Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Blast from the past - Martin Power

With apologies for the terrible photo taken on my terrible mobile phone. This is a small but important piece of South Melbourne Hellas history. It's a trophy presented as a memento of the 1960 championship season to an Irishman named Martin Power. Power played as a goalkeeper in our inaugural season, after originally coming to Melbourne as an assistant to the Irish boxing contingent for the 1956 Olympics. A former Irish boxing champion himself, Power also played Gaelic football in Melbourne. He came to Hellas having previously played with South Melbourne United. Despite it having immense sentimental value to him, Power sent this trophy back to South, and thus a small part of our fragmented early history is made known.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

More on our Tasmanian trip

Of course, not from our own club, but from South Hobart and this article on Walter Pless blog. In summary, our apparent schedule is:

    • Thursday 13th January vs South Hobart
    • Friday 14th January vs Hobart Olympia
    • Sunday 16th January vs South Hobart, with some sort of cup on offer 

    Won't get too excited until we get definitive confirmation from the crew at head office.

    Three Years Tops!

    As per usual, as the anniversary of the blog's foundation comes along, I would like to thank certain people and organisations for several things that happened over the past year - if I've missed you and you think you should be in, the fault is all mine.

    I'd like to start off by thanking The Kiss of Death for its weekly articles - apart from taking my least favourite task of match previews away from me, your writing and style improved markedly as the season went on - and it was hilarious when people thought I was responsible for those entries. Blogger for finally improving the heck out of their blogging platform - it's made everything much prettier and easier to handle. Everyone who commented on a page who wasn't a spammer. People who linked articles on here to other places. GoalWeekly for publishing my match report and my book reviews. Half Time Heroes for also publishing my book reviews. Thanks to the people behind the Bolasepako and Jakarta Casual blogs, of course - thanks to the Singapore Cup, we had the opportunity to discuss issues of common ground.

    I would also like to extend my thanks to Paul Conroy - I only saw him once this year, but the reassurance that he provided about a certain controversial article was very much appreciated. Gains and Johnny Diegan for helping me write a match report. Those two again with Steve from Broady, great public and private transport traveling companions to seemingly every stupid corner of this city. Nick (Go Pies!), Cuddles and Tony, as per usual. Ian Syson for some reason.

    And lastly thanks to everyone who continues to read this guff and visit this site. I'd still write it if you didn't come by, but the fact that people do, and the positive feedback I get makes it far more worthwhile.

    Wednesday, 22 December 2010

    Absence makes the heart grow fonder - SWE 2 South 1

    Whatever, I wasn't there, I don't have any in depth report on how this match went  apart from new keeper Zain Zanelli allegedly looking good and very few first teamers getting a go. As you can tell by the watermark on the photo, I nicked this photo from the rather good Football Chaos site, not to be confused with the utter cesspool that is the Football Anarchy forum.

    Tuesday, 21 December 2010

    Looks like I made the right decision...

    to stick with The Shield instead of flicking over to watch The World Game, because they ended up not plating our segment. What a laugh, and I love how it's brought out the conspiracy theorists as to why it didn't go to air. Next thing you know they'll want to put Janet Albrechtsen on the board at SBS to make sure that there isn't more anti-South bias - especially when they still put to air a short piece about the Anastasiadis brothers.

    Monday, 20 December 2010

    South on World Game show tonight

    There's going to be a feature on South on SBS's The World Game show tonight, 9:30 pm on SBS2. Can someone record it for me? Unfortunately I have to keep up with the wacky adventures of Vic Mackie on The Shield.

    Sunday, 19 December 2010

    Albanian Adventure Playground Experience - Dandy 2 South 1

    Game played at fairly casual pace. Started off with quite a few senior players, fell behind 2-0, gradually took off most of the seniors and replaced them with 21s. The 21s did better, but the pace of the game died in the arse even more so. Pulled one back late when Joryeff slotted home a ball across the face of goal. Both Stefaan Sardelic and new signing from Sydney Olympic Zaim Zenelli had a half each in goals - too early to tell who if either of them is the frontrunner. Only one player in the game who got out of second gear really impressed - some 16 year old called Rob Naumovski or some such, who was at Altona Magic (and hence why when I asked equipment manager Frank Piccione who he was, he replied 'Rob Altona'). Anyway, the highlight of a day spent in the rain and cold for no apparent good reason, was the playground adjacent to the field, decked out patriotically in Albanian red and black.

