the backline and finish the spectacular move.

Figure 1.15

At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Brazilian coach Tite deployed a positional system with the wide players instructed to wait on the sides to pin the opponent full backs.

But in the quarter-final against Croatia, the Brazilian forwards converged on the centre and created the conditions for a more Relationist play (Figure 1.15).

Neymar (who had suffered from a lack of tabela opportunities through the tournament) finally found like-minded comrades close enough to dance with. Like with Wilshere, it was two successive tabelas on the edge of the box, first with Rodrygo and then Paqueta, that left the Croatian defence chasing shadows.

Toco y me voy and the tabela are the perfect dance partners. They were made for each other. The ‘table’ is the metaphor in Brazil, ‘throwing down walls’ in Argentina. Perhaps each footballing culture can develop their own grammar and footballing language in relation to these emergent motifs.

These ‘tactical concepts’ were not invented by coaches. They emerged from the players themselves. The connections and patterns are self-organized.

PART 2

STAIRWAYS TO HEAVEN: ESCADINHAS AND THE CORTA LUZ

‘Relativity’ by M.C. Escher (1953)

Escadinhas

Our world is given meaning by metaphors, not by numbers. And metaphors of vertical orientation are some of the most meaningful of all. We say we feel ‘up’ when we are happy and ‘down’ when we are sad.

It just so happens, that by some strange accident of history, it was decided that the formalised game of football should be played on a rectangle with the goals on each of the narrower sides.

With this decision, football became a game of moving ‘up’ or ‘down’ the field. A possession team must find ways of climbing up towards the goal while keeping the ball away from the opponent.

Of course, our most common tool for moving upwards are ‘stairs’. In Relationism, the concept of a diagonal structure of incrementally increasing height manifests through players working together, forming diagonal lines to facilitate the movement of the ball from one altitude to the next. These diagonal lines are known as escadinhas.

Meaning ‘staircase’ or ‘ladder’, the concept of escadinhas comes from the diagonal orientations that began to emerge from within the formations of early to mid-20th century Brazilian teams.

Flavio Costa created a style that became a model of victory and Brazilian-ness from the 1940s. Everyone wanted to imitate him. The Carioca coach learned the lessons of the Danube [Danubian School] from Dori [Kurschner] and created a style that did not depend on tactical numbers with its symmetries. Costa developed a system where the team positioned itself from the diagonals and created asymmetries throughout the field. These asymmetries formed ‘escadinhas’ for the progression of each play.

József Bozsik

Brazil 1950 (via József Bozsik)
Brazil 1958 with Pele finding connections in the angle between two diagonals (via József Bozsik)

Over time, it seems as though this concept of diagonal arrangement has become a shared reference point for players who have grown up in a culture where escadinhas are commonplace.

It didn’t take long for these structures to begin to emerge and disappear almost at random. Popping up all over the pitch — now you see them now you don’t.

The ability to identifying escadinhas reveals doors where before there were only walls, secret passageways through tightly locked defensive blocks.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1 shows how the players of Renato Gaucho’s Gremio have arranged themselves in a diagonal escadinha structure.

Notice how the arrangement lacks what would be called ‘positional superiority’. The advantage emerges through close interactions around attacking metaphors in the ball zone.

Figure 2.1

In Figure 2.1 we can see how the escadinha can facilitate the penetration of a closed defensive block.

In this example, the Gremio attackers use toco y me voy and tabelas to ‘climb the ladder’ of the diagonal escadinha structure.

The speed, fluidity and cohesion of the play destroys Internacional’s defensive organisation. The defenders are spun around and lose their marks amid a flurry of sudden chaos and confusion.

Corta Luz

Before we continue our journey upwards we must familiarise ourselves with a concept that is closely related to the escadinha.

A direct translation of corta luz from Portuguese to English gives us ‘cut light’. We can understand this as ‘cutting the lights’.

The move itself is similar to a ‘dummy’ or ‘feint’. A deceptive sway of the body to fool the defender. An act of meticulously timed cunning and misdirection.

