Thursday, 27 August 2015

Update on Milos Lujic's knee, from Milos Lujic

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

'Don't use it for styling your hair' artefact Wednesday - South Melbourne Hellas mirror

I searched my archives, I checked my email correspondence, but I just can't remember where I got this photo from, so if it's yours, please just send word and I'll add due acknowledgement.
Otherwise, this is an item I can only guess the year or the provenance of. OK, so it's a mirror with a 'Hellas S.C.'  logo printed on it, a variation of our logo which I'm not sure I've seen before, or if I have I don't recall the wheres and whens. Were or are there more of these? Were they custom made? Who made them? What year did they come out? Any help in providing some more information on this artefact would be most welcome.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Moral premiers - South Melbourne 3 Northcote City 0

It would have been fitting had this match been played for the real league title, but this is 2015, not 2014, and this is Australia, where by and large we are compelled to acknowledge that due to strange and muddled concepts of tradition - and the necessity of keeping the other teams interested - this is not the true championship, not even a minor premiership (the PC New Football police won't tolerate that sort of language), but instead the 'premiership' as opposed to the 'championship'.

We did however get a shiny plate for our troubles, the Victorian slot for the NPL playoffs for the second successive year, as well as the right to claim some sort of moral premiership tag, having ground our way through injuries, suspensions, player departures and some would say a catastrophic FFA Cup appearance, to finish the season scoring bucketloads of goals and thus finishing on top of the table.

And while minor premiers have bombed out or been sunk by the near enough lottery of finals in soccer, in more recent seasons there's at least been the habit of teams finishing on top managing to go all the way and win the grand final as well, so for those who like omens, that's something for you to hold on to in the weeks to come. Me, being an allegedly staunch rationalist, I take no truck with such things.

We were a bit sketchy to start with - whether that was to do with nerves, or three games in eight days, or Northcote actually taking the game seriously, I don't know - but apart from one clear cut chance (a free header in the six yard box), and the odd mistimed run called back for offside, we were the better team. Soon Milos Lujic gave us the lead, and his second goal, a well aimed shot from a deep David Stirton cross saw us more or less seal the game. The biggest concern at that time was whether Tim Mala's yellow card would see him rubbed out for the next game.

If there was any doubt about the final result, Brad Norton put that to bed with his amazing goal from what looked like a mishit cross. Me, I choose to be positive about it and reckon that Norton meant to hit it that way, in line with his recent mostly excellent placement of the ball. A few weeks ago I likened his crossing form to snooker, and yesterday's goal was very much a case of eight ball in the corner pocket.

But then possible disaster struck. The game and the minor premiership wrapped up, Milos Lujic hurt his knee badly with about ten minutes of game time left. He spent most of the rest of the game getting treated behind the byline, and while the punters were duly stoked with the win, there was also concern about Milos, our finals chances, as well as our NPL playoff chances. South Melbourne Hellas may not be a one man band in 2015, but it's not easy to find, let alone replace strikers who score 20 goals a year.

That he limped off the ground rather than being carried off with a stretcher, well, that's the kind of thing we'd all love to think of as being a 'good sign', but almost none of us in the stands are doctors, and for the purposes of this example of speculative ignorance, those with doctorates in economics or knowing how to mix industrial chemicals, or literature (some day, maybe) don't count as doctors.

On the other hand, should Lujic miss some or the rest of the season, it will provide an opportunity to someone else to stand up, in the way that Leigh Minopoulos has stood up since being given a belated starting berth in order to solve the problem of what to do after Andy Brennan's departure. The man who will be tasked with filling that gap will probably be David Stirton, whose year has been affected by injuries and being played in positions which I don't think suit him - namely out wide - instead of up front.

The issue then becomes one of having to adjust to having a forward (whether that's Stirton or Minopoulos) who do not share the physical attributes of Lujic, including perhaps a change of formation. Would you play both Leigh and Stirts up front, and play Chris Irwin on the right wing? Or would you keep the crux of what we've been doing intact, and just tinker on the edges? Would the set piece arrangements need to change should Lujic, one of our three tall timber players along with Michael Eagar and Luke Adams, not play?

Update on Milos Lujic's knee, at this moment the most important ligament in Australia
Here's the latest goss on the state of Milos' knee from one of the more reputable people on smfcboard.
Initial prognoses (without a scan) on Milos was a strained MCL. He's getting scans on Tuesday to clarify.

Highly doubt he'll play again this season if he's done a grade 1 or 2 medial. Fingers crossed its just jarred and when the swelling goes down he'll be ok!
Next game
In two weeks time, at home against one of Melbourne Knights, Hume City or Pascoe Vale.

Crowd watch
How good was it having a game at 3:00PM on a Sunday afternoon? The sun was out, more families were in attendance, and there were even more young people in Clarendon Corner, as well as a good turnout by the usual assortment of people in that area.

Mind you, there was disagreement in the ranks about how many people actually did attend. My regular supplier of the realist crowd count said 600, while another reputable source said about 700. That seemed about right to me, though others said something closer to 1,200 would be more accurate. That's a hell of a discrepancy, but since they never release the numbers, let alone complex breakdowns of the demographics attending (that's a trade secret I suppose) it's really up to you, the reader, to decide which number you feel more comfortable with.

Nick Epifano to Perth Glory?
No confirmation on whether this is true or not, but current Glory CEO Peter Filopoulos (you may remember him from such posts as 'just who is the biggest South fan around?') was pretty coy when asked directly. No indication either on when exactly Epifano would leave South for Glory in the even that Glory did sign him up. After the finals? After the NPL national finals?

Good luck to...
South junior Andrew Mesorouni (wait, does he have the same name as his dad?), who has signed up with Getafe in La Liga. Interestingly this was done with the cooperation or assistance of Genova International Soccer School and Morris Pagniello - is this a hint towards whatever that 'partnership' or 'relationship' with Real Madrid is meant to be? And where's the player training compo?

Congratulations to...
Olympia Warriors on securing their first senior league title since 1996. The team includes former South defender Jake Vandermey, and future South player Luke Eyles (who won the Tassie league's rising star award). We'll be playing them in the week after the grand final in Melbourne.

The nanny state strikes again

Things could be worse!
Win, lose or draw, we get to see South most weeks of the year. What about those people who want to see Manowar tour Australia?
Another 12 months without the chance to burn a viking ship on these shores.

Final thought
After all that angst, we didn't need to worry about the Bentleigh vs Oakleigh result at all. Thought processes need to change need to change when your team becomes competent.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Home town points decision - South Melbourne 5 Hume City 2

The result of this match I think flatters us a little bit. Much of the early play from both sides was sloppy and borderline panic strewn. The final scoreline does not also provide a proper indication of how hotly contested much of this match was, and that Hume had blown at least a couple of very good chances to score when the scoreline was tighter, and also conceded some atrocious and atypical defensive errors to gift us a couple of goals.

Once again, an unchanged starting eleven, though it looks like we can call off the search party for Jake Barker-Daish, as he was back on the bench after mysteriously disappearing for a couple of weeks there. Milos Lujic's pass to Nick Epifano for the opening goal was very good, though it's a distant second for the sheer comedic theatrics of Michael Eagar's goal - his first for the club - which may or may not have involved a backheel which somehow crept over the line following a shambles of a goalmouth scramble.

The goal that Hume pulled back was not undeserved, though the fact that we once again hit back pretty quickly (via Lujic) was quite reassuring. Less reassuring was Nikola Roganovic's kicking which was quite wonky, though it was still better than the moment where he left a shot go seemingly out for a goal kick only to have it clatter onto the post. It was those moments of good fortune that while not guaranteeing us the win, made us look more dominant than we perhaps were.

Epifano's second for the night finished the game off for good, and it was an absolute pearler, the equal of his go ahead goal against the Knights in the Dockerty Cup earlier this year. Iqi Jawadi's goal for 5-1 was another case of 'what were they actually trying to achieve there' for the Hume defense, as Jawadi's relatively tame shot was seemingly saved only for it to end up crossing the line somehow, or at least enough to convince the officials to award the goal.The last portion of the game saw Hume dominate possession as we backed off, and Marcus Schroen scored with an excellent long range shot to beat Roganovic in goal.

While not wishing to piss on anyone's parade - it was a good win, and it was a lot of fun to watch, like many of our recent matches - much of the general play from our end could be tightened up, and I expect that Hume will improve on that performance come finals time. Still, it was mainly good signs, but as far as the minor premiership race goes, a job only half done.

Next game/Copperoos/doing the sums
Northcote City Hercules at home on Sunday afternoon in the final round of the season. Rather than the under 20s being the usual curtain raiser, as per last year the Victorian Police Soccer Club's Copperoos will be taking on a team of former Socceroos (including several former South players) for the Tony Clarke Memorial Shield.

As for the sums for the main game, it's pretty straightforward. The win over Hume has seen us take top spot from Bentleigh on goal difference - in fact we have a ten goal advantage over Bentleigh, who play Oakleigh this week. Unless Oakleigh completely capitulate, all we'll need to do to finish first and clinch the Victorian NPL national playoffs spot is match Bentleigh's result, though winning our game will almost certainly do the trick.