    Friday, 17 December 2010

    Lakeside from the sky, November 20 2010

    It's getting there. It's taken Nearmap longer than usual to get this update up - one would hazard to guess that there's a fair bit of progress been made since. But in this photo, you can't see that they haven't started the Athletics Victoria building yet behind our stand. Still cleaning out the 1926 stand - a week after this photo was taken, during the AGM, workers were taking off some sort of paneling from the side of the roof - someone said it was asbestos, but I'm not sure about that. Click on the photo to enlarge.

    Pre-season match against Dandenong Thunder on Sunday

    Finally time to dust off the spectator cobwebs with a probably very, very casual hitout against Dandenong Thunder. The game will be held on Sunday at 4pm at  Larissa Reserve, St Albans, the home of the North Sunshine Eagles. If you're a real masochist, there's also a game between North Sunshine and the Thunder preceding our match. Apparently food and drink will be available.


    And now to discuss a completely unrelated matter.

    Someone from our club seemingly attempted to start a rumour that this pre-season friendly was going to be behind closed doors.

    How they could have achieved the non-attendance of the few South people who would have attended anyway, I don't know.

    There is another game prior to ours on at the same venue. Would they have kicked everyone out?

    It is being advertised on soccer-forum by Dandenong Thunder people and by North Sunshine on their own website as an obviously open to all event. Are we just not supposed to believe them?

    It's on a public park, which is open to the community 365 days a year - you're even allowed to drink alcohol there - except of course for the soccer field when it's in use by people who have booked the field. Was this person intending to kick kids off the adjoining playground, lest they see Eddie's super awesome tactics and spread the word?

    Who the person responsible was, I don't know - and I wouldn't want to name them in the event that I knew anyway, because if they did indeed start this rumour with the intent of keeping South people away for reasons I can only speculate on, then they obviously think we're all morons, and they'd probably feel pretty lousy at having made such a woeful effort at getting their point across.

    Of course, it could have all been an honest mistake.

    Saturday, 11 December 2010

    The trees have eyes

    I was sitting hunched over my laptop, typing away with righteous fury -  at times it appears as if there is no other way to conduct my internet business - waiting for a particular call. When the phone did ring, earlier than I had anticipated, it was from someone I did not expect. The caller's identity is not important. Their information? Three unknown men and Leo Athanasakis hanging outside the front office at Lakeside, chatting... two of the unknowns jumped into a car with SBS markings on it. What could it mean? Something good, I'm sure of - though how long until we see the end result of such things, I don't know. As for the original call I was expecting, well it never came. But fret not dear reader, that issue too, seemingly found itself on the way to being sorted by the early hours of the morning.

    Much consternation about the possibilities

    I have no children, but I suspect at one level that supporting South is like being the parent of a rowdy toddler - you enjoy the short bursts of peace and quiet while they last and try to love them no matter what. The rumour has been circulating that former FFV employee George Angelopoulos has already been given the job, or is at the very least the front-runner for the role of general manager, and this caused a certain level of disquiet amongst certain combustible people. Rather than pour out a deluge of opinion here and now I'm going to wait and see what comes of this whole thing.

    Thursday, 9 December 2010

    2011 Fixture released

    The things to note
    • All our home games to be at Northcote this coming season. I endorse this - Kingston Heath, where we played two of our relocated home games in 2010, is a nightmare to get to with public transport.
    • 5pm starts early in the season for home games before moving to 3pm. 
    • Finally seem to have got rid of the situation where we'd go without a home game for a month or so in the middle of the season.
    • Following on to that, no more than two consecutive games played at home or away.  
    • A new Friday night away fixture, at Springvale White Eagles - should be fun getting to the ground with public transport.
    • The ANZAC Day game against Hume seems to have been moved back a week earlier, probably because the Easter holiday also falls on ANZAC Day. I wonder if we'll still play off for the trophy?
    • Orthodix Easter seems to have fallen once more on the same date as the Catholic/Protestant Easter. Convenient.
    • There's a Queen's Birthday week off, and a break between rounds 20 and 21, but no obvious free weekends created for the reinstatement of the Dockerty Cup. If the FFV still intend to bring it back, it looks like it's going to be midweek.
    • There are NTC matches again this year, which I've not included in my fixture list, because even though they are allegedly for points this time, if they finish in a finals or relegation spot they supposedly won't get counted in either. Which makes one ponder what the point of it is.
    • Finish up at 'home' to Northcote - could result in some hilarity if results need to fall certain ways, especially if one of the teams doesn't want to play along to 'expectations', ala Melbourne Knights vs St Albans in the final round of 2005.

