Sunday, 22 May 2016

South win 2016 Apertura title - Green Gully 0 South Melbourne 1

After walking around the HV McKay Gardens during the morning and having Afghan food for lunch, it was time to drive Chris Egan and Gains up to Green Gully Reserve in order to return to the scene of the crime as it were. And yes, while one did consider turning around and heading to the MCG because Collingwood were up by seven goals against Geelong at quarter time, we did end up making the turn onto Green Gully Road and into Gully's Chinese finger trap car park.

A couple of changes as well. No Luke Adams because of international duty, so Matthew Foschini was at centre back alongside Michael Eagar. Marcus Schroen made way for Iqi Jawadi's first start in many weeks, and Steven Hatzikostas also got a start. Were we a bit mosquito fleet in midfield with Mathew Theodore playing the attacking midfield role he's best suited to? Sure, but it actually seemed to work.

The difference, if anything, is that we seemed to press up on Green Gully in a way that we have not been doing to our opponents for... well, I'll let you guys decide how long. Most NPL defenses, with the probable exception of Bentleigh, can't play their way out of the back without hoofing it out or up the field, but even by those standards Gully's defense yesterday was all over the shop. They panicked even in rudimentary defensive situations, gifting us corners, throw ins and possession in dangerous positions on a regular basis.

Yes there was a noticeable breeze heading towards the car park end goal to which we were heading in the first half, but that doesn't explain some of the poor decision making by Gully. One of these poor decisions eventually lead to our goal, with us being given a penalty after a rather clumsy attempt by a Gully defender to prevent Amadu Koroma from playing the ball in the 18 yard box. Despite having a penalty saved last week against Pascoe Vale, the People's Champ once again took responsibility for the spot kick duties, eventually scoring from a stutter-y if not quite stuttering approach, but that's just one of those things open to interpretation.
and in case you're wondering why the 'Folau' reference, no, old mate Israel hasn't decided to take up soccer - here's the correction from John Patitsas soon afterwards.
So was the People's Champ's penalty stride one continuous motion? Probably just, but you know what they say about being technically correct. What was quite daft was Green Gully keeper Dowisha running up to referee Shaun Evans to complain, as if Evans was going to change his mind because he asked him to. I admit there was a point there where after the penalty was converted and Dowisha and his teammates made their pleas for re-consideration, that time seemed to stand still, but the goal stood and Dowisha got a yellow card for his trouble.

The goal was no less than we deserved on the balance of play, and the greatest disappointment was that we couldn't add to that goal. Crosses kept missing, corners again were dire, and our free kicks lacked venom, albeit at least for once they tended to be on target. Oh, how good would it have been had Mathew Theodore's first half shot crashed in off the cross bar instead of out?

Defensively, bolstered by a hungry and tenacious midfield, we looked strong, albeit there were a couple of moments - as much due to the wicked spin of the match balls, which also caught out some Gully defenders at times - where we needed to rely on Nikola Roganovic's reflexes. Mostly that was at the end, thank goodness, where he did what he had to do.

After so many years of struggling to win at this ground, to make it four wins here in four years says a lot about how much we've improved as a team during that time, and how much perhaps Gully has if not stalled, than at least retreated from its one time ruthlessness of the Dobson years.

Instead of being butchered to death (apart from a couple of dubious late tackles) and struggling to play against the masters of grinding out a result, we had to withstand mostly silly and pointless fouling and at best only had to endure a late flurry of action which, while it could have resulted in an equaliser, did not. We were in control for eighty of the ninety minutes, and even that ten minute period at the end where Gully started throwing the kitchen sink at us doesn't diminish that fact.

That doesn't mean we played anywhere near to our potential, and we still look vulnerable from a number of ailments. First and foremost is our dependence on Milos Lujic as the lone man up front, which relies a lot on the wide players getting into the box to take some of the heat - and the markers - off Milos. At least yesterday Milos came up closer to the midfield to collect some balls, meaning that space was created behind him.

The second problem isn't far removed from the first one - what if Milos goes down with a long term injury? There is no other player in our squad with the same blend of physique and skill ready to slot into that role - it's arguable that apart from Leigh Minopoulos, a very different kind of forward, we don't even have any strikers full stop. The transfer window opens up soon, but should a striker even be signed by us, it would probably necessitate a change in the game plan, something which has not necessarily been at the top of our to do list these past few seasons.

We still have a problem with defending diagonal balls, which Gully only really seemed to take notice of late in the game, and which Koroma - who seemed to be the main defender being targeted - did well enough in defending most of the time. It was actually strange to see so little of the play on the concourse side of the ground in the second half, where there would have been more shelter to use against the wind.

Still, these are problems you'd admittedly rather have while being top of the table, and not in places other than that. Nevertheless there will come a point where people will see that period of struggle between the 2006 championship and the Chris Taylor helmed resurgence as irrelevant to what happens now. And that would be fair enough. Not that we have done poorly, but the measure of success which many fans will have used to score this side - which once would have been limited to 'oh my goodness, we no longer completely suck!' - will change.

Next game
Heidelberg away.

...and justice for all
Since Jason Newsted is still waiting for justice, than perhaps we can wait a little longer for the tribunal date for the Victory incident. But not too much longer surely.

Does anyone actually care? - social media edition
As a Twitter fiend - attempts to wean myself off the medium have been only moderately successful at best - I am interested in following the conversation that centres on the NPL Victoria on that platform. Now, being a not very popular league, there isn't much interest overall on Twitter. That's to be expected, and not something we should get alarmed at.

And despite Twitter's potential, the medium itself is retreating into re-tweets of news and information instead of original content (as is happening with other social media platforms, including Facebook). Aside from that problem, even when a popular event (such as an AFL match) starts trending, the kind of talk that takes place resembles something more akin to people yelling into the breeze than actually talking with one another.

If Twitter is to become just another shorthand news source, that's not so much of a problem (except for Twitter itself, perhaps), but the lack of engagement from ordinary NPL punters is interesting, especially when FFV has (quite rightly) put more emphasis on NPL Victoria clubs' use of social media. Now obviously quite a few won't have Twitter at all, but most people have Facebook accounts these days, yet for the most part the engagement levels seem about the same, taking into account a lot more people use Facebook than Twitter.

While Twitter is my main focus in this aimless thinking out loud piece, the lack of engagement on Facebook for many teams - where more of their support, both actual and latent, resides - is also worth noting. A few weeks ago, after we had defeated Bentleigh in that very exciting match, Bentleigh Greens had posted a video of an exasperated Johnny A blaming the length of the grass as part of the reason his team didn't win. Myself and a couple of other South fans decided to post on their Facebook page making note of last year's painted grass fiasco, comments which were deleted by the Bentleigh Facebook admin.

That we could just re-post the same critique on Twitter without them being able to do anything about it was not really the issue. More interesting was that on that and so many other Bentleigh posts, there were no comments. Yes, they're not the best supported club out there, but it's not so much different for South Melbourne Facebook posts, especially considering the vast amount of (real or bought or whatever) 'likes' we have compared to other teams.

People may read the social media updates, occasionally click on 'like', but beyond that there's not much engagement unless there's controversy. It's not much different for South games on Twitter. It's usually me, SMFCMike and... that's about it. And I've taken my foot off the Twitter pedal this year for South games this year so I can focus more attention on the game and the real world banter. But even in other games, there's quite a lack of Twitter discussion for most NPL Victoria games, with the exception of the news sources and the global gambling 'community'.

I suppose it's easier to become engaged on social media when you're a neutral, or if you're watching a game on television - and while you're seated, if you happen to be in a stadium. It's easier to also to feel the need to post something if you think someone else cares, and with a niche product like the NPL, that kind of motivation is often hard to find.

A fellow blogger newer to the blogging game asked me recently how many hits I was getting - a reasonable question. My response was about 400-600 hits for match reports, a lot less for artefact segments. If a game has had a measure of controversy, those posts tend to get a lot more traction. It's little surprise that the antics of the People's Champ at last year's game at Green Gully fits into the category of well visited match report posts.

Only three of my top ten posts hit-wise are from match reports, and that's fair enough - they're not my main forte skill-wise, and most South people still interested in South tend to be at the games most weeks. Editorial pieces or posts where I'm covering off-field sagas often get a lot more interest, because I'm one of the few covering them in a public forum, especially when it comes to issues directly affecting South.

