Saturday, 18 February 2017

Deflated - Port Melbourne 4 South Melbourne 0

No Michael Eagar, who would be out for two weeks with a knee injury received against Bulleen on the Monday night. No Brad Norton, who pulled up sore from the Bulleen game. Tim Mala out of action, too, not sure why. An underdone Kristian Konstantinidis in at right back, uitlity Liam McCormack at left back, and Carl Piergianni at centre back. Then we got kicked out of the far side of the ground by security man Arthur Akritidis, and things only went further downhill from there.

(And yes, as a media pass holder I could have stayed there, but that's not the point is it? Why are patrons barred from what is the best viewing spot at this ground? It's not like they don't have security there. It's not like other clubs stop people from going next to and behind the benches. )

Forgive me if I don't pontificate in my usual way about tactics - being behind the goals we were nominally attacking in both halves was not ideal for either where the interesting things happened, let alone my sub-par vision staring into the darkness.

The first goal we conceded, it seemed like no one bothered to mark anyone either on the wings for the crosses, or for the man sitting by himself in the six yard box. Then there was the chance they had where they somehow headed the ball down into the turf and over the bar.

What did we offer in return in the first half? A lot of possession, but zero penetration. Crosses which missed Milos Lujic, and because of the way we play, no one else was there to make a difference. Oh, and we called for handball a million times, hoping for the ref would bail us out.

Second half, and we let Andreas Govas do the thing that Andreas Govas does better than anyone in the league, namely launch a bomb from distance. Why or how he was allowed to have that much room is anyone's guess.

The rest of the game has become a blur. They scored twice more and hit the crossbar, while we switched things around personnel wise for little improvement. Trying to walk the ball in is a problem, no support for Lujic is a problem, bad crossing is a problem - and yet none of these are new problems.

Getting done over by a team half made up of South discards and rejects - Alan Kearney, James Karvelis, Francesco Stella, Andreas Govas - was the cream of the humiliation cake. Getting done over 4-0 by a team that had reputedly not even had a shot on target the week before was the cherry on top of the cream of the humiliation cake.

Just one slightly fortunate point from our opening two games, against opponents predicted to be nowhere near finals contention. Not much of worth to hold onto from this game in particular. It'd be easy to get hysterical, but as it was the whole experience was so deflating that there was nothing worthwhile getting angry about. Also, it's only round two, so you know, things might get better.

Or they might get worse, and wouldn't we all look foolish for getting carried away now instead of then?

Next game
Avondale Heights at Somers Street on Saturday night.

Dear Sir and/or Madam (I am not a crackpot)
I am disappointed - nay, disgusted - with the decision by persons at FFV to no longer produce an online NPL and NPL 2 video highlights package.

The original move to create such a highlights package and make it accessible via youtube was to me one of the smarter things the FFV's media department had done in recent memory. Each week, most of the previous round's action, usually watchable, was condensed into a ten minute or so package crammed with goals and incident from beginning to end.

But now it seems that approach was far too convenient for the audience. Now Savvas and Dave and I and all the other dateless wonders who pay attention to this miserable competition will have to trawl through the internet each week, looking for each NPL club's highlights individually, except for the A-League youth teams' games, because I don't see their participation in the NPL as valid.

Others meanwhile are angry that South is no longer screening its SMFC TV programme on the pay television community channel Aurora. Frankly, I reckon that decision is long overdue. If you wanted to put something on in the more obscure part of the media, that's where it was.

When SMFC TV was on Channel 31, which is accessible by nearly everyone with a television, it made perfect sense. Now I understand why the show was moved - Channel 31's digital licence was set to expire (and is hanging on for grim life). In addition to that, South had not only invested a fair chunk of money but also much ideological currency into the idea that this venture was an important part of the club's (modern) public face.

But what kind of public face can you have when you pick the most obscure corner of television on which to promote your product? Yes the internet is a bottomless chasm of information sources and competing ideas, but its inefficiencies in this case are so superior to Aurora.

Despite the pay TV industry itself having successfully manufactured the idea in the wider public sphere that everyone has pay television, the reality is that Australia's subscription television uptake is only about 30% of households.

And while I'm (perpetually) annoyed at the way FFV and South have used the stats from FFV's Facebook live stream against Bulleen, one can still note that those kinds of ventures have a greater chance of reaching existing and new audiences than most of the alternatives.

I'm more aghast that the club has stopped providing full length editions of South Radio, now breaking it up into bite size segments. This move totally misses the point of what made South Radio listenable - rather than the overly slick production values of the rest of our media efforts, the podcast had a looser, more personable feel.

I'm not saying it was great, but part of its charm - perhaps even the main thing I liked - was that the long-form version of South Radio was everything they don't teach people at media school.

Which, if I'm being honest, is seeing things through my moderately lo-fi aesthetic lens. But that's part of this blog's charm, too, no?

Frozen Tears news!
I don't know when, but apparently Jon Powers of Frozen Tears has remastered Frozen Tears' 'South Melbourne' song. Wasn't it fine the four different ways it was?

Aping Robert Christgau, badly

Around the grounds
Stop me if you've heard this one before
Went out to the John Farnham Retirement Tour This Is It Stadium on Saturday afternoon in the hopes of seeing bad soccer, something worse than what I'd seen the night before. Mission accomplished. Before that though I had three blokes at the gate stare at my media pass like a dog being shown a card trick, as Bill Hicks would say. Got there early enough for a hamburger before the 3:15 kickoff, but for reasons which will never be known this game didn't kickoff until 3:29 - it's a good thing that NPL 2 West isn't a real comp like the NPL proper, or else someone might care and do something about it. Nothing of any note happened for the first half hour. In fact so much nothing happened that one started reevaluating all one's life decisions even more intensely then usual. Then Georgies managed to get behind the Werribee defense, cutback, bundled in for 1-0. A second goal for Georgies right on half time was neater, but also worse - a free kick on the edge of the box played short, cutback, tap in, 2-0. The second half was marginally more interesting, not that the visitors did anything to make it so. They pulled one back from their first proper chance in the 92nd minute, but that's all they could do.

Final thought
Thank goodness this game didn't reach a million views or clicks or subliminal retinal imprints.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Kitchen sink drama - Bulleen Lions 2 South Melbourne 2

Seeing as the end result was the same as our 2016 trip to the Veneto Club, I could just do a rinse repeat of last year's summary, except for the fact that it was quite different.

I mean, right from the beginning you could tell that the synthetic pitch was less of an obstacle than it was last year - not because it was any better, but because we just seemed to adapt to it much faster than we did in 2016, when it took us 80 minutes to get anything resembling confidence on it.

And thus in part because of that, we dominated the first half. We should have had several goals during the opening 45 minutes, but only slightly poor finishing - and some good goalkeeping from the bloke that apparently kept against us in that Palm Beach FFA Cup game - kept the goal tally down to just the one goal for us.

I can't even fault the corner taking, because it was better than usual, and we even managed to get a free kick on target, which is miles ahead of where we were last year and the (counts on fingers, runs out of fingers) however many years it is since we had a reliably good free kick taker.

Though, to heap scorn on them again for no good reason, watching one of our lads in the under 20s plonking free kicks into the back of the net during the curtain raiser with consummate ease was bloody irritating.

Anyway, Leigh's goal was very nice, though I only caught brief sight of it from my angle (I'll explain later), and while Bulleen had the odd moment of counter attacking potential through their right hand side, there were no alarm bells ringing. I wasn't going all over the top like Colonel Mustard standing next to me claiming that it would finish three or four-nil to us, but I felt, dare I say it, almost pleased.

