Monday, 22 August 2016

Report delayed because I went out to buy some thermal paste - South Melbourne 4 Green Gully 2

So at the tribunal last Wednesday we had our date with destiny regarding the poor behaviour of some of our fans away at Bentleigh earlier this season. The net result was a six month ban for one of our supporters (albeit only ending up at a length of about two actual months of NPL soccer), and a three point deduction to the senior men's team. The effect of the latter is that we fell from second to third on the ladder, and with Heidelberg taking on Victory, we were doomed to remain there regardless of what we did against Gully.

Having not been at this tribunal session myself, and having not been given a debrief by anyone - not that I'm owed one, so don't take this as a complaint - I can only rely on the result of the tribunal hearing as put up on FFV's noticeboard, and the scuttlebutt on smfcboard.

The tribunal notice unfortunately does not go into any surplus detail about the nature of the incident. There are the charges against the relevant South fan (who pleaded not guilty) and the club for failing to control club associates (the club also pleaded not guilty), but no explanation of how the tribunal came to its decisions of guilty on both counts.

This is unfortunate because apart from FFV failing here to live up to its purported organisational value of transparency, I appreciate it when serious incidents such as this and the way they are handled are described by FFV's tribunal; because even if they don't work on precedent, it's nice to get a handle on the thought processes involved.

From what I can gather, the relevant sponsor who was accused of making the most egregious of the remarks towards the assistant referee fronted the tribunal, and accepted responsibility, and for that, credit must be given. Despite this intervention, the supporter put up on the various charges however was, by some process that remains unclear to me, found guilty, possibly for other comments made.

The process of identification, in particular what evidence was produced on the night, remains unexplained. That the conduct on the night of some South fans within the vicinity of the Kingston Heath grandstand was at best less than stellar is not in doubt; how one individual was picked out of that mess, and what the security firm in charge on the night was doing we will perhaps never know.

The interpretive fallout from the penalty has been diverse, but also predictable. To my mind the worst reactions have involved the allegations of a conspiracy theory; that FFV punished us for our so thoroughly identifying the Victory hooligans from the Lakeside incident earlier his season. I find this proposition utterly absurd, without any shred of evidence.

Other supporters have fallen into various camps of blaming the board for its handling of the matter, based on party lines so to speak. So there's your run of the mill Clarendon Corner type who are distrustful of the board based on their experiences going back a decade now. The are also those who have become hardened to the board over the course of time. In both instances it can be hard to separate the preexisting ideology from the reaction.

Despite its seeming inevitability (and some have even argued relative leniency, noting also the tokenistic $500 fine) I can understand the angst caused by the decision to dock us three points. Assuming for the time being that South Melbourne co-operated as was its obligation to do so in identifying the fan it was asked to by FFV - and that there were no mischief being done out of the public eye - what more can South Melbourne or any club do to prevent such incidents occurring in the first place?

Earlier this year at the AGM, we were told that we had avoided punishment as a club after a South fan (or one designated as such on the day; that individual would be one of those associated with the Victory hooligans who attacked South supporters) lit a flare and caused an incident in amid the Heidelberg fans, due to our identification and banning of that person. It was at a South home game, the security features there are better than most other grounds, and we were able to take advantage of that situation.

Earlier this year, after a flare was lit within the area where Clarendon Corner was located at the Veneto Club, on heading out of the ground after the game I was asked by president Leo Athanasakis whether I knew who had lit the flare. I replied that I didn't, and that was true - and if I did know, I would have told him. Likewise, when things threatened to get out of control at the cup match against Altona Magic this year, me being in the role of a supporter marshal, I had to try (probably badly, but well enough thanks to another fan at a crucial moment) to prevent people from our side doing something stupid.

But as per a discussion I had with one of our regular supporter marshals prior to yesterday's match, the obvious issue with that approach is do we (that is every club) then have to provide a chaperone each and every one of our supporters?

More nuanced therefore, from both inside and outside the club, have been the discussions surrounding how normalised point deductions have become in Victorian soccer as the primary way of dealing with serious cases of individual or club misconduct. While other local/suburban sporting competitions (the ones I'm familiar with most are various footy leagues) also use point deductions, I think you'd be hard pressed to find another sporting body which is so reliant on docking points instead of punishing the individual.

It has become so normalised that one can go through several divisions of the FFV league tables and see where point deductions have been applied. But the other punitive option employed by FFV over the years, namely fines, have also been controversial. Not being terribly imaginative, I'd like to know what the other disciplinary options are from people who don't like the way the current system operates. What course of action should FFV take instead to curb incidents of poor on and off field behaviour, especially in the case where a club refuses to identify individuals or cooperate with FFV?

Don't get me wrong: even if I'm one of a very small minority of people who thinks we got what we deserved, I get the frustration relating to the inconsistency of punishments dished out. We copped three points for failing to prevent comments that varied from stupid to offensive to outright vile. Heidelberg got nine points for for something worse - including alleged damage to an official's car - but got that down to three but also a hefty fine. Victory got six points and no fine for 30 odd blokes streaming across hundred metres to punch on with opposition supporters. Other teams get docked points after repeated infractions, when expulsion could be seen as the more appropriate answer.

But most of these things seem to me to miss the most crucial point - that without the first cause of the incident itself, there would be no need for the board to clean up this mess whether poorly or well; nor would be tribunal sessions where FFV would be asked to dispense summary or actual justice. This is where I feel sorry for people at the club - even if I think that they could or should handle such situations better, the point is that they shouldn't have to deal with such situations in the first place. In addition to that, there is only so much any club can do to prevent these sorts of incidents from occurring.

And the FFV, too, has a duty of care to its officials. Those officials are the branch of FFV that the Victorian soccer public most comes into contact with. The competency or otherwise of these officials is a matter for consideration on its own terms; it is not a line that can be used as a pretext for arguing that officiating mistakes are a justifiable pretext for fans or players to vent bilious hatred or even violence. As I argued last week, the supreme irony is that so often it's the fans who get it wrong seems lost on the people making these arguments - should the officials then get the chance to cry 'instigation' at the supporters?

Not that it should make any difference. The officials across any number of team sports expect a vocal home crowd to particularly scathing towards decisions that go against the home side, but there are lines that just shouldn't be crossed, not because of common sense but because of common decency, or failing that, respect for our club. For South fans who get targeted by opposition players, who have over the past decade or so taken the opportunity to celebrate goals in front of us instead of their own supporters, the best thing to do is not give those players the satisfaction of retaliating. As one of our more passionate but also level headed supporters noted yesterday and has been noting for years, attention at those moments should be paid to supporting our team

There are people who are still going out on the all or nothing approach on the matter of abuse, as if their entire right to be passionate at the soccer has been taken away. They are doing this I assume either because they are ignorant of the vile nature of the comments that were made on the night in question, or because they are on some sort of free speech, anti-PC brigade bandwagon. If it is the former, than I wonder how they would justify comments made to the official which included references to rape; if the latter, then it's the kind of absolutist position that is impossible to negotiate with, and which is an ideological which will never be accepted by FFV or any other similar sporting body, unless by chance you become an Australian test cricketer.

Rocking up to the ground yesterday, I was concerned that the game would be marred by further crass stupidity liable to get the club in trouble; instead a more humorous turn was taken, both in the stands and after the game, when the supporters ironically clapped off the officials as they left the field. I get that that kind of approach is not hardcore enough for some people, but I always find that a subversive, clever attitude is what we should be aiming for rather than crass macho bullshit. But then again since I could never pull the latter off, I would say that, wouldn't I?

The laughs keep on coming...
The suggestion was made yesterday by some supporters that the club had decided to take up its option of making an appeal. Should that be true, I can't say that I agree with this course of action. In part this is because of the lessons which one hoped would have been learned from South Melbourne vs FFV 2010; namely, that FFV can dock us more points, points which would be applied next season, and done so for no other reason than the the tribunal would consider our appeal to be frivolous.

Now of course an appeal could be successful - after all, Heidelberg got their nine point punishment reduced to three points - but I don't see the point in taking that risk.

Update: The club will not appeal the decision.

A casual reminder of other forum options
Some people on smfcboard once again noted the locking of threads, the clamping down of discussions etc, and once again came up with the idea of starting up another South Melbourne supporters forum. Of course these things have been tried before, both in the fashion of a forum that quickly ended up in gimmick territory, but also one that was started up this year, and fell out of use due to a lack of traffic.

So if you are fed up with smfcboard, organise your buddies and go here and register and vent in the way that you think you're not allowed to do so right now. Create a critical mass and see what you can do.

For the record, I registered on there ages ago mostly to secure my preferred username.

After all that...
There was a game to be played in front of a small and initially fairly sombre crowd. With Clarendon Corner taking the pisstake route by employing 19th Century style upper class polite disagreement to its logical conclusion, and the rest of the crowd probably assuming the worst that Heidelberg would beat Victory, there didn't seem much to be enthused about. Even less so when after South had pressed for most of the contest, Gully took the lead when an unmarked player on the far side of the six yard box smashed the ball into the back of the net uncontested.

At least the poor finishing of the first half was turned into some quality finishing in the second, and we eventually romped this game in. Of course we had to let Gully score another goal because our defense remains a sieve; as one of our favourite cynical forumites noted, we're probably going to have to score three or four goals a game to give ourselves a chance of winning the title from here. If that's the case, at least now we look like a team that not only can score three or four goals, but also one that seems to want to score that many instead of relying on grinding out a result from the opening minute.

Though neither team was probably at full strength or demonstrating full aturmbition, there are some things South can try and claim as hopeful omens leading into the finals. First, that Leigh Minopoulos playing alongside Milos Lujic is such an obviously good idea that one wonders why no one thought of it before. Second, that by hook or crook, we've managed to win three in a row. Third, that for the first time since the last time we beat Gully, we actually managed to one of the teams currently sitting inside the top six.

I assume that no one who was at risk of getting a fifth yellow card and therefore missing out on the first week of finals, did so. To that end the squad yesterday used Chris Irwin in place of the the People's Champ, and Andy Kecojevic and Joshua Hodes, the latter making his senior debut, also came on off the bench during the latter stages of the game. Apart from the People's Champ, one assumes that Amadu Koroma will be the other possible player to come into the starting eleven, probably at the expense of Tim Mala.