But it's very difficult to gain traction - the narrow focus, the league we're in, all of these things makes getting and maintaining a large audience difficult. Not that I have an issue with that personally, but it's an example of how hard it is to get an audience for media based around a second tier competition in Australia. At least I write on a club with some supporters, and with a residual level of interest in Australian soccer circles. For lesser supported clubs with no great history or even tendency towards controversy, there's not much chance of developing an audience from such meager ingredients.

While I don't disagree that trying to use Twitter or Facebook is a good thing for clubs - few do it well enough, though they are getting better - I'm interested in knowing what the FFV hopes the clubs can achieve in the long run. An event such as South vs Knights (or similar) FFA Cup match will get some traction because of the fixture's 'event' status, but the same fixture as a league game will only get smidgen of the same attention.

For my part, even if my hit numbers stay small, the number of comments has increased a fair bit, and that indicates a steady level of engagement. Maybe there is sort of community built around this site (or even the now outdated idea of a 'forum') that needs to be looked at by FFV and various NPL clubs, and that merely spewing out a stream of news bites isn't enough to engage people, let alone keep them engaged.

Or maybe we should just be prepared to all ride the controversy relevance roller-coaster.

Around the grounds (NPL hurrah!)
I didn't manage to get to any other games this week.

Final thought
Who cares if this is recycled from last year's game?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Volunteer artefact Wednesday - SMSC Supporters group leaflet

A short and sharp piece for this segment this week.

Nestled in one of the South Melbourne match programmes I'd uploaded recently was this leaflet produced by the South Melbourne Supporters Group, calling for volunteers to help out with all the things that they were already doing for the club, as well as all the things they'd like to be able to do, if only they had more people...

As we've seen before, the South Melbourne Supporters Group and its members weren't afraid of printing materials which would run counter to the hegemonic narrative provided by the board, whether in the official club match day programmes they helped put together, its own one-off publication The Maverick - which we now have a full version of - as well as commentary in Studs Up

But as much as the group had political aims, and were contributors to the discourse on how the club should be run, this leaflet shows that they weren't limited to mere talk - they were also an important part of the running of the club, even if they weren't always shown the appreciation they were due. One hopes that our presently large legion of volunteers are treated better these days.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Frustration - South Melbourne 0 Pascoe Vale 1

Even if I had said that according to the laws of probabilities we were due for a loss, and it doesn't negate the fact that losing still sucks, no matter how mcuh you psychologically prepare for it. Losses being comparatively rare nowadays compared to some of our worst periods during the post-NSL era doesn't make things any easier; on the contrary, it stings even more.

Are there good times to lose? Probably not, but there are better times to lose than any others, and most would take a loss here if it meant that mistakes were learned from for the important games coming up. Are there good ways to lose? Again, probably not, but one would probably prefer a side to go down fighting, against adversity or through sheer bad luck than have to put up with such a mediocre attempt to achieve what was expected of you when the situation was so much in our favour.

We had it all laid out for us. The indirect free kick for a back pass (which I maintain was a good call though I'm willing to allow for a different interpretation); the red card, which saw Pascoe Vale play with ten men for 70 minutes; and the penalty which had we scored would have likely seen us take all the points.

Instead the People's Champ run of penalty scores came to an end, and we spent the game reminiscing about how great the Palm Beach game was, sending in poor cross after poor cross, wasting corner after corner, and refusing to adjust tactically - especially not seeking to support the tightly marked Milos Lujic.

Even after that, there was the Pascoe Vale keeper dropping even innocuous efforts on goal, and yet we were seldom there to make the most of those opportunities. Indeed the longer the game went on, the less likely we looked like scoring.

Credit to Pascoe Vale, who played for a win even with only ten men, who looked more dangerous than we did and not just because they were counter attacking, but because their shots had some sort of venom and purpose to them. They also managed the clock brilliantly, using up as much time as the referee would allow.

For South only Nikola Roganovic in goal could be said to have had a good game, even if he didn't probably know much about how he made some of those saves. Every other outfielder, even those who came off the bench, generally failed to make an impact on the game. Whether it was just one of those days or the sign of a deeper malaise we'll see in the next month or so.

Next week
Green Gully away on Saturday, to complete the first half of the home and away season.

Stretched at the back 
Defender Luke Adams has been called up into the New Zealand squad for the upcoming OFC Nations Cup, which spans from late May until mid-June. One assumes he will be present at a pre-tournament camp before that, which could see him miss as many as three or four weeks. With Kristian Konstantinidis suffering from some sort of injury, it will be interesting to see how the side gets re-shuffled - especially in that crowded part of the schedule where we have cup matches to play as well.

Nick Maikoussis farewelling the NPL, as South prepares to enter A-League
Willing and able (so long Stinktown!)
South Melbourne director Nick Maikoussis was a guest on the Mark van Aken hosted Daily Football podcast, making the case for South 's ambitions to the enter the A-League. Now before anybody gets upset (just wait a second, you'll get your chance), this was not as I understand it a South initiated burst of attention seeking, but rather part of a weekly series where this podcast looks at those who may be interested in putting their hand up for A-League licences should the opportunity to apply for them ever come up again.

For those who listened in (not me), the things that stood out from this discussion were the claim we would get an average crowd of 12,000(!), calling ourselves a franchise (which lead to the chant on Friday 'we're just another franchise'), and describing the NPL as a lifeless competition - which while certainly arguable, is interesting to hear from a director of the club who has to sell the league and our club's role in it to sponsors and such. Still, credit to Maikoussis for taking off some of the PR filters I suppose.

Anger is a gift (but keep the receipt just in case)
So the one-time capo of the one-time leading Melbourne Victory terrace group Blue and White Brigade - one Adam 'Tunna' Tennenini - earned the ire of South fans and assorted well-wishers (and he'll note that not all of them were Greek) on Friday by unleashing a pretty full on tirade on Facebook in response to the latest bout of discussion on South's A-League ambitions.

(And before we continue, I'd like to say that I understand where he's coming from even if I disagree with his reasoning, but he's really going about this the wrong way by giving into base emotion, instead of attempting to rise above it all)

The tirade - displayed here - was eventually deleted, but the internet being what it is, there was little chance that the screen-grab was going to disappear into the aether (update/correction - it has come to my attention that the post was made on Tennenini's 'private' Facebook, and that the post still exists there - nevertheless, the point that once something has been published on the net, it never really dies, still stands - something which we should all keep in mind. Tennenini has also claimed since that it was a private joke intended to wind up some of his Greek mates, a claim which had begun circulating several days ago, but one which people are rightly skeptical of, including myself.)

Now unlike some others who displayed genuine outrage, faux outrage, fauxrage and 'I can't believe it's not outrage!', I was neither surprised nor disappointed by Tennenini's comments, as they are in line with his beliefs on these matters stretching back a number of years - though I've always wondered if there's been some sort of personal slight he's suffered at the hands of South to come up with nonsense about us being an unrepentant mono-ethnic club hiding in plain sight, with only people like him being able to see the 'lizard people' interior beneath our human skin.

Because of that, I decided instead to provide a series of increasingly monotonous and unfunny tweets on the matter while killing time on the train on the way to a hipster burger joint on Clarendon Street.
Your correspondent did (eventually) manage to note the irony of Tennenini actually having participated in the self-evidently mono-ethnic Hellenic Cup for Essendon United back in 2010, including having played against that The Great Satan of Australian Soccer. Seems like his principles have their limits, or perhaps he reasoned that being a team-player was more important that night.

Still, in amid the mostly pointless mud-slinging of both sides, it was well spotted (by SMFCMike) that Tennenini is a currently serving referee, even having recently refereed NPL under 18s matches; meaning that Tennenini could be in contention to officiate games involving clubs that he believes, if we are to take the relevant post as reflecting his most honest opinion, shouldn't exist in Australian soccer.

While one would be very reticent to allege these views would ever find their way into being enacted into his refereeing duties - and having marshaled at matches Tennenini has played in at the Corporate Games several years ago, his teams were among the best behaved and organised - it's still an astounding thing to say for a referee, especially one with the profile he has gained over the past decade.

Many of the protestations fell into the usual tropes of bitter vs new dawn, although some were more sensible and flavoured with the personal touch of those involved with South who are not Greek, and at least got closer to the heart of the matter (even if indirectly); that just because some people have an idea that clubs like South still act like they're in 1959, the reality is far from that; and besides which, shouldn't clubs be allowed to change and evolved over time anyway? (and isn't that inevitable?)
Though Umberto Eco notes in his essay on 'inventing the enemy' that these ways of understanding are ‘the prerogative of poets, saints or traitors’.