We can't finish lower than second on the ladder, so we will be having a week off in the first week of the finals regardless of the result on Sunday - but of course you'd rather finish first to get that national NPL playoff spot, and succeed in winning it so you can book your automatic FFA Cup spot. You know, for those who care about that sort of thing.

Epifano silliness (let's pick on someone completely at random)
Now the task of winning the minor premiership has been made a little more difficult because Nick Epifano did a very silly thing and retaliated with a sort of stamping/kicking out motion when provoked(?) by an opponent after a foul during the first half. While he was very fortunate not to get more than the yellow card that he received from the referee, the yellow card he did collect has apparently seen him rack up five yellow tickets, and thus he will miss the round 26 game against Northcote.

But lest that be the end of that stupidity, we also read this pearler of a post on smfcboard.

buffalo cup
Warnings : 1

Joined: 10 Jun 2008
Posts: 2574
Location: Everywhere, Somewhere and Nowhere

 PostPosted: Today at 4:20 am    Post subject:Reply with quote  Back to top


I am happy epifano wont be on the team sheet when history records our championship winning team if we win the game

Fuck him

Now South of the Border is hardly Nick Epifano's biggest fan, nor admittedly his most forthright enemy, but I'd like to think that if nothing else this site has acknowledged that whatever the divergent opinions are among the supporter base on this matter, his actions have cast a pall of sorts over the season. However in their haste to make political mileage of the situation, some people, like our friend above, have committed such rank overreach when there's absolutely no need to do so. Whether anyone likes it or not, despite his cuntery Epifano has actually been in the best form of his South stint. He's scoring regularly, he has scored important goals, and he's working harder than ever on the defensive side of his game. None of which excuses any of his prior behaviour, but let's not start inventing shit for the sake of it. There's also the following things to consider.
  • We haven't actually won the minor premiership yet.
  • Even if we do, it's not a fully fledged title, unless you've started using A-League classifications.
  • Whether we win or lose the title in the long run, his fingerprints (good and bad) will be all over this season anyway.
Anyway, quite how Chris Taylor will set up the team in Epifano's absence will be interesting to see - will Chris Irwin get an unlikely start, or will David Stirton get a much needed run? Will they swap Leigh Minopoulos onto Epifano's side in order to make room for either of Irwin or Stirton?

Heritage for sale
Replicas of the modernised red vee heritage jerseys designed by BLK which were used for our regrettably brief FFA Cup run were on sale last night at the merchandise stall, sans the FFA Cup badge. I bought one, which set me back $90, and I assume that those that weren't snapped up last night will still be available for purchase on Sunday - though you may want to contact the club just to be sure. Next step, to get replica versions of our 1960s Bristol Rovers style kit done up, with long sleeves of course.

Incendiary devices
I don't know what exactly we're paying Blue Thunder Security to do at Lakeside. I went to the game more or less straight after work, so I had my bag with me, but did they actually bother checking it at the gate? Nope. If they had, they would have come across some incendiary materials far more dangerous than your run of the mill firecracker or nautical flare. Emile Zola's Germinal (one of the greatest novels of all time) may seem to be on the face of it a very long and detailed novel about a miners' strike in northern France during the Second Empire period, but within its pages lie the seeds of revolution, even if some theorists will claim that Zola's depictions of the various competing socialist ideologies in the novel are beholden to hostile contemporary bourgeois attitudes. One wonders how many of the other 329 patrons at the ground on Wednesday night managed to smuggle in contraband materials? Also, I'd like to think that if Souvarine was involved in Australian soccer, he would see that just because you've blown the present to pieces, it doesn't necessarily follow that what comes after will be better than what exists now - it might force him to reconsider his political theorising.

Let's solve two problems at once (hey kid, you want some candy?)
Yesterday there were many futile attempts to convince a couple of the youngest members of Clarendon Corner to start a chant. At the same time, there were several people throwing around lollies at each other, which is an incredible waste of sugar and food colouring. Why not instead use those lollies to convince the children to start a chant?

Bugle blues
The toumbeleki man is better off sticking to the toumbeleki, which is he quite proficient at, rather than struggling to play his bugle.

I was fortunate enough to be offered two free tickets to a big night of boxing last Friday - big in the sense that this is an attempt by the sport to get back into the mainstream, with consistent and continuing free to air coverage for the first time in 30 years. In that sense, I could only feel that, as a boxing novice, that it was if not quite a disaster, then it was at least a familiar reminder of why boxing has fallen away as a mainstream television sport in Australia.
Homer: I miss my couch.
Joe Frasier: I know how you feel. You lost the couch. I lost the heavyweight championship.
Homer: Heavyweight championship.There's three of those. That couch was one of a kind. 
The Simpsons, "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?"
Everyone knows boxing's problems, and what's more, that they will never be solved. The fact that in the time since Homer Simpson noted that there were three heavyweight champion belts - 23 years ago, if you can believe it - that even more have been added is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

It was an unusual set up for a fight night. The venue was the Melbourne Pavilion, a tarted up reception centre in Kensington. Outside the crowd waited to be let in from across the street, almost all men, most of them wearing black suits, neat casual or t-shirts sporting the logos of various gyms, many of them with tattoos, and more than enough with shaved heads. My instinct was to try to avoid direct eye contact, and even the appearance that I was trying to eavesdrop.

Once inside, I noticed the ring near the entrance and table seating being the norm, or perhaps even only option on offer - I didn't notice anything resembling general admission, unless there was standing room near the bar. It's an interesting slant, trying to go upmarket the way the promoters did, providing three course meals (all very good quality), and a steady supply of booze. The problem with that approach though is that it may work for those who are ringside - and who have paid the highest ticket prices - but those at the back of the room don't get quite the same value for money. Not that I was complaining, I mean how can you when your ticket is free, but the impeded views due to the room's pylons made it a less than stellar viewing experience. And while there were plenty of television screens to view the action on when the fighters moved into the unsighted areas of the ring, it felt like being at a rugby league game - more attention paid to screens as opposed to the real action being performed by real people in front of you. The never-ending flurry of service staff also diminished the viewing experience.

That second ticket I had been given? It was supposed to be used by an actual boxing fan, but he couldn't make it. Offers to take up the ticket on Twitter and Facebook were either ignored, or used as a source of mirth, and the ticket went unclaimed. I'd like to think that it was purely boxing's loss of cultural cachet that was at fault, but I can't rule out the daunting task of being seated next to me for five or six hours. It was hard to tell which was the greater dissuading factor.

On my table at the back of the room are the most obvious examples of boxing's working class. The Smith family from Newcastle, mum, dad and sister, were there to support Richard. Later, from the Central Coast, Jai Opetaia's girlfriend, along with his sister, arrived on to our table. Also on my table was a fighter from Port Macquarie named Will, along with his trainer whose name escapes me. Will was meant to fight on the night, but two days previously his opponent had apparently broken his hand doing pad work - one wonders how hard his opponent was hitting those pads. Though a professional boxer, Will's main line of work is in building highways, while his trainer is a butcher. They train around their work schedules, in the great Australian working class boxing tradition of tin sheds, back yards and training around punishing six day a week work schedules. Will was enjoying being in Melbourne, but you could tell he was restless, that he wanted to be in among the action. During the fights, his trainer positioned himself so that he could talk through each bout with Will. They'd both taken time off work and not getting appearance money because of the cancelled fight, so they try to make the most of the hospitality on offer and the chance to learn from those on display. I didn't ask, but I suspect that Will is Indigenous, and throughout the evening I wished that Joe Gorman was here instead of me, because he could write this story better than me, and some of the others, too, because there was a rural and regional New South Wales state of mind at my table that he'd better understand than me.

The outcome of the first fight, between heavyweights Haysem Abdallah and Ace Tarau - allegedly both debutants, though I could have sworn I'd heard that Abdallah had a 16-0 record; maybe as an amateur? - was predictable. Tarau came out and looked lively early on, but it was clear he didn't have the tank to last the four rounds, and he didn't last two. The second fight between light heavyweights Trent Broadhurst and Affif Belghecham from New Caledonia, was I think, meant to be something that Broadhurst would win and win well, but after a wonky start his opponent held his own and lasted until the end of the six round fight. I couldn't help but feel that Broadhurst would be disappointed with not being able to look more effective against his journeyman opponent.

The third fight was interrupted by the dinner service and it was too hard to concentrate on both eating and trying to watch the fight. The fourth fight was between Richard Smith and local boy Joel Camilleri. This was a good, even battle though Camilleri, who sported a large Maltese/George Cross tattoo on his back, gave Smith too many of the early rounds, and Smith held out well enough in the second half of the bout to win the fight. He's now apparently looking at a title fight, hopefully in Newcastle. His parents were chanting and cheering throughout the bout - it's the most atmosphere that there will be in the venue all night. Smith's father will thank me repeatedly, but when I tried to congratulate him, he waves it away, saying it was all Richard, who'd given up an electrician's apprenticeship in order to give boxing a proper go, to see how far he could take it, to make sure years down the track that he had no regrets about wondering 'what if?'. The thing about clichés is that it's easy to scoff at them until they're right there in front of you.