    Monday, 6 December 2010

    More off-season digressions - women's ice hockey

    Yes, it finally happened. While trundling aimlessly around Laverton Market last Saturday, waiting for my watch to have its battery changed, I got the call from my mate Trev, the very same Trev immortalised in my petty and sullen revenge fantasy The Chattering Classes (available in Offset no. 10). 'Paul, I've got a spare ticket to the Ice Hockey, do you want to come?'.

    Of course I said yes. I didn't know then that it was women's ice hockey, and that it would take forever to find the stadium, which is mostly my fault. But me being a deadset 90s guy, who doesn't mind watching women's sport for the actual contest itself as opposed to more carnal reasons, it wasn't that much of an ordeal. After all, I'd been planning on checking out the IIHF World Championship Division II series that is going to be in Melbourne next year for the sheer novelty, so why not see a local match?

    The first thing you notice upon walking into the arena is that it's not as cold as you might think, but a light jacket is recommended. The arena has seating on only one side, with only a very small smattering of seats located on the opposite side of the 'stand' next to the sin bin. Because the rink was also home to a Christmas holiday show of some sort, the glass on the side with all the seats was mostly removed, which meant that we weren't allowed to sit on that side at all. Insurance and public liability and all that.

    So we went up to bar area where there was some seating. Some nice, comfy chairs, but several problems. One, the beer and drinks were expensive. Two, you couldn't hear pretty much anything from behind the glass - it took us awhile to realise they were playing the national anthem. And lastly, you couldn't even see the entire rink - the near side, including the goals, was only visible if you stood up. Which was kinda not really the point with the aforementioned comfy chairs being there.

    So we decided to move down to the area next rinkside with the few seats that we were allowed to use - we decided to stand anyways. The game made more sense there. For starters, you could see and follow the puck. You could also hear things like the players yelling, the clash of sticks and the thud into the walls of players competing for possession. Some sports are flexible in that they can be both good in the flesh and good on tv or radio. Ice hockey does not seem to be one of those sports.

    The game itself was between the Melbourne Ice and the Sydney Sirens. You could tell that there was more enthusiasm than skill on show, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but it did remind one of watching women's soccer at a certain level - that the depth of talent is not as deep as anyone would like and therefore some of the slightly more advanced moves - such as connecting with a pass across the face of goal for a well timed first time shot.

    There was enough argle bargle I guess, though there's always room for more. The visitors scored first, and then the home side leveled. Both of these goals were messy, resulting from shots saved by the goaltender but spilling out just enough to be scrambled in. The Ice's winning goal was better, a more genuine fluid movement and nice finish. Unlike in sports on a larger field, it was harder to tell who was dominating the match and where the momentum lay, as it was much easier to get into positions close to the other team's goal even if clear cut chances weren't forthcoming.

    Sunday, 5 December 2010

    1995 Dockery Cup Final

    The 1995 Dockerty Cup Final, with thanks to our friend Boo once more. Tansel Baser has a great game, Curcija's name gets pronounced differently to what is these days, Frank Arok looks more grizzled than usual. Deano has his surname on his shirt, but no one else does. And what a nice trophy it is. Perhaps one day we can not only play in this competition again, but maybe even win it, too.

    First half

    Second half and presentation ceremony

    Wednesday, 1 December 2010

    Dockerty Cup Quarter Final 1995 vs Preston

    Here's a treat folks. For a little while now there's been discontent that the Dockerty Cup has been discontinued for so many years. I agree with that sentiment, and the recent and seemingly credible talk that it may be brought back has gladdened my heart somewhat.

    However, that enthusiasm includes a couple of caveats. Firstly, I would not include the Victory or the Heart, as I don't think they have a place in this competition - apart from the disproportionate strength of the sides, they are meant to sit above everything below them - that is, they've been set up as 'representative' teams inclusive of 'everyone', which doesn't suit the divided and diverse environment that the rest of the Victorian system entails. It's not perfect logic, but it's the best I could come up with at short notice.