But the metaphor of ‘cutting the lights’ on the defender is more potent than its English language counterparts. Plunging the defender into sudden darkness perfectly captures the aesthetic of pulling the wool over the eyes of a hapless opponent.

Its bad enough for a defender to be caught on an escadinha. Its even worse when the lights are cut.

Figure 2.2

Zico approaches the ball-carrier, Junior by moving between him and striker Serginho during the 1982 World Cup match against the Soviet Union to from the escadinha (Figure 2.2).

Zico performs a corta luz and moves for the tabela with Serginho.

Figure 2.3

A year earlier, in 1981, wee see Zico again executing the corta luz as the middle-step of a three-player escadinha (Figure 2.3).

On this occasion it is as part of the great Flamengo team’s 3–0 victory over European Champions Liverpool in the Intercontinental Cup.

Here, we see the escadinha used as a means to progress from deep through the centre of the field.

Figure 2.4

Figure 2.4 shows a more vertical ladder from Tele Santana’s 1992 Sao Paolo (A young Cafu plays the horizontal pass to set up the central escadinha).

Muller fools two defenders with a beautiful corta luz before making a movement for the tabela which is refused in favour of a turn and finish.

Figure 2.5

At France ’98 we see Argentina deploying an escadinha against England (Figure 2.5).

Ortega plays the pass and Juan ‘La Bruja’ (the witch) Veron casts his magic spell on Batty with a corta luz. Veron moves for the tabela to go in on goal but, on this occasion, Batistuta fails to complete the play.

Figure 2.6

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United favoured a direct, physical and fast-paced playing style which often featured Relationist interpretations rather than any adherence to strict positional principles.

One of the best examples is this classic escadinha-corta luz-tabela goal from Keane, Yorke and Cole against Barcelona at the Camp Nou in 1998 (Figure 2.6).

Figure 2.7

Yokohama, 2002, The World Cup final in Japan. Brazil execute an escadinha-corta luz along a slightly more horizontal axis (Figure 22).

Rivaldo plays the middle-step of the ladder with the corta luz and Ronaldo finishes the play.

Figure 2.8

By this point, the Fluminense of Fernando Diniz have become the go-to exemplars of Relationist play. Diniz’s method is tentatively viewed by some as the next evolution of the Brazilian ‘jogo funcional’.

Fluminense’s radically close approximations lead to an extraordinary number and variety of escadinhas.

In Figure 2.8 the corta-luz is made by Ganso as the incision is made from the left.

Figure 2.9

Figure 2.9 shows a nonchalant corta luz from Ganso. He barely moves as he allows the ball to pass through him to reach Arias for the assist.

Figure 2.10

The Fluminense player’s extreme proximity to each other often leads to combinations in very crowded spaces.

Arias solves the problem with a lifted scoop for Ganso who makes the corta luz. Ganso and Arias both make forward runs to receive again.

As Arias waits with the ball you can see Ganso checking his shoulder as Cano arrives to position himself for the escadinha. Once all three steps of the ladder are in place, Arias commences the play.

Figure 2.10 is a perfect example of three players interpreting the game situation together in relation to the escadinha and corta luz metaphors.

Figure 2.11

In Figure 2.11 we are treated to all four of our concepts together.

Ganso starts the play deep with a toco y me voy and tabela with the approaching Andre. A dynamic, three-player escadinha is then formed with Cano performing the corta luz.

Toco y me voy — tabela -escadinha — corta luz.

Figure 2.12

And, in Figure 2.12, Diniz’s team remind us of Escher’s famous drawing by inverting the escadinha to facilitate the cut-back goal from Ganso’s elegant backheel.

The escadinha is a Relationist method of ball progression. When these elegant structures emerge from the chaos of the game they provide a fleeting moment of opportunity for the attacking team to progress.

The means of ball progression is re-distributed to the collective intelligence of the players. Possession structure is reconceptualised as a process of becoming rather than some fixed pre-planned schema laid out by the genius coach.

If chess is an appropriate metaphor for Positional possession play then perhaps Relationism is more like a chaotic game of Snakes & Ladders.