The first of the televised bouts was Jai Opetaia vs Rob Manual, a 39 year old former rugby league player who has lost all his previous bouts. This one, too, went the same way. I thought to myself that this is not a good look for the televised product, but worse is yet to come. More heavyweights follow them, Lucas Browne who had 21 wins and no losses to his name, taking on Julius Long who was 16-17-0. Long is a tall man - over seven foot tall - but from the outset his main goal is to try to frustrate his opponent, who performance perhaps betrays his record, as the fight looks sloppy and uncoordinated. The derision comes not only from the crowd in the room, but from the internet as well. Though Long has a brief moment in the third or fourth round where he rattles Browne, he's soon back to retreating, and Browne finally knocks him out in the dying stages of the ninth round.

In trying to get a bit of background on Will Tomlinson, it appears that earlier this year he was found to be found out of his depth when taking on a Mexican fighter, being mauled on the way to a bad loss. This then was an attempt to bounce back against an opponent I assume was brought in to provide a challenge for him, someone which would make Tomlinson earn his win and look good doing it, but otherwise not expected to beat him.

In the first round, Filipino Adones Aguelo played cautious, and neither fighter makes inroads. But frm then on, it's Aguelo who surprises everyone, cutting Tomlinson repeatedly, and chasing him around the ering, being the more aggressive boxer. Tomlinson looks out of sorts, and though he manages to get back into the bout later on, Ageulo is still holding his own and putting together the better moves. Even though I thought Ageulo had clearly been the better fighter throughout almost the entire fight, I had a feeling that he'd get dudded on the decision. I know that my opinion certainly comes from a novice position, but there were more than enough Australian boxing fans across the internet both dismayed at the result, but also for the fact that it reinforced boxing's bad reputation for dodgy results. The crowd at the venue, too, seemingly knew the result which was going to be handed down. There was little celebration or acknowledgement of the judges' decision, and most beat a hasty exit. If this was meant to be boxing's plea to the Australian sporting public to once more be seen as a credible sport

Things could be worse!
You could be John Frusciante during the mid 1990s.

Final thought
Did you know the NPL1 trophy is bigger than then NPL trophy?

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Bobble - Avondale Heights 0 South Melbourne 7

The bus arrived at the bus stop on Hopkins Street two doors down from Melbourne's best cannoli already about ten minutes late, and it didn't get much better from there, traffic circumstances making us lose more and more time. The driver tried to rectify this by flooring it on the open spaces of Military Road which took me by surprise, meaning that Gains and I ended up alighting a stop further down the road than we would have liked. Never mind, a short walk never did anyone any harm.

For those who haven't been here before: Doyle Street Reserve is the most Spartan of the current day NPL grounds, though at least they've fixed up a few issues this season. They've added what looks like a 100 seat temporary stand, a miniature green tool shed for a media box, and temporary fencing around the ground in order to be able to more effectively charge admission. They've also removed the (puts on A Current Affair voice) death trap goal posts, which were a source of much angst last year.

The surface though was still an unresolved issue. Forget what the typically aloof and sneering South fan might say, but there were others there who were shocked that this was an NPL venue. One was in awe because he had umpired cricket here during the summer, another because (and I could be getting this wildly wrong) he could remember a game against Western Eagles Polonia here just a few short years ago. Sometimes the pace of on-field progress outstrips that of of off-field progress

The bumpy surface on a small field was always likely to prevent an attractive brand of soccer being played. That Avondale had recruited (probably great expense) good ball players and ex-South men Francesco Stella and Massimo Murdocca given that their strengths would be limited on that surface always struck me as odd. In other years, South would struggle to play on these kinds of surface, but a more practical approach in recent years has done wonders.

So while Avondale tried to play the prettier football and aim their shots high at Nikola Roganovic, South was happy to play dinky little balls over the top to the forwards, and with a bit of help from the bumpy service managed to take a 2-0 lead into half time. While we looked good things to take the three points, I had a sense that we could be one piece of bad luck away from having the game open up again.

As it happened, it was Avondale which completely lost its nerve, conceding three goals in almost as many minutes, with a series of mistakes from former South goalkeeper Chris Maynard and his defence gifting easy chances to South. Andy Kecojevic's goal, finishing off a cross from former Avondale man Chris Irwin made it six late on, and provided a welcome addition to the goal difference tally.

With the result long sewn up, attention was being paid to the Northcote - Bentleigh game, then still at 0-0. When the news had come in via the Futbol24 app that Northcote had scored, the 'I-I-Irakli' chants came out from Clarendon Corner, only for the goal to be retracted second later; though it took some time for news to reach the raucous away support, who had made use of the playground at the western end of Doyle Reserve.

It was funny watching and waiting for them to realise that the goal had been a mistake (reminiscent of the final round of the home and away season in 2006 out at Green Gully Reserve, where someone mistook Altona Magic doubling their lead for Heidelberg equalising - I guess you had to be there). The situation became less funny when Bentleigh took the lead moments later, but what can you do?

The game finished when substitute David Stirton was brought down from behind in the box, and Epifano having been subbed off, Lujic slotting it home for his hattrick and the further erasure of one more nagging penalty taking demon. Not that we've played the crème de la crème of opposition in recent weeks, but we sure as hell could have played a lot worse. The team is starting to find its groove again, and at the right time of the season, too.

Next game + the run home
Hume City on Wednesday night at Lakeside. Hume beat Heidelberg 2-0 this afternoon to secure their finals place. Whether that makes them more or less dangerous in the run in to the finals I don't know.

Jockeying for position. The race for top spot is down to two teams, while Knights and the Bergers will still be looking to finish top two to earn a week off and get home ground advantage.

Bentleigh are three points ahead of us, but with only one game left, against Oakleigh. Will Oakleigh use this game as a means of tuning up for their FFA Cup fixture against MetroStars, or will they go easy and save themselves any unnecessary grief? Strange things have happened in this fixture in the past. We now have the advantage when it comes to goal difference, and the chance to take top spot if we win both games no matter what Bentleigh does on Sunday. But Bentleigh have the tangible benefit of having won that extra game that we still need to win.

Heidelberg has two games to play, a midweek game against Green Gully, and a home game against the relegated Dandenong Thunder. Gully were eliminated from the finals race due to Hume's win today, but I wouldn't expect them to roll over. Meanwhile Melbourne Knights can't finish top, but they can still finish in second if we can't manage to even squeeze out a draw from our remaining two games, and they win their remaining fixture.

What's really amazing is this is exactly what Steve from Broady said would happen!

Apropos of almost nothing, a paragraph on what 1984 title winning coach Len McKendry thought of soccer supporters and what they knew about the game.
Excerpt from Paul Wade's autobiography, detailing one of the differences between Jimmy Rooney and Len McKendry.
Damnatio memoriae
Brad Norton has signed on for another two years, but the best bit of the relevant South Melbourne press release was undoubtedly the 'he who shall not be named' shenanigans:
Norton was appointed as Vice Captain in 2013 but captained the side for most of the second half of the season following the exit of South’s captain that year. (italics added by South of the Border)
Take that, dude, bloke, guy, whoever happened to be captain in the first half of 2013. Pretty childish if you ask me.

Speaking of exile to barren lands
Jake Barker-Daish has not even been on the bench for the past couple of weeks. Makes you think.

Sport in Victoria: A History
A new book was launched last Tuesday in one of the rooms at the Melbourne Cricket Club, though I forget which one (for the record, I deliberately avoided wearing a collar. Also, the jam tarts were shithouse). Sport in Victoria: A History, edited by Dave Nadel and Graeme Ryan (who is also the publisher) contains 180 odd contributions from 80 odd contributors on many sports played in Victoria, as well as some sporting bodies, venues and events. I have three contributions in this book: men's soccer (written with Ian Syson), women's soccer soccer and a short section on South Melbourne Hellas. It's a bit pricey - close to $80 for the paperback edition, and a bit more for the hardback - so it's the kind of thing that unless you were an obsessive, would best serve perhaps a Fathers Day or Christmas present, or you could perhaps try and get your local library to order in a copy. The book's format is sort of encylopaedic, giving overviews of the different themes, and hopefully prompting further study and exploration for those readers so inclined. The book does have some nice images in it, and does a reasonable job of covering most of what you would expect to be covered in such a tome, though the omission of something like roller derby when rogaining and petanque have been included seems a bit odd - maybe in a second edition?

Things could be worse!
Didn't like Chris Maynard as a goalkeeper? Be thankful I'll never be selected for South.
My excuse is that the sun was in my eyes. If it was good enough for Peter Gavalas...

Final thought

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

'Before the unpleasantness' artefact Wednesday - Tynan-Eyre Cup certificate of appreciation

The Tynan-Eyre Cup was an annual tournament played between Victoria's NSL clubs and occasionally some of the leading teams in the Victorian Premier League, with the goal of raising funds for the Blue Ribbon Foundation. After a riot by Preston fans at Lakeside during the 2002 Tynan-Eyre Cup final, I'm not sure this trophy was ever played for again, at least not by soccer clubs - there appears to be some sort of footy competition with this trophy name nowadays.