Then the second half began, and everything good about the second half disappeared into a puff of laboured metaphor smoke. Bulleen looked better, and before you knew it had swung in two excellent crosses from the right hand side for two headers. Of course you could say where was the marking, but looking at the videos afterwards, it was not as straightforward as that.

For the first goal, Marcus Schroen found himself out-muscled and outmaneuvered. For the second, no-one, least of all Tim Mala who would eventually get in screen shot, was even close. But there was only so much either of them could do - the delivery was perfect, and for the second goal, the clumsy turnover (one of a number of appalling, panicky turnovers) which lead to the cross being sent in saw the entire defense all at sea.

We worked our way back into the game with sheer effort rather than class, and it was that as much as luck and/or skill that got us a point from this game. Bulleen had a goal disallowed for offside (good call, he was right in front of the Nicola Roganovic for crying out loud), and in a neat reversal of what happened at the Community Shield the other week we went right up the other end and scored.

A puff of black powdery rubbery stuff comes up as Milos Lujic is brought
down in the box; the resulting penalty saw South level scores.
Photo: Mark Avellino.
Looking at it live, I didn't think it was a good call, but others thought differently; looking at the video the first time, my resolute opinion that it wasn't a penalty was weakened, but then when watching the SMFCTV footage I swung back to no penalty.

On the other hand, as I noted on Twitter after the game, when you watch the game from behind the goals (as I did in the second half) you'll see Milos gets scragged from pillar to post. If he gets a soft penalty every now and then, it's at the very least the justice of probabilities coming into play.

Someone may have been looking for an omen because of who the keeper was and his past history, but Milos did the job, and we got out of jail to a certain extent.

During the pre-season, it was intimated by some that it would take the team about seven weeks to get into our stride, and perhaps we all underestimated Bulleen following the turnover in personnel they had over the summer, so it's not panic stations yet. Still, some onlookers were quick to go the jugular for the 'kick it to Milos' game plan, but if you see the 'around the grounds' segment for this week, you'll see that's not just a South Melbourne thing.

The worst news - apart from the dropped points - was that Michael Eagar's injury (a knee?) looked serious, and while we have cover at the centre back position nowadays, one still hopes it's not too serious. Luke McCormack also seemed to hobble off a bit when he subbed off.

Mandatory Simpsons reference for my mate Dave
Ah, the promise of exhilaration at the start of a new season,

And then, well, the reality of the situation kicks in.

Non-mandatory literary reference
Some of you may recall that last year I burst a spleen when writing about the poor public transport and pedestrian access to the Veneto Club. It hasn't improved (duh) over the last 12 months but at the same time, one can change one's attitude to such things. That influence was effected in a practical sense by taking a more logical route (avoiding the Manningham Hotel car park) and doubling back towards the traffic lights on Bulleen Road. But the change in attitude was also influenced by having recently re-read James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A digression taken in order to cut and paste something from a blog about books none of you knew existed and which none of you will ever see
Many years ago, I bought this book from the library stall at Bayside's Paisley campus. I felt that, even then, that it was sad that these books were being discarded. I would've also bought Ulysses at the same time, total cost surely not much more than a dollar? That I can't remember. Why did I buy it? I think it was the cover, but certainly the title. There was something irretrievably classicist, or rather, canonical about it. Of course back then, I didn't know about these things, even barely in the abstract, let alone that for something like Portrait to become canonical would have been unthinkable in its own time, because of its outright modernism. I just thought it sounded sophisticated, and like so many people who read 'serious' books, I thought reading this would give me a level of intellectual prestige.

As an aside, as an example of how erratic and eclectic my reading sensibilities were at the time - and even now, to be fair - around the same time I read Loaded. Hardly in the same genre, or was it? Well, perhaps one of them was more accomplished. I can remember one Christmas barbecue argument directed at me by cousin Aggie, chastising me for reading contemporary writers when I should have been reading the classics. Years later of course, she was as contemporary in her tastes as anyone.

So I bought the book and read it out of teenage intellectual vanity. I admit it. I saw the title, and had delusions of grandeur that it was not about the artist, about an artist, any artist. Maybe even in its grand scheme, even me. And yes, that is true to an extent, because Joyce has Stephen expand upon all sorts of aesthetic and ethical questions as they relate to how an artist should function in this world. It was only upon re-reading that I came to understand that, in a very important and central way, as much as this book was about any artist, it was very much about the artist, Joyce himself.

But I didn't think of the book in that way at the time. I thought, here is a novel, it is obviously a serious novel, it is out of sync not only with the world as a whole but especially with the world around me as I knew it. Who did I know who read? Mike, then a friend, eventually to become a sort of traitor, though who knows how much reluctance there was in the act when it came, and how much of it was sheer necessity to get rid of someone who could just not get the hint?

Anyway. what did I remember of the book after actually having read it? The very first scenes, but not much of them - I couldn't even remember the argument about Parnell. The scene that struck most were the long discussion of Catholic hell. Very vivid and frightening, but did it change me and make me more religious? No, just sympathetic to Stephen who is affected by the imagery, but then abandons his fear anyway because he can't keep up what becomes the pretense of his efforts at penitence.

What did I miss or forget? The Irish nationalist arguments, the political and cultural tensions. The way every other character that isn't Stephen drifts and blurs into the background. Often little introduction to who the other characters are - Stephen knows who they are and that's what matters. I forgot the endless amount of siblings who kept emerging whenever Stephen would return home. And I especially forgot about Emma, and the way she existed at the edge of novel. For some reason I had it in my head that she left with Stephen at the end, but that's all wrong. She goes with someone else, and Stephen only makes the decision to leave Ireland, but hasn't yet left.

I still failed to understand the long treatises interwoven into the novel, and of course the Latin phrases. They are of their time, more now than even then. Because of these stretches of the narrative, many of which I could not understand because of my limited intellectual capabilities, I found myself getting bored. But it always seemed to come around. There are lines and moments which just leap off the page, such as,
I have amended my life, have I not? he asked himself.
And yet he felt that, however he might revile and mock her image, his anger was also a form of homage.
The latter of which is surely talking about Ireland as much as a woman.

I remember reading this book at Greek School, Omiros to be exact, in the darkness. I did it to stand out, sure, but I did it because what else could I do? The kids there took pity on me, tried to include me in whatever it was they were doing, but I could not make the leap across to understanding. Neither could they, but bless them they tried.

But my most abiding memory is of a classmate and sort of acquaintance, Rachel (why did I think it was Rebecca?), who was then a photography student, taking some photos of various members of our group, or at least those willing to be photographed. I don't think I was very comfortable with the way I looked at the time (an understatement), but I got her to take a photo of me with the book, my eyes visible just above the cover, reading the book. Despite some soft pressing, I never did get to see the photo, if indeed it was ever even developed. It was vain of me, but was it not also at least human?

Now at least I can say that I don't mind my appearance so much, and am happy to have my photo taken by anyone - though I'll still try and pull a pose. Is not the ultimate goal of the artist, even a mediocre one, to become the embodiment of their own creativity?