To be honest, rather than the broad thrust of Tennenini's argument, I'm most interested in just one of his remarks - that on his being willing to abandon the A-League should 'Hellas or any mono-ethnic club' return to the A-League, with the further assertion that many others would also do the same.

This is an argument which I have not seen made, and certainly not so vociferously, for a long time - and even back then it was my perception that it was never that widespread even in its heyday of the earliest years of the A-League. What's strangest about making such a boast is that in all likelihood there will never be a time where we will be able test this theory out in a practical sense. (those of you who think South's entry to the A-League is as good as imminent or inevitable can just skip along a few paragraphs).

Through various practical machinations and ideological mutterings, it has been made fairly clear by FFA that South Melbourne is not destined to ever be an A-League team. Because of this near irrefutable fact - prove me wrong, uncaring universe - bleatings like Tennenini's promising to abandon the A-League and Australian soccer are at best postured idle threats, and at worst postured caricatures of forum discussions from 2005. One could of course be tempted to wade in and take down each argument one by one, but the arguments have so little relevance to the way most people go about following and talking about Australian soccer that they come across as quaint.

It does say something though for the insecurity which still persists among some followers of the A-League, that even eleven years down the track and with all that's passed, there are people who still think it's worthwhile to get angry at this stuff! Still, it would be interesting to find out how widespread this point of view is - and how willing those who hold this belief would be willing to act upon it. Indeed I noted, only half-joking that,
Though the internet's own 'jgrb' did make the salient point that,
Now the question then becomes how would one go about enacting this experiment? Suggestions are most welcome, as the best that I could come up with was an idea so ludicrous you'd need another set of A-League franchise owners as well as another Australian soccer TV deal to make it happen.

As to the consequences, well, one could only hypothesise as to how these things may turn out. My preference would be for someone much more more talented than me to write some speculative fiction on the matter; I'd do it, but I'd be too torn between writing something vaguely plausible, and something that would see Australian soccer suffer the same fate as the Montsou mine after Emile Zola's anarchist Souvarine blows it up because he thinks that only by starting from scratch (and by that I mean really starting from scratch, not the comparative half-asred A-League re-boot) can we have any chance of setting up a proper and just society.

Don't mind me, I've just been reading some work by that nihilist romantic Chuck Pahlaniuk.

The eternal battle for street cred (let's not end up back at Kappa snap pants)
Old chum Chris Egan wrote a piece on last week's ROY HAY'S ORIGINAL MELBOURNE DERBY, which sent the blood flowing to the groinal area of Knights fans and upset some South people. But what was the main point of discontent? Egan's description of South fans being middle class by virtue of being snappier dressers. Some people thought that broadly speaking we were just as scungy as Knights fans. Not that I want to start a bad fashion arms race or anything.

Attention Lou Z! (re: match programmes)
You sent me an email a couple of weeks back about lending me some match programmes for the purposes of scanning. Unfortunately, when I tried to reply, I got a 'postmaster fail' message. If you could either send me the same email from a different email address, or come see me at a game, I'm sure we could arrange something. Cheers.

Moreland vs Hakoah, Dockerty Cup, 1956 (a historical digression)
I went to ACMI on Wednesday to see a short archival film, called 'Australian Notebook No. 3'. The first part of this newsreel (which had no sound, even on the original film), contained a demonstration of fly fishing; the second part contained a segment on a pilot returning to Essendon Airport having flown non-stop from Fiji; and the third part contained footage of a soccer match.

The soccer match was between Moreland and Hakoah, playing in the semi-finals of the 1956 Dockerty Cup. The game finished 1-1, with Hakoah winning the replay. The footage of the soccer match, which went for about two minutes, showed the two teams entering the stadium, with action mostly from one end (mostly scrappy play and lofted balls) and some crowd shots. The footage was of surprisingly good quality - it had been digitised from degraded 16mm stock, but there are also other better copies from which one could get even better quality conversion.

Unfortunately getting the film out to the wider public, especially online, is very unlikely. While anyone can access the film at ACMI's Mediatheque facility, the copyright of the film is such that there's very little chance of it being put online on either ACMI's or the National Film and Sound Archive's online channels. In copyright terms, the film is classified as an 'orphan' - there are no details about how the film was sourced, let alone which company could possibly be classed as owning the rights to the film.

The best we could probably hope for is to get a limited licence on behalf of the FFV Historical Committee (of which I am a member), which would allow us to use the film for private use. Nevertheless it was a delight to see the film, especially because the game was played at the Showgrounds, and I can't imagine there'd be much footage from soccer matches played there; there is also the novelty of seeing Victorian soccer of that era on film in any capacity.

Final thought
I lost my USB key - here's hoping that someone has handed it in to my university's lost and found, because it has most of my work on it. :(

First update - I think I remember now where I saw it last.

Second update - found with the help of an Adelaide City supporting security guard.

Several people noted on Friday night that Kosta and Blue Thunder security were no longer in charge of security at Lakeside. While some folks noted that perhaps our poor performance was due to some sort of curse was placed on the club by Kosta, it's only on this Sunday morning that this writer remembers that Kosta was a former Pascoe Vale player...

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Another week, another win - Melbourne Knights 2 South Melbourne 5

When both common sense and statistics tell you that, because you've been playing mediocre football yet still harvesting points at an alarming rate, you're therefore due for a loss, copping a goal in the opening minutes of a match actually has a reassuring effect. You get yourself into the head space of 'here we go, this is the loss we had (or will have) to have', and we will all be the better for it - either because the team will make the necessary corrections to bounce back the following or flail into a downward spiral of genuine mediocrity, which at least erases hope and provides a safe and familiar feeling of turgid self-loathing.

Instead we managed to score two quick goals to take the lead, were reminded that the game was in the balance and - worst of all - that from this position we would expect to win. And so when Knights equalised, it threw all assumptions into the air, because here we had two wonky defenses and about 70 minutes or whatever it was to go in the match. Though one suspected that eventually the scoring would stop, one also felt that it wouldn't be down to any improvement in either side's defensive efforts, but rather profligate finishing from the forwards.

As it was, both sides frittered away opportunities, but we got on top as the first half wore on, and probably should have gone into half time further ahead than merely 3-2. The turning point of the match, such as one could be plucked out of such a messy affair, was Knights having a man sent off for a foul denying the People's Champ a clear goalscoring opportunity. The red card itself seems not to be in question, and having awarded the foul anyway the referee could do nothing other than send off the relevant Knights player.

The main point of contention then was whether the People's Champ was offside in the immediate moment before he received the pass which lead to the red card. Such concern is understandable because the amount of open space in front of him was huge, but the photographic evidence suggests that he'd done well to remain in his own half before Marcus Schroen passed the ball to him.

Marcus Schroen passes the ball to Nick Epifano, still in his own half and miles in the clear. Note also the 'Hate Hellas' banner located in front of MCF. Cute. Photo: SMFC TV screen shot that I got off smfcboard.

There was some mention of those sitting in the grandstand that one Knights fan in the vicinity was particularly irate with the decision, accusing MFootball (who were doing the internet radio broadcast) of being Greek radio, while the broadcast was infected by expletive laden rants from the crowd. Ah, the perils of sitting among the hoi polloi.

Still, while it was good to get the man advantage, I would have preferred the People's Champ to score the goal - in the end his poor touch after getting the ball tangled in his feet probably gave the Knights defender a sort of false hope that he could get to the ball, or at least put the People's Champ off his shot.

After that Knights of course tried their best to get back on level terms, and even had a goal ruled out for offside, a call which some Knights fans weren't particularly happy with, especially when paired up with the perceived Epifano offside in the lead up to the red card.
Cue relief from our end, but also the return of the weekly paranoia that we can't finish off teams, even (and perhaps especially) those who are down to ten men. But we managed to withstand the Knights' forays forward and EVEN MANAGED TO SCORE FROM A CORNER, eventually running over the top of a tiring Knights side as substitute Chris Irwin's pace was used to exploit the situation.

As the lead was extended to three goals, and the tension among the South fans on Quarry Hill lifted, one could laugh at the 'Ma-ke-do-ni-a' chant which came from the direction of MCF. It was that kind of night - too many goals if we're being honest with ourselves, but at least most of them were from us. That, and by the time this post got published, we were five points clear at the top of the table thanks to the Bergers managing to snare a late equaliser against Bentleigh.