Anyway, this certificate of appreciation comes from before 2002, specifically the year 2000, when South Melbourne beat Melbourne Knights 3-1 at the Veneto Club in the competition's final. South had earlier beaten Eastern Pride (2-1 at Green Gully) and Carlton (3-1 at Kingston Heath), and drawn against Melbourne Knights (1-1 at Knights Stadium)

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Happy, but not all the time - South Melbourne 4 Port Melbourne 2

I really don't know what to make of this game. We scored lots of goals, and could have had more, but how good was the opponent really? On the other hand, we kept them to few chances at the other end, and still managed to cop two goals. But there was also great resilience from the team to keep pushing and pressuring, and that created its own momentum and sense of purpose.

The team was unchanged from the Dockerty Cup win against Oakleigh, and so was the style. More numbers forward to help a formerly isolated Milos Lujic, who seems to have his mojo going again despite missing a sitter for his hat trick. Quite how he managed to get to the header from a cross that was in the air for an eternity, let alone manage to loop into the back of the net only the video will be able to say. His finish to put us in front for the third time, once again from one of many superb Brad Norton crosses, was excellent, but it was the cross that should be put on display for all the kids out there to learn and imitate.

By the end of the game Norton was so in tune with his crossing that it looked he was playing snooker and putting 'English' onto his crosses. There was one moment late in the game where you actually see the concentration on his face as he was about to hit a cross, angling his boot in such a way to get exactly the kind of spin he wanted.

How odd that Brad Norton of all players may become a cult hero, perhaps even future legend of the VPL era South? Yes there's a long to go on that front, but think of it this way: throughout all the tumultuous years during his South stint (2012-2015) he's the only one left. From derided and unappreciated, he has worked his way through form issues, and even the challenge of Shaun Timmins being brought into the side mid last year to essentially replace him (when other players would have perhaps thrown a hissy fit, and is probably playing the best soccer of his South career. He also seems to enjoy being around South, and seems to have plenty of time for the supporters. I'm still trying to get my head around it.

Nick Epifano managed to get on the score sheet twice, once via a penalty (earned by Leigh Minopoulos) and once via a through ball delivered by Minopoulos, which had a very Phil Kessel to Clarke MacArthur kind of vibe to it, when they both still at the Maple Leafs. It's great to see Leigh not just playing, but also contributing. I like to think that I can get some of the credit for his turnaround in fortune:
Defensively the two goals we conceded, apart from coming from limited opportunities, were also irritating for the manner we conceded them. The first was almost a carbon copy of the goal we should have conceded against Oakleigh the week before, while the second saw Nikola Roganovic parry the ball straight back into play two times, and by the third time Port got sick of that particular game and decided they may as well score

Anyway this week Chris Taylor did make some substitutions, but he still found some way to fuck with people's heads. In fact, in an atypical occurrence of paranoia, I wondered if he was directly trying to get into my head, when with the game more or less sewn up with 15 minutes to go, by making subs in the 88th and 89th minutes.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the game was the way we handled the wet conditions. The second best part of the evening was Bentleigh drawing 1-1 at home to Avondale Heights, meaning that we've drawn to within three points of the Greens, while having played one fewer game - and then on Sunday Heidelberg drew 3-3 with North Geelong, giving us the edge in the run home for what used to be called the minor premiership.

Next game + the run home
We have Avondale Heights away on Saturday, our last away trip for the home and away season. It won't be an easy game, not just because of the doggedness of the opponent, but also because the ground is small and not usually in the best of conditions, which will mean we'll likely have a result to grind out here rather than something pretty.

Bentleigh, whose poor run of form recently has seen them drop several games and look much more vulnerable, have two games left, against Northcote and Oakleigh. It's hard to know how well either of those two sides will go or how much motivation they'll have considering neither can make the finals.

Should Bentleigh win both of those games, we'll need to win all three of our remaining games. We play Avondale away, Hume City midweek and Northcote in the final round. Not an easy sequence of games, but two non-finals sides and an erratic Hume City are better than many of the alternatives.

Heidelberg also has three games to play, but dropping points today to North Geelong has set them back a fair bit. They've got Hume, who still need a point or two to make absolutely sure of a finals spot, Green Gully midweek who are still trying to make the dash for an unlikely sixth placed finish, and Dandenong Thunder who will be looking to do anything possible to get themselves into 12th spot and thus into a playoff for relegation rather than automatically go down. The Bergers will need to win all three games and hope results seriously go their way.

While Melbourne Knights are equal on points with Heidelberg, they have only two games left to play and would need to do a Bradbury to finish on top.

Some thoughts on the people that were there, and those that weren't, and I promise not to talk about the social media numbers at all, OK?
If there were 1,200 people at the Dockerty Cup final last week (some say 2,000 but that's being generous) then a crowd of 370 for this fixture just a few days later is a touch disappointing, albeit par for the course for the 2015 season.

Of course one should take into account the fact that Port's home crowds are even worse, often struggling to reach 100, so the chances that they'd bring anything resembling numbers across the 4.5 kilometres from SS Anderson Reserve to Lakeside were slim, especially considering that they hadn't brought numbers to the City of Port Philip 'derby' in any of our previous meetings at Lakeside.

But back to us and what is really troubling about such a low attendance. Now we may all recall that the club performed a survey asking the supporters what day and time they preferred for their home kickoffs to be, with an apparent majority stating a preference for Sundays at 3PM, or 5PM. The board looked at the survey, scratched its collective head, and decided to go with Friday night fixtures because they thought that:
  • The coaching staff and players would benefit.
  • We would attract better corporate support
  • It would allow the juniors to come to games after Friday training sessions
I'm not going to say that the decision had already been made, but it's hard not to be cynical about these things. Here were some of my thoughts at the time the survey was announced, all the way back at the 2014 AGM (so really, January 2015).
To that end, the club also stated the decision to play most of our home games on Fridays - though some of our games will be moved to Sundays - was in part motivated by the coaching staff's desire to optimise the recovery and training schedules of the players. This is despite 60% (a sketchily provided number) of our supporters responding in an online survey that their preference was for Sunday games. The hope that we would better attract corporate sponsors to attend on Friday nights was also expressed. Overall there was a lot of doubt in the room about the decision, but we'll see how it goes. In this writer's opinion, without the social club Friday nights just won't be a success, but they may as well try something different. Hopefully the games don't clash with Melbourne based Friday night AFL matches.
As you can see, I had my doubts about the success of the Friday night venture from an attendance perspective (especially without a social club), but I was willing to give it a go and see how it would all play out. The move does not seem to have worked, at least not from the perspective of attendances. Not being the type to go around counting the number of children at games, I can't say whether we have attracted more of our juniors to attend, but one of our informants reckons that the corporate attendance was poor.

There should also be concerns for the following reason. Last Sunday for the Dockerty Cup final, more people turned up than did on Friday night when they had to pay entry at the gate as opposed to using their membership cards. The team, despite some traditional slowdown in the middle portion of the season, is also doing well. It won a championship last season lest we forget, has just come off a Dockerty Cup win, and is still well in the running for the NPL national playoffs and seemingly starting to find form at the right part of the year heading into the finals.

There was also no footy on in Melbourne on Friday night, so where was everyone? Or maybe that was everyone, at least from the point of view of the people who will turn up every week no matter what. If that's the case, then why not cater to those fans and play our home games on Sundays? Either that or just say 'look, we think that playing on Fridays gives us that much more of an edge of winning a championship, so with all due respect, since most of you are going to turn up no matter when we play, we've decided to play Friday night games'.

One and one makes two; two and one makes three; it was destiny
I am hearing things from all sorts of crazy different sources and I am starting to put two and two together. There has been some angst about the name 'South Melbourne United' being re-booted, in case it got used as a means to get a South Melbourne affiliate of sorts (so not really South Melbourne) into the A-League playing with a red vee jersey. But then there is also talk that there have been negotiations with the South Melbourne Women - and if you thought like I did that, 'wait, I thought we had established that were in a de facto relationship' - then that certainly might come as a surprise.

But what if instead of registering South Melbourne United as an A-League front, it was designed to go the other way? Several NPL clubs have set up 'community clubs' in order to maintain a broader junior base that's more participatory in outlook. Now one of the concerns for South Melbourne Women, should they apply for the Women's NPL which is due to start next year, is that like a men's NPL side they would lose many of their juniors. While women's soccer in Victoria has a track record of often being more about 'teams' as opposed to 'clubs', as an outsider, South Melbourne Women seem to be more at the 'club' end of the spectrum, and thus would lose something culturally important in the transition. Does a scenario where South Melbourne FC becomes the dual licence holder for NPL men's and women's football, while establishing South Melbourne United as a community club outpost overcome those problems to the satisfaction of all the parties involved (mainly the women not getting treated like garbage)? Are there enough facilities to cater for everyone adequately whether they play for a mens' or boys', womens' or girls', NPL or community club? What kind of impact will this have on other clubs in our local area?

The other danger of this of course is if the 'community club' decides at some point to go its own way, as appears to be the case with at least one version (I think the Sunshine George Cross affiliated community club). How our South Melbourne would manage to keep a relatively short leash on such an organisation remains to be seen. All of that of course supposes that my rank speculation has even the faintest whiff of truth to it. I may be just pissing into the wind.