I'm not expecting miracles, but I don't see the point quite yet of writing off the team before the season is officially done. The nature of this finals system in particular is that with just one good performance and a couple of arsey results, you can find yourself with a title. Failing that, let's all fire away with who should be kept, who we should sack, and who deserves to be shot from a cannon into the sun.

I know who'd I'd like to see put into that cannon by the way.

Next week
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, we're playing Hume City at home this Sunday evening in an elimination final. Now not that I keep up with these things, but I'm told that Hume may have an FFA Cup match this week, which one hopes may tire them out a little as the midweek duties of Green Gully probably took the edge off as well.

Your South Melbourne membership will get you free entry into this game; otherwise tickets are $15/$10.

Senior women's team on verge of title
Our senior women have yet to wrap up their State League 1 North-West title after they lost to Melbourne University yesterday. This sets up a grand finish to their season this week in the final round. They'll be playing fourth placed Eltham Redbacks on Sunday, and with South Yarra playing Melbourne University, only a win absolutely guarantee South the title. The senior women's match against Eltham will kick off at 3:00PM, acting as a curtain raiser to the senior men's match.

Should they win the title, I assume, but am not sure, that they will play a match against the winner of the south-east side of the competition. I suppose we should cross that bridge when we come to it.

Futsalroos news
Just in case you were wondering what Fernando De Moraes was up to these days, he will be the Futsalroos' assistant coach when they head off the World Cup later this year. Which reminds me, I really should update the Futsalroos page on OzFootball.

Final thought
"Convicted of a crime I didn't even commit. Hah! Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?"

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Good times, bad times (including edit) and reasoning - Pascoe Vale 1 South Melbourne 4

Good times
Everything was going wrong.

I was hungry when I got to the game, but the cevapi was being served on focaccia, and I wasn't in the mood for pretending I was in a 1990s food court.

Then we went 1-0 down to what looked like a soft goal.

Then we almost went 2-0 down. Looking at the replay, we should've been 2-0 down.

Then we had a potential goal cleared off the line.

Then worst worst of all, we got a penalty which also saw Pascoe Vale go down to ten men. Deja vu anyone?

Milos Lujic even had his penalty saved, but thankfully the ball spilled favourably and he was able to mop up.

So, things started turning around from that point on. Davey Van't Schip going off injured certainly didn't hurt us

And our second goal was super - no ifs or buts or about it.

Had a goal denied for offside, but things were looking up.

And they stayed up.

Another penalty, another send off, another goal.

Another penalty, this time hit onto the post by Nick Epifano, another goal disallowed for offside, a host of chances missed but the game was done.

Marcus Schroen made up for a point a blank shot which hit the post, with a goal made after he won possession from a tiring Pascoe Vale defender.

The full time whistle went, and the rain stopped. Two wins in a row, albeit against two teams out of the finals running. Things could be worse.

Next game and final standing calculations
Green Gully at home on Sunday to close out the home and away season.

We are three points behind Bentleigh, but we also trail them by a ton of goal difference that we will be unable to catch up. So the minor premiership is all but officially sorted, seeing us miss out on the national NPL finals.

Looking towards the race for second place, we're currently three points ahead of Heidelberg - courtesy of their three point penalty from last season - but we also have a significantly inferior goal difference compared to the Bergers, who play Victory in the final round.

A draw for us against Gully will see us finish up in second and get a week off; a loss will see us almost certainly slip to third.

Of course, there may be other matters out of our direct control which could affect our standing...

Bad times - edited since original publication for further clarity.
Some of you - those of you who are able to access smfcboard at least - will have become aware of a reasonably distressing issue that's arisen over the past couple of days.

After our most recent game against Bentleigh, there were reports on by some people in attendance that there were some pretty hideous remarks directed towards the female assistant referee by a South fan.

As I noted at the time, I wasn't in the vicinity of the area of those comments to hear them, so at the time I could not personally verify whether they had been said or by whom they may have been said.

Now the issue seems to have come to a head with a South fan identified by FFV as being responsible for making the remarks, and the club has been asked to identify the supporter, which they have done. This person has now received a summons to appear before the FFV tribunal on Wednesday.

But there's a catch - the person identified is adamant that they are innocent, and what's more, they are alleging that the real culprit is one of the club's sponsors. There is even the assertion being made that the club knows who made the comments, yet they are preferring to throw this fan under the bus.

While I very much doubt that the latter part of the preceding paragraph is true, this is a demonstration of both the feeling as it relates to this specific discussion, and the way the relationships between the board and some of the members have deteriorated over time. It is as much an issue of imperfect communication as anything else - something none of us who conduct written correspondence will ever be immune from, but upon which we must always remain vigilant - hence the edits here and in the inclusion of a subsequent section attempting to further clarify certain details.

Apparently corroborating at least parts of that version of events are several people on smfcboard who are saying that they know that the South fan brought up on the charge is innocent, with some saying that they know who is responsible, agreeing with the currently accused that it was the relevant sponsor.

For the time being, even though the sponsor has been named in other web spaces, South of the Border will not name names, in order to allow said sponsor to own up to their behaviour - provided they are guilty, of course - and ensure that an innocent South fan is not punished for something they did not do.

I should have made it clear earlier also in a previous edit of this page, that the relevant sponsor may not even be aware of this situation and the way it has unfolded.

I hope that those who can verify the relevant fan's innocence are able to attend the tribunal hearing, and if worst comes to worst, implicate the person or persons actually responsible, whoever that might be. A failure for natural justice to be served here is the last thing the club needs.

There is also the matter of the process of identification, which one thinks will be sorted out by the tribunal upon hearing the matter. Quite how this fan was identified is a matter of supreme importance to the case - with so many people in and around that grandstand, it will be interesting to see how FFV, the host club and security came to identify this individual as the one responsible for making those comments.

Just for this week, South of the Border will not allow comments for this blog post. Any corrections or updates on the situation can be emailed to me at

Reasoning - this is a supplementary edit to the original post
Those who have an issue with the publication of this matter into the public sphere are entitled to know my reasoning for publishing this post. The matter of the abusive remarks originally came up immediately after the game against Bentleigh on FFV has used screenshots from that soccer-forum discussion as part of its gathering of evidence, along with the ambient crowd noise which was captured by FFV's radio commentary team that evening. In that regard, the abusive remarks are already a matter of public record.

The genie was already out of the bottle. Furthermore, while some people consider the locked down smfcboard to be a private forum, the truth of the matter is that there are still people leaking information to people outside of the forum. The same is true of this matter, which people had begun discussing outside of smfcboard even before the publication of this blog post. Neither is this a new phenomenon regarding smfcboard.

This post then is in part an attempt to use plain language to cut through the rumours and innuendo that are floating about. Furthermore, to have ignored the matter would leave myself and South of the Border open to accusations of censorship or collusion. I also like to think, that upon approaching nine years of doing this thing, that there is a level of trust that I have earned among South supporters and the wider Victorian soccer public - and that the intent when covering serious matters such as this is never to cause harm or distress, but to inform.

With many ethical and even legal considerations to make, it is not an easy post to make. At the same time, this matter is not about me - it is primarily about the ordeal being endured by the fan accused of making abusive remarks that they claim they absolutely did not make, and the process which has lead to them being accused of doing so.

In addition, this incident, regardless of its outcome, needs to be discussed for its wider ramifications. It is a reminder to every South supporter that we are all responsible for the club's welfare. Though some sections of a South crowd are rowdier than others, the potential to go too far in either word or deed exists in every part of the ground. While one may not wish to 'rat out' a friend or fellow South supporter, there will be occasions where the greater good of the club may require such an action, or at the very least action taken which sees people take to task those who step out of line.

This should be done not out of a sense of 'the nanny state' - it should be done out of a sense of protecting the club, protecting the person or persons responsible from their own actions, as well as out of respect for the officials. By all means jeer or boo a decision you think is unjust or wrong, even heckle an opposition player - but be aware that there are lines which can be crossed that should never be crossed. This includes trying to bait opposition supporters, a course of action which may lead to more than just the offending supporter getting into trouble.

There are times when I have seen South fans take the initiative and prevent such behaviour get out of hand. I have seen this within Clarendon Corner and in other parts of the ground. I have even had to do it myself on the rare occasion I have been designated to act as a club appointed supporter marshal. It's not a pleasant job, but sometimes it has to be done.

The abuse directed at the assistant referee by certain South fans at this game, during the sending off of Luke Adams, was disgraceful. There is no context which can justify it. Neither the competence or otherwise of the officials justifies it, nor does the fact that you are at a suburban soccer ground instead of the MCG. We all get emotional at the soccer, and while some of us are better at handling ourselves during exciting or heated moments, we need to be aware of the consequences of the entirety of our behaviour. We owe it to ourselves, to our mates, and to the club - remembering that the club is not the board, nor the players, nor a select group of supporters, but the nearly intangible sum of its parts.

Final thought

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

'A little piece of home' artefact Wednesday - Middle Park soil and turf

This week's handcrafted South Melbourne Hellas artefact - a jar of soil and turf taken from Middle Park Stadium after the final match there - comes courtesy of one of our readers, the 'Lakeside Spy'. Lakeside Spy had previously sent us a photo of one of his Philips Soccer League NSL plates, which we used for an artefact article earlier this year.

After I asked Lakeside Spy whether the club sold these items or whether they made it themselves - admittedly a naive question, but as an old teacher of mine who ended up working in the light department at Bunnings Altona North once said, 'ask a question, look like an idiot for three minutes; don't ask the question, be an idiot forever' - Lakeside Spy noted in correspondence with South of the Border:
The soil I did myself. It's a bit clumsy / amateurish but I still treasure it as a piece of history. As a lot of people did I walked on the ground after the last match played there. I scooped up a patch of grass sand/dirt with a small implement and put it into my jacket pocket. I'd also be fascinated to hear what other mementos fans took from the ground. I'm sure people connected with the Club also have some great items in their own private collections.
One doesn't doubt that there are some remarkable items out there - I read once on Facebook an account by someone claiming to have the sign from outside the old Middle Park Stadium car park - but for now let's embrace this piece of handcrafted nostalgia which reminds us of our spiritual home, and the reason we came to exist as we did. Here's hoping it encourages a few more people to share the artefacts in their collections.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Are you not entertained? Well, now that you mention it... - South Melbourne 2 Melbourne Knights 1

One South fan decided to come up with their own
hospital treatment plan. Who said watching
South Melbourne was bad for your health?
OK, look. It wasn't great, I think we can all agree with that. The effort was there for the most part, even from some of those who we love to single out when they don't put in. You know who I'm talking about. Yeah, that guy, but not only that guy, but especially that guy.