There was no Kristian Konstantinidis, and yet also no Tim Mala to replace him at right back. The former's absence will be put down to injury no doubt, but the latter's? One suspects doubts over his form, or perhaps an attempt at horses for courses? Amadu Koroma played at right back, and to be blunt, was all at sea for much of the first half defensively. Having said that, Koroma did improve on that front as the game wore on, and also provided the kind of overlapping attacking option that Mala struggles to offer. With such a deep squad, and the transfer window opening up at the end of the month, some tough decisions are going to need to be made.

Next game
Back at home on Friday night, against the sputtering Pascoe Vale. I'll be relieved that I won't be at Somers Street for the fourth week in a row, even though I so wanted to see the co-tenant derby there.

FFA Cup news
We have been drawn away to North Geelong, with no date or venue finalised yet. Now, Elcho Park's lights are not up to scratch for night games of this calibre, though it seems like North Geelong will try their best to find a solution. We could end up at Somers Street, though Knights and St Albans likely to be hosting games there will make that difficult unless the fixtures are staggered. Longest shot is that somehow we end up hosting the game at Lakeside.

Lovely, just lovely
Partly because one wanted to wait for the car park to empty a bit first, one ended up in fine conversation after the game with several Knights fans, a Glory fan, and whatever other onlookers were in the vicinity at the time. It was very civilised and pleasant.

Magic's greatest secrets revealed
What one sees from the audience...
... isn't the same as what you see from behind the stage!
Frustrations of incrementalism
FFV has released a statement on the progress of the investigation into the incident at Lakeside during the South vs Victory Youth match.
FFV has received a number of enquiries from the football community regarding alleged incidents at the above fixture. 
FFV can confirm that it is investigating reports of misconduct at this fixture. Due to the nature and volume of material to review the investigation of this fixture is taking longer than usual.  
We appreciate and understand that the football community has considerable interest in this matter and is keen to see it resolved. However what is of primary importance is that all relevant information is investigated and assessed, and that the matter is dealt with in accordance with our documented GDT processes. 
FFV treats all allegations of misconduct of this nature seriously. However it is important that our investigation and GDT processes are not compromised in the interests of expediency.  FFV will not be making any further comment on this matter until it is resolved.
All reasonable, even if it's not quite what people want to hear. Measure twice, cut once and all that. Some people however did make note of the timing of the release of this memo, as it had a bit of a whiff of the old Friday dump about it.

Around the grounds
I decided (as a Collingwood supporter, foolishly, of course) to go to the footy yesterday instead of finding a soccer match to attend. Thankfully 'Agent 189' sent us this report from the Melbourne Victory Youth vs Melbourne Knights game from last week to fill up this segment. 

Police and security keep an eye on the Melbourne Victory supporters,
who were watching this game as a group from outside the
venue after some of their number were denied entry to Epping Stadium.
Unprecedented Security
An unprecedented level of security greeted football fans at Epping Stadium on the weekend for the round 10 NPL Victoria fixture between Melbourne Victory and the Melbourne Knights.

Similar to events a week prior at Lakeside Stadium, special security protocols were again put in place, which delivered the highest presence of security and police at any match in the history of the National Premier Leagues Victoria.

Separate entrances and the segregation of supporters were in place at Epping Stadium, with the Knights to occupy the western end of the venue, while Melbourne Victory supporters were to the east. The security presence was significant and noticeably more visible than previous Melbourne Victory home games at Epping Stadium. It comprised approximately 15 security guards and the same number of representatives from Victoria Police.

A Victoria Police 'brawler van' deployed at Epping Stadium.
The police contingent was supported by multiple vehicles, including the ‘brawler van’, which is deployed to major sporting events and is specifically designed to detain and transport up to 16 persons.

Prior to the match commencing, Melbourne Victory Supporter marshals denied entry to a number of Victory supporters. This led to all of their active supporters not entering the ground and positioning themselves on the southern side of the ground, remaining outside the venue in a public access area. A contingent of at least 10 security guards and Victoria Police were in close proximity to monitor things from inside and outside the perimeter fence.

Victoria Police also monitored the behaviour of the Melbourne Knights MCF active supporter group, however by the 20 minute mark of the match, they had been redeployed elsewhere around the stadium.

A Victory supporter makes the offensive 'three finger' gesture
from outside the fence at Epping Stadium
Both the Knights and Victory fans were in full voice supporting their teams on the pitch. It didn't take long however for the vocals to deteroiate with Victory fans commencing chants of an ethnic nature specifically targeting the Croatian heritage of the Melbourne Knights club. This was combined with multiple instances of Victory fans displaying the 'Serb Salute' or three-finger salute - a hand-gesture many Croatians find particularly offensive.

Melbourne Victory supporter giving the three-finger salute at the match against Melbourne Knights
The greatest roar from the MCF and the remainder of the crowd came in the final minute of regulation play when Knights striker Jason Hicks found space inside the six yard box to edge his shot past Victory keeper Lucas Spinella and into the net. The 1-2 win would lift the Knights to seventh on the ladder, whilst the Victory suffered their sixth straight loss leaving them in 12th.

After the match, events took an unsavoury turn as multiple reports indicate rocks and or other objects, including lit flares, were being thrown at Knights supporters in vehicles as they made their way from the car park and along Harvest Home Road.

Victoria Police have confirmed there was a conflict outside the venue after the match, though there have been no reports to police of individuals being assaulted. Whilst a number of individuals were spoken to, no arrests were made.

It’s been a tumultuous two weeks for Victorian football and Melbourne Victory FC. A pitch invasion at Lakeside Stadium last week prompted a significant security response for the Knights match at Epping which protected the integrity of the match inside the stadium and the safety of fans in attendance.

However the actions of a small group of supporters, particularly outside the venue after the match, has once again turned the spotlight back on the club. The events of this weekend certainly bring in to focus the extent to which Melbourne Victory and poses the challenge more broadly for all clubs around how they can control events that occur after the match and outside the venue. It’s an important consideration given the significant security and police presence and the clubs refusal to allow these supporters into the stadium.

While for the most part the incidents are kept to a minimum, as seen in the A-League Grand Final – where flares and destroyed seats were alleged to have been by “fringe supporters” and not a “co-ordinated” action that left the club at risk of a three-point deduction – the risk of a rogue element within the game exists at any level.

Final thought
I was going to focus on responding to a petty comment made by an individual on Twitter regarding the South vs Victory affair, but instead I'll make note of the good laughs had all round during FFV's broadcast of the Heidelberg vs Bentleigh game - which involved friendly banter and a couple of plugs for South of the Border (I had been tweeting in answers to certain questions raised by the commentary team), as well as Mark Boric's blog being referred to, but definitely not being named. Looks like I'm going to have to work on my notoriety a bit.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Pioneer South women artefact Wednesday - South Melbourne Hellas Women's team photo

Now that the women are officially back reunited with the greater body of the club, it seems like a good time to publish this week's artefact. Last year the club received some correspondence from Katrina Theophanous, a former women's team player then known as Kitty Athanasiadis, who provided a photo of one of the club's original female teams, along with the following explanation:

"In this photo are my two younger sisters Poppy and Gina. Poppy has a scarf on, she played for the state team. I am front row Katrina Theophanous far left with the t shirt inside."

Now living in America, Katrina promised to get in touch with the club in February while in Australia to provide more photos, but I'm not sure that ever came to pass - here's hoping that it did, or if not, then I at least hope efforts are being made to keep in touch with her...

The original South Melbourne Womens team played its first known season in 1978, winning promotion and gradually becoming one of the stronger teams in the women's comps, behind the all conquering Greensborough side of that era. South Womens' best ever league finishes were second in 1980 and 1981, as well as making the cup final in 1980, which they lost to Greensborough 4-2. The women's wing of the club appears to have dissolved after the end of the 1982 season, as the South Melbourne Hellas name does not appear in the available records after that season. What happened to that part of the club, as well as the players, is not known to me, but it would be great to find out. At some point (the exact details of which are lost on a now long depart SMWFC website), South Melbourne Hellas took over Greensborough, reintroducing women's soccer back to South Melbourne. As for the twists and turns since then, they are for another time.