Of course, all this speculation flies in the face of this comment (seriously, read it, it's interesting), which puts forward a fairly detailed idea of how South Melbourne United will be the front for getting back into the A-League.

Attention Lakeside Stadium maintenance people
The public address system is struggling during bits where music is being played, with the music fading in and out. It's been happening for a few weeks, and it's really starting to get annoying. Bad enough having crap music being played, worse when the speakers are playing up as well.

Things could be worse! - new segment
This segment in a nod towards the desire among some people for more positivity. Each week I'll be trying to find a way in which things 'could be worse!', to make us appreciate what we have. Suggestions are welcome, come see me at a game and let me know what you're thankful for as a South fan.
Final thought
Great, that overseas football nonsense has started again. There goes my Twitter feed and my Facebook news feed.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Greek studs and disco kings artefact Wednesday - Heartbreak Kid mementos

In the old Lakeside social club, there were many memorable framed jerseys, as well as many of less worthwhile calibre. And yet the two frames included in this week's artefact segment were found not on a wall in the social club, but hidden away in a drawer. The two frames are signed mementos from the Australian film The Heartbreak Kid, which starred Alex Dimitriades and Claudia Karvan. The film is fondly remembered by sections of the Greek-Australian community, if for no other reason that it included Dimitriades in the role of a young Greek Australian stud (as opposed to Dimitriades' turn as the hedonist bisexual Ari in Head On, sometimes derisively called 'that poofter film') as well as for its soccer scenes based out of South Melbourne Hellas, which was one of the film's key sub plots.
'Thanks for the use of your soccer field. Claudia Karvan'
'To everyone at Hellas, thanks! Alex. D.'
The Heartbreak Kid was of course not the first bit of Australian film or television to feature South Melbourne Hellas. The still popular sitcom Acropolis Now would occasionally feature references to South Melbourne Hellas and soccer, including a whole episode centred on a Hellas player played by Russell Crowe. West Adelaide Hellas and Adelaide City Juventus also featured briefly in the now long forgotten Garry McDonald film Struck by Lightning.

For those who recall The Heartbreak Kid (and to a much lesser extent its soapy spinoff Heartbreak High) many would be surprised to learn that the film was originally a play set in a Sydney high school, covering much the same territory, albeit in a far more chaste manner. In the play there's desire, but no sex; there are class issues, but they play second fiddle to the puppy love of a student for his teacher. The movie in that sense has a harder edge. Without wanting to wax philosophical (because the film deserves its own thorough analysis) the migrant issues are portrayed in a much more brutal manner, along with the working class aspect as one of the results of moving the film's setting from Sydney (where the main Greek characters were Sydney Olympic fans) to working class Brunswick and Coburg, where Dimitriades' character is a talented player whose ambition is to play for South Melbourne Hellas, as well as (notably) Australia.

The film had several soccer scenes, including extensive filming of Middle Park. Sydneysider Dimitrides is a fine actor, but he ain't no soccer player, and thus for those scenes where his character is required to perform some soccer sequences - especially one memorable late night scene after breaking into Middle Park - Con Boutsianis was hired to be the stunt double, which explains the framed photo below.

'To all the players and members of 'Hellas', thanks for all the help and support!
Special thanks to Barry and of course, the Disco King himself, Con Boutsianis!
Thanks once again, and good luck this season. From a friend. Alex D.'
Ben Hudson has noted on Facebook that "the producers wanted to hire Francis Awaritefe as a soccer consultant, but when they saw how poor Alex was as a player they decided the consultant also needed to be a body double - at which point they switched to Con Boutsianis because Francis couldn't manage it for some reason..."

All of which is, as usual, a very long winded way of saying when we do get the social club up and running, these would be a couple of very nice items to put on display.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Redemption, of a sort - South Melbourne 3 Oakleigh Cannons 0

South coach Chris Taylor and captain Michael Eagar lift the Dockerty Cup
trophy, as the rain pours down. Photo credit: South Melbourne FC/unknown.
There was an obvious fear that no matter how well we played yesterday, that we'd nevertheless fall short. This fear wasn't just based on the 120 minutes we'd played on Wednesday, but also on the mentality of the players and whether they'd be able to get up for the game following the FFA Cup disappointment. Instead the team put in a solid 90 minute performance and took home a third trophy in 12 months, and our first Dockerty Cup in 20 years. The win, in front of about 1200 people braving wind, rain and cold, also showed that the club needs to be and can be about more than the odd spell in the mainstream limelight.

I'm struggling to recall a South game with a more even performance from every player that took the field. While we weren't faultless, I'd argue that every South player contributed to the win yesterday, and that they were superior to everyone in their opposite position. Even with Oakleigh's relative abortion of a 2015 season, they'd still managed to get this far and were still a side comprised of several quality players - yet they struggled to penetrate the 18 yard box, and were left scrambling to defend our attacks on multiple occasions.

Even with the aid of a strong wind in the first half, Oakleigh weren't able to conjure up much to trouble Nikola Roganovic in the South goal. One long clearance from defence (actually a clever chip from midfield) saw Oakleigh beat the high offside trap, but Roganovic was quickly off his line and dealt with the oncoming attacker brilliantly (Lambros Honos hit it straight at him). For the rest of the game, the back four of Tim Mala, Brad Norton, Luke Adams and Michael Eagar were superb. Eagar in particular had an outstanding game,

The midfield, which this time included Matthew Theodore (replacing Jake Barker-Daish) and a start for Leigh Minopoulos (replacing David Stirton out wide on the right) never stopped running. Rather than the one dimensional, predominantly left wing attacking side we'd been for several weeks, we were a team that looked dangerous from whichever direction we attacked from. While we had the better of a relatively even first half, the main concern from an attacking sense was how isolated Milos Lujic was once again. All this was rectified in the second half, as the early goal was symptomatic of the way we'd run the game out, with numbers running into the box to support our star striker. Scoring goals from a corner also helps, but to be honest we could have won this game by a lot more. Some of our finishing once the game was settled could have been better, but at least we were well in front as opposed to having to play catch up as we'd had to do in some of the cup games leading up to the final.

In the room after the game, Roganovic still felt the need to apologise to supporters. What I would say to him is that his service in his brief time at the club has been exemplary as both a player and someone who feels part of the club, and that there are many, many former players and people involved with the club over the years who'd need to apologise before he does. And while it clearly sucks not having a social club, I'd like to say a big thank you to the players for allowing the supporters to share the win in the locker room after the game.

Speaking on behalf of myself, on a personal level...
I was pleased that we'd won the Dockerty Cup rather than some no name trophy or that light bulb trophy. Having been one of the people that fought for the return of the Dockerty Cup name and trophy - albeit this season in its stupidly truncated semi-final onwards only format - it was great to be able to lift the trophy in the change rooms as a supporter rather than as a historian during my sojourns to FFV HQ as part of the Historical Committee. It was even better to be able to share that experience not just with the players, but with other long serving supporters of the club. A pity that South's habit of breaking trophies was once again on display; having broken last year's NPL trophy, and the 1998 NSL trophy, yesterday this happened:
Time to break out the Tarzan Super Grip I think.

The questions that keep you up at night, and then follow you into the next day
After the consistent appeal for an answer to Chris Taylor's questionable substitution decisions on Wednesday night, did Taylor make no subs in yesterday's game out of spite? Was there a great overarching plan somewhere in there that we just can not perceive, nor be trusted to comprehend?

Five years!
If the rumours are to be believed, when our board had claimed that we'd signed Chris Taylor for a 'long time', they weren't kidding. Five years?! That's almost as long as we've been waiting for a social club! Of course this could turn out to be either a masterstroke or disaster. Not wishing to judge (five years, what the hell?), I reckon we should all agree to meet at this spot in about five years time and see how it all worked out.

Next game
Back to league action, with a game against Port Melbourne at home on Friday night - please note that kickoff has been pushed back to 8:30.

Nick Epifano, born charmer
Nick Epifano was interviewed last week on the Sydney based Soccer Stoppage Time show, in what turned out to be a brief interview. The main presenter of the show appears to be a huge fan of Epifano, and is flabbergasted by the fact that he's not in the A-League yet. When he asks Nick that question, Nick replies with I don't know, guess I have to work harder, etc. Nick goes on to say that he owes a lot to Chris Taylor; that the Dundee United experience, although truncated due to personal reasons, was an eye opener in terms of what kind of professionalism is required to play at that level; some guff about the club's FFA Cup preparations (this was recorded prior to our loss to Palm Beach); and there being interest from Adelaide United and Perth Glory. Epifano doesn't make a very good interview subject; his answers are short, nervous and provide little prospect for elaboration. After the interview ended, the main presenter once again praised Epifano's footballing ability, took aim at the struggling A-League franchises that hadn't done their homework, and while acknowledging that there were some concerns about behavioural issues, brushed them aside.

Film review - El Cinco
The Melbourne International Film Festival has made a habit of showing some really interesting soccer films. Two years ago it was the North Korean film 'Centre Forward', while last year it was Romanian experimental doco 'The Second Game' (which I really regret not reviewing for this blog). This year it's 'El Cinco', an Argentine film about a professional footballer who has made the decision to retire. It's a low key and poignant film, but which also has several hilarious moments.