Anyway, apart from some stupid tackles - and congratulations to Knights' Damien Miskulin for getting himself sent off against us for the second time this season - this didn't have much of a 'derby' feel. Everyone at South seems too jaded to care, while Knights were out of the running for finals, and have a much more important game (to them at least) coming up on Wednesday.

There was even cross-cultural happenings between a couple of MCF who wandered over to Clarendon Corner for a very friendly chat - and there is absolutely no euphemism, allegory, metaphor or other reality distorting literary double meaning on there.

We had the better of the contest as you'd expect. Our first goal seemed, to me at least, more or less inevitable, even if Milos Lujic had missed a sitter just before it. Things were going along much as you'd expect - though the bizarre indifference of the entire South team to an injured Manolo was there for everyone to notice - and then the Knights went down to ten men.

Of course that's the cue for someone to press the self-destruct button, and we copped a goal within minutes. From a free kick on the edge of the box no less - and not even a particularly well taken one - which if we had such an opportunity ourselves we would butcher, but it's no use crying over it especially when the only continuing contributor to South of the Border at this time also supports a team with Travis Cloke in it. The world is full of disappointments.

Then we ran around like headless chooks for a bit, like we were trying trying to find our bearings like we'd just going on the tea cup ride a dozen times. Eventually we either kind of remembered that Knights weren't really trying, or the team reacted to the building hostility of the crowd, or someone pressed ctrl-alt-del, and shut down Windows Explorer in the Task Manager and got everything going again. The second goal however still seemed unlikely, until someone - Marcus Schroen, in this case - did something unlikely, that being putting in a decent cross, with Matthew Millar on hand to nod it home.

We still tried to throw the game away in what little time was left, but wouldn't you know it, we didn't. A win's a win and those of us without black holes for hearts will enjoy it, even if one has to go back all the way to round 13 for the last time we picked up a win against a fellow top six side. At the end of the game as we were walking out, one of the uniformed police officers at the game - I assumed initially that they were they there as an overhang from the old boy Socceroos vs Copperoos curtain raiser - was on the phone, or radio or Krusty brand walky-talky, saying 'no flares, and no incidents'. Everyone happy then, or close enough to what can reasonably expect.

An artist's conception of two Chris Taylor hating South fans attempting to
 have a possible 2016 South Melbourne grand final victory end up in a forfeit.
We're gonna lose!
Now some people - not me, mind you - seem to be very close to crossing that line where they want us to lose, because they may deem that such a happening will hasten the end of Chris Taylor's tenure as South manager, and perhaps take down a whole bunch of people with him. Hey, it's their call, and what with South of the Border being too scared to oppress people for having contrary opinions the way we should be oppressing them, we're not going to be too judgmental. It's been a long week. Hell, it's been a long season. Which would make it all the more hilarious if somehow pull off a Portugal and storm stumble accidentally pull off a grand final win despite performances of abject mediocrity. And there will be few gladder about such a win than yours truly, not out of any sense of jaded hipster misanthropy, but because it'll mean another notch on the South title belt. That it would be done via second or third or fourth place would just make it that much sweeter. Any saltiness - is that how the kids say it these days, saltiness? - would be a bonus.

Having said that, everyone knows we're going to tank in the finals, so there's no point getting our hopes up. There, covered all the bases.

Next game
Pascoe Vale away on Friday night.

Marketing idea no. 8733b
So in the early part of the season, we get what, one or two marketable warm weather home games where people turn up like it's Orthodox Easter in Melbourne - that is, their one obligatory appearance at church, or in South's case, to pick up their memberships. But after that comes the grand prix, and we get locked out of Lakeside for several weeks, and whatever whatever momentum we may have had. So how do create a sense of momentum again? I'm thinking we lobby for two home games at the start of April after the grand prix, and market our matches as being part of the Comedy Festival. It'll be avant garde (read, improvisational), interactive (get to feel like you're at a soccer match) and totally meta what with the match being the play within the play so to speak. And let's not undersell the comedy value of a South match day experience.

The answer to one of my questions
I asked, and got no answer, but then I asked again - or maybe overheard a conversation - and found out all I needed to know. Remember how I was banging on about the mystery of the split paths leading out of the players race? Well, it was apparently done because the area of the pitch where the players came onto the field had gotten very muddy or something, and they didn't want the players treading all over that. Makes sense, even if it's a bit anti-climactic.

Around the grounds
If you get one up his butt, it's a million points
Headed to the Δόξα Yarraville vs East Altona ΠΑΟΚ match on Saturday afternoon. Tried to work out what was wrong with South in 2016 with some of the locals. Reminisced, too, about the first time I used a media pass - or was it just a standard FFV pass? - to get into Paisley Park. Copped some indirect grief from one of the blokes manning the gate about people coming in with freebies. Freebies! Do they not know how hard it is to make such dire contests read like a Homeric epic? There were no moments of 'Mighty Sonny Kul, midfielder relentless' or 'Whoever Yarraville's number 7 was, ingenious creator of destruction'. Hmm, maybe I should give up applying Homer to soccer and leave that Fay Zwicky? This was a terrible game of soccer, lacking skill, entertainment, aggression or any of the other qualities that make soccer worthwhile for spectators. It made one feel utterly apologetic for suggesting to one's friends that attendance at this match, part of the relegation scramble, would be a worthwhile experience. The two teams couldn't even manage to hit the Rolls Royce parked adjacent to the field - didn't they get the memo from FFV that the team that knocked off the hood ornament would get a immunity from relegation?

Time for FFV to get serious on insidious scam
I don't care if they're rigged - in fact I just about expect it - but if clubs are going to sell raffle tickets for bottles of scotch and such, then the very least they can do is announce the winning ticket over a public address system, or get someone with a white-board to walk around the terraces announcing the winning number. Time to start docking points for non-compliance with this royal decree I reckon. Before any South people come hunting after me, I'm talking about pleb suburban Greek clubs here, not Hellas, OK? OK.

Scanning news, of a sort
Nothing new to share, but they tell me Victoria University's new ultra deluxe scanning machine is almost here... looking forward to scanning some stuff that deserves better treatment than what my old Canon 3-in-1 can provide.

Hooped socks
Got gifted a pair of BLK blue and white hooped socks by a reader of South of the Border and fellow South fan at the game, and let me say, that they are a quality product. Cheers!

Final thought
In 50 years time this match will be known as the place where the South Melbourne Hellas and Melbourne Croatia merger talks started taking place. Good grief, you think you've seen everything.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Book review - Roy Hay's 'Football and War: Australia and Vietnam 1967-1972'

To coincide with the opening of a new exhibition at the National Museum of Canberra focusing on the 1967 Socceroo tour of Vietnam, the doyen of Australia soccer scholarship Roy Hay has a released a companion book.

With the long and unwieldy title of 'Football and War, Australia and Vietnam 1967-1972: A Missing Part of the National Narrative', Hay seeks to achieve three things: first and most obviously, creating a concise and accessible overview of that tour, as well as the events leading up to that tour and the events which followed; second, to 'encourage FFA to recognise the boys of 1967 next year on the 50th anniversary'; and third, to provide a practical demonstration to the Australian soccer community of how to produce books like this.

The basics of the 1967 South Vietnam tour - and especially the tour's status as the first time an Australian soccer team won an international trophy - are probably familiar to a good portion of Australian soccer followers. This book goes further than that simple historical soundbite however, by looking at the wider context of the tour.

This approach includes, among other things, analysis of Australian soccer's fledgling attempts to compete in international soccer following the end of its FIFA ban in 1963; Australian soccer's attempts to engage with Asian football, including the steep learning curve of the health, safety and playing hazards of touring South-East Asia; the hard lessons of not underestimating Asian opposition; an attempt to figure out who came up with the idea and purpose of the tour, including analysis of the tour's political and commercial contexts; and perhaps as importantly, a chance to move away from the singular narrative of the story as told in various contexts by the late Johnny Warren. While the specifics of this tour have been covered by Warren in Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters, and the doomed 1965 tour in Jesse Fink's 15 Days in June - which includes coach Tiko Jelisavcic's morale destroying antics - Hay provides a wider range of first person accounts of the 1967 tour and those tours of South-East Asia which followed it.

Much of the enjoyment of this book is in reveling in the sheer audacity and recklessness of taking on the expedition. The dangers the squad faced on the 1967 and subsequent tours of Vietnam (and Hay does well to add details of those lesser known tours) are palpable. Plonked into the middle of a war zone, even if the case is true that they were generally safer than most of the locals, the players were well aware of the political and social situation. In those difficult circumstances, it is often argued that the groundwork was laid for the team solidarity that lead to qualification of the 1974 World Cup.

Despite the lessons learned from the tour, Hay ponders the question of what impacts, if any, the tour had both within the limits of its immediate propaganda, team preparation and fundraising aims, as well as Australia's attempts to join the Asian confederation. Already reticent to let Australia join the AFC, Australia's success in this and the subsequent tours may have actively put off nervous Asian nations, who already had limited international clout and avenues to the World Cup from qualifying. If that is the case then Australia's success, while a marker of the improvement of the national team both on and off the field, may have indirectly lead to its becoming part of Oceania and its nightmarish qualification paths.

The book's achievement as a demonstration of cheap and efficient publication methods is worth noting. Befitting the author's background as a scholar, the book is fully referenced, including the dozens of photos used in the book. In covering a relatively niche topic, Hay combines thorough scholarship, along with interviews with those involved in the tour, and turns it all into a neat, efficient package. Clocking in at just 91 pages, most of which have at least one photograph and often several, the book is an example of what can be achieved even by amateur soccer historians. You don't need to go all out on design and paper costs - good research driven by diverse sources, combined with efficient writing, can see you produce histories that can cover both niche topics and longer histories.