And of course anyone that can fill in some details as to the who all the people are in this photo, we'd be much obliged.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Everybody happy! Or not! Avondale Heights 0 South Melbourne 2

As one would expect, there was only a small crowd on hand to watch this game, with a good deal of South's usual traveling support probably performing part of their one bit of socio-culturally mandated religious duty for the year. So even with three quarters of the ground off limits to spectators, there was still plenty of room to stretch one's legs out at Knights Stadium in its Avondale hosted configuration. Not that this fixture was likely to attract a blockbuster attendance anyway.

Oh Marge, I went to plenty of NPL matches and it never hurt me.
Both before the game and during halftime the host team blared out music at a ridiculous volume, probably in a poorly thought out attempt at creating 'atmosphere', or perhaps trying to reach those Avondale supporters on the other side of the quarry. I'm not much for stadium music as it is, but could we at least keep the volume down to a level so that I could talk to the person next to me without needing to yell?

I thought we got off to a reasonable start. The handball decision which lead to our opening the scoring via the penalty spot seemed harsh - I'm not sure how much the Avondale defender knew about it as he was tracking back hoping to block the cross into the box. The game was fairly even at this point, though I think we looked the more likely to score the next goal. Sadly we didn't help our cause in this matter by resorting to playing corners either short or along the ground, a strange decision considering that opposition keeper Chris May is not the tallest goalie in this league. We also didn't do our cause much good by virtue of one of the most amazing botches of an otherwise certain goal you'll see for some time - the low cross fizzed across the face of goal, barely a metre in front of the goal line, and somehow three of our players missed it despite being in prime position to get us to 2-0. So it goes.

Avondale gradually started getting on top, and while some may say that the removal of Mathew Theodore for Iqi Jawadi during the second half was a catalyst for that, to be honest I think that the rot had already set in well before that. We found it very hard to keep the ball and were camped in our own half during the second stanza for long periods of time; and while we managed to scramble well in defense and repel most of the aerial bombardment, Avondale's poor finishing (and the tidy goalkeeping work of Nikola Roganovic) was as important to keeping the home side from scoring as whatever else happened on the night.

Having said all of that, we did manage to get into promising attacking positions in the second half, even if that was partly due to Avondale committing players forward, but that's the price you pay for falling behind. That need to push forward saw Avondale take more risks than they really needed to, with Chris May flying out of his own area; on one occasion a poor clearance saw him stranded, with the long range shot striking an Avondale defender and triggering calls for another handball, waved away this time by the referee; on another occasion, in May's haste to get the ball as far up the field as quickly as possible, it looked like he carried the ball about a metre outside his own 18 yard area before kicking it. Probably the only people who didn't see this were the officials, as even May looked around wondering how he'd managed to get so far up the field.

We did manage to score again via the last kick of the game, making the scoreboard look more respectable than a dispassionate analysis of the game would warrant. The result left some of us happy because we'd won, while others of us happy because we hadn't played well, and their feelings of vindication will only be magnified when we eventually do crash. Avondale were happy because they outplayed us, which is worth more than the three points on offer if you haven't managed to get those three points - though useless of course if you find yourself in a relegation battle. Massimo Murdocca came off the ground smiling for reasons one can only speculate on. The referees, too, would have been happy to get off the field without copping any abuse from the South fans alongside the players' race, as Roganovic distracted those supporters with a rendition of the trumpet chant. Clever man, that Nikola.

It's interesting to ponder the nature of the team as it has been developed during Chris Taylor's time. Not that the team has only ever played dour, results oriented football under Taylor (I can sense the objections flying in already...), but to some extent it was built to play and succeed in the conditions traditionally associated with Victorian soccer - crap, bumpy, muddy grounds. Think back to the years before Chris Taylor, where ball playing South Melbourne sides would often look much better at home on the usually well kept surface at Lakeside, only to struggle away where the grounds were often in much worse condition. But in 2016 most of the surfaces have been in great nick so far. Life persists in providing such paradoxes,

Like John Cain Memorial Reserve when we had a co-tenancy with Northcote, the surface at Somers Street is beginning to show signs of wear and tear, though it seemed to be far from unplayable. Barring the possibility of being drawn away to Knights or Avondale in the next round of the cup, we'll likely only have the one game left there this year, so we probably won't see it at its worst. Then again, is our team perhaps suited to grounds in poor condition rather than good? And after all the fence mania in 2016 - which seems to have died down already - I finally got to see the newly asphalted car park behind the grandstand. It was very asphalt-y*.

*Keep in mind that it could have been bitumen, not asphalt. I don't know anything about this stuff.

Next game
Melbourne Knights at Somers Street. At this stage the game is scheduled for Friday night, but this could conceivably change to a more traditional Sunday afternoon time-slot, so keep an eye out for that.

Update from South Melbourne regarding incident against Melbourne Victory
For those who have not come across it yet, the club released a statement yesterday providing an update on the investigation and identification of those Victory supporters involved in the attack on our supporters.
South Melbourne FC wishes to update its members, sponsors and the general football public on the recent progress made by the Club in regards to the incident against Melbourne Victory’s NPL team last Sunday 24 April 2016. 
SMFC has so far positively identified 21 individuals connected to Melbourne Victory Football Club that organised an unprovoked attack on SMFC supporters in the designated SMFC grandstand early in the second half of last Sunday’s match. 
Relevant information relating to these individuals, including names, footage and photographs have been given to Victoria Police, Melbourne Victory Football Club, Football Federation Victoria and Football Federation Australia. 
SMFC thanks the many people – including non-SMFC members and supporters – for assisting with information that has helped lead to the 21 positive identifications. The Club continues to investigate the incident as there may be more individuals that need to be identified. 
SMFC wishes to once again praise the actions of the SMFC supporters, who despite the unprovoked attack on them, remained in their allocated section to allow for security, parents, Board of Management, staff and club marshals to de-escalate the situation. 
Senior Coach Chris Taylor, his football staff and the players have all condemned the actions of the Melbourne Victory supporters but have praised the SMFC supporters and give their best wishes to anyone that was affected by this appalling incident. 
The players urge all SMFC supporters to continue their fantastic support of the team tonight against Avondale FC at Knights Stadium.
I think the club itself has done well with its public relations efforts, which is not something you can always say about South Melbourne, especially when an incident like this occurs.

Neos Kosmos
Some South Melbourne fans were wondering how much would be dedicated and how hard Thursday's Neos Kosmos would go regarding this incident, and how it would be spun; especially when compared to some of the criticisms levied at South Melbourne by Neos Kosmos in the past for unruly fan incidents by South fans. For the benefit of the non-Greek readers, in this piece, Elias Donoudis says more or less the following:

  • Donoudis calls these Victory supporters disorderly and hooligans (on several occasions)
  • Makes the erroneous statement that the Victory hooligan behaviour started after Victory fell behind on the scoreboard.
  • Says that eyewitnesses reported to him that the Victory fans (who grabbed banners, threw bottles, etc), created the kind of atmosphere not seen in Australian soccer for some years, especially in the state leagues where the crowds are so small that they know each other by their first names.
  • He claims the situation was eventually diffused by calmer heads and the police (which is wrong, because the police didn't turn up until after the main incident was over)
  • He makes the point of how by the incident making it into mainstream media, those responsible for the incident also damaged the game and served the interests of those who oppose soccer.
  • He mocks (cynically) the fact that Victory, South Melbourne and FFA made press releases on the matter, in a snarky manner adding 'good, we're saved now'.
  • He hopes that these hooligans are already banned from the A-League, and will be banned from the state leagues.
  • With some more sarcasm, he notes that in an era where we're told the game has made large strides, the continuing presence of these extremists will see the game go nowhere.
  • He finishes with noting the irony of Vaughan Coveny (one of the nicest boys and a good footballer) coaching Victory Youth, having worn and done honour to the South Melbourne shirt as a player.

For whatever it's worth
The whole post 'botched banner stealing incident' reaction has been interesting. Most Victory fans have condemned the actions of those involved, even if some of those took their time on the matter. Pretty much the only ones not condemning the action have been people close to those allegedly involved, and that's hardly a surprise, though one attempt to turn those Victory fans attacking South's grandstand into the real or at least co-existent victims was at the strange end of those showing a lack of contrition. Still, it was better (and more amusing) than those feeble attempts by some to make both this and last week's incident of a South supporter getting hit by a flare somehow South's fault. I'm not so sure that some of the internet lynch mob efforts by our fans are appropriate, but welcome to the internet I guess - not every place is populated by people as kind and serene as those who read South of the Border. Add to that the fact that so much of this stuff is played out on the internet anyway, where everyone can spin events their own way. Thank goodness this blog has nothing to do with the internet.