    The other concern that I have is that people who want this competition back will think that it will be some kind of boon to crowd numbers. It may do so initially, but I doubt it will last. As evidence of that fact, look no further than the near permanent discontinuation of the competition since 1996. And look at the crowd in this clip of what used to be a heated rivalry between South and Preston. It's 1995, and the crowd is worse than a 2010 VPL crowd.

    Still, enjoy the trip down memory lane, courtesy of our friend Boo. Amongst the the other things one may notice are.

    • The error made in the intro that the quarter final stage was when the NSL teams entered the competition. They actually entered in the previous round (round 3). We beat Port Melbourne 2-0 in that round.
    • The young players like Con Blatsis and Tansel Baser making their first steps in senior football.
    • The dreadful offside trap set up being used by South.
    • Vaughan Coveny scoring a goal in the manner he almost always did. If you can find his highlights/tribute package out there, it is without doubt the most dull and pedestrian highlight reel of all time. Which is not to say they should count for less than spectacular goals, just that it paints a certain picture of the kind of striker he was.

    First half

    Second half

    Sunday, 28 November 2010

    Relatively succint notes from the 2010 AGM

    Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!

    Last year's AGM was a riotous affair, and suitably so. The club's existence was on the line. This year's threatened to be riotous for other reasons with a threatened rival ticket and anger over the consequences of the pitch invasion against Heidelberg. Neither happened. In fact, this was the AGM I'd been waiting for. Robust questioning from a reasonable variety of people - though there's always room for improvement - without it becoming an out an out shouting match. Since it is an AGM, with the expectation that the broader public should not have access to the in depth details, I'll be brief.

    The club almost made a profit - the forecast is for one to occur soon. The ground is scheduled to be finished by August 2011. The social club renovations will hopefully begin by December 2011. The club will play all its home games out of Northcote next year. The re-unification with the junior set up has gone smoothly - talks with the women's wing are continuing. the VPL clubs have seemingly made important steps to banding together for their own good. The FFA's review of all state competitions has not yet released its terms of reference. Confirmed blue and white running track. IAAF standard scoreboard which we will have access to.

    There were two overall pleasing things about today (apart from the improved financial situation). One was the fact, whether it was because of me asking so many questions in the last three or so years or others doing so, board members presentations have improved out of sight, and I believe them when they say that they want people to ask questions (it was also good to see the front rows rather than only the back tables being taken up - me, a trendsetter!). The other thing being that the club, from its position just two or three years ago, where there was no hope, no vision and no ability to plan for the future outside of just surviving, could actually present a short term schedule and vision of what's going to happen in several areas. It was part revelation, part collective sigh of relief.

    That's what I want to see more of.

    Monday, 22 November 2010

    AGM on this week or something

    You know, I had this massive post in the pipeline about this, my most favourite South related event of the year. And then, just like that, another anti climax. For you see, this year is an election year. Last time elections were due, a month or two before this blog was born, there were rumours of a rival ticket being formed. They were allegedly seeking to take the club back to its Greek roots, which they had claimed had been tossed aside.

    Concerned supporters met up in a semi-clandestine fashion to prepare themselves for this challenge. But no rival ticket emerged. A couple of people joined the board, and that was it. The fretting was not for nothing, as there were other pursuits this half-arsed supporter group managed to, er, pursue before internal divisions and apathy took their toll, but the immediate threat from one of the many reactionary contingents at South failed to even materialise.

    Three years down the track, the rumours started again, this time from the people allegedly seeking to run for office. The threats and the clash of ideas, while they lasted, were more obvious. Not only had the club thrown away its Hellenic soul, it had been run by incompetent fools who thought they owned the club. The time was ripe for people who actually cared about the club to take over, or rather take back the reins.

    But who were these people exactly? Seemingly none other than people who had been involved during the NSL years, such as Manny Anezakis and George Vasilopooulos. For many fans these names, while associated with the club's glory years, are also inevitably linked - and not without justification - to where the club found itself in the post-NSL era.

    While ready to listen to the arguments put forward by representatives or supporters of such a faction as to how they could run this club better than the current mob, the personal attacks made by them don't make me think highly of such candidates. As much as I have and do disagree with many of the actions and positions held by members of the current board, the reality is I don't think I could honestly say that anyone of them considers the club their personal fiefdom.