No matter how hard they swat, no matter how much footage they dissect, the army of opposition tactical analysts can never know where or when an escadinha will appear next. And even if the defender does suddenly realise they are halfway up a shifting staircase they stand little chance of keeping their balance once the lights go out.

PART 3

THE ETERNAL RETURN: TILTING, THE DEFENSIVE DIAGONAL AND THE YO-YO

‘Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man’ by Salvador Dali (1943)

Tilting

By now it has been well established that a common trait of more Relationist teams (especially in South America) is for the players to gather in close proximity around the ball carrier. This often takes place on the side of the pitch.

The offensive motifs that have been discussed are best facilitated by the close approximation of players. If the distances are too big between the players then plays like toco y me voy, tabelas and escadinhas become less likely to emerge.

Figure 3.1
Figure 3.2

In Figure 3.1/3.2 we can see the Fluminense players approximating around the ball on the left side. This side orientation can be referred to as tilting. The close proximity in the ball zone creates the conditions for progressive interactions and passages to emerge.

The asymmetrical organisations inherent in tilting are emblematic of South American Relationism’s suspicion of uniformity and linear structure.

One of the less-considered benefits of tilting is that it allows the possession team to overload the ball while minimising the risk of receiving counter attacks in the defensive transition.

Most Positional teams are wary of committing too many players to the ball zone due to the perceived risk of leaving too much open space for the opponent to attack in the event of a turnover. Positional teams usually prefer to leave four/five players behind the ball in a central structure (usually a 2–3 or 3–2 arrangement). This is known as ‘rest-defence’.

Figure 3.3 Tite’s 3–2–5 positional structure with 3–2 rest defence — via Mauricio Saldana

Relationist teams place far less emphasis on a structured rest defence. They are more interested in allowing more players access to the ball zone. But what about the risk of counter attacks? This is where tilting is of benefit.

It is common to hear coaches talk about the sideline being the ‘best defender’ — no player has ever managed to dribble past it. This is why we often see pressing traps set on the side of the pitch. The sideline acts as an extra defender.

But it is also true that the sideline can be an extra rest-defender. By attacking with a tilt, Relationist teams like Diniz’s Fluminese have an in-built rest-defence mechanism. Should possession be lost, it is easier for counter-pressing players to access the ball as the opponent has fewer angles of escape.

Figure 3.4
Figure 3.5
Figure 3.6

In Figures 3.4/3.5/3.6 Fluminense are attacking by tilting to the right. Whenever the ball is lost, the side orientation of players in close proximity affords Fluminense the opportunity to aggressively counter-press with numerous players in conjunction with the hard boundary of the sideline.

The Fluminense players are also already attending to the play in close relation to the ball. They are ‘moving with the ball’ in the ball zone. And due to this subtle aspect of perception they are perfectly primed to continue this engagement with the ball whenever the transition moment arrives.

Defensive Diagonal

Another important facet in a Relationist rest defence — and another by-product of tilting— is the defensive diagonal. Simply put, the defensive diagonal is an inward movement performed by the opposite side fullback to mark the opponent’s ball-far winger or simply close the inside space.

Figure 3.7
Figure 3.8 — via Mauricio Saldaña

Figures 3.7/3.8 show how, during the attacking tilt, the opposite side fullback moves diagonally inside the mark the opponent winger or close the central space. This is the defensive diagonal.

Of course, the full-back performing the defensive diagonal can be quickly transformed into an attacking threat with a well-timed switch of play. The tilting of the attack attracts the opponent’s defensive block to shift accordingly, often leaving open space on the opposite side for the full-back to attack.

It was this dynamic that afforded the scoring of perhaps the most famous Relationist/Functional goal in history.

Figure 3.9 — via József Bozsik

Brazil attack with a left tilt. Carlos Alberto — who had been providing the defensive diagonal — senses the opportunity to attack the open space vacated by the unbalanced Italian defence. The rest is history.

Figure 3.10
Figure 3.11

Figure 3.11 shows the influence of the Bavarian Schule on the Relationism of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

South Americans, Diaz and Fabinho share the ball with Thiago in a left side tilt. Right winger Salah arrives centrally to leave the right hand-side of the field completely empty except for Trent.