For those interested either in Australian national team history, or looking for an example of a cheap and efficient method of publishing a sports history book, this volume is well worth the effort of tracking down.

The exhibition focusing on the 1967 Vietnam tour by the Socceroos is now on at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, as part of the 'Journeys' section of the museum. The exhibition will run for four years. Copies of the book (RRP $19.95) are available from:
  • National Museum of Australia, where the exhibition is being held.
  • All good book stores via Dennis Jones and Associates (that is, you can get your local bookstore to order it in if they don't have it in stock)
  • Melbourne Sports Books 
  • By post from Roy Hay via the Sports and Editorial Services Australia website.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Yesterday, today, tomorrow - South Melbourne 1 Avondale Heights 3

As The Eels once noted, life is funny, but not haha funny.

Every now and again, it comes to a point like this. Even if you can see it in the distance though, it still usually manages to surprise you when it actually hits.

The day seemed to start innocuously enough. The small group that was at Clarendon Corner was visited by the head of security for the day, who had a brief chat about watching some of the language and stuff like that. Nothing untoward, no malice.

Then a State Sports Centres Trust employee came out and set up a go pro camera on the running track in front of Clarendon Corner in order to film Clarendon Corner, including it seems capturing audio. Clarendon Corner were upset at this seemingly unnecessary escalation, and moved across to the small bay closest to the 1926 Stand.

When the camera was pointed in that direction by the SSCT employee, Clarendon Corner then moved more or less en masse to the other end of the grandstand. The SSCT employee and his camera followed. Clarendon Corner then went up to the back of the stand, then back to Clarendon Corner itself, and sat down mostly quiet for the rest of the half. Things picked up marginally during the second half, but the whole experience of watching South Melbourne at Lakeside felt utterly devalued.

No amount of gimmick chants and songs can make up for being made to feel like a criminal at your 'own' home ground. All this of course after the Victory incident, where we weren't consulted about anything, got attacked.

While all this was happening, on the field we were already down 2-0 within ten minutes, a free kick from out wide not dealt with properly, followed up a by comical effort by Marcus Schroen who somehow dribbled backwards 30 metres towards midfield, lost the ball, and allowed Avondale an easy chance on goal. After having to fight and scrap for even basic possession against Northcote a week and a half before, the visitors must have been pinching themselves.

Fair to say the mood around the ground was at a low ebb. Personal circumstances meant that I wasn't at the home game against Port Melbourne in 2013 - Gus Tsolakis' last game in charge - but I can imagine that it bore at least some similarity in terms if the feeling of having reached a point of no return. When Nikola Roganovic was subbed off before halftime after coming off second best when coming off his line to collect a through ball, the day just got worse.

The worst part was that, despite imploding defensively for the umpteenth time this season, we still could have lead at the break. Poor finishing from an array of players kept the crowd interested, in that it was in some way conceivable that we may make a comeback, but Avondale's third goal put paid to that. Manolo came on and looked more dangerous than everyone else, and scored. That only served to infuriate, as Manolo's tenure at South has done, by asking again the obvious question of why the most skillful player in the squad is not getting a starting berth.

Morale across the club is stuffed. Iqi Jawadi was not even on the bench, adding heft to the rumour that he walked out of the club during the week. By their body language alone, several others seem to be coasting at best to the finish line, and that includes Chris Taylor. That doesn't even take into account increasingly persistent talk about change room schisms - which even if they aren't true, gather legs because of the disjointed performances of the team. Whatever naive hope I may have had that we could get to the end of the season in good enough shape to rebuild under Taylor and a core of players from this squad, while undertaking desperately need renewal, is gone.

While a surprise finals run is not out of the question - the intrinsic lottery of the finals means that just about anything can happen - one gets the feeling that we are rapidly coming to the end of the Chris Taylor era. It was fun while it lasted

It doesn't seem so bad today. We're still third on the ladder. The antics by the SSCT bloke just seem absurd. Everything about yesterday seems absurd. Why were we singing 'Heal the World'? And how bad was that ref? Was the whole point of the exchange programme with the English refs to bring over people who are as bad as our refs? As for Iqi, is he really gone, or is there something else going on there? Can we really believe rumours about what goes on in the change rooms if it mostly comes from people who are anti this coach and several of the players? Is Manolo not getting a starting berth because CT hates him, or because Manolo is unfit?

Look, everyone's upset. Everyone just wants this season over one way or another. Let's try and enjoy what's left of it. Do most of you really have somewhere better to be? Don't answer that question.

Tomorrow I'm going to see an animated documentary about a bloke who tried curing male infertility and impotency by performing transplants involving goat testicles. Puts all our problems in perspective doesn't it?

Next week
Melbourne Knights at home on Sunday afternoon.

The new normal
Meanwhile another match during this round was postponed ostensibly because one team can't control a small group of its supporters, and no one from the mainstream soccer press could give a toss.

Studs Up and South Melbourne match programmes
It's been awhile since I did a significant update on this front, so here's what's happened lately.

I have now scanned and uploaded what I assume is every edition of Studs Up, except for no. 34. Check them out in the library.

I also got through a small stack of South Melbourne match programmes, adding material mostly from 1996/97 onwards. Check them out in the usual place. Thanks again to The Agitator for lending me thus material. I also added the 'byes' in that section where they needed to go. Hooray for procrastination.

Around the grounds
Can't we just relegate all of them?
Out of all the teams fighting to get out of the relegation zone, who do we want gone the most? Some hate Richmond, because of their poor facilities. Others choose Northcote, for reasons I'm not entirely clear on anymore. Some (OK, me) hate Bulleen because of Monday nights in the middle of public transport nowhere. And then there's Port, with their blocked off outer side and tasteless souvs with pita containing the texture of a sponge. Even if Port get relegated, their main (only?) appeal for me will still be there - a convenient Friday night soccer option. Port of course shouldn't be in this mess - they may not have the league's strongest line up, but the team is still capable. They had four good chances in the first half - a Kearney shot from the edge of the box which hit the right hand post flush, with Griffin McMaster stranded; an off balance Stirton shot cleared off the line; another, more desperate line clearance by McMaster; and some other attempt I can't remember, but I swear it happened! Bulleen rarely ventured into its final third, which is a shame, because Port's defense looked rattled when they did. During a halftime conversation one observer, who happened to be a member of a rival club trying to avoid relegation, reckoned that there was a goal in this game somewhere; I reckoned there wasn't, and I was proven correct. The yelling coming from the Port bench as the game wore on indicates that the tension is mounting.

Final thought
Ah, you know the answer, but do you know the question?

Monday, 25 July 2016

I guess you just had to be there - Melbourne Victory 1 South Melbourne 4

If this game's entire existence during the week proved somewhat illusory, perhaps even mythical, there's a good reason for that - practically no one - except perhaps Victory and FFV - seemed to know what was going on, and that includes South Melbourne.

As an FFV accredited freelance media human, I was asked to apply if I wanted to attend the game. I did, and eventually got the email saying that I was in, including notification of the time and location of the match - but publication of such details was essentially prohibited, with media being asked to show discretion.

Fair enough I thought, seeing as how they'd gone to all this bother to make sure nothing could go wrong. But it does make you wonder, at least on the surface of things, how bad things have gotten when 40 odd delinquents and their hangers on and supporters can cause this absurd situation; that Victory, like so many Australian soccer entities before it, doesn't know how to resolve the problem; that a soccer team with more resources at its disposal than almost any other in the code's local history has allowed or seen things get to a point where a match involving its youth team can't be played safely unless the most drastic security measures are taken.

Thus after performing a sort of radio silence on the matter in the days leading up the game, on the day of the match I tried to play it all mysterious
But really, there was no point. Everyone who really wanted to know where the game was going to be held, and at what time, pretty much knew everything there was to know. If there were any people planning on causing chaos, they didn't bother to show.

(I did see one bloke on the train towards the city with a Victory cap on, but whoever they were they did not end up at the Bubbledome)

Outside the ground, there was almost no evidence that there was an event of any sort was taking place at the Bubbledome - only a couple of security personnel and an unusually large amount of vehicles in the car park. Considering that parking in the Bubbledome car park was apparently $30, it's doubtful that any of the people who had driven to the Hawthorn vs Richmond game would have parked there, when they could have managed to use the MCG car park for $10

(for the record, one attendee parked near the Yarra; another possibly past Richmond station, like my dad used to do for Olympic Park matches back in the day; me, I took public transport, of course)

Entrance was via Gate 5, which so far as I can tell, is usually reserved for corporate visitors and such. Names and photo IDs were checked off, wristbands allocated (pink for independent media flunkies, blue for South Melbourne associated flunkies) and even metal scanners were used. I suppose if you were going to sell the event as one containing security overkill, you may as well at least try to look the part.

Had I spent less time working on my thesis this week, I may have been able to have some more pre-prepared joke material on hand. As it was, I could only really manage to get the completely obvious Green Seat Elite joke out of the way
And one ad lib (is that even possible on Twitter?), which seemed to resonate more with the general soccer public - another hint to stick to my day job, whatever that is.
It was, as you'd expect, a very bare bones event. There was a little bit of PS4 NPL Victoria signage behind the goals, but the rest of the sponsor boards - I assume from Melbourne Storm's game the previous night - had been covered over with black plastic. Neither scoreboard was in operation. There were no announcements made over the PA. There was no ball kids. There was no food or drink. There was a fourth official though.

Considering there had been a rugby league played just the night before, the ground looked in much better condition than you would have expected - most of the rugby league lines were gone, as were the on field sponsor logos. Generally the surface looked good, although the length of the grass (hi, Johnny A!) meant that balls that would have otherwise kept rolling out of play ended up stalling inside the lines; both team seemed to adapt to this fact fairly quickly.

There were some patches of the ground that were less conducive to good play than others, especially a large patch near the two Bunnings chair furnished bench areas. There were also times where players lost their footing in other parts of the ground. Still, the surface was in much better shape than its Olympic Park counterpart for the 1999 grand final.

Predictably, almost the entire ground was off limits. There was a very narrow space allocated right in the centre of the middle section of the western stand, where all the dignitaries get to sit for important games, cordoned off on both sides. Some media folks wandered around a bit - like Les Street, who got the chance to explore the venue, and some photographers who set up camp behind the goals - but otherwise the 40-50 people in attendance (I didn't do an official count) had enough room to snare a corner for themselves and not have their private conversations overheard by anyone.