Returning to the point I was trying to make several minutes ago
I love to perambulate!
where, apart from every other theme taking up by that remarkable novel, one is struck by how much walking is done by the characters. They walk through Dublin in rain or shine, and they walk through miles of countryside. This is understandable within the novel's historical context - it is the late 1800s, so of course people were accustomed to walking everywhere - but it also didn't seem to a burden to them. I was also reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of the South of the Border (let's call him Tony), recently returned from a European holiday, where he remarked on the strong pedestrian culture still extant in Europe.

Besides which, there was this old bloke who easily outpaced us up the hill on the return journey. Puts things in perspective.

Aping Robert Christgau, badly (another new segment which will soon tank)
'Leigh Minopoulos' goal' Choice Cuts

Next game
A short turnaround, with a trip to Port Melbourne on Friday.

The quasi-celebrity status of being a blogger in this dead-end league
I used to relish and protect my utter irrelevance. Now that it's gone,. one has to deal with all sorts of well-wishers, suck-holes and distractions at a game. In the first half alone and before the game, I found myself in discussion with famous journos, FFV employees, FFV board members, Twitter celebrities. It's entertaining, but also distracting when all you want to do is watch a game and act like a pork chop.

2017 Memberships
They are now available, with a notable caveat - that being that the online membership portal is not yet functioning, and will not do so until mid-March. I have been informed that this is because the membership portal is being updated, so that membership cards and details will be synced with the social club and new computer systems being installed by the club - for example, in order to quickly calculate member discounts in the social club, as well as track social club capacity.

Until that point, you can download the brochure and form directly, and email the completed form to the club.

The imminent return of the social club has seen the return of the social club membership category. At $220, I think it is good value, but then again, I even bought a social club membership that one year it was available when the new social club didn't materialise.

The social club membership gives one priority access to the social club during major match days, not guaranteed access. This had led to a reiteration of the grievance that the social club should not have included the futsal court, so that the capacity could go above the estimated 230-260 person limit. Of course the counter-argument to that is that the futsal court will provide an income on all the days that South is not playing at home, and that there exists the possibility that

Something to note here is the return of the social club membership has seen voting rights revert back to the situation to when we last had a social club - that being that only social club members will receive voting rights.

The other membership options therefore fall into the season ticket pass category. The options there are pretty straightforward. A $140 season pass, or a $35 three game pass. There are family and concession options available for the social club and season ticket options, but obviously not the three game pass.

In the end, I just hope the bumper sticker is actually half decent this time.

Oh, and if that if happen to have emailed the club my completed form last week, that they might send me a note acknowledging receipt of said email before George Cross leave Chaplin Reserve for good, or the social club is complete - whichever happens first.

Please try harder
Melbourne Victory chairman Anthony Di Pietro popped up after having made some speech or whatever, which one assumes included words and thoughts which other people will care about more than I do. The one comment which did catch South of the Border's attention, if only because everyone else who pretends not to care but actually does care because they lack the discipline that I do, started talking about it. Apparently the aforementioned comment went as follows:
At the core of any expansion, we must be confident that any new licenses don’t compromise the mainstream integrity and the marketability of the competition. 
They must embrace all of us who enjoy sport. We’ve got to learn from lessons past, both good and bad.
The phrase 'mainstream integrity' in particular seemed to scratch the itch of anyone looking for offense. Even I've got to admit that as far as 'barely concealing your contempt and/or fear' comments go - especially comments where you don't name anyone specifically, but everyone still knows who you're talking about - it was pretty good.

On the other hand, while some South fans were happy to get upset - and more power to them for continuing that great tradition - I had to mark Di Pietro's comment down for being rather old hat, so 2007, and just completely out of step with the alleged reality that the A-League purports to have manifested for itself.

For example, seeing as how South is more or less no chance of getting an A-League licence, and seeing as how the A-League has done such a marvellous job of obliterating what little relevance old soccer had left, all while squatting on its portion of the rapidly diminishing unclaimed pastures of mainstream sporting attention, why would one even bother making that kind of comment at all?

It's sad enough when some chump on the 442 forums or The Roar comments section feels the need to ark up about how even the idea of a South bid could undo the relentless march of history which has led us to this point.

But those chumps are, for want of a better word, chumps, But you, Anthony, you're the leader of the most popular soccer club in the country. Do you really need to stoop to that level, of dare I say it, quaintness? Has the A-League stagnated that much that even its hoary insults for old soccer - and even the fact that they feel they need to make them - have become stale?

And then our club said, well, something not entirely stupid
They could have just let Di Pietro's comment go through to the keeper, but instead the club - or at least the bid team portion or affiliate of the club - decided to add its two cents.
"We're absolutely no threat to Victory. We're an asset to Victory, to the A-League and football in general," he told AAP. 
"We're not about cannibalising their membership, their supporters or the interest they've developed. 
"We think we can value add and that's the beauty of the South Melbourne bid. It's about the past coming to the future."
While South of the Border is on record here and here that we believe the notion that South in the A-League would not cannibalise Victory's support is ludicrous, the response is magnificent in its taking of the supreme moral high ground.

Not responding with hostility? Check.

Staying on message about what South would add to the A-League? Check.

Offer to meet with Di Pietro to discuss the issues? Check.

It's almost enough to make a jaded blogger shed a tear, watching the maturity - and proper taking advantage of a cynical PR situation - unfold before us. I mean, yes, we all know that they'll do something within the next few days to cock it up, but for now, let's just enjoy the moment.

Speaking of which
The latest roll out of #smfc4aleague propaganda is #smfc4wleague, as seen in this article. And it's not just mealy mouthed statements - serious recruiting for WNPL, eight women's/men's double headers, joint men's and women's training sessions - it's like this very traditional, conservative club has instead of trying out baby steps, has rather dived straight into the deep end. This could be fun,

Joint men's and women's teams training session. Photo: Kevin Juggins.

Amble! Saunter!
Around the grounds
In a choice between the afternoon Sunshine George Cross and Moreland City match, and the later Avondale and St Albans fixture, I decided on the earlier, closer, more public transport friendly affair. Also, it's useful to kid oneself that the kilometre or so round trip from the bus stop on Durham Road to Chaplin Reserve counts as meaningful exercise. Still, walking past the traffic lights outside Chaplin Reserve, past a guy sitting in an old bomb blasting Master of Puppets made all the effort worthwhile - which is more than can be said for the match itself. Moreland City is, allegedly, a title contender, and they dominated play insofar as they had more of the ball and territorial advantage - not that they looked likely to do anything with it. Sunshine George Cross is, allegedly, a relegation fancy, and perhaps lucky that Bendigo 'insert latest name of incarnation here' are also in their side of NPL 2. George Cross came closest to scoring for both sides - in the first half, a header from a corner almost ended up scoring an own goal - only a save from the Sunshine keeper kept it out. In the second half, a goal mouth scramble should have seen George Cross open the scoring, but to no avail. So it ended scoreless.

Just on that point: I am getting sick and tired of every team in the NPL and NPL 2 playing one up front. If either side here had the daring to give their front man some support, they probably would have won this game. Look, if we're being honest, I'm turning up to Chaplin Reserve these days just to see it die. I don't want to see it die, and I will miss the sight of metro and country trains rolling by, but die it will, even if it is taking its sweet time in doing so. Yes, I do plan to be there again next week for what will hopefully be the actual final senior game there ever. Surely this John Farnham style farce can't go on for much longer (June I'm now told, which means the social club will be finished before then). Not every game can be livened up by conversations with Trent Rixon on the sidelines, asking where my little Asian buddy was - hey Gains, you're famous!