Once the Villarreal block has been thrown off balance the ball is aggressively switched to Trent in the right corridor.

Liverpool score with the same dynamics used by 1970 Brazil. But this more German interpretation accelerates the transfer to the open side.

The Yo-Yo

The final tactical concept in this guide to Relationism is the one required to return to the beginning. The yo-yo (named by Gorka Melchor) is a subtle yet pivotal move.

In most footballing interpretations it is standard practice for the coach to ask his players to ‘switch the point of attack’ should the ball zone become overcrowded by defenders. Coaches shout for their players to ‘open out’ and to ‘change the side’ to avoid the intensifying opponent pressure in the ball zone.

As we have seen in Figure 3.10, there are moments when switches are appropriate to penetrate on the opposite side. But, in Relationism, switches should not be made for switch’s sake. Too many switches destroy the ability to maintain a coherent tilt and all the benefits that come with it.

So how do we maintain a tilt whilst simultaneously relieving pressure in the ball zone?

The solution is the yo-yo.

Figure 3.12
Figure 3.13

In Figures 3.12/3.13 Fluminense are tilting to the right. During the tilt it is sometimes necessary to to play into the centre of the pitch away from the crowded ball zone.

But, when the inside player receives the ball, instead of opening their body to find a switch pass to the opposite side, they turn back to where the ball came from and return the ball to the side of the original tilt.

As if summoning the spirit of a capoeirista swaying hypnotically from side to side, this doubling-back, or ‘returning’, is a yo-yo.

Figure 3.14

In Figure 3.14, Cano plays back to defender Manoel to relieve pressure from the ball-zone on the right side tilt.

But Manoel is not interested in changing the side. Even if he was, the left-back Calegari has narrowed to perform the defensive diagonal.

Manoel plays the yo-yo back into the right side tilt from where Fluminense’s close appoximations affords right back, Xavier and midfielder, Martinelli the opportunities to toco y me voy and progress.

The forward movements create the conditions for an escadinha-corta luz pattern between Arias, Xavier and Martinelli.

Figure 3.15

Figure 3.15 shows Fluminense tilted to the left. The ball is passed inside to centre-back, Nino to relieve pressure from the crowded ball-zone.

But, rather than open the play to right-back Xavier (who has opened himself from the narrow defensive diagonal), Nino plays short to Andre who returns the ball to the left tilt with a yo-yo.

Once again, we see Fluminense approximating to find an escadinha-corta luz (this time two in quick succession) following the yo-yo.

Also notice how the final escadinha includes right-winger Arias who has deserted his post to come and play with his teammates in the left side tilt.

While Tilting — and its by-products, the defensive diagonal and the yo-yo — are classic motifs of South American Relational styles, European interpretations like the Bavarian and Danubian schools are more inclined to feature central overloads and faster vertical combinations.

Tilting embodies the asymmetry which is fundamental to the Relationist approach. It is about throwing the opponent off-balance. Tilting resists the stagnating inertia of symmetrical rigidity and creates discordance and ambiguity for the opponent’s defensive structure.

When a capoeirista leans back on one-foot and sways to the side it is exactly then — when the opponent shifts balance from one foot to the other— that a decisive blow can be struck.

METAPHORS OF ORGANISATION

‘Son of Man’ by Rene Magritte (1964)

So how do players achieve coherence in a Relationist system? How are floating islands of order reached amidst a roaring sea of chaos?

We have now seen how Relationism solves this problem through the use of alternative organisational metaphors. The perceptions of players in a Relationist team are aligned through shared understandings of a broad repertoire of alternative motifs and tactical concepts.

Unlike the spatial fixation of their Positionist counterparts, Relationist players prefer to arrange themselves through metaphors that are situationally constructed. They are formed from the emergent contexts of the ball, their team-mates and the opponents.

Where Positionism pre-ascribes the terrain to calculate and control for stability, Relationism flirts promiscuously with chaos and chance.

We all see the world through the prism of our own perception. We organise reality in dialogue with the objects and patterns that are most familiar to us. The question is: which metaphors are you using?

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