This is a film about the end of what director Adrian Biniez portrays as the extended childhood of life as a professional footballer. Defensive midfielder Paton (Esteban Lamothe) - a sort of man child who spends his spare time on video games, booze, pot and annoying his wife -  is 35 years old when he receives an eight match ban following a red card; the ban rules him out of all but the final matches of the season. Locked away in the change rooms by himself and sitting out the rest of the game in what resembles a prison cell, Paton clearly feels the hand of football's Father Time resting on his shoulder. At home later on, he calmly announces to his partner Ale (Julieta Zylberberg) that this will be his last season - and the rest of the film follows what will be the final portion of his career, as Paton struggles to find what his purpose in life will be after his career is finished, including several schemes for his post-footballing life, as well as attempting to get his high school diploma.

The portrayal of Argentine professional soccer in this film is almost unrelenting in its working class aesthetics. Paton's side, Talleres, plays in a dilapidated stadium; but then again, so do most of their opponents. Money is short, and wages are often delayed. His team mates are mostly, if not all, working class boys like himself, who seem to have few other prospects apart from being professional footballers. Playing in a match is at best a reward for the repetitive exercises and training sessions that have to be undertaken; at worst, they are a frustrating and unfulfilling experience. Adulation is there for the players, but more often than not they are employed as a way for the club's supporters to be able to vent the frustrations of their own lives.

As Paton dithers about telling his family and his team mates the news, he learns about the fate of those from his junior soccer days who never quite made the grade, and tries to fight a battle against anxiety and boredom that threatens to derail his post-football life before it begins - because as much as playing football is the chief means of his employment, it also makes up almost his entire identity as a person. Football is not only a job for Paton, but also his vocation - he knows little else of the world. The pending loss of the companionship and camaraderie of the change rooms are heightened by Paton's impending retirement.

If that sounds like all too much po-faced seriousness, then it should be clear that there are a lot of funny moments in this film as well. While Paton is usually quick witted, he can be undone by his own determination to get even with those who have slighted him (at one point a radio talkback segment goes very, very wrong). The supporters and club directors are always there to make a nuisance of themselves. The most comedic (and tragic) lines in the film though go to the team's coach, a slob of a man with little obvious football nous, who sometimes sleeps in his car and is always at a loss as to how to inspire his troops in their quest to escape mid-table mediocrity.

And as much as this is a film about soccer and the life of a professional athlete, it is also a film about marriage. As another review of this film has noted, the marriage portrayed in El Cinco is not a typical film affair. We are shown a relationship that is in the middle, not at its beginning or end; we are not shown a relationship in strife, but one that has its protagonists constantly renegotiating the terms of its existence. Paton's partner Ale is neither harridan nor long suffering saint, and this portrayal is aided by the excellent acting chemistry between Lamothe and Zylberberg.

The only two gripes I had with the film? The on field soccer scenes are pretty lame, but then again they almost always are; and the subtitles are a little wonky at times, which only makes you appreciate the quality of subtitling we get on SBS. There will be those, too, who will feel that this film doesn't really go anywhere, and that would be a valid complaint, if only that was not the purpose of the film - to portray working class life in all its low key mundaneness.

It's showing again this Saturday, and it's definitely worth a look for fans of good football films, and of course Latin American cinema.

Sic semper tyrannis
If the moderation of smfcboard is going to be more active, in terms of banning people and deleting their posts, the least we could do is have some clear rules set out for what the mods consider acceptable posting. It was bad enough when posts were being deleted because someone from the board demanded it, but the moment it becomes about posts being deleted because of an arbitrary matter of taste, then we've crossed into really dangerous territory.

I have received my share of criticism for my own vague comments publishing policy on this blog, because I've more or less allowed just about every nutbag to have their say over the years. This is based on my belief that the vast majority of my readers are sensible enough to post thoughtful commentary, even stuff that I disagree with and even items where I myself am the target of the post. I also trust my readers to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff for themselves, and that stupid posts reflect badly not just on their own authors but also the cause they seek to promote.

There are few more powerful tools of rebuttal against a person's arguments than their own words and the passage of time. I hope the moderators keep this in mind before pulling the trigger in future.

Does Mornington count as being in Melbourne?
Remember this? Well, Mark Bosnich was in town on Saturday for Mornington's 50th anniversary, but I still had to pay for own crepes yesterday, and complain to people who've already heard all my complaints.

Around the grounds
Mummy, where does daddy go on Saturdays?
A trip to Bendigo was reluctantly knocked back; an opportunity to watch a tanking Collingwood was considered only briefly; so it was off to Paisley Park for the State League One North West Greek Derby between Altona East and Western Suburbs. And what a game it was! At least for the first 50 odd minutes anyway. East looked better than the ladder leaders, and took the lead when Gomer Pyle was given too much room to unleash a curling left foot shot from the edge of the box into the opposite corner. Then the little Japanese fellow blasted his shot miles wide on the goal line, and that's where things stopped going well for East. After a passage of play where East cleared desperately off the line, the keeper got up dazed and confused but continued. Suburbs equalised with a great free kick from out wide to go into the break level. The early parts of the second half saw East go down to ten men after a handball on the goal line. After the penalty was scored, East's keeper also got subbed off suffering from the concussion he got in the first half, and Suburbs made sure of it soon after with their third. Goals four and five were icing on the cake.

Final thought
I'm a worrier, it's true; but you'd worry, too, if you had people come up to you after reading last week's post after our FFA Cup loss and ask you to write something positive for once.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Agony, of a sort - Palm Beach Sharks 1 South Melbourne 1 (South lose on penalties)

Process (a prologue)
I like to talk about writing, and I especially like to talk about writing this blog. But often times I talk about this in historical terms, or emotional terms, or literary terms, and seldom about the process. Normally I would leave discussion about that process out of a post on a game, but in this case I think there's a reasonable excuse for it.

The structure of the blog has really settled down over the past couple of seasons. There are segments which now take the form of a template I work around. I think about the things that fall outside of a South match day, and put them in first. Usually I leave the relevant South game until last. Sometimes the narrative thread of a week is easy to recognise, and I can come up with something creative and witty. Sometimes that doesn't happen, and I resort to talking more about the game than I feel I probably should.

And sometimes a game just leaves you so drained, that sitting at a computer and trying to resolve it and fix it in print is impossible, Some people who write these kinds of fan blogs, after a loss like that, can find no rest until they pour out their thoughts even if it takes all night. That's not me; as a slow thinker, I need to incubate. And thus if a post sometimes doesn't appear on here as quickly as you'd expect, it might be because I'm busy, but just as likely is that I'm spending my time doing something else, like going back to the Limerick because in my distress at the loss I forgot that I'd taken my bag with me after heading to the pub straight after work. Public transport gives you a lot of time to think.

The long and the short of it
There are two games to discuss here, those being the long game and the short game.

The short game is what happened on the field. Of all the things just about any club does, more attention is focused on this part of a club's existence, and yet often with so little and fickle reward. Coaches and players are studied, negotiated with, hired, and then let loose for as long as results stack up the right way, while boards and committees, so used to being in charge, try to resist interfering, though some are clearly better at not interfering than others.

The short game is why the club exists, and is the most tangible, immediate form of a club's existence. Seeing our team on the field is the main reason we become involved as spectators, members, and then as club men or women. The friendships we collect, the history of the club, are all an extension of the 11 players representing us on the field.

And yet that is the part of the game that people have the least control of. A player might get 25 touches, 40 touches, 1 touch, but most of those will see contact of the ball with the boot only momentarily. The coach hopes he has put out the right team, with the right tactics and with the right frame of mind. The board hopes that the team does the bare minimum of what it's paid to do, with some clubs' bare minimums being more ambitious than others. The supporters meanwhile watch on, and either encourage, abuse or both in the vain hope that some of it has an impact on the result.

Last night, some say 400, others 500 (in reality about 70-100), South supporters and sympathisers were up at Robina Stadium to cheer on the team. In Melbourne, there were about 40 odd in the upstairs room of the Limerick Arms, wishing they could be on the Gold Coast, or at the very least in our own social club, but being glad to at least be in a nice room, with good food and decent service. Other South fans who read this would have watched the game at home, and would be hurt by the result as much as anyone.

For those at the pub, as the game wore on, the questions being asked were the same. Why did Nikola Roganovic just not pick up the ball that lead to the penalty? Why were the extra time substitutions brought on so late? Leigh Minopoulos came on with ten minutes to go and looked dangerous from the get go - but the problem, apart from a lack of time to do anything, is that he had no other fresh legs to work off - why Andy Bevin was not brought on immediately following Palm Beach's red card, let alone before that, one can only guess at. If Taylor had so little confidence in Bevin, why not use Chris Irwin, who while also struggling for form has had more game time and shown more than Bevin has?

Brad Norton was excellent, but for mine Iqi Jawadi was our main driver in midfield and our best until he was subbed out for who knows what reason. While not playing against an A-League opponent, his work rate and level headedness showed that he is likely not long for our level. Nick Epifano drifted in and out of the game, as he tends to do. Milos Lujic was not as clinical as he can be. David Stirton, playing wide and away from Lujic, was not as effective as I think he would have been had he been played closer to his striking partner The defence by and large acquitted themselves well, apart from the first ten minutes or so.