The Victory players' parents and assorted flunkies generally sat to the left of the designated seating area, while the South contingent and its flunkies generally sat on the right, although for the second half some of us stood in a 'no standing' area in between. There seemed to be very little interaction between the two groups, except for one Greek speaking dill from the Victory side and one Greek speaking dill from the South side trying to get into an argument for who knows what reason. A stern word put an end to that nonsense pretty quickly.

A few of us managed to have a good, albeit brief post-game chat with the father of Victory's scorer John MacLean (an ex-South junior, among other teams). In general though, the atmosphere was neither that of a pre-season friendly, where people feel free to chat and move about freely, nor that of a ridgy didge match where one could chant, yell or cheer without feeling that you weren't transgressing some unspoken limited bounds of acceptable conduct. Applauding the goals or calling for a handball or card was about as far as most people tended to venture. Even clapping the team off the field seemed to be done more out of habit than overwhelming enthusiasm, though the mediocre performance may have had something to do with that.

(While you couldn't hear the crowd from the MCG, you could hear clearly hear the sirens from there, and from the VFL match at the Punt Road Oval. The seagulls also turned up, but there was nothing for them to eat, so there weren't that many of them.)

As we were leaving - or trying to, at any rate- there were some people visible outside the ground, perhaps looking for Pokemon, only to be told...
Which wasn't true!
In summary, it was the kind of thing that was fun (barely) to do once, and never again. The one saving grace was not having to deal with Harry the Drummer (who I understand is busy taking the matter to VCAT), but everyone else that should have been entitled to come to this match was sorely missed. There's a time and a place for novelty, but events conducted like this set a bad precedent. Let's hope we don't have to deal with such a situation ever again.

Though of course, if I can score an invite, I'll still attend.

The match itself
A good deal of you would have seen the game via the stream and thus have at least some part of the experience filtered through the limiting lens of the camera and John Kyrou's commentary, but having not watched the stream myself (yet - I may watch portions of it later), it'd be interesting to see how much the post-game autopsies match up between those at home and those at the ground.

One uncanny similarity which both those at the ground and those at home were the references to last year's Palm Beach FFA Cup loss. Going ahead (even in a similar manner), and getting equalised by an inferior team off pretty much their only attack for the half, with even Chris Taylor's at best uninspiring body language - the parallels were troubling.

Our crossing was again woeful. During the first half, we had so much more of the ball, and so much more territory, that we should have been in a much better position than 1-1 at the break. Victory had stacked their defensive numbers in front of the six yard box, making shots from directly in front of goal hard to get away without being blocked. Had we been able to cross the ball better, this would not have been so much of an issue, but this is how it is for us so far in 2016.

There were times, too, when we managed to take advantage of some sloppy attempts at playing the ball out of the back by Victory, which should have in theory meant that we could test their keeper out without so many numbers in the way; but for whatever reason, we didn't do well on that front either. Victory improved considerably in the second half, making our ramshackle defense look well, even more ordinary than usual all things being equal, and we were fortunate again that we had Nikola Roganovic in goal.

A good thing that we were able to weather that period of mediocrity long enough to finally put the game out of reach - Leigh Minopoulos getting on the scorer's sheet for doing little more than smashing the ball hard and on target and through Victory goalkeeper Spinella's legs; Manolo for cleaning up the scraps after Spinella's save ended up on the edge of the six yard box; and Milos putting away a penalty he was perhaps a little lucky to earn in the first place.

Putting aside the slightly self-righteous notion of the club's reputation in these matters, what was disappointing (and illuminating) were the sub par performances of some of those who in theory have elevated credentials. Some of our players have played A-League, even if briefly; some have ambitions to play in the A-League or higher up. Matt Millar tries hard - if there was an award for player most likely to be mistaken for a crash test dummy, he'd be a lock for the prize - but hasn't produced a match winning performance since very early on in the season. Brad Norton didn't have one of his best game either, but at least he kept trying and was crucially involved in the third goal.

And then there was the People's Champ. Having had enough of the ball in the first half but for not much useful outcome - admittedly not alone on that front - in the second half he took a free kick from the right hand side and some distance out, with the goal of launching it into the mixer. Having failed to get sufficient elevation on the kick, it went to the lone Victory defender in what you might call 'the wall', and Victory counter attacked from that side with the People's Champ performing a customary sulk.

At the time, I was mostly glad that we didn't concede a goal from that situation, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to confirm to me that the People's Champ, like so many other players in our team and at this level - and we have noted it of other players, so it's not just him - have found their level. This far and no further, and all that. Here he was, still I assume holding an ambition of playing at a higher level, playing against a selection of players mostly 2-4 years younger than him who've been specially selected because they want to do the same, and he failed to make his case.

As one smfcboard based observer who watched the game via the club's stream noted, the People's Champ couldn't even blame a hostile (or encouraging!) crowd for it this time. All this while Manolo sits on the bench and waits to come on and clean up the mess in his 20 or so allotted minutes. On the other hand, Matthew Foschini was our best by a mile, reading the play better than just about anyone out there. At some level, superior experience and strength were enough to win the day, and we should be glad for that. We have played better than this in previous weeks and had nothing to show for it; even ladder leading Bentleigh only managed to beat this Victory outfit (or a version thereof) only 2-1.

It must have been strange for Foschini and Millar to be out there playing in a venue where they'd played before so many times, and yet now with just about no one there. It must have been strange, too, for the handful of South people there, who because of their much stricter than mine anti-FFA ethos and with no interest in the other sports that use the venue, were visiting the Bubbledome for the first time.

Some aspects of the performance can be put down to personnel issues or the strange environment, but a lot of it was also strangely familiar so far as this season is concerned. I suppose we should be glad to have earned the three points, maintained second, and kept ourselves still visible as a speck on Bentleigh's rear view mirror.

The best seats in your house
From all reports the live stream provided by South's media team was a success, with a reported reach of 600k (which is pretty good for such short notice), though I have no idea of how many people were actually watching.the game. Judging from the club's Facebook page, it was at least a reasonable amount, whatever a reasonable amount may actually be. It even included some mock chanting!

Standing outside the media box, it was hard to tell what was going on in there, or whether the crew were having problems getting the stream to work in any way, with the booth being more or less soundproof. Communication, if not conducted by phone, was done via the person outside speaking through a bona fide hole in the wall.

I actually regret not taking a picture of the hole in the wall. 

Next game
Avondale at home on Sunday arvo. I hope to see all of you there now that you are all free to attend again. Because you will be there, right?

For the record
The person responsible for throwing the flare at South fans during this year's FFA Cup match against Altona Magic, has been banned from playing or attending matches for one year.

Around the grounds
Say no to endless reruns of post-Golden Age Simpsons
Saw a tweet about the catch up game between Avondale and Northcote, and after only momentary hesitation about whether it was better to stay inside a warm house watching repeats of stuff that I barely cared about the first time around, I decided to head out to Knights Stadium. I mean, it's only a short drive from my place, and I hadn't been there for so long, and this was a game that could've opened up the relegation battle a bit more. I also thought that maybe They could use an extra person in attendance, even if I didn't pay to get because of my media pass, but on that point the crowd was actually rather good. I mean, rather good by Avondale vs Northcote standards, and more or less what you'd expect even if this was a weekend instead of a weeknight clash. All that was left to ruin the night was a disappointing game, but even that didn't happen. Northcote had the better of most of this game, should have scored when the keeper was stranded - instead hitting the post - and even managed to find a second wind in pursuance of its pressing game through astutely timed substitutions. All that effort was almost for nothing though, as they saw numerous low and high crosses fail to be converted. Avondale for their part looked OK at times, mounting the odd counter attack and looking dangerous from set pieces; but on the whole they were poor, unable to play out from the back or maintain possession for long periods of time. Still, the point earned for them here is probably worth more than Northcote's point.

Final thought
Can it really be considered a genuine top tier Victorian league match if there's no Dodgy Asian Betting guy reporting on it? If the DAB rep was there, he was doing a good job of hiding, though not so good a job of reporting the goalscorers.

Monday, 18 July 2016

That was then, this is now - Oakleigh Cannons 4 South Melbourne 3

It started off with getting to the ground an hour early, even though I knew the 20s game had been moved to 8:00, because Melbourne's pubic transport system is that damn good. We then moved on to people looking at the sky,
and then with an already delayed kickoff being further delayed by the fact that someone buggered up the pegs on one of the goals. And suddenly, the best laid plans of mice and men were laid to waste, but more on that later.

Another's minute's silence for an unnamed individual, and then kickoff, finally. And then thing got weird. Within ten minutes a ball through the middle of our all over the shop defense saw Kristian Konstantinidis, back for the first time since forever, foul the Oakleigh player from behind justr on the line of the penalty area. KK got his red card, and we copped the goal from the resulting free kick - double burn because we have no one who can take free kicks, and haven't really had one for some time.

Somehow though we found ourselves not only level, but leading. Milos Lujic was collected hard by Oakleigh keeper John Honos. Everyone was expecting a red card, not noticing that the ball had trickled into the net. So, nobody celebrated, instead raining anger down upon the referee. Probably for the best, as we'd already wasted copious amounts of newspaper confetti before the game.

Now I was one of the people asking for 'last man/denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity' blood, so I apologise (especially to Banger) if my furor and overly forthright explanations were based on wrong assumption of the rules in that, based on some discussion of the matter on soccer-forum, as the advantage saw the goal scored, the 'denial of goal scoring opportunity' clause could not be invoked; the only way Honos could have got a red card is if the referee deemed Honos' challenge worthy of a red card on its own merits as a violent or dangerous piece of play.

On reflection, without viewing the incident a second time, the ref possibly (probably?) made the right call in not giving Honos a red card, but he probably should have got a yellow for the tackle. Nevertheless we managed to take the lead through Leigh Minopulos (why hasn't he being playing all season!), and looked good, attacking and dangerous, but unfortunately copped a soft, soft, soft goal from a long ball.