The most interesting comment I came across regarding this incident was not on the internet, but rather on the physical plane of existence, demonstrating that the real world still has something left to offer. At Paisley Park today, where Altona East were hosting North Sunshine Eagles, I overheard some North Sunshine supporters discussing last Sunday's incident, with the woman among the group not buying South Melbourne's claim that they had identified 21 people. Now considering North Sunshine's own problems with the FFV tribunal during recent years, including a massive point deduction in 2016 for a pre-season barney with Sunshine George Cross which relied a lot more on eye witness testimony than the documentary evidence gathered in the South-Victory case, you'd think this supporter could be a bit more cautious and/or circumspect with such assertions.

Anyway, best to let the justice system run its course in this matter. Besides which, there were more extra curricular activities which took place today which had nothing to do with us, so this thing now has its own momentum independent of us.

Talking head for hire
Spent some time at Lakeside on late Thursday afternoon being interviewed for a uni project by a couple of budding sports journalists from La Trobe University. Usual drill in terms of questions, not sure if it will get a release beyond the confines of their class. The lads were very professional though - production had the works, discreet microphone, establishing shots (including hokey looking into the distance stuff). I hope they get a good mark, and remember the little people when they become famous journalists.

Match programmes
I got given some more stuff yesterday, late 1990s and early 2000s. Hope to begin uploading that stuff soon.

Around the grounds
Another favourite goes through to the next round. How inspiring.
Found myself making my way out to Port Melbourne on Wednesday night to see the Sharks take on the struggling Sunshine George Cross. Apart from languishing near the bottom of the NPL2 division, Georgies were lucky to get this far in the cup according to those who saw them play Keilor Park. Anyway, the Georgies showed a bit of pluck as you would expect them to do, but as soon as Port scored their second goal, this game was done. Port won it 6-1, and could have had double that, all while barely raising a sweat. Some fresh air and casual exercise walking to and from the ground was about all I got out of this game.

You get what you pay for
I was greeted at the entrance to Altona East's side of Paisley Park with 'hello, Mr Pass Man'. So off to a good start there. To make up for not paying entry I bought a souv (which I usually do anyway), but also a couple of raffle tickets (which I rarely do), and of course I didn't even hear the winning ticket announced. The first 15 minutes saw Altona East and North Sunshine provide some lively entertainment, which must have then buggered off to the pub or something, because the rest of the game was pretty ordinary. North Sunshine bundled in a corner at the back post, and made sure of the points with a goal at the end. Altona East never looked like scoring; even when they somehow beat the offside trap early in the game, the player in possession decided that instead of aiming at the entirety of the goal face he'd put it wide. The only other fun to be had was in spotting the Dodgy Asian Betting guy at the game. It looks like Victorian soccer's version of Where's Wally has infiltrated the state leagues.

Final thought
Clearly the problem last week was that our security measures were too sophisticated.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Trouble Every Day - South Melbourne 1 Melbourne Victory Youth 0

Nick Epifano puts his body on the line. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Like the midweek game against Altona Magic, this was one of those games where we had little to gain other than the win. In the cup game, it was because we were playing a team two divisions below us; yesterday, because we were playing a youth squad of an A-League franchise, one that after a good start to the season has started trailing off and begun flirting with the relegation zone.

Aside from being top of the table playing against a side holding few expectations, there was also the spectre of it being a South Melbourne vs Melbourne Victory game. So even if the opposition we were facing was at best a proxy form of a 'rival' we've never played and may well never play in a meaningful match (except perhaps in an FFA Cup match), there was a sort of 'edge' to this game for reasons beyond the three points on offer.

That we came racing out of the blocks like a bunch of Andy Brennans was both pleasing and worrying, because one knew what one of the consequences of that would be. So while I'm sure we were all glad to see the necessary intensity on display, the fade out in the last 15 minutes or so saw us crawl instead of dash to the finish line, giving Victory's talented youngsters more opportunities towards the end of the game to snare an equaliser.

Milos Lujic makes a somewhat ambitious appeal for a penalty, as he
tumbles over Victory's keeper Spinella. Photo: Dion Fountas.
In a very free flowing game - the officials seemed to prefer to see play continue, letting play run where other referees may have stopped play - we played a high line, and generally played it well enough to catch the visitors offside on countless occasions, including one occasion which otherwise would have resulted in a goal.

But the real story of the game was the huge amount of missed chances by us. We hit the woodwork probably three or four times, had shots fly agonizingly wide or high, and saw ourselves occasionally second guessing ourselves. I'm going to put it down to the implied (or is that inferred?) pressure of the occasion. Symptomatic of that wasteful play in the final third was the People's Champ, who otherwise had a good game, but whose shooting was dire.

After getting injured during the pre-match warm up against Altona Magic midweek, Kristian Konstantinidis was absent again yesterday, with Tim Mala playing at right back, and having one of his best games for a long time. Otherwise the team was more or less back to its usual early season look sans Iqi Jawadi, with Marcus Schroen and Matthew Millar both starting, and Leigh Minopoulos coming off the bench. Jawadi wasn't missed in this game as much as he has been in others, as the youth of our opponents saw even the diminutive Mathew Theodore provide an effective hustling and bustling performance, with our superior strength being a major factor in the outcome and our dominance of general play.

Nick Epifano and Tim Mala square up to a Victory player towards
the end of the game. Photo: Dion Fountas
Despite a couple of moments towards the end of the match where Victory were able to line up shots from the edge of the box, South defended well at the end, albeit having visibly tired. After having five consecutive matches where an opposition player was red carded, it looked like we'd fail to make it to six until one of our boys - I think it was Minopoulos - was hacked down on the wing in front of the South bench. Somehow the offending Victory player only saw yellow, but that incident saw it become the turn of the players to get involved in a melee.

So after all that transpired yesterday, for the players and coaching staff at least there was the relief that we'd got the win and maintained our position of outright top spot for another week. For nearly everyone else, the result unfortunately withdrew into the background due to the rest of the evening's events.

Trumpet Troubles
Before we even got to the stage where the game was marred by the actions of the visiting Victory hooligans, Clarendon Corner had its own issues to deal with, with the trumpet (along with other instruments) apparently being banned for the match as part of an arrangement between South Melbourne, the State Sports Centres Trust, Melbourne Victory and the Northern Terrace. Silly organisers though forgot to tell the people closest to the trumpet - that being Clarendon Corner and its current trumpet player - that this was the case. So after about half an hour, and after the trumpet had already been played several times, we were informed that we were not allowed to play the trumpet as part of an agreement none of us had been privy to. This understandably upset the mood in Clarendon Corner, with some continuing to chant but others losing heart.

As far as I'm concerned though, the fact that the trumpet came up as part of security negotiations is little short of a betrayal of the history and culture of South Melbourne Hellas, and that would be the case even if we were consulted on the matter. The famous trumpet call has been a part of South Melbourne Hellas since Lefteri brought it with him from Greece in the late 1970s. Now that Lefteri is no longer at games, it has been played by Bruno for some years now, with another fan known as Stathi performing a vocalised version when Bruno is absent. It is the sound of our success. It is a link to Middle Park and to our storied past. It is arguably the most iconic tune and chant combination in Australian soccer, at club or national team level; so much so that when a Heart fan on their forum attempted to argue the case for using it as their own chant, he was quickly shut down by his fellow supporters. It is an indispensable and irreplaceable part of who we are. The actions of our board on this matter are not just a betrayal of those who stand in Clarendon Corner, but a betrayal of everything South Melbourne Hellas stands for. To their credit, the board seems to have admitted that they've cocked up in this matter big time - here's hoping that the trumpet never comes into question ever again at our home ground.

Soon enough however, the playing of a trumpet would become but a footnote to the genuinely criminal behaviour that was to follow.
Two Melbourne Victory hooligans a long way from the area of the
stadium designated for them on Sunday. Photo: Dion Fountas.