If I had to pick out one player who caught the ire of myself and other supporters, it was Jake Barker-Daish, who has struggled to make his mark on the season in almost every game he has played. That's not to say he has been poor, but has he changed the course of many games this season for the better? His selection and retention throughout the entirety of this match said to me that Taylor had put out a side that was more intent on not losing this match rather than going out and winning it. Being the superior team on the park surely meant trying to avoid the scenario that the inferior wanted most - the lottery of the penalty shoot out.

The atmosphere at the Limerick, while very good and upbeat for the most part, slowly turned to frustration at the slowness of our ball movement and our inability to breakdown our opponent. Taylor's lack of subs just made things worse. When Eagar's penalty was saved to end the contest, there was if not silence - the trivia night downstairs made more than enough noise to fill the void - than a gnarling internal agony that could not speak. Everyone knew we had blown another chance on field to get the club some attention and build momentum for that intangible something.

That's how the short game leads into the long one. The long game is about resurrecting the club as a meaningful powerful entity in its own right once more; not an afterthought, not a historical footnote, but something that will shape the future of the game in this country; and to do this not by merely replicating what came before, but taking the best bits of that history and combining with the hard lessons of exile.

So while there was genuine hurt at the result of the game on its own merits, there was also hurt for the progress lost on the long term plans for the club. Whether they are fanciful dreams or not, and that I still think that they are is beside the point, the sense of the lost opportunity is real. Much of the focus has been on this article. On the surface it's another in the long line of pieces which talk us up, sees us talk ourselves up, and then makes for much mirth among opposition supporters which only gets extended when we screw up.

I, too, have many grievances with these articles. As a materialist, I'm not one for dreams and lack of detail. Show me, show the members, the evidence of your success as a board, otherwise it's just idle talk. If we can't progress past the levels we say should progress past, is it not better to hold your tongue? A successful FFA Cup run should not be the measure of whether a team - any team - from outside the topflight gets into the A-League. While I understand that an FFA Cup match at home against A-League opposition, especially Melbourne based A-League opposition, would show some potential for crowds and match day experience and management, it will fall well short of all the other things that a club needs to qualify for an A-League licence.

Our continued obsession with pointing out our social media numbers has reached so much beyond parody that we're even being mocked by people that aren't Croatians with chips on their shoulder. I have nothing against ambition (OK, that's often a lie, but let's play along for a moment and assume the original statement is true), but doesn't this newly re-found reach for the stars mentality fly in the face of the (measured) hissy fit the club threw earlier this year when David Gallop said that we wouldn't be seeing promotion and relegation for 20 years?

While the board may be proud "the club turns over more than $1m annually and expects to double that when its social club and futsal centre is completed in the next year or so", for many of our fans it's merely an arbitrary number. Meanwhile they're probably thinking, 'good grief, more waiting for an interminably vague date' regarding the social club. They may also get squeamish when they hear the board seemingly push aside our history - after all, most of our history was pretty damn good. The short game? Our history is thousands of those moments, so why cast them aside?

But at least at this stage, that kind of rhetoric is still well short of some of the speculation about giving up our history for an A-League bid which may not even exist. History is a powerful guide, but the future is open ended. You don't need to sell out the past in order to make progress. In that respect, I endorse our president's statement about earning our place rather than it being given to us because of 'don't you know who I am?' style antics. And as hard as it is to hear that the exile from the big show has been beneficial to the club, in many ways Leo Athanasakis is only saying what I've said on this matter for years. That doesn't mean we've got everything right, but based on the way the club was run during the NSL years, would we have survived even a couple of seasons in the reformed topflight?

And while I think there could be better ways of demonstrating our ambition without coming across as overly desperate, the tendency towards ambition for the club is not something to be scoffed at. No matter how we go about our business, especially when it comes to somehow thinking we can get out of this competition, there will always be those outside the club that will doubt and mock us, As much prestige as we've lost in our decade away from the topflight, we still have enough presence for outside people to bother caring about our failures. Perhaps more importantly, there are people who would have once dismissed even the suggestion that we should be given another chance at a higher level, who have changed their mind on the matter.

Now of course the court of public opinion counts for nought, but that could equally be applied to those outside our club who seek to burst our bubble. When it comes to somehow getting out of this situation, it's only in the corridors of power that opinions matter. The key thing to remember about public opinion though, is not to become slavish to it, nor to dismiss it outright, but to figure out who's worth listening to and when. Sometimes (often) our self-delusions need deflating, even if the motives of those performing that deflation aren't not always pure. Sometimes it's also worth getting outside our misery caves and taking some pride in how far the club has come and that people outside ourselves recognise this, while still acknowledging that there are still many things that need to get done, and processes that need to be improved, not least of which is communication with the membership about important issues.

There were even people complaining about putting pressure on the players to perform in this game. Really? I thought this was South Melbourne. The fact that each loss still burns, and each success feels significant means something. It means that we're still a going concern that's worth fighting for. As easy as it is to dismiss those who've left us behind, for some it just be may be the fact that they feel our plight too deeply. What I would say to those people is come back to the club that you clearly care for, and share that experience with your fellow Hellas fans. Supporting South is not something which should be experienced in isolation. This is something understood by both those of us on the Gold Coast, and those at the Limerick.

Next game
The final of the Dockerty Cup, against Oakleigh Cannons. While the game is at Lakeside, the match day is controlled by FFV, and thus your South Melbourne membership will not get you entry into this match. I do not know if an FFV season pass will get you entry.

In good news however, tickets are available online via Ticketmaster, which will hopefully lessen hassles at the gate, though as pointed out by Mr Belias, the $4.20 booking fee will probably put a lot of people off. I suppose it's less of an issue if you use the internet option to buy several tickets, thereby minimising what Ticketmaster gets.

Or you could rock up to the ground early, watch the women's cup final, and avoid the fees and the lines altogether.

Modern heritage
While I would have preferred a solid red vee for the heritage strip - maybe next year - I did enjoy the return of the heritage jersey, as well as the respectful modern take on the design. Shame about the lack of hooped socks, but I get the reason for the omission (as long as it was concerns about a clash).

Another missed opportunity
I apparently made a great quip yesterday, and now I can't remember what it was.

Out of body experience
Watching South live on television was a bizarre experience.

In which I momentarily forget and ignore the fact that there are real people, with real emotions, who are just doing their jobs and what they think is right on behalf of an organisation I don't like. But, and here's the thing, they too made their choice when they hit 'tweet', and thus in retrospective retrospect, I stand by my comment.
Final thought

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Windy - Pascoe Vale 0 South Melbourne 0

This game's only highlight as a South fan was watching the ordeal of some of the Pascoe Vale volunteers looking for a stray ball that had landed in the front yard of one of the houses behind the southern end of the ground. Being in the running for three competitions is great, but it puts a strain on your resources, and your priorities also go on walkabout somehwat. So whi;e Bentleigh scraped a draw against Port, meaning we had a great chance to make up some of the difference, instead of taking advantage of that opportunity we played lacklustre football inappropriate for the windy conditions, probably with more than one eye on not exhausting ourselves for the FFA Cup match on Wednesday.

We played conservatively in the first half, which I suppose is understandable considering the fact that we played against a very strong wind; but our second half performance was no better. David Stirton had the best chance for us in the game in the first half, when instead of heading home a cross he tried to nurse home a volley and missed it completely. Apart from collecting an over hit cross, the Pascoe Vale goalkeeper's only exertion was to make a witty and self-deprecating riposte to some banter he received from the South fans behind the goal. At the other end of the ground, Pascoe Vale had two or three shots cleared off the line, and a number of botched attempts which should have resulted in goals.

And really, apart from the pizza man no longer being at the ground, apparently due to ill health, there's not much else to report from this game.

Next game - FFA Cup, preparations, where to meet, etcetera
Our next match is in the FFA Cup against Palm Beach Sharks on the Gold Coast, at Robina Stadium on Wednesday night. The following is some general info for those who are going up and what's going on, as well as for those in Melbourne who may want to watch the game with other South fans.

For those heading up to the Gold Coast:
The local Greek-Australian soccer club Surfers Paradise Apollo has posted the following relatively vague details on their Facebook page about South holding a training session at their ground, along with lunch.

The training session will be held at 9:30AM. Apollo's ground is about ten kilometres from Robina Stadium. Public transport is a less than convenient option in this case, so carpooling with hire cars or organising a taxi will be better options should you choose to go to Apollo's clubrooms first. Some other South fans will be drinking at the Dog and Parrot in Robina from 4:30 onwards. It's about three kilometres from the ground, or about a half an hour's walk.

As for the game itself, it appears that under the circumstances a reasonably healthy contingent of South fans is heading up, The numbers will hopefully be bolstered by members of Surfers Paradise Apollo and Brisbane Olympic. While not a decree by any means, it has been suggested that South fans should congregate together rather then spreading themselves throughout the stadium.

For the record, this writer will not be making the trip up for this game, due to work commitments.