Second half, and we came out again looking to press forward and try and score goals - thinking, I believe correctly, that we would need goals on the board because Oakleugh were almost given to add to their tally. Apart from falling behind 4-2, and losing 4-3 - the penalty probably didn't warrnt a red, but it's not like Pantelidis didn't know what he was doing when he brought Milos down - the irritating thing was that we had a lot of good chances to score. Oakleigh's goal for 3-2 from the cut back? We had chances much like that before and after it, but couldn't make them stick. Our defense, already wonky and makeshift but now tired also, made mistakes but also in a sense let down by the forwards who failed to take advantage of many good opportunities.

Oh, and some dire corner taking, as per usual. And thus we fall further behind Bentleigh, probably out of reach of the minor premiership and the NPL national playoffs if we're being realistic. While we can enjoy the anarchic spectacle of a Chris Taylor side actually playing attacking football (and try to convince ourselves that maybe this approach will pay off in the finals), we also have to acknowledge the discipline problems - the red cards, the disinterest from some players (Iqi Jawadi came off the bench and played left back, and did some nice things), and even players taking holidays in mid-season. A fun rabble is still a rabble; I mean, when you get down to it.

The game finished 4-3, with Oakleigh managing to waste enough time to get the points. The game finished so late I missed a train which I should have easily caught, read nihilistic Chuck Palahniuk short stories, and ended up eating junk food somewhere in the CBD. They don't put that part of South Melbourne experience in the membership brochure.

Next game
Melbourne Victory away at an as yet undisclosed location, at an undisclosed time. This game will be played behind closed doors 'with only players, officials, family members and accredited media allowed entry'. Even media have been asked to apply for entry to the game.

And yes, your correspondent has applied, and I hope that I can make it in.

Just on that...
Several people have of course recalled the incident in 2007 where South Melbourne was adjudged by FFV to have forfeited a home fixture against Melbourne Knights days before the scheduled kickoff.

In the early parts of that wonderful year, you may recall that there had been a confrontation between Serbian and Croatian supporters at the Australian Open tennis ('he kicked me in da chest, bro' and all that), and that somewhere in among the photos were various members of the Hellas Fan Club.

Later that year, at the Water Polo World Championships held in Melbourne, further incidents ensued between two or more of the aforementioned groups, and certain people were worried about these incidents being brought over into in the VPL.

To that end - and here's where it gets a bit murky, as the passage of time has made things hazy - South Melbourne decided, perhaps keeping in mind their good behaviour stipulations stemming from the 2005 Preston incident, that they wanted either a closed doors match or one with a members only stipulation.

That was not accepted by the people then working at FFV. Instead, after a meeting or series of meetings between South, Knights, FFV and Victoria Police, FFV proposed what South considered a draconian and exorbitant security arrangement.

Both South and FFV claimed to have the support of Victoria Police, but the end result was that South refused to hold an open doors match, and FFV preemptively decided that South had forfeited and awarded the Knights a 3-0 win.

Now nine years on, and several FFV management groups and contentious incidents later (including, let us not forget, members of Clarendon Corner being barred from an open doors fixture away at Preston in 2008, a decision made in part by the FFV employee who decided South should forfeit against the Knights, and the same bloke South almost hired as a general manger later on), Victory has made a similar request for this week's fixture, and people with long memories have, and not without good reason, said
  • HUH? 
  • WHAT?
  • BAH?
  • GUH?
  • ZUH?
and variations thereof. Of course one can't go without noting the additional irony that, regarding the punishment received by Victory for the Lakeside incident, that many people complained how lenient it was due to the fact that there was no fine and no closed door games.

 It's only ironic however insofar as one would have been a punishment handed down from FFV, and the other - the current suggestion - is something which is of Victory's own choosing, which seems to indicate that Victory either can't or isn't able to create a safe environment for spectators at this fixture, and that rather than deal with that problem (and the prominent resources at their disposal to do so - remember, FFV's tribunal declined to fine them because they had so much money) they're being allowed to work around the problem.

Look, I'm not here to moralise (much, this time). I don't know what the right way of going about these things is, and thank the deity or celebrity of your choice that's the case. But it does seem a tad unjust for South fans to be barred from this fixture, considering FFV's own tribunal said South had nothing to answer for with regards the Lakeside incident; that the entire blame was squarely on Victory and its supporters.

Goodness knows what's going to happen at Knights vs Victory the following week.

And another thing...
There has been talk that this match may be played at AAMI Park. How hilarious would it be, that after so many failed attempts at getting into the A-League, failing to get into Victorian cup finals and grand finals that were hosted there, that we should end playing there where no one could see it...

And if were to be held at AAMI Park, one assumes on a Sunday, that'd be less than 24 hours after the field had been chopped up by the Melbourne Storm game.

Social club rumour
I am told that we have put in a building permit for a space that can hold 160 people seated. Make of that what you will.

Around the grounds
Altona East's players finally gave mid-season signing Anthony Giannopoulos the ball 85 minutes into the game, and he managed to do something so simple, and yet so effective, that it lead to an equalising goal and and a point for East against Keilor Park. Imagine if they gave him more of the ball what might happen.

Final thought
We’re basically big animals, evolved to break open shells and eat raw oysters, but now we’re expected to keep track of all 300 Kardashian sisters and 800 Baldwin brothers. Seriously, at the rate they reproduce the Kardashians and the Baldwins are going to wipe out all other species of humans. The rest of us, you and me, we’re just evolutionary dead ends waiting to wink out.
- Chuck Palahniuk, Zombies

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Tάβλη artefact Wednesday - Hellas-Alexander backgammon table

This artefact, already seen by many people on Twitter, comes to us courtesy of reporter at large Anthony Colangelo:
Club branded tavli tables (the game - or rather games, as there are variations within the broader variation - are a variant of backgammon) are common in Greece (at least for major clubs), so it's not necessarily a surprise to see the existence of this and related items in Australia, even if they aren't exactly officially endorsed by the clubs themselves. The unofficial nature of a board like this also opens up the possibility that variants on this board's particular design also exist - if so, we'd of course love to see them.

The existence of such an item reminds us of course of a time when clubs like South Melbourne Hellas and Heidelberg United Alexander were integral parts of Greek-Australian culture in Melbourne, much like playing tavli itself, which I suppose if you moved in the right kinds of circles would still be visible as a pastime but which I myself don't see the young people partake in much these days.

And that includes myself of course - being a chess player in my youth (not a very good one mind, learning not even the basic elements of chess game theory, and giving up in the mid 1990s when I had reached the lofty peak of an accidental win against my high school's best player), our family backgammon table (if we still even have it), just been gathering dust for the past 20 years.

But enough maudlin nostalgia! What an item! The dagginess and the wogginess of Australian soccer personified in a single object!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Bad Blood - Bentleigh Greens 3 South Melbourne 1

A relatively short and bittersweet entry for this week.

This was a game essentially defined by two phenomena: first, South putting in a hell of an offensive effort, going some way to reclaiming the club's honour, before the coaches lost their nerve; second, an on and off-field hostility between the two sides that is threatening to get out of control.

With no Milos Lujic, it was always going to be interesting to see who Taylor would start up front. To that end, we saw both Leigh Minopoulos and Manolo start, up front no less, and the instruction was clear - pressure Bentleigh up the field, don't give them too much time on the ball, don't let them play too easily out from the back.

It wasn't a full proof plan - no plan is - but for so much of this game, we were the better team. That relative dominance didn't translate into a ton of a chances, but at the very least Bentleigh - the benchmark team of 2016 -  looked frazzled, human.

Sport is not only physical, it's also mental - it's a cliché, but here's a whole bunch more. You have to believe you can win the game, and you have to believe that the opponent is beatable. Facing an opponent that has the wood on you, that may even believe that should it do everything right that it can't lose to you, you have to find a way to undermine that belief.

And for a long time in this game, we had self-belief, and we shook - however minutely - Bentleigh's belief in itself. You could see it from early on in the match, where the Greens' players began resorting to melees and some less than professional conduct, chief of those being Brad Norton being charged into the fence early on in the game.

Getting into half time up 1-0 despite Luke Adams' dismissal (I was too far away to see if it was warranted or the right call) was good, but as important was how we'd done it. Even in the second half we looked good, and then we took off Manolo (I assume because he's not fit enough to run out a game yet), took off Minopoulos (not sure why) and were left with no forwards on the park.

The dismissal of Kamal Ibrahim so soon after he came on for the Greens should have made our task easier, but instead we copped a goal from a set piece, and then did what we have done for much of the season, which is if not capitulate, then lose our way to such an extent that goals against us come in bursts.

Yes, Chris Irwin (getting a serious dose of chrono-poisoning), had a great chance to get us a second goal and give us back the momentum, but what had earlier looked like a cohesive effort was no longer quite there. Does Bentleigh therefore take more confidence out of a game like, where they played beneath their best (in large part due to South's efforts) but still got the points? Does the end of the game undo all the good we had achieved before that?

Off the field, things seemed to get very nasty, especially towards the end of the game. Standing behind the goals at the car park end during the second half, the South fans and Bentleigh's keeper were able to have some decent banter without crossing the lines - though the keeper's hissing noises were and are perplexing. At the end of the game, Bentleigh's keeper was able to be gracious in victory, and the South supporters behind the goals took his in the right spirit, despite our obvious disappointment in the result

Things seemed to be much less pleasant under the shed, especially the interactions between our supporters and Bentleigh coach Johnny A, which culminated in Anastasiadis gesturing to his players to celebrate their third goal in front of the South fans
Even though the affinity between Johnny A' and South has been deteriorating for a while now, especially as his Bentleigh side has become our closest rival for silverware, it's not a good look for either side when things reach this point.

That's not to excuse either party's behaviour, or even make comment on what exactly was going on in that vicinity during the second half - I wasn't anywhere near enough to comment on the specifics either way (and likewise on other allegations made about racist, sexist or violent comments made during the game) - only to note that from where I stood it looked very bad, and that such incidents can quickly escalate out of control.

Following on from the relative PR win of the Victory incident, it's a timely reminder that the ability to claim the moral high ground is only yours so long as you act up towards that standard; the moment you slip from that perch, you could lose more than the right to point the finger at others' poor behaviour.

As for the league season, we are now in second place, trailing Bentleigh by two points and a fair chunk of goal difference. Losing more players to red cards and yellow cards won't do us any favours. And if we want to finish top of the table, we need to quickly turn this new found enthusiasm and attitude into wins, not merely respectable performances - while hoping that Bentleigh's more crowded schedule also takes its toll at some point.