Where there's a will...
In the lead up to the game, there was a lot of talk around the place about how big the crowd would be. Some clearly went over the top and stated that we'd get 5,000, ignoring the fact that it was a Victory youth team and not their senior team; that it was a long weekend, with people possibly going away; that there were junior matches on; and that there was even an AFL match on between two Victorian sides which would overlap with our game (and which attracted an attendance of just under 60,000). There was also the fact that, apart from putting up notices on the security arrangements for this game, South had seemingly refused to promote the clash as in any way being a notable affair. At the other end of the scale, there were those who thought that the crowd would be fairly small, and in the end they were the ones proven right, with a crowd of probably just under a thousand, with about 750 in our stand and 250 in the other stand.

The segregation issue split the opinions of supporters on both sides, with those against it worrying about image, whether it was even worth it and in some cases thinking that no great amount of Victory supporters would attend, based on the small numbers which have attended NPL games involving Victory in 2016. This turned out to be half true. The overall Victory support was small, but they had enough active supporters to fill up the small bay closest to Gate 1, easily outnumbering the active support in Clarendon Corner, as one would expect. For most of the game up until the violence occurred, the two sides chanted without much incident (apart from the trumpet fiasco) or even focus on each other, except Victory at one stage chanting 'fuck South Melbourne'.

In the early part of the second half, several Victory fans in casual gear emerged in front of Clarendon Corner, attempting to steal one of more of the banners hanging on the fence on the stairwell. There was a theory that they had perhaps found a way to enter through the service gate in between the Hellas stand and the 1926 stand, but a more plausible theory seems to be that they exited the ground from their end at halftime, and then used pass-outs to re-enter the stadium via Gate 2. If this is the case, then there was clearly a failure by all those responsible for organising the event to set up different coloured pass-outs for the different parts of the ground. The other, most plausible possibility, is that the people responsible for kicking off the whole scenario had been in our stand incognito from kickoff.

The Victory supporters who attempted to steal the banner were engaged in battle by South fans from Clarendon Corner and other parts of our stand, with the South fans holding their own, thankfully receiving minimal injury - and as someone who abhors violence, avoids violence and has no talent for violence, this is not an attempt to seek some sort of vicarious glory; it's more a relief that none of our mates got seriously hurt. Apart from fists, Victory's supporters also threw cleaning products,
one of which, apparently a bottle of bleach, hit a small child; there were also some bottles of water which flew back and forth between Clarendon Corner and the causeway to the left of the stand. There were also several South fans taking photos and video footage, one of whom was spat at by a Victory supporter. Hopefully all those fans pass along their footage to the club (reports are that this is already happening).

The Victory supporters failed to take possession of the banner or banners they had attempted to steal. Security was incredibly slow to react to the brawl, adding further to the calls of some South supporters for South Melbourne to employ a security firm other than Blue Thunder. Later, after Blue Thunder boss Kosta walked past Clarendon Corner, he was jeered as both an outpouring of frustration with Blue Thunder stretching back some years now, as well as Blue Thunder's failure to properly and promptly deal with yesterday's brawl. While even competent and plentiful security can have problems with handling incidents like these if the scale of a riot becomes too large, so much of what passes for security at NPL venues is little more than security theatre - wholly appropriate with the crowds (and kinds of crowds) most clubs get, but lacking in effectiveness when something serious actually happens, or needs to be prevented.

As the fight continued, with Victory fans crossing over the concrete arc behind the western goal end to help their mates, emptying the bay they had occupied, the game paused for perhaps a minute, but then continued. The question then for me is how was the game not abandoned? Back in 2010 at the last game at the old Lakeside, when South fans invaded the field after Carl Recchia's late equaliser and interfered with Heidelberg's players, the referee on that day rightly abandoned the game. So again I ask, why not here, when the circumstances were far worse? Considering the fact that Victory fans were interfering with the normal operation of a game by kicking balls, dislodging and launching a corner flag (not new behaviour for them in the NPL), and that the ball boys had to scurry away, the fact that the game continued is astonishing to me.

Eventually the Victory fans responsible for the brawl and pitch invasion either left or were ordered to leave by security. A helicopter circled overhead for a bit, and police eventually arrived after everything had died down.
People were asked to spread the word that South fans would be kept behind after the game for ten minutes in an effort to avoid any other incidents after the game. Reports emerged after the game that the Victory hooligans had started vandalising cars in the car park that had South stickers on them. I don't know if this is true, nor how widespread it was if this did happen, but the car of one of South's photographers was reported as being among those vandalised.

We were fortunate enough to at least be able to let off some steam thanks to Milos Lujic's goal, which acted as a release valve for some of the tension

What's the punishment?
The calls for punishment have been coming on strong, even from among other Victory fans. The question is though what is the most appropriate punishment for those involved? For the individuals involved it seems clear cut - bannings all round. But will this include the South fans who were part of the brawl? Even if the court of public opinion is almost entirely on our side on this matter, that may not count for much at an FFV tribunal hearing. And if those involved from Victory's side of the matter include persons who have already been placed on FFA's ban list, then what good will another banning do? Is this where the effects of Lakeside's status of being included under the Major Events Act kicks in? Related to that, one wonders what FFV will make of the security arrangements at Lakeside and our responsibility for that. Again, the court of public opinion is one thing, FFV justice another.

Docking points from Victory's NPL youth side, whether fair or not, would be in line with punishments dealt to community run clubs at this level, as has been the case in recent times for Heidelberg, Sunshine George Cross and North Sunshine Eagles. And yet the Victory supporters who kicked off the violence yesterday probably couldn't give a toss about the fate of Victory Youth's 2016 NPL season. So does punishing those players actually make any difference? Does even a monetary penalty make a difference to such a profitable entity like Melbourne Victory? Is the appropriate course of action to actually target the senior team in the A-League? Not that NPL point deductions and fines are inappropriate in this instance, but a punishment for the senior team (which may have a suspended point sentence hanging over its head) may be the thing to push the public opinion of ordinary Victory supporters and Victory's hierarchy to finally disassociate themselves from these groups. It is perhaps wishful thinking.

Next round Victory's NPL squad are due to host Melbourne Knights at Epping Stadium. Again, without wishing to glory in or revel in such things, MCF - Knights' active support - have a far more fearsome reputation than Clarendon Corner. Epping Stadium, too, is far less capable of adequately hosting a match with these kinds of security concerns, both within the venue but also in its car park. One wonders if it will even be open to the public.

The failures before these failures
This is not the first violent or anti-social incident that this group of Victory fans has been involved in, especially when you broaden the scope to beyond these particular individuals to the overall history of this and related Melbourne Victory groups. There have been incidents at friendly games that Victory has been involved in at state league grounds. There have been incidents at National Youth League games. There have been incidents on the streets, and there have been at least three prior pitch invasions and/or corner flag thefts during Melbourne Victory NPL matches over the past year and a half.

A local, suburban club would not have been able to get away with these actions and would have faced sanctions directed at the club. Whatever has been done to prevent this kind of behaviour by this minority of Victory fans - and there would be plenty across the soccer fraternity that would say that not nearly enough has been done - it clearly has not done the trick. So, it's time for the governing bodies to stop pussy footing around with these groups. Acknowledge that there is a problem, that the problem can't be negotiated with - because negotiations for these types are a justification of their status - and deal with the problem once and for all.

It is a problem that has blighted Australian soccer for so long, but one which has only grown as the numbers of supporters have grown at the top level of soccer in this country. But because the sport is now mainstream, too many people have fallen into the trap of finding excuses for this kind of sordid behaviour, 'Oh, at least it's not ethnic anymore'. So what? So it was only the veneer of ethnicity that was the problem, and not the violence and anti-social behaviour? 'They're also AFL fans'. That may be so, but would they pull off such stunts at an AFL game? No, they act out in our game, making it our problem. 'They're not real football fans'. Well, they think they're football fans, they go to football matches - you may not like it, but they are part of football's supporter spectrum. 'Boys will be boys/you'd kill the atmosphere without them'. This is the lamest excuse of all, because it is here that we get people coming in to defend these hooligans who should know better. We've spoken about this many times before, but Mike Cockerill's apologetics are as good as example as any.