Final thought
I hear that the negotiations for that south-eastern suburbs/Dandenong corridor A-League bid got a bit heated on Saturday afternoon (not that any of that matters).

Friday, 10 February 2017

Contribute to South of the Border in 2017

I usually, but not always, put the call out for people to contribute to South of the Border around this time each year. And usually, but not always, the call falls on deaf ears.

But here am I asking for people to contribute to South of the Border in any way that they can. Comics, videos, essays, match reports, satire, parody, photos - anything that you can think of.

Been to a conference or some sort of gathering to do with soccer, and have some thoughts on how it may apply to South?

Read a decent soccer book you think is worth sharing? Are you interested or involved with the women's side of the club and want to see more content on that?

Have a favourite or formative South experience? Want to talk about how you became a South fan? I'm happy to take that stuff up.

If you're worried about the quality or lack thereof in your writing skill, I am able to help on that front. I have an undergraduate degree that I think covered stuff like editing, proofreading and such.

If you submit something which isn't quite up to scratch - I'll be discreet and considerate. If it's good, but doesn't fit in with South of the Border's style (whatever that is), I'll try and find another home for it.

And if you're worried about nasty comments, I'll filter all the bad stuff so you never have to see it.

I ask not because I'm about to quit, but because I'm always looking for South fans to take more initiative in putting their considered points of view forward into the public sphere.

It doesn't have to be a regular thing, one off contributions are also fine. Of course a vague familiarity with this blog's general tone and style helps, but there is no need or requirement to imitate. My emphasis is always on getting your point across, in your language.

So have a think about it, and if the urge strikes you to contribute, give us a bell.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Cockatoos! Mornington 1 South Melbourne 6

I wasn't stupid enough to haul myself out to Dallas Brooks Park on a Monday night for a pre-season friendly. According to SMFCMike's Twitter reportage:
  • The game was two 45 minute halves.
  • Starting lineup was Roganovic, Konstantinidis, Adams, Piergianni, Mala, Pavlou, De Niese, Daley, Marafioti, Minopoulos, Kecojevic.
  • Goals for us were Minopoulos (x2), Epifano, Lujic, Millar, Schroen.
  • Highlight was cockatoos.
Next game, including live stream details
As I have already complained about numerous times, we open our league season against Bulleen at the Veneto Club on Monday night.

For those who cannot or who choose not to make the trek out there, there will be a live video stream on the NPL Victoria Facebook page.

Farewell hooped socks
Also, you'll need to wait a bit until you can buy these. Speaking of which.

We have all been assured that they will be coming out this week.

Not that any of that matters just yet
This week the draw for the NPL national playoff series was held. The result of that draw will see the team that finishes on top of the NPL Victoria ladder at the end of the 2017 season play the equivalent NPL Western Australia side in Western Australia in the NPL national playoffs. I am mentioning this only, or rather mostly, to put the final nail in the coffin of a stupid rumour that was started by 'someone' around the time of the last AGM, and which has still kind of persisted even though it was refuted by eminent persons, or just regular persons, take your pick.

By the way, I really wanted to link to that scene in Death in Brunswick we're they're stomping on the coffin inside the grave, but youtube has failed us on that front, providing only links to the trailer. Which reminds me, I was in a coffin once, and not a very comfortable one I might add.

Around the grounds
Too early in the season to be jaded; too hot not to be jaded
After the unveiling of the Ferenc Puskas statue I headed out to Campbell Reserve to see Moreland City vs Werribee City in the opening round of the NPL 2 season. The man at the gate tried to sell me tickets to the raffle, but the prizes were too A-League oriented, and I told him as much. There was a hive of activity around the ground, as small shade tents had been erected behind the goals, a media gantry was in place, and even a new electronic scoreboard. Sadly the scoreboard froze eight minutes and seventeen seconds into the first half. Trent Rixon, suspended for this match after getting frustrated with a bloke doing 'too many Maradona turns', was one of many notable onlookers in this game, along with George Donikian (who was also at the statue unveiling) and a number of South of the Border well wishers. As for the game itself, a largely dull, grinding affair, only in part due to the heat. Moreland scored first, and Werribee scored second, against the run of play, After the game, I saw the route 1 tram wait through about six or ten traffic light cycles because of people in cars who wanted to turn right onto Moreland Road. I hate those people so much.

Final thought
Yes, I will be writing about the Ferenc Puskas statue at some point (either on here or for another website), hopefully soon, but I really want to nail this one properly, because of the sheer absurdity of the whole situation.

Friday, 3 February 2017

You think you've got problems - Bentleigh Greens 2 South Melbourne 1

(standard woe is me opening) Sitting here tonight and trying to type this post up, I am in agonising pain, not wanting to blink or close my left eye for fear of further aggravating an already aggravated and inflamed cornea.

Candidate for photo of the year already. Photo: Kevin Juggins.
(usual rank hyperbole) And yet that is nothing compared to the psychic pain caused by last night's performance by our beloved South Melbourne, who dared to dominate the first 15 or so minutes of the Community Shield against Bentleigh and provide a sense of false hope that we would be a super team in 2017.

(possibly rose tinted reminiscence) How good did we look, destroying Bentleigh out wide, getting into many good positions, winning several corners? We looked like the real deal.

(hackneyed comic attempt at mock relief) Thank goodness then that the dual-action remedy was close at hand - first, the fast acting patented not scoring, and second, the long lasting patented letting the other team back into the game and being outplayed for the next...

(runs out of fingers to count on) up until the 80th minute or so, maybe a bit more.

(mandatory footy reference) Oh, we kept fighting. Prototypical utility player Liam McCormick barreled through an opponent and a teammate at the same time with a reckless challenge, one reminiscent of Cameron Venables cleaning up Gavin Brown at a pre-season intra-club match in 1999 - and didn't Venables' career just take off after that?

(irony and/or coincidence) We finally found ourselves 1-0 down after the bloke we'd been promoting online for his ability to score from headers slipped over and left the rest of the defense stranded

(accusation of obvious corruption) And yet considering their utter dominance of our alternately meek and non-existent midfield, Bentleigh took their sweet time in actually finishing us off. That it had to happen after we had a goal disallowed from what looked like the worst offside call ever so far this year, only for Bentleigh to march up the other end and score again.

(irrelevant statistic) Having become engrossed in self-loathing, at some vague point during the second half someone had the gall to present the faux-insight that we had never led a Community Shield game until the 92nd minute, so that ipso factoergo, or even dorkus malorkus, we were still in the game. Terrible,m woeful logic.

(haughty derision) Phooey. As if we could somehow come back from 2-0.

(but here's the twist) We did actually make a game of it, when Milos Lujic managed to pull a goal back with five minutes of regulation time to go. Then some of our players and some of their players started punching on, wasting much valuable time and eventually delaying the finish long enough that I would end up missing the first available train back to civilisation. The People's Champ was in the thick of it, there were yellow cards bandied about it seemed mostly out of a sense of duty rather than a sense of the officials actually knowing what had happened and how to deal with the situation, and eventually the game resumed.

(premature disappointment) Leigh Minopoulos caused some problems as a substitute, and may have deserved a penalty when one on one with the goalkeeper and looking to level the scores. In the end, there was no penalty, no equalising goal, and no chance for us to lose in a penalty shootout. That in itself was bit of a letdown.

(leaving off on a positive) Michael Eagar looked quite good, and Marcus Schroen is playing like he is about to have a monster season. Something to look forward to, if you're the kind of person that needs something to look forward to. Like the promise of a new day, the ordeal itself is enough motivation for me to turn up.

Other things worth noting
The bus stop for the 828 across from Cheltenham station has a new and improved shelter.

Kingston Heath's surface was in excellent condition,

Bentleigh were missing Stipo Andrijasevic (injury) and Andy Brennan (Thailand?).

All things considered, the standard in the first half was actually quite pleasing. It felt like a real game, or very close to it.

This part of the south-east has the strangest try-hard homeboys I've ever come across.

Next game - update
Before our round 1 fixture eventually arrives against Bulleen on Monday week, we'll be playing Mornington away at Dallas Brooks Park on Monday February 6th, kickoff at 7:00PM.

Arrivals and departures (sometimes in that order)
Well, we finally have some closure on who is in the squad, and who is not. There were some surprises and left turns. Stephen Hatzikostas' time at South is over - absent for most of the -pre-season, he's found a new home at Green Gully. Francesco Stella, after being let go 'by mutual agreement', has ended up at Port Melbourne. Stefan Zinni has also been signed up Western Sydney Wanderers for the rest of this A-League season.

Meanwhile, the services of Andy Kecojevic have also been retained for 2017.

As per last time, the following players are known to be contracted for next season and the one after.

Players who have gone.

Social club update!
There's this photo
And one from where the pro-shop will be.

But also this!
You may remember that in my AGM summary late last year I made a note of the Swans moving their Melbourne offices into Lakeside. Here's a vague article about that,

Final thought
At least the woman working the counter at the bakery across from Cheltenham station threw in a free donut with my order. At least I think it was free.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Indirectly toward Hellas - A new piece by Savvas Tzionis

This is another slightly rambling piece by frequent blog commentator Savvas Tzionis about the circuitous paths some people had in becoming South Melbourne Hellas fans. While many of our supporters had the fortune of being born into the club so to speak, others have endured more convoluted paths to become one of us. So here is Savvas' journey, with several digressions along the way.

My initial piece from a couple of years ago detailed my journey as a South supporter. What follows is akin to a movie prequel (like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). It tells of my journey as a child through the sporting landscape, where misconceptions often ruled (like thinking that 'black humour' was comedy performed by Black Americans!), towards my final destination as a South Melbourne Hellas supporter.

Starting with my earliest memory of soccer. It's 1974 and I am visiting a takeaway food outlet in Dandenong with my father and his younger cousins, as they decide whether or not to purchase this particular business. As I sit there bored, as all children must endure, I am staring at a poster on the wall of Manchester City vs West Ham. In a world of black and white television and print media, the claret and light blue colours were quite beguiling. I decided that Man City (they were the prominent team in the poster) is my English team. I also decided in that same year, when My Sporting Life was truly born, that I would support whoever was on top of the ladder in the VFA (Dandenong) and the State League (Prahran Slavia). My primary support, however, was for Carlton in the VFL and was instilled prior to 1974 through my father's influence.

My support for Dandenong lasted until both they and the VFA itself withered away after the 1970s. Man City managed to hold on to my affections until Charlie George slid across the turf after scoring for Derby County in 1975 (he sub-consciously looked Greek to me!). But by the end of the 1975/76 season, somehow I was lamenting the loss in the FA Cup final that my Man United suffered at the hands of Southampton. It then took me another five or so years to realise that the FA Cup was NOT the equivalent of a VFL premiership (misconceptions of youth!). And then started the hateful frustration seeing Liverpool dominate (I was always more a socialist than a Man U supporter) until the early 1990s.

The old Esther Park turnstile entrance. Photo. Les Street. For more
photos in this series of NSL Melbourne venues, visit this forum thread
My support for Prahran Slavia was just as short lived as Man City. On a particular Sunday I decided it was time to watch live State League soccer on commercial television (chortle, chortle!). The two teams were Melbourne and South Melbourne. I decided that...  Melbourne (!) was my team. (years later after they had in fact disbanded, I discovered they were known as Melbourne Hungaria, but I suspect commercial TV never stated this). Melbourne lost the match, and by the time my uncle decided to take me to Esther Park to watch his team Heidelberg play Mooroolbark in 1975 (my twitter discussion confirmed the year), I recall I was a South Melbourne Hellas supporter (I don't think I even knew what Hellas stood for. I knew about Ελλάδα and Greece! But I didn't equate Hellas and Ελλάδα! Although I knew that South Melbourne Hellas was a Greek team and that naturally, that is my team). Confused? Importantly, my uncle left Australia to return to Greece in 1976 so no more local soccer for me.

Whilst all this was happening I was reading a book that was given to me about soccer and learning a little about the rules, and some 'strange' facts that were revealed at the end, such as the fact that England didn't win every World Cup, and that some strangely named country called Uruguay had won two (more misconceptions of youth! What a New Dawner I was!).

At Middlefield Primary School (an ethnic microcosm of Australian society at that time) in the suburb of Blackburn North, Australian Rules was my first love, but somehow by Grade 5 (1976) and Grade 6 (1977) I was playing in our soccer team, rather than the Football team. We were coached by our disinterested Grade 6 Scottish teacher, Mrs Cannon, until the older brother-in-law of one of the players asked and was given permission to coach us. All of a sudden, from a motley bunch of kids who had no idea and who were getting beaten 6-0 by our local rivals (Blackburn North Primary school, our own personal Shelbyville!) we were winning 9-0 against other schools, and progressed to the semi-finals against, poetically, Blackburn North. Inspired by our coach (Johnny Laczko, who we were aware, was Hungarian) and led by our captain, Wayne McKenzie (our local version of Johnny Warren?), we made it all the way to a penalty shoot-out after holding them to a 0-0 score line. The dream ending was not to be as we only scored one goal! We were more disappointed for our coach, who was visibly upset, than for ourselves. I think part of that was that here was an 'adult' who treated us as equals, and not, as the saying goes, children that needed to be 'seen and not heard!

During that year of 1977, I also remember getting excited about the advent of Channel Ten showing German soccer (I had some idea that they were playing the best football at that time, through both their club and national teams). I stayed up and started watching the 10pm telecast between Mönchengladbach (Munching gladbag?!!) and some other team. But like Homer Simpson, when he was trying to watch baseball without alcohol, I was quickly bored by the interminable back passing and slow play. I switched off, and so did everyone else it appears. These weekly telecasts didn't last the year! The idiots at Ten didn't bother with editing the match (they made a similar mistake 10 years later with Wrestlemania II)! So it was back to focusing on the 'best soccer in the world', the English game where games on The Big Match only took 40 minutes and were always 'exciting'. And how could any of us not like the kindly host, Brian Moore (who reminded me of a nice version of Arthur from On the Buses). This was a supposedly tumultuous period ion Australian Soccer with the advent of the NSL, but I was oblivious to it. All my Fathers side of the family were migrants from the early 1950's and VFL devotees. I wonder if they looked down on soccer and its adherents amongst the recently arrived migrants from Greece? The attitude of my father wouldn't have been helped by my uncle getting into a fist fight at one particular game in 1976 at Middle Park, with another Greek over the fact that some of us kids were sitting on top of the outer wire mesh race, blocking the view of some spectators! I think we left the game before it even started! LOL Yep, once my uncle left these shores, there was no soccer outlet for me at this stage.