Next week
Oakleigh away on Sunday evening.

Please note that kickoff for the under 20s match has been moved to after the conclusion of the senior match.

'It's a legitimate complaint' department
One of our readers asked me on Friday night why we weren't wearing our white away strip. In the darker corners of Kingston Heath's main pitch, it was at times difficult to tell apart the two sides as dark green and darkish blue began to blend in to each other - and the mist that settled on the field also didn't help matters. Would it not also have made it easier for our own players to see each other? As our friend noted, we have an away strip, why not use it?

'There's a heartbeat' - social club news
Towards the end of a new weekly video segment the club has begun releasing, there was information provided about the imminent working on the social club and affiliated areas.
As has been explained earlier by the club itself, the fit-out of the office spaces will be the first can off the rank - my mail is that this will take approximately three weeks. Some people may be/are confused by why the change rooms need to be worked on, what with having possibly seen the main part of the home change rooms (especially, after say, after a title win) which look fantastic. What I'm being told is that the bath, shower and toilet facilities, which haven't been properly maintained since the end of the NSL, are in dire need of replacing. Whether that's done immediately, I don't lnow, but they will be done.

Oh, and the 'heartbeat' of the segment's title? That's a reference to the fact that the power is connected to the social club once more - things are ever so gradually getting into gear...

There's a first time for everything
Thank you to Nasya Bahfen quoting a passage out of my (at this time) lone academic article in her recently published journal article on Melbourne Heart and perceptions of race and ethnicity.

Final thoughts
Thanks not only to SMFCMike for giving me and Gains a lift back to the station, but to everyone else who offered - you're all champs!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

We need your help to identify a possible South Melbourne Hellas pin

Despite the somewhat gloomy nature of the photograph - don't blame me, blame the source material - the nature of this week's artefact is fairly self-evident.

What is less obvious about this enamel pin, is its history and relationship - if any - with South Melbourne Hellas.

The photo of this pin was sent to South of the Border by club historian John Kyrou, who had in turn received it from a collector wanting to gauge its authenticity and provenance.

Though the quality of the photo is not great, there are above the word 'HELLAS' the letters 'S' and 'M', and below that the letters 'S' and 'C'.

Those things seem to indicate the likelihood that it is a South Melbourne Hellas pin.

On the back there is - possibly, as the writing is hard to read - the word 'WEBB', which one assumes is the manufacturer's name

But that's where you people need to come in. Have you seen a pin like this one before? Do you perhaps own one yourself? If it is a legitimate South Melbourne Hellas pin, could you help us identify the era in which they were made? If you can help, please leave your comments on here.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Have a go, ya mugs! South Melbourne 2 Hume City 2

I'm finishing this off on a Monday because of a brutal weekend spent laid up with a cold, and one side-trip to the bloody supermarket. Through the haze I'm trying to remember what happened on Friday, and I keep returning to one key thing - that the experience of the game was fun.

Now there's lots of ways you can have fun at South Melbourne but watching the team, in particular this iteration of it with its patented Taylor Tendencies (I was going to say Taylorist, but that's something a little different), isn't always one of them. And we know this because our most vocal internet people keep telling us that we are hard to watch, all while many of those looking way up high to where we sit on the ladder wonder how you can be top of the table and not be having fun.

Now people wanted more entertainment, but I'm not quite sure that they wanted it in this way. Chaotic defending, heroic goalkeeping (again) by Nikola Roganovic and spurned chances; end to end football, heart in mouth moments and South being just a few centimetres from a third goal late on which would have torn the roof off the joint.

Sitting at my keyboard tapping this out with a bad cold, and having made the very poor decision to further compound my headache by playing Mr Bungle's Disco Volante album yesterday, somehow I've still come out of this match in an optimistic mood. If nothing else, we may have figured out this one important fact - that as rubbish as our defending can be at times, the defenses of opposition sides are equally prone to making mistakes and looking all at sea - and that maybe all we need to do is be more assertive or forceful in testing the limits of opposition defenses.

A new banner by the bloke behind the Tibbzy FC youtube account. Nice to
have a new banner on hand, even if I don't agree with the message - not just
for economic reasons, but also because I'd rather South get into the A-League
and then burn the drawbridge, locking ourselves inside. Photo: Gains.
That's not how everyone's seeing this, and that's totally OK. I get it. How much more obvious is it that two up front is better than one solitary Lujic? When are we going to settle on what our midfield looks like? Will Iqi Jawadi ever be forgiven for whatever his indiscretions have been? Why are we persisting with short corners to the point where we almost conceded a goal from one on Friday night?

But that's only part of the story. Some have decided that Hume were the better team, with numerous chances to put us away, especially in the first half. But I would counter that with Lujic having his one on one chance saved, and the header that hit the post, with the scramble that couldn't put the ball away.

Like in the game against Richmond, we moved the ball quickly, looking to take advantage of the complacency of sides who feel that you should just sit back and set up, because South Melbourne won't play in quickly (except from a damn short corner). Sometimes this resulted in long ball after long ball, and that would have been hard to watch. But sometimes those long balls worked, sometimes they led to the opposition making errors, and sometimes we even managed to get the ball moving towards advantage along the ground. Whatever else, our last two or three weeks have seen our attacking maneuvers portray a sense of unpredictability and versatility.

At 1-1 at halftime, there's an argument to be had that we were lucky to be level, what with our getting an equaliser via a fortunate penalty. Yeah, maybe, sure, possibly? I don't know. Can you make your own luck? Does it even matter? Are we so obsessed with the how that we forget about the how many? Do we, like, even have a midfield? Maybe. But gathering our thoughts together, we remember, that South Melbourne is about results + style + entertainment. Results is points on the board, entertainment is goals and action, but style in the South Melbourne Hellas sense is about attitude - the attitude that South Melbourne Hellas should fear no opponent in this country and play its football accordingly, if not with perfect technique then at the very least with ambition.

The introduction of Manolo changed the game. Of course it did. All of a sudden the best player available to either side on the night was on the field, and playing forward in support of Lujic. One can gush about his talent on the ball, but what is of equal importance is his zeal for the contest. That cross to Lujic which saw us take the lead wasn't just an example of perfect placement, but proof of the importance of having a red hot go; Manolo is out-sprinting and out-working opponents and teammates alike.

The People's Champ, who has improved in that regard (albeit from a very low base), could learn a lot about what it takes to be a professional footballer, but also a South Melbourne Hellas style footballer, from Manolo's example. There were, again, too many petulant moments where his body language magnified his lack of effort and apparent self-loathing. All this while Taylor's attempts in 2016 to play the People's Champ more centrally have started bearing some fruit. Passion and effort aren't enough though, and there's something to be said for keeping your head. Even given Hume's penchant for scoring soon after conceding, giving up the equaliser straight for the kickoff was a horrendous moment. Not much better was Tim Mala's straight red card. What was the point of that exactly?

That last ten minutes was the best football we have played for some time. Three glorious chances to score, scuppered alternately by Hume's defensive desperation, imprecise finishing and finally the woodwork. It is fair to say we have been waiting all season for Marcus Schroen to hit a shot like that, which I suppose is much easier for him to do if he's in front of goal instead out wide. It may have been unjust to have snared all three points, but there are bigger things to focus on. The team, possibly because of the humiliation of the Bentleigh FFA Cup, clearly has some fight left in it. As important has been the change in attitude. Whether it has come from Taylor or from the players themselves, there is clear evidence now that we would rather attack than sit back.

That of course doesn't mean there isn't huge room for improvement. The team set up, with Mala at centre-back, and some of the very shoddy defending on Friday night, won't be as fortunate in future matches, but you've got to start (or in thus case, re-start) somewhere. But remembering some of the most important things about what made this club great in the first place - the willingness by its players to have fun, to display a zest for the game and show no fear - will at least give the team a chance.

Next week
Bentleigh away on Friday night, without Lujic (five yellow cards) and Mala (for the straight red). Does this mean that Koroma gets another go t right back? Will Taylor (or his stand in for the night, Chris Marshall) start Michael Eagar? Is Kristian Konstantinidis any closer to making a return? And who's going to play up front?

Those wishing to use public transport to and from Kingston Heath should be aware that there are significant disruptions to the Frankston line as part of the removal of four level crossings. Take that into account when planning your journey to and from the ground.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and you know what, I traveled down both of them, just because I could (and that made absolutely no difference)
Last week we asked what the deal was with the split path carpet shenanigans leading out of the players' race. We got no answer. This week, in addition to still wondering what the deal with the split paths is, South of the Border is asking what was the deal with the two teams taking the same branch on Friday night? Was that because of the night's charity theme? Has inspiration for the split paths been taken from somewhere else? Are we channeling or satirising Robert Frost here?

Is the honeymoon over?
The new security mob who have replaced Blue Thunder have had very little to do with Clarendon Corner thus far, but they did come by for a visit on Friday night during the first half. I don't know what was said during the heated conversation, but people weren't happy. Whether it was because of an official instruction from the club (I thought the recent pre-game warnings on anti-social behaviour were new, but others assure me they are not) or done of security's own volition I do not know. There was also an altercation of sorts on the other side of the players' race in the second half, but I'm not sure who was involved with that or what it was about.

Victory tribunal decision
Well the tribunal result finally came in, and there's a sort of resigned sense of disappointment at the outcome. A six point deduction for this season, a 12 month suspended six point sentence, and no fine.

Some have attempted to frame the disappointment and anger about the perceived leniency of the tribunal decision as being about 'bitters vs the new dawn', and it would be foolish to deny that there's not an element of that embedded in the reaction. But it's more complicated than that, and to limit it to the confines of a niche ideological skirmish misses the broader picture - which is what is the place, function and treatment of a top-flight, wealthy and privately owned team like Victory in FFV competitions, especially when compared to the treatment meted out to community owned clubs?

Rightly or wrongly, the perception among at least some of those interested in senior men's football in Victoria is that over the years Victory have a received a very fair deal from FFV. Branding, co-operation, advertising - with the most extreme notion being that FFV has seen promoting Victory as the easiest way of promoting its own operations - while those at community clubs still wonder what their annual fees - and fines - go towards when they themselves have to pay for refs and facilities, as well as performing functions such as filling in scores, self-promotion, etc.