For those watching the game in Melbourne:
While many of you will no doubt prefer to watch this in the comfort of your lounge room in suburbia, a group of the usual pre-match pub crew will be congregating at the Limerick Arms Hotel in South Melbourne, which is located on the south west corner of the Clarendon Street and Park Street intersection. Don't ask me about parking, but both the no. 12 and no. 1 trams stop at that intersection, making it a pretty convenient location on that front.

The Limerick also seems to be offering a free drink if you follow the instructions below.

Hope to see as many of those South fans not going up to Queensland, at the Limerick instead.

Around the grounds
I took up an offer to watch Brunswick under 16s play Ballarat Red Devils up in Ballarat. That's what happens when your team's game gets postponed and you have nothing else to do. After my previous visit to watch this Brunswick team, I wasn't expecting much, but this time around the game resembled a soccer match. Neither side was particularly good, there were elementary errors aplenty, but at least it wasn't scrimmage ball. At the conclusion of the game, which I think Ballarat won 3-1 (but which is not important, because it's about development, not winning), I made note of the following things which troubled me and/or which I would like to see rectified.
  • If Altona East's reserves know how to use their fullbacks for overlapping play, why was there not one overlapping play in this game? 
  • Isn't part of the point of the 433 formation being made mandatory the fact that it's supposed to be the most flexible formation? Why then do so many NPL junior teams seem to use it so rigidly?
  • Unless they're offering encouragement, I'd rather not hear what parents have to say during a game. I want to hear what the coach and players are saying to each other.
  • Just because you're a bilingual parent, using Greek to express your bitchiness towards other players that aren't your son because you think that only you and the coach will understand, is not acceptable. It's actually deplorable.
  • If you're the coach and you think you can gain an edge by giving an impromptu instruction to a player in a different language, by all means go for it. But don't single that player out for abuse in that language, especially in a way that you would dare not do in English to all the other players. You want to blow off some Greek cultural steam at the soccer? There's 30-40 Greek-Australian soccer clubs in Melbourne with senior men's teams that expect and can handle that kind of banter (just not South Melbourne, obviously).
  • Skill level is one aspect of the curriculum that the NPL and its affiliated reforms will be judged on in the future, but right here, right now, surely we can teach defenders about the offside rule and how they can use it to their advantage. Soccer is not Australian rules football. You don't need to chase your direct opponent everywhere. If they want to be offside, let them.
  • That when Margaret Thatcher said that 'there is no such thing as society', she could have well been talking about the NPL.
The cake I had was OK. Always finish on a positive. that's my motto.

I scowl, therefore I am
Why did I go to the Roma vs Manchester City game? The availability of free tickets alone couldn't have been the answer, though heading to Leo Athanasakis' Brunswick office provided an excuse to also go across to Brunswick Savers (I bought a coat). Was it just to go there and wear a trademark sneer or scowl? Perhaps, but I'd like to think that's not all I do. Nevertheless, I did pick up two tickets for this game, expecting little and getting about as much in return; though I did get to share the experience and have a good chat with Shoot Farken's Athas Zafiris, who was third in line for consideration for my spare ticket. The game either lived up or down to everyone's expectations. It was played at something between half and three quarter pace, there was too much space, and nothing at stake. At least there were goals, and a couple of them rather good ones. The penalty shoot out was completely unnecessary; but then again so was the countdown timer at the end of each half which was counted down with gusto by many in the crowd.

The crowd was reported as being about 41,000, which seemed about right, though it was also hard to tell because as a Collingwood supporter, for that number I'm used to seeing a usually a two thirds full Ponsford Stand, which was mostly empty along with the neighbouring MCC Members' Stand (apparently the MCC members had to pay to attend). While I'm not sure why I expected every South person who accepted a free ticket to be located in the same part of the stadium, the cynical part of me wondered how some people ended up on Level 2, some on Level 1, and some on Level 4. Not that it's such a big deal - it's hard even for me to complain about free tickets to a game that I otherwise wouldn't have gone to and besides, I've willingly sat in similar positions at the MCG for soccer and footy matches - but you just wonder sometimes.

It could have been worse: the view from level 4 of the Great Southern Stand prior to kick off. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.

Maybe I watch too much local soccer and conversely not enough overseas stuff on the television, but my reading of the action seemed to be out of synch with much of the crowd. While most of the game saw a very muted reaction from the crowd - aside from the goals and some bizarre early hatred for Raheem Sterling - there were some passages of play which to me clearly seemed like they weren't anything special or that they would lead to a goal, which were anticipated with heartfelt oohs and aahs. For the most part though the crowd came across as politely bored, with the muted paper plane invasion coming only during the last ten minutes or so. There was also no Mexican wave of which to speak.

It was hard to tell who outnumbered who in terms of actual supporters of the two sides. The organised 'active' Roma fans seemed to outnumber their Manchester City equivalent, but neither group made much of an impact on the atmosphere of the game. The cheers for the goals seemed to be even handed, probably because most of the crowd were neutrals who just wanted to be entertained, and at about $70 a ticket for the cheap seats that's the least they were entitled to I suppose. On the matter of ticket prices, I myself couldn't see the value at that price, and anecdotally at least it seems that there were a lot of free tickets that got thrown about for this match.

In terms of entertainment, I'm going to echo Athas' point made on the night that there should have been more show-boating. If the two sides weren't going to go in full bore (and as already stated, there was no reason to do so), they could have at least pulled out a few more daring dribbling maneuvers, or taken a few more shots on goal from range. Too often the game was a slopfest caused in part by well drilled players not knowing how to play in a game with no meaning and little intensity. Too many times it seemed as if players would rather take an extra touch, avoid a volleyed shot, make an extra pass or even prefer to get fouled rather than do something even remotely daring.

Meanness for the sake of meanness can be entertaining on occasion, especially when it cuts through far too much unnecessary treacle, but in the long run it gets boring. Going down to Level 1 to get a better look at the penalty shoot out, it became clear that those clearly most thrilled with the experience were the children. Not all the children, as it was a dull game despite the goals, and children do get bored easily; but there were kids thrilled with the simple fact of Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart not only taking a penalty, but successfully smashing it into the back of the net; the comically missed penalties provided a moment of clownish levity; and on the way back to Richmond station, and the train back home to Sunshine, the kids seemed happy with what they saw.

The problem, if you want to call it that, is that as much as we as soccer people would like to believe that these games by touring sides will usher in some sort of soccer golden age, by inspiring the children to play the game, next week there will be a different circus in town, and the week after that another one, and so on. I can see the point in Real Madrid touring, in terms of spreading their global brand; I can sort of see why Manchester City would tour, for similar reasons as Real Madrid, albeit with delusions of grandeur as to their own importance; but the point of Roma being here is less tangible, since their scope for marketing themselves is rather restricted by the reality of them not being an especially popular club outside of Italy.

These games have said a lot about Melbourne, and for the most part not very good things. The city has an image of itself as the 'sporting capital of the world', but what does that actually mean in reality? What does it say that we would rather pay for overpriced tickets to glorified practice matches, but ignore the local variants (and I include the A-League in this)? As Australian soccer fans, we tend to scoff at Asian fans - in Singapore, in Malaysia, in Indonesia - of these European behemoths who gather in their national stadiums to pay to watch the same glorified practice matches we are now falling over ourselves to watch (at least those games involving true giants such as Real Madrid and Liverpool).

And yet the fans of Malaysian football have recently turned against these tours, noting the negative impact it has on their local football. Meanwhile in Melbourne, our insecurity which is dressed up as self-regard has seen us fall head over heels in love with a traveling circus. And considered on that level, I start to think that maybe it's not about sport at all, but about proximity to celebrity and the ego of the city that are at the forefront of these events. The Herald Sun, who are as responsible as anyone for the inferiority complex this city has, found itself torn in two this past week. On the one hand there was its usual reactionary and rank 'Aussie Rules is better than sockah' rhetoric, and on the other hand there was its 'how great is Melbourne that it can attract such big events' rhetoric. It was the very definition of cognitive dissonance.

Bigger cities get bigger and better circuses, and this is why Melbourne gets Cristiano Ronaldo and Yarrawonga gets Brendan Fevola. But at the end of the day, a circus is still a circus. The FFA picks up a cheque no matter how many people turned up, and believers in trickle down economics that they are, they believe that these games will create converts to the local scene. I suppose if someone's willing to cough up the cash, it's a case for all concerned of 'why wouldn't you take it?', but I also wonder: does a big crowd and a good show means people won't take the local scene seriously? Does a big crowd and a poor show mean the game won't be taken seriously? Was this mediocre affair (the Roma-Man City game), which was effectively the matinée or tight-arse Tuesday performance, worthwhile in any way in the long term?

Pardon our French
Did you happen to watch the footage of the win against Heidelberg in the Doockerty Cup semi final? Quite a bit of audible swearing in there. Not that I'm offended, but it does make you think.

The Cros make an emotional breakthrough after being banned from smfcboard
Mumbles: I guess I've always used trolling smfcboard as a way of getting attention.
11.Boo: Yes! Yes! Me too!

Final thought
When exactly did the club learn that they were going to get free tickets for the Roma - Man City game? How far back did they know that we wouldn't have access to Lakeside last week? What happens if the ICC series comes back again next year? Was Steve from Broady the only person in Melbourne who actually bought a ticket to the game? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind...