Saturday, 1 March 2008

Walking, After Midnight

efils good and the time is right / i'll bundle up and slip away
the count is down and the drip is up / it's time to split this hunk of clay

Eels, Efil's God

So it's come to this. A new twelve team summer competition, with all new regionally based and privately backed franchises (or in some cases quite possibly, regional federation backed), using existing VPL players (as well as ring-ins from wherever) under some scheme where if they get picked up by an A-League side, VPL clubs will get compensated, watched and paid for by whom exactly I'm not sure of, but what the hell do I know. I just follow South after all, and who can say what turns the game will take in these heady times.

Some might say this is the game running before it can walk, others a long overdue move and bound to succeed thanks to the soccer boom led by the success of the Socceroos and the Melbourne Victory. Good luck to them. Unless you want to argue the point for some reason, we're pretty much third tier now. What this also means is that the FFV has effectively given up on Old Soccer too. Maybe they're right to do so. Hell, most people jumped off that ship fairly quickly, to be brutally honest. Why shouldn't the FFV be able to do what even most of its constituents have done and focus on development pathways for players to the top, rather than the sad little dreams of 60 year old migrants who still turn up long after their friends bailed or died, 20-25 year olds rusted on to an antiquated belief in club loyalty, and money men (and one woman) throwing cash at the blackest of black holes, the VPL, and Victorian senior soccer in general.

Let face it, it's all about the juniors today people. The usual whiny minority aside, it's been evident for enough time now that no one gives a stuff. And yes, all you people still attending and supporting the club your forbears, or your mates forbears built, or some schmo who just wanted to have a place where his mates could have a kickaround, you are no one. You are no longer important. The FFV have looked into the FFA's crystal ball, and seen the future, and it looks kinda like this. Heaps of juniors across the land, playing 'football' so they wont get fat or seriously hurt, and helping to fill the coffers quickly while taking little out. The creation of a well oiled machine, to pump out thousands of little champions, who after the various squad cuts throughout the years will become bigger champions, who can pass with both feet, know dozens of moves, be a library of tactics, and be more or less exact clones of each other. Senior soccer at the lower levels if it still exists (and it probably will) will be almost completely amateur, and will be based amongst localised suburban competitions ala aussie rules comps, probably on unenclosed public reserves.

As the history of the local game pre-World War 2 has been forgotten, so will the history of the last 60 or so years be forgotten. Few will rejoice or despair; the great games, clubs, players and administrators, except in the cases where recorded and maintained on little visited websites by bleary eyed trainspotting nerds, will be as if they never existed. A bit of lipservice, and then scorched earth, clean slates, c:/format, and off into the bright happy world of tomorrow. A world in which well 'ard ultras protest against 'modern football' while supporting Evil Geoff Lord's franchise, and aussie rules families, safe from reminders of what multiculturalism is, clap and cheer politely while they firmly believe that their little Anglo-Celtic world is diverse because the people around them look different, while clutching their meat pies and super dogs (thanks to Pavlaki for that phrase).

In retrospect the signs were all there. Not just in the big things, but the little things too. Every half competent person leaving the FFV for greener pastures. The almost determined incompetence of running senior competitions, including the pisspoor prizemoney. The clandestine season launch in which the state's only dedicated local soccer publication wasn't invited. People like 3XX wanting to broadcast games and the FFV not wanting the publicity. The endless delays and changes to what would eventually become the V-League, or whatever they're going to call it. And on it goes. But don't complain. This is market forces we're talking about - wait sorry - this is what Victorian football's constituents want in order for the game to progress in this state. And they shall have it.

So what now? Easily combustible members of a certain club which wears royal blue and white and once won four national titles in a fantasy comp called the National Soccer League have variously called for action to be taken, protests, sabotage, breakaway leagues, playing in Asia or New Zealand, complaining to FIFA, the FFA, the courts, whoever will listen, calls for an Apocalypse Now themed ending, (surely we could hire a helicopter to fly over the top at least for a little while), banding together with our disenfranchised brethren/enemies or going at it full bore, riots, flares, everything that we've held back on, everything they said we did to ruin the game because we were selfish.

Well, so let's be selfish. In some of my more despondent moments in recent years, my idea went something like this. South is celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. There's no hope for a better future, we have nowhere to go, the standard will keep falling as more and more players are used for the higher tiers, and there's little replenishment of support. Verily, it's better to die on your feet than live on your knees. The club's dignity must come first. So flares at every game. Pitch invasions every game. Streamers and banners on full bore, confetti to piss off the constabulary who hate the sight of litter so much. Every game to be a raucous wake not just for South but the local game as a whole. The team not to be made up of players with aspirations of playing for the chance to join a team which competes to win a toilet seat, but the best players out of the fans that are left, who will play for free, for the simple honour of the shirt. And then at the end of the season, we burn the whole stadium down, burn that shit heap remnant of the aussie rules stand, just another monument to a time when all of this sort of thing had some sort of meaning, when we weren't the walking dead. And as a bonus it'll be an easier cleanup job for when they build that athletics track that's going to go round Lakeside anyway.

In time, one may calm down, see it all differently, accept, acquiesce, adapt, find the niche that may exist, and go on regardless of whatever the great dreamers of dreams will dream up, and let the focus groups and demographers advise the new world order of their every move. Sometime later, I might come to my senses and may even write something sensible on the situation. For the moment though, in the words of FFV CEO Mark Rendell, "let's suck it and see".


  1. Its weird.

    Everything you write here still applies.

    But why does the current situation feel less bleak?

    Is it our current successful era?
    Is it because our ground, whilst we hate the running track, looks bright and shiny?
    The A League hadn't had ANY real fuck up's at this stage. Was the first chink in the 'New Dawn' armour the abandonment of the QLD franchises in the post GFC era?
    The fact that Fan violence is now the inverse of what the A League was supposed to bring. That is, its the New Dawners who are the trouble makers!

    Or is it simply the fact that our club is still around (with a 40 year lease as well!).

    1. This was probably the first major piece I wrote for the blog. In that sense it contains typical traits of the early efforts of a writer, even if there are also transitional elements as well visible in hindsight. Mostly, it is probably overly emotional, caused in part by the short sightedness of my relative youth.

      I think nowadays the relative stability of the club's off field situation, the success on the field, and yes the shiny new field has helped. I think some people, either through a kind of gritted teeth bitterness or genuine moment of epiphany, have acknowledged that if you still have your club and it feels 'true' or uncompromised, it's much better than having to sell out or up and lose so much of what makes it special.

      It may not be the paradise one would go out of their way to choose, but perhaps there is a realisation that not everything is so bad this level - incidentally something I was going to cover in the next match report.


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