It's also an environment where an increase in fines was used not only as a draconian deterrent for poor behaviour, but also as a means of correcting a dismal financial position at FFV. Seen within this context, you can see why people in the lower reaches wanted to see a very specific outcome in this tribunal case - one which was as near as possible equivalent to that received by Dandenong Thunder for the troubles at the 2012 grand final. That would mean not only a large point deduction,but also closed door matches and a massive fine. Instead, FFV limited themselves to the point deduction, for a team already staring down the barrel at relegation following a long run of poor results.

But how FFV's tribunal got to that decision is what's most important. We need to remember, first, that FFV's tribunal does not use precedent as part of its decision making process. That in itself means that there is a large amount of leeway available to them when making a decision.

For instance, in this case, the tribunal has cited the co-operation given by Victory and its guilty plea as a mitigating factor, as compared with Thunder's inability (or refusal?) to name the relevant culprits. This line of thinking is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, there is talk - which has been claimed to be from those in attendance at the tribunal hearing - that Victory initially pleaded 'not guilty' to the charges, and then changed their plea (is this what is referred to when "After an initial discussion with the panel"?). Second, they get credit for identifying those persons responsible for the attack on the South Melbourne fans - this is despite the fact that South Melbourne had already done much of the legwork in identifying the culprits - including compiling a dossier.

Now it's possible that Victory had done its own homework in identifying those responsible, but there are also question marks about that. Those supporter marshals of theirs in attendance at the Lakeside game - would they not have known the identities of at least some of those responsible? Would they have been able to identify the culprits without the services of the surveillance equipment at Lakeside, as well the the work of the South fans and independent journos who took photos and footage? And what would have happened had this occurred at a ground - such as Epping, for argument's sake - where those surveillance facilities were not available?

The delays in dealing with the matter have also caused consternation. Knowing that a repeat of the violence at Lakeside was possible at the following week's Victory vs Knights game at Epping, FFV did not create a closed door situation, and in part this lead to violent incident which occurred at that game - an incident which has no yet been dealt with by FFV - and has served inadvertently as a free hit to those people who wanted to act up this and potentially any other game which followed the Lakeside game but before the tribunal decision was handed down.

(As an aside, it also makes you wonder why Victory's matches against South and Knights were played in consecutive weeks. The thinking may have been to get them out of the way in as short a space of time as possible, but that probably should have been measured against the potential of violence at either of those fixtures. This is not to say that violence should be expected at such fixtures, but clearly the potential for it to occur was factored into the security arrangements at the Lakeside match. Why not then space those games out, so that in the event that something like this did occur, there would be sufficient time to deal with it both in a tribunal setting and in time for the next 'high risk' fixture.)

The language used by FFV is also problematic. Take this for example.
Mr Robson, the club Chief Executive gave evidence about the attitude of the club to the behaviour. He was a credible and respected Chief Executive of a sporting club that is in an unfortunate and difficult position. He said that the violence that occurred was abhorrent to Melbourne Victory. It was and is a successful football club with many more supporters than those who misbehaved. It has a turnover of in the vicinity of $19 million and spends “a significant six figure sum” on security at its games. 
It almost seems as if the tribunal is falling over itself to separate the conduct of Victory's management from its supporters. This is an approach that is so rare (almost to the point of fawning), that it is hard to imagine it ever being applied to community owned clubs, many of which have had onerous fines placed upon them due to the actions of rogue supporters or individuals. As I noted on Twitter last week after first reading the judgment, the tribunal's reasoning to leads one to the conclusion that,
The reasons for the lack of a fine are also somewhat bizarre,
We have elected not to fine Melbourne Victory for what occurred for four reasons. First we accept the credible evidence of Mr McLeod and Mr Robson that fines will have no detrimental effect.
So has the tribunal elected not to fine Victory because Victory is so wealthy that fines have no impact on them, or because the supporters involved don't care? If it is the former, then that is a case of discrimination based on how much money a club has. If it is the latter, then why bother giving Victory's youth team any punishment? After all, those responsible clearly couldn't care less about the impact of their actions on Victory's youth team. Neither would Victory's management be particularly fussed about the point deduction, because they were probably on course for relegation anyway.
Second, Melbourne Victory took all reasonable steps to prevent that which ultimately occurred.
It is hard to know what happened here, as little information is provided, beyond the existence of meetings in the lead up to the game. It is likely we will never know what 'all reasonable steps' means.
Third, it is their staff members who are responsible for gathering the evidence that has led to 17 spectators being banned from the game.
As we have noted already, South Melbourne had already compiled and submitted a dossier of many (20+ names) of those involved in the incident, which included some ex-South Melbourne fans and people banned from South matches, and yet South Melbourne's contribution to this gets scarce mention, if any mention at all in this ruling. The reasoning for the six point deduction is also strange:
As a matter of deterrence, and to support the objectives of the GDT, if supporters of clubs see that clubs will be penalised for violent supporter behaviour then supporters will exert social pressure on each other not to misbehave and particularly not to be violent. If their fellow spectators know who they are, they will hopefully identify them for the benefit of the FFV and the Victoria Police. To do otherwise might penalise the team that they support. Presently, it is only due to the hard work of the Club that 17 wrongdoers have been identified. If the supporters knew that the conduct of the unruly supporters might affect the team that they all support, then they might assist the FFV and Victoria Police in stamping out this behaviour. If the supporters were aware that their behaviour might cause the team to suffer a penalty then they might calm each other down rather than winding each other up and inflaming the situation, which is what occurred
It is strange because as we have noted earlier, those responsible and their friends have little concern about the league fate of this wing of Victory. They had misbehaved in several other matches subsequent to the incident at Ballarat last year, including dislodging corner flags (and therefore interfering with the match and match day operations), and yet little to nothing was done by supporters, their own club or FFV to stamp out this behaviour and weed out the troublemakers.

In addition. point deductions as a deterrent may work for community clubs, in at least forcing them to get rid of those responsible for bad behaviour at games, but within the self-described 'ultras' segment of football support that the guilty Victory fans have found themselves in, it is likely to have no impact at all. That group defines itself by its (supposed) rigid independence from the club and their support for Victory as being far more meaningful than that offered by other supporters. Most Victory supporters, who have nothing to do with and no interest in their NPL team, are probably oblivious to what has occurred.

In that sense, neither docking Victory's NPL team points nor fining them nor having them play games behind closed doors will have any meaningful impact. In which case, why not impose all three punishments, as happened to Dandenong Thunder? To my mind, the only punishment that could possibly create an impact is to go after Victory's A-League team, by docking that side points (they are, I believe, already on a three point suspended sentence there). Of course that was always extremely unlikely to happen, but that is the only hope of things changing: that these supporters do enough damage to the one thing that matters to all of their supporters - the points tally of the A-League team - that the vast majority of sensible supporters say enough is enough.

Further adding to the confusing nature of this result are the lack of charges thrown towards South Melbourne and our supporters. Whatever one's thoughts on self-defense - its applicability, where one may draw the line into what is self-defense and what isn't - the usual procedure, or perhaps better worded as 'the usual outcome', is to go hard after both sides for an incident such as this. Yet the tribunal was at pains to emphasise that one side - Victory - was the aggressor, and that the other - South Melbourne - was the victim, to the point where the premeditated nature of the attack is acknowledged,
Some of the spectators must have known that the South Melbourne banner was to be stolen (as this was approximately 150 metres across the pitch from where they were sitting) and that their support could be required. Many of them had clothing and sunglasses to cover their faces. The game was played in warm conditions and at night. There was no need for sunglasses or clothing to cover faces. This meant that the process of identifying the wrongdoers has been made all the more difficult.
This is not the kind of outcome or reasoning that one sees very often in FFV tribunal decisions. Given that the acts of violence and theft were premeditated, one would have hoped for a more significant punishment.

Lastly, it is interesting to note also that Blue Thunder security, the security company in charge for the day, get no mention whatsoever in the tribunal report. Security gets very little mention at all in fact, though there is the odd nod towards security failures,
Notwithstanding the agreed increased standards of security, the banned spectators
gained entry and other spectators were not safe
How those banned supporters managed to get into Lakeside is not elaborated upon in the tribunal's report. One is left with the feeling that, as much as what took place on the day was important, how things got to that stage was not considered as important, except where the tribunal could find ways to mitigate Victory's responsibility.

How much any club can control every single one of its supporters, regardless of whether they are players, coaches, frequent attendees or once in a blue moon trouble makers, has always been the question at the heart of such matters. That there could have been more effort made to prevent certain people from attending this match for instance, is without doubt - but would that have necessarily prevented others from acting up on the day? Or the next week?

But this is the environment that the vast majority of teams at this level live in. They are considered responsible for any (usually spontaneous) trouble caused by rogue supporters, or by anyone even vaguely affiliated with one of the teams. Thus the attempts by FFV to be seen to not be critical of Victory,
A superficial reading of this decision might lead to a conclusion that we are critical of Melbourne Victory. We are not. 
are perhaps the most troubling aspect of the whole experience. So many clubs attend tribunal sessions already feeling that they have already been found guilty. That once in the tribunal space, their side of the story is not given any respect. That the actions of sometimes unknown individuals (for example in the cases of those who light flares, often in - ironically - poorly lit and poorly patrolled venues), can have consequences for a club as a whole, with scarcely any sympathetic noises being made by the tribunal. The feeling is that by pleading guilty, even when you think have a legitimate case, that at least you get out of there quickly and on to figuring out how you're going to pay the fine.

And then you see the FFV tribunal seemingly falling over itself to find excuses and platitudes for an organisation that is better organised and better resourced than almost any soccer team in the state, and thus surely able to defend itself far better than most. To have those 17 supporters from that team be tried and banned, and the results initially posted without any mention as to which to team they were associates of, until - perhaps coincidentally - attention was brought to that fact.

The tribunal's decision, based on their reasoning, may have been technically correct. But justice also has to deal with the matterof  perception. If the general Victorian soccer public perceive that one group - whether that's an A-League team or NPL team - is getting more favourable treatment from the tribunal than another group, then that is not a good look for the game in this state.

Final thought
Harry Lookofsky's album Stringsville is not jazz. Discuss.