Perhaps the most incredible thing to come out of the incident, and maybe the match as a whole, is that no flares were lit - let alone tossed into the crowd - though people were packing them.
But what does it all mean?
The mere fact that Victory has a team playing at the NPL level creates a level of confusion about who and why someone would go out of their way to support this team, apart from friends and family of the players. Victory was set up in an era of 'one city, one team', meaning that by default and whether one consented or not, Victory was attempting to represent you as a Victorian soccer fan. Then Heart/City came along and muddied the waters somewhat, but the model was, at least on the surface of things, set up like this - two teams set up to appeal firstly to already existing soccer followers and participants in Melbourne. While there is and will be scope for attracting the more generalist sports fan, most of the A-League's support probably comes from people who are already keen soccer fans

An extreme and understandable reaction from many South supporters - including me yesterday, while the adrenaline was working its magic - is that if you wanted proof that simultaneously being both a South fan and a Victory fan was incompatible (at least in terms of those who had been South first), than you needed to look no further than the attitude of the Victory hooligans, both in their attempts to steal the banners and cause general mayhem, as well as the anti-South chants - and for those of a Greek background, add to that the allegations that there were racist comments directed to South Melbourne from some of Victory's supporters.

And yet, just like it wasn't fair to tar all supporters of ethnic clubs for the bad behaviour of a minority of supporters, so it also isn't fair to blame the majority of A-League fans for the bad behaviour of a minority of their fans. For those A-League fans who still bring up the ethnic violence after eleven years, those people are not even worth bothering with - they made up their minds long ago, and nothing will change. I think most A-League fans, many of whom also support state league clubs, are fully aware now if they weren't before that the 'ethnic violence' line is bullshit. Apart from a few more fringe and combustible elements online, most of the discussion about South, ethnic clubs and the A-League I think has come a long way. And let's not forget, for many South fans the dream (however unrealistic) is to get into the A-League and play against teams like Victory and Adelaide United and whoever else and be in situations where our supporters mingle and sit together throughout a stadium without issues.

There is also the question of the so called 'ethics' of being a casual fan. At least in terms of my understanding, it does not include attacking scarfers or people wearing colours - which includes almost all of Clarendon Corner. Beyond that though, why would they even bother? Apart from its own press releases, and occasional flashes of aspiration which have fizzled out as quickly as they started, South Melbourne has not been relevant to top-flight Australian soccer for over a decade. The supporter numbers are small, our future prospects for getting out of this league vague at best. Neither does Clarendon Corner have any serious reputation as some sort of brawling and scrapping machine. And yet these Victory hooligans thought it was worth their effort to try, despite the fact that many Victory supporters were or are still South Melbourne fans. Does it mean that the South name and a couple of small banners still mean something? And if so, what?

Melbourne Victory fans crossing over from the northern
stand towards the southern stand. Photo: Dion Fountas.
Various other comments and reactions
MFootball covered the game yesterday, and have provided an audio extract of their view of the brawl and Lujic's goal as the events unfolded. The 'Cold War' comment is also an interesting way of looking at the 'rivalry' between two clubs who have scarcely come close to playing each other.

Goal Australia is also reporting that FFV will be conducting an investigation.

If you want to read a simple and direct version of what happened, then I think it will be hard to go past SoccerLogic's post from this thread on FourFourTwo.
I was at the match and want to be clear. 
There were about 250 people watching on the Victory side. Families, general and active fans. There was a large number of active fans who clearly came just to look for trouble and they did. At half time their bay emptied and about 10 minutes into the second half they pulled off what was obviously a pre-planned move. Using passouts about 5-10 dickheads entered the south side and a little into the second half walked towards the South Active fans. The guys jumped the gun and went to nick the South banner, a South fan jumped into grab it back and then the Victory fans who snuck in jumped him. This was during play IN THE STADIUM. Victory active fans ran across the athletics track, some jumped the fence and started throwing punches, others ran to the side and threw anything they could find - bottles and cleaning supplies. 
There were kids as young as 5 in the South Active area and families the next bay over. After the match cars with South stickers were vandalised and the stadium was locked down for 10 minutes after the match while police searched the areas to secure the car park. 
The chanting between the two clubs was typical of a derby match. Every single week South's fans chant to 'score a fucking goal'. This is absolutely. entirely the fault of violent dickheads who claim to support Victory and the under staffed, under prepared security who let these thugs into the wrong stand without first asking to see a membership. 
These dickheads are going to cost the club a points deduction, a hefty fine and possibly see the team relegated - not to mention the prospect of locking out the remainder of Victory matches. It's not bad enough that the team's playing against men, they need to put up with these so called 'fans' to stay up in the NPL.
Ian Syson gave me a ring while I was being given a lift back to Sunshine station. This meant that we had to pause the Prince greatest hits compilation that we had playing on the radio, but Syson makes up for his unintentional gaffe with this tweet,
There was also some dark humour,
the absurd,
and South trending for the wrong reasons,
and an appearance on Channel 9 news which placed all the blame on the North Terrace, including video footage (shot in portrait instead of landscape). Twitter reactions, Dion Fountas' photos and MFootball's radio commentary. The segment also featured a short statement by Melbourne Victory, but nothing by South Melbourne (one has since been released - see comments section). Somewhat inexplicably, the segment showed no footage of the 2005 Preston game and its violent scenes. The report was, by the standards of reporting on soccer violence in Australia by commercial television networks, fairly reasonable, although the concerns of those people - both South fans and non-South fans - that there was little to be gained for South by having this footage and report come out at all has some merit to it.

Unfortunately, there was also the SMFCMike led ranting, which probably did more harm than good no matter how good it felt to vent one's spleen. So it goes. I understand the desire to stick the boot in and express a level of schadenfraude, but the way some people have gone about it is counter productive. Despite that, I get the motivation behind the way people have come out attacking the dominant narrative, even those who aren't South fans but who still understand the feeling. You deal with decades worth of being stigmatised as being troublemakers, of holding the game back - and all of a sudden here is the proof right there in front of you that Australian soccer violence is not an ethnic issue, but a violence issue - that ethnicity is just a smokescreen, and not a very a good one. Of course you'd feel like you'd want to go in with both barrels.

On the Victory forum, the overwhelming response seems to be against the Victory hooligans, being as appalled as anyone else at the behaviour. There have been a small amount of apologists, but they are in the extreme minority, including those who'd prefer that Channel 9 didn't get hold of the footage; but hiding the problem, pretending it doesn't exist or claiming that the incident was not as serious as people have made out will help no one who wants to solve this ongoing problem. For their part the North Terrace has spent a good deal of yesterday and today deleting comments off its Facebook page; its Twitter page has also not been active.

There was a rumour going around that SSCT representatives were so angered by the events that they'd refuse Victory any future access to Lakeside Stadium for their youth and maybe even women's games. If that rumour is true, than I hope that they follow through on that promise.

Blue and white, in it's in your blood
Although I think the scenes were distressing for all those who witnessed them - and especially those who found themselves in the closest proximity to the violence - for some the most disheartening aspect was seeing at least one young ex-South fan, one whose blood was thought to course royal blue and white, among the group which crossed over from the northern side. These are strange times we're living in.

Next match
Avondale Heights on Friday night, in the first of two consecutive trips to Somers Street. One wonders how many South fans will be there, seeing as many will be at Orthodox Good Friday services. In these situations, I thank God I'm an atheist.

Match programmes
Thanks to The Agitator, we've added a whole bunch of South Melbourne home match programmes from season 1997-1998, nearly completing that season. There's also some Carlton fanzines and a Northern Spirit fanzine in the library, for those interested in those kinds of things.

Around the grounds
Sitting in the royal booth
Of all the possible football options on Friday night, I decided against Pascoe Vale vs Bentleigh because of its distance; against Port Melbourne vs Avondale out of some indistinct spite; and ended up choosing Melbourne Knights vs Oakleigh for not much more reason other than it was the closest of the three games and there was an intangible something to be said for the fact that this match would be the less important of the consecutive matches these two teams would be playing - with an FFA Cup match due this week at Oakleigh. I managed to persuade one of the parking lot attendants to let this 'reputable member of the media' (close to actual words) to waive the $3 parking fee - she's surely getting the sack - and proceeded to spend that savings bonanza on a can of Coke.  Goodbye parking fees, hello diabetes. Parking myself in the stand behind the Knights bench, I soon found myself surrounded by half of Knights' starting eleven, either injured or suspended. The game then followed a very predictable path, as Oakleigh dominated the first half leading 3-0 at the break, despite the Gus Tsolakis mantra of moving the ball forward slower than necessary. Almost nothing of note happened in the second half until Knights pulled one back.

Final thought
Apologies to all those who have waited patiently for this post. I'm not sure I have done the issue justice, but hopefully by making reference to some other sources, you'll have got some value out of it.