So by 1980, in my high school teen years, soccer had taken a back seat. Had the advent of the NSL actually lessened the appeal of the game to the local soccer following population? Or had my uncle's return to Greece removed an avenue to attending games? My father was interested in neither soccer nor, (don't scoff!) professional wrestling (I suspect it attracted a similar clientèle!). Of course my VFL team, Carlton, was in the middle of its most dominant era, which helped steal my focus. Yet at high school we would still play games of schoolyard soccer. However, when a student shouted 'Kosmina!' when scoring a goal, I assumed he was talking about some elegant Continental European player!

I really was detached from the local game, except for the one moment in 1981 when I attended two games in one day with my auntie's new husband (Footscray JUST vs South at Schintler Reserve, and Preston Makedonia (my first introduction to this group of people!) vs Heidelberg at a pulsating Olympic Park at night . But that was it until 1983 when, finally, I was becoming more interested in the NSL via SBS. I recall Preston were leading the table but that South, after having sacked Rale Rasic and signing Len McKendry, were charging up the ladder. With the pressure of HSC, I was always looking at a distraction, and having a bit more freedom at age 17, I attended, via public transport, two pivotal matches (South won both) against the all powerful Sydney City Hakoah and Marconi with my non Greek friends Tony Henshaw and Mick Collier (the same Mick Collier who attended the amazing Bulleen v Heidelberg game last season with me).

Together with the 1982 World Cup, which our Italian-born Economics teacher would force us to discuss, there were these brief moments when soccer would take a hold of my consciousness. But there always appeared to be a roadblock to taking it a step further. My father's lack of interest, my uncle's absence after 1976, the 'bad guys' (Italy and West Germany) playing off for  the 1982 World Cup at the expense of the 'good guys' (Brazil and France), the dominance of my VFL team, Carlton, school years, living in the 'burbs rather than inner suburbs. These road blocks would remove themselves as negating factors, coinciding with the freedom of being an adult and getting a licence in 1985. And a connection to South Melbourne and local soccer in general was finally able to flower.

Interestingly, when my family visited Greece in 1980, I was shocked to hear my uncle tell me that he didn't attend the local soccer in Patra. His reasons were vague but I had just assumed that, because soccer was so popular amongst Greeks in Melbourne, that in Greece itself it must be infinitely more popular. But years later I deduced why he didn't attend. Greece was not a first world country with money to spare on attending soccer matches. The local team was Παναχαϊκή. They played in a dilapidated stadium, and they were a struggling team. Add to this the fact that most Achaeans supported a major Athenian team, and you get a sense of how the A-League was able to draw supporters away from the older clubs. But here is the interesting postscript. My uncle did eventually become a regular attendee at Παναχαϊκή games about seven years ago. There is hope for our own South Melbourne!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Getting thoroughly sick of this - South Melbourne 0 Richmond 0

Another week, another friendly, another match with substandard finishing by South.

If Milos Lujic misses chances during the pre-season - and he should have done better with a chip over the keeper -  it doesn't bother me, because his record when it matters speaks for itself.

But everyone else, especially those cutting in wide from the left or right, come on! The lake is not the goal, the running track is not the goal, the temporary seats are not the goal, the emergency path next to the pool complex is not the goal, and the temporary goals behind the actual goals are, perhaps a little confusingly, also not the goals.

Bad finishing on our part was the main complaint I had from what was a fairly middling affair. Richmond offered very little going forward, which considering I'd read one report of them looking pretty decent so far in the pre-season, was a disappointment.

While we clearly weren't going at 100% out there, there were nice moments - we were able to get behind the often stacked Richmond defense much more easily than we did with Canberra Olympic the week before.

I think our corners have generally looked better this pre-season than I have seen for a long time, and as far as I can recall, there has been mostly a lack of short corners so far. Free kicks, well, that's another matter.

Depending on who we play against, how we decide to play, and who we put into the defensive slots, I am concerned that we may be a tad slow at times at the back, especially if the mids commit too far forward.

Should I put my neck on the line say the People's Champ is going to have a bit of a breakout season? Probably not, but if he can hit a few shots like his opening salvo onto the woodwork, it would be nice.

There was a moment where a fight almost broke out on the field after a slow motion wrestling take down of one of our players, but that was quickly sorted out by the referee.

It looked like there was another new player out there, until it was made known to me that it was new and already signed recruit Jesse Daley with a new haircut.

I think I'm well fed up with the pre-season now, and I'm just counting the days until we have something meaningful to play for and complain about. Speaking of which...

Next game
For the third year in a row we are in the Community Shield game, and like last year, we'll be playing against Bentleigh out at Kingston Heath. I don't know why the game has to be out there, and I especially don't understand why it has to be on a Thursday.

If it had to be held at Kingston Heath, why not on a Friday or Saturday? I know that people at South are not happy about this, especially those involved with the senior team, because it will leave them with a large break between the Shield game and our round 1 match against Bulleen, which will be on a Monday..

And then of course after that Bulleen game, we have a short turnaround to the round 2 fixture against Port away which is on a Friday. I know that our extended stay away from

For their part, Bentleigh only have an 8 day wait compared to our 11. Don't be surprised if South arranges another friendly in between the Shield and round 1 just to keep sharp.

Thursday's hardly an ideal time to get people out to a game either, especially for something that's not a local derby. All of this is more confusing because under the 12 month calendar released by FFV, the Community Shield game was meant to be played this week, not next.

Welcome to the 2017 rigmarole I suppose.

Lakeside gets dressed up for the palace ball
Much interest of course centred not on the players last night, but rather on the stadium, which has had temporary seating installed in preparation for an upcoming medium profile athletics meet.
It actually looked rather good, and one could envisage more seating being placed on the eastern side as well. I didn't do a count of the seats, but did notice one particular issue with the view of the eastern side from the lower levels of the southern grandstand - that the crossbar seemed to disappear from view, blending in with the top of the temporary seating. I fancy that problem would be a lesser issue if there were actual people sitting there, breaking up blur of horizontal lines.

Some people disregarded the menacing barrier of the tape barring entry to the temporary stand on the western terrace to check out the view from behind the goals
And from the western side at least, the view is not completely abominable. A question asked around the traps last night was whether there was even any point in removing the seating (one assumes) bolted directly into terracing. A fair point? Or a misguided, ignorant one?

Get a job (sha na na na, sha na na na na)
South is looking to hire a venue and restaurant manager. Is that because they're looking to open up a venue and restaurant? Stranger things have happened I suppose.

Crazy Gamblers (it's not necessarily a new thing, but still...)
Oh yes, we all like to have a laugh while playing spot the Dodgy Asian Betting guys (and gals) calling games for the betting companies. And from some of the very earliest days of this blog we've discussed the lengths people will go to bet on Australian matches of absolutely no consequences, but Twitter has added another dimension to this gambling fixation.

The 3x30 minute style friendlies that some coaches, especially Chris Taylor, prefer for pre-season hit-outs makes some members of the online gambling community very nervous and edgy. Not that I have a problem with that, because


Anyway, gambling, disturbing trend, think of the children (and aren't we all someone's children) blah, blah, blah, but seriously, can you guys just keep it (metaphorically) in your pants until the actual season starts?

A-League bid 'news' (not that any of that matters)
Most of you will have probably become aware that the Geelong bid has formally announced its existence, currently going under the name 'Victoria Patriots'. So that makes South, Tasmania and Geelong as three groups at the very least nominally in the hunt for the alleged two spots. If nothing else, that seems to put paid to the getting in by default option - if that option ever existed, of course.

Your (accredited) correspondent
Yes, your chief South of the Border correspondent has been given FFV media accreditation for 2017. Even better when the envelope is marked 'priority'. No lanyard though.

I'm sure they'll be released eventually...

Monday, 23 January 2017

Something resembling a complete overreaction - South Melbourne 1 Canberra Olympic 1

There is, as usual, the implied preemptive comment that this was just a friendly, and that the result whether positive or negative will have no bearing on the season. So we drew 1-1 in a match we would have expected to win, and in which we probably did enough to win.

And there is, also, of course the preemptive comment that these matches are ideal for ironing out the kinks and learning and growing. So there's that to fall back on, as well as the point that this weekend was as much about the players bonding as getting ready for round one. Apparently the initiation involved singing, which was as good enough reason to give it a miss as any.

With Kristian Konstantinidis on holidays, and Luke Adams' partner due to give birth, we were a bit short on centre back options over the weekend, and thus Carl Piergianni and Michael Eagar had to shoulder those duties across two matches in two days instead of getting some respite. With Brad Norton taking a break for this game, one usually reliable avenue towards goal was absent.

There were moments where many of the familiar problems of last year cropped up, the most obvious being what to do when the opposition decided to sit back. Thus we got to the point where the ball would be repeatedly played across the back line, maintaining possession until we got to halfway, and then... Eagar would be stuck for ideas on the halfway line, looking for someone to provide an option; or on other, fewer occasions, Piergianni would search for a long pass into space in the corners.

That meant that we had to rely more the speed and ingenuity of the wingers. On the right hand side Stefan Zinni struggled to get past opponents when he had the ball, but on the left Marcus Schroen seemed to continue from where he left off last year, causing lots of problems, and scoring a goal (which I had incorrectly attributed Lujic on Twitter) after some good work by Nick Epifano who dodged two very bad tackles before putting the cross into the middle.

(speaking of the People's Champ, he was right in the middle of the all in push and shove sequence that occurred during either first or second halves, but everything sorted itself out fairly quickly).

Too bad there weren't many others around to put away some of those crosses when Milos Lujic couldn't get to the ball cleanly. Matthew Millar and Andy Kecojevic could have done better with some of their opportunities.

Defensively we did give up some chances on the counter attack that were a product of how far we had pushed up the field leaving the slow centre backs stranded, but also due to Olympic eventually getting into the game. There were reports that this was their first hit-out for the pre-season, and they certainly looked unfit. So on that front it was disappointing that we didn't put some more goals away in this game before the toll of the heat and effects of the match the day before caught up with us.

Eagar gave away the penalty which led to Olympic's goal. My reaction was that it was a soft decision, in that while waiting for a free kick to be sent in to the penalty area, some jostling saw an Olympic player go down too easily. But other spectators with better eyesight were more willing to give the referee the benefit of the doubt. More power to those people.

Next game
Richmond at home on Friday evening, 7:00PM kickoff.

Unbiased South Melbourne player evaluations
While we were walking around a Wodonga shopping centre, a bloke working at a booth there saw our South gear and stopped us a for a bit of a chat. Turned out he was an ex-Southampton youth player playing in the local competition. Among his noteworthy comments were the fact that there were better players in Murray United's region, but that they could not offer up enough money to attract them away from their local clubs, who could afford to pay players more - as well as offering shorter commutes instead of fortnightly trips to Melbourne.

Our new friend reserved special praise for Leigh Minopoulos, and especially for youngster Josh Hodes, comparing him to a teammate he had back in England who is currently playing in the Championship. Nice praise for a 16 year old.

Arrivals and departures
Midfielder Gavin De Niese has been signed, and young forward Giordano Marafioti has been upgraded to the senior list. Meanwhile, it appears that Francesco Stella has been released from the club by mutual agreement, a strange ending to a strange summer signing if true. The club still has a visa slot up its sleeve, while the fate of Andy Kecojevic also remains in the balance at the of publication. Stephen Hatzikostas continues to be unsighted during this pre-season, and so one assumes that at some point the club will make an official announcement on that one way or another.

Meanwhile, at Lakeside Stadium...
Those wondering what the temporary seating at Lakeside being put in place for the upcoming athletics meet will look like, need wonder no more.
Those waiting for a definitive seat count can wait a bit longer though.

Just on that subject...
I am also informed that social club works are continuing. Something about a floor, polished concrete.

Peter Parthimos leaves the board
While exactly how it came to pass will probably remain in conjecture in perpetuity, the baseline fact is that long serving board member Peter Parthimos has resigned from the board, and inexplicably presented in the attendant article without his trademark glasses . Parthimos was treasurer for many years, and tended to be the quietest board member around, often times not even presenting the financial reports at AGMs, leaving that up to fellow accountant, president Leo Athansakis. Peter however was probably the board member that most fans had to deal with at South games, often working at the gate and performing membership duties. Always ready with a friendly greeting, one is left wondering which of the new board members will take up the slack on that front? Anyway, South of the Border thanks Peter Parthimos for his decade's worth of service on the South Melbourne Hellas board, and looks forward to him enjoying matches as a pleb spectator once more.

There doesn't seem to be very much to do in Wodonga. Being a country town, you're also supremely dependent on having a car (or maybe a bike, if you're that way inclined) to get anywhere 'fun'. The place seems to shut down at night (though the burrito place was open until 10PM on Saturday, which was handy), and so you're compelled to leave the town for sightseeing or adventuring purposes.

Unless, of course, hanging around vacant blocks and construction sites is something you're into. That, or stay at home and watch ads for tractors. Or go fishing.

So we headed out to Bonegilla to see the former migrant camp. I took some photos, but apart from not being very good, like the remnants of the camp itself they miss an essential point of the experience that cannot be replicated - that of inhabitance. The remnant buildings and all those since taken down were all designed to be lived in and used by thousands of people at any given time.

So, while one can a sense of the place because of its bush environment, the tin sheds, and the spartan living conditions, one misses the essential human element to all this. This lack of present day habitation is made up for via installations, information boards, art set pieces, of varying degrees of quality.

For example - the rooms dedicated to the Greek and Dutch experiences respectively highlighted the inconsistencies. The Greek room was sparse, with few artefacts, instead relying mostly on the vox pops put up on the walls. The Dutch room by comparison had more stuff, adding a level of depth to the experience - it gave a sense of the people the artefacts belonged to.

The most successful of these was an art set piece, a wall with several dozen speakers all playing stories by camp residents at the same time. To understand one of these voices at the expense of the others, one had to lean in to one of the speakers and pay close attention. In terms of a representative example of the Tower of Babel situation at the camp, it was probably as close as one could get.

The information boards were good, providing detailed but not overwhelming summaries of life in Bonegilla, along with vox pops from former residents. There is no reticence either to admitting that while the government wanted the migrants for their manpower if nothing else, that Anglo-Australians were as a whole resentful of the non-English speaking migrants.

In terms of the stories that you are able to get, a number of threads pop through. One is of course the food situation. Coming from a situation of rationing and scarcity, the staff and authorities expected the migrants to be grateful for the copious amounts of food provided, especially meat. Instead most of the migrants seemed to find the food awful, the mutton and lamb being too much, and the menu limited and predictable. The Italians eventually complained enough that they got some things changed. Children seemed to have a better time of it than their parents, which I can understand. Less emphasis seemed to be made on those arriving as single people, alone.

Not very much was made of the difference in environment, insofar as for those migrating from urban areas, the bush would have been alien in and of itself; and for those migrating from rural areas, the bush would have been unfamiliar because of the different trees, birds, noises etc. You also don't get much of a sense of the camp's prior status as army barracks, and later on an internment camp. The most pressing environmental aspect was its seeming utter remoteness. How far to the next town, the next city? How far to home?

The strangest thing about the complex was for some reason there being two walls in one of the buildings with small, unambitious footy murals which looked liked they'd been painted at some point during the 1980s. It clashed completely with the rest of the environment and the point of those who had lived at the camp who had nothing to do with footy - the migrants' sporting interests tended towards sports like soccer and basketball.

There were other people visiting at the same time as us, but they all seemed to be elderly. Former residents of the camp come to reminisce? It'd be sad if the place became forgotten or under appreciated over time - though I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. Will there come a time when the descendants of Bonegilla migrants will reclaim or seek out this part of their heritage in the way their Anglo-Australian brethren have sought to do with convict and war service histories?

While travelling up to Wodonga on the train, I fell into conversation with a fellow passenger. It turned out he lived in the Bonegilla township, but most oddly to my ears he pronounced it 'Bone-gilla' as opposed to 'Bo-ne-gilla'. Something as simple as that is a neat demonstration of two very different experiences of Bonegilla, and by extension two different experiences of Australia.

Having said all of that, I'd recommend anyone driving through that area to make a detour, whether of immediate migrant descent or not. There are guided tours, but you can easily wander around the grounds at your own leisure. Not every building is open, but enough are so that you can get a sense of the place and its amenities, even though areas like the toilet and shower blocks are long gone. A couple of hours should be enough time to see most of it.

We also took a trip to the nearby Hume Dam, where we toyed with sunburn, and also saw a turtle. I also got to make this Twitter quip.

Thanks to...
Pavlaki and Chris for chauffeuring me around and keeping me company on Friday and Saturday.

Didier Drogba...
Good grief.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Uneventful - Murray United 0 South Melbourne 2

Took the noon train up from Melbourne to Wodonga. Unless you like field after field and paddock after paddock, it's not necessarily the most scenically diverse route, though you get a handle on how flammable the Australian countryside is. Oh, and you get to go through the Albion freight corridor, which is appreciated by moderate gunzels like myself.

Spent about half the trip up re-reading Miles Vertigan's Life Kills, a novel about a plane flight with an easily distracted terrorist, two airhead hostesses, one studly pilot, one co-pilot who lacks a torso, a bunch of z-list celebs, and the increasingly menacing in flight entertainment system. Stream of consciousness, almost no punctuation, deeply cynical and occasionally sympathetic towards humanity, but more steadfast in its desire to discuss a civilisation in terminal decline.

And lest one thing that reading was all I did, I also struck up a conversation with some of my fellow passengers, about books of course. Yes, my main conversation buddy was mostly interested in popular fiction, but I managed to recommend some Australian literature he may enjoy: Kenneth Cook's Wake In Fright, Anson Cameron's The Last Pulse, and Barbara Baynton's short stories. He reminded me to take a gander at that Peter Fitzsimons Batavia book.

Arrived in Wodonga just before four in the afternoon, and with a couple of other South buddies staying at the same motel discussed the dive qualities of this motel, but I have to say at least the wifi is good, and if you have an appreciation for 1970s tiling, this place is not so bad. Wodonga seems to shut down after 5:00PM on a Friday, and driving around it can make it seem like a bit of a ghost town. I think we crossed over to the New South Wales side of the border at one point, but our stay there didn't last very long.

We eventually killed enough time doing other things so that we rocked up to Murray United's La Trobe University base of operations, a spartan but neat facility of about three or four grounds shared with local league side Wodonga Diamonds. There are some metal benches adjacent to the basic pavilion, but otherwise no elevation around the rest of the perimeter. Food was humble fare, being snags and burgers on white bread, but no complaints from me on that front apart from the Valkanis canteen like waiting time.

The surface was adjudged to be a bit spongy, but it looked green and will be better than a lot of places we end up playing at this year, especially once the season gets into winter. It was deceptively windy as well, and then the temperature dropped a bit as well. But again, nothing our squad won't have to deal with on a weekly basis when the season proper comes around.

Two games in two days means that we have to nurse the squad through a tight fixture window. This was also our first 45 minute halves match of the 2017 pre-season, but I think we handled it well. Indeed, I think we looked fitter than Murray United, even though their season starts earlier than ours. But then again, I think given the resources and the likely robust fight for spots at our disposal, this should be the case regardless

We dominated the fixture, even with a makeshift/unfamiliar forward line, with Milo Lujic, just back from a short holiday, playing only towards the end of the game. No Milos does mean at least learning to play a different way, a bit more mobile and flexible perhaps. The only letdown overall was not having put away a few more chances - though hitting the woodwork twice also conspired to deny us a bigger goal tally. Keep an eye out for Carl 'Pidge' Piergianni to be a constant aerial threat from set pieces this year - provided we can supply the necessary delivery, of course.

Gavin De Niese gave us the lead during the first half, I think some kind of curling shot or cross eluding everyone and finding its way into the back of the net. He'll be a useful pickup should we follow through and make the signing. Leigh Minopoulos sealed the result in the generally less interesting and more frustrating second half, finishing off a nice sequence of play with an outside of the foot flick finish from a tight angle.

Murray United gave it a go, but only seemed to trouble us in any meaningful way towards the end, and even then, not too much - the corner count was heavily lopsided in our favour, if that counts for anything. I don't think they'll be one of the favourites for promotion to NPL, but the overall package they provide to the NPL project is worthwhile and worth persisting with. They could do with some better lighting for night games though. The crowd was decent enough, a couple of hundred people, maybe a little more. Not too many South fans, though some may make the trip up today. This kind of thing is really more for the players though.

After the game we drove around looking for some place to eat at, found a mediocre pizza joint, and then ended up back at the motel drinking Seagram's gin and tonics for those who could tolerate tonic water while watching the closing stages of a BBL fixture, and then channel surfing through the local television offerings which for some reason didn't have any of the SBS channels working.
Today at the same venue, in an earlier time slot and in expected to be warmer conditions, we'll be playing Canberra Olympic, who everyone seems to expect to be a tougher opponent. Until that moment, we'll have to find something to do to kill time. I have some ideas.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Trademark changes of heart - Pascoe Vale 2 South Melbourne 6

I said I wasn't going to Wodonga for South's friendlies against Murray United
and Canberra Olympic, but I've had one of my trademark changes of heart,
and I plan to be present for both matches. Yes, I am taking the train up there.
A rainbow lorikeet with a broken wing fell out of a tree and onto the field. It was ushered away from the playing arena by a diligent South fan, and the lorikeet managed to climb up a tree and toward relative safety.

There was a minute's silence observed before the kickoff, but I was not sure who it was for.

Another 3x30 minute match, but unusually for a pre-season hit-out there was a full set of officials.

Overall a much more fluent demonstration of football than we've seen throughout the pre-season so far - or maybe our tidy finishing created the illusion of fluency?

One might be concerned with the way we conceded two quick goals to trail 2-1, but we also spurned chances and saw players sometimes attempt to do things on the lower percentage side of things, which you can do in pre-season but probably wouldn't like to do during the real stuff.

On the way back, one train connection worked better than another. So it goes.