    And as to the argument that they are incompetent, the obvious riposte is if they are incompetent - and if this is true it has surely been so for a long time - why have no others in the many years following our exile to the VPL taken up the cause for the club and against the incumbents? The timing of the redevelopment deal money coming in makes such moves seem suspicious. For all their faults, this board has been the only one that has been prepared to do something to keep the club afloat.

    Extended tenure is not a good enough reason to vote for or against something. It is the the vision and the arguments that count. But does that even matter, when it actuality, no rival tickets have put their names forward? It doesn't preclude from a surprise on Sunday - this is South after all - but it does seem to mean that perhaps this year's AGM will follow a slightly more predictable course - the pitch invasion; the court case; the sacking of Vaughan Coveny; the hiring of Eddie Krnecevic; looking for a general manager; fixturing; and hopefully all sorts of interesting discussions.

    Lastly, it appears that apart from the current members of the board who are seeking re-election, only one person outside of that group has put their name forward for nomination - one George Kouroumalis, who has been involved with the club for several years principally with the club's multimedia and marketing wing. If that's true, there are few people I would like to see on the board more than George, as his dedication to the club has been prominent for several years at a volunteer level - and it shows also that there is a place for those volunteers to make the step up.

    It won't require a popular vote, as South's unwieldy constitution - which still doesn't exist in a computer friendly format - allows for a ridiculous amount of members on its board. Though to place a caveat on that claim, as the former Morwell Falcons president Don Di Fabrizio once explained to me, it doesn't matter how large your board is, as long as everyone is actually doing something then it's not an issue.

    The merits of this board's tenure are up to each South member to judge for themselves - for what it's worth, I think they could have done better. But they could have also done worse. Finding themselves in the most difficult position the club has ever found itself in, they've managed to keep the club together long enough, through the disappearance of our sporting, social and media profile, perhaps even our relevance, to the point where there is a light at the end of the tunnel - a possible future prosperity from which who knows what possibilities are available.

    Sunday, 21 November 2010

    So damn easy to cave in, man kills everything

    Some things we/I learned/had reiterated last night at the Manics' gig at the Forum. You can guess/decide for yourself which of these falls into what category.

    • There are actually a lot of guitar solos in the Manics' repertoire.
    • The fact that Sean Moore couldn't play his trumpet solo during Ocean Spray(apparently due to a coldsore) did not take away from James Dean Bradfield's substituted guitar solo.
    • Manics fans have been waiting a long, long time, and it showed. In a good way though.
    • If you're a Manics fan who doesn't know every single lyric, you're probably in the minority (like me), but it doesn't matter one bit. Just shout out during the choruses.
    • Nicky Wire's lyrics have become ever more ludicrous, but within a certain context, it does not matter.
    • Being a pasty Welshman who wears a leopard print skirt, eyeliner, captain's hat straight of the Love Boat and has feather boas wrapped around your mike stand probably gives you more right than anyone to have a go at the dress sense of a Sydney audience.
    • The way the floor at the Forum shifts and shudders when a band and an audience are jumping around in unison is a great feeling.
    • That was one of the best, most friendliest but engaged and active vibes I've experienced at a gig. Why can't they all be so dickhead free?

    Thursday, 18 November 2010

    Rama goes on six week stint with Fury

    As seen here, though the PR dude or dudette responsible for that post could have had the courtesy to mention our name somewhere in it. It's of course his second injury replacement stint at an A-League club following a stint at Melbourne Victory late in the A-League's first season. Good luck to Rama and all that, but I'm going to sit here mumbling about anti-South Melbourne conspiracies. Don't mind me folks, just waiting for something which will probably never arrive. It's not important. But then again, what's the deal with this injury replacement arrangement still going when these franchises now have youth teams? Nothing against experienced players like Rama getting a go, but at least make it permanent.

    Thursday, 11 November 2010

    South Melbourne heading to South Hobart 2011

    How about that? As reported (twice) all the way back in January of this year South Melbourne will this time head down to Tasmania as hosts of South Hobart, whom we've hosted in three matches over the past few years. The following from Walter Pless' blog, but we first notified to its existence by our old buddy 11.Boo. Cheers for that!

    South Hobart have confirmed they will host South Melbourne in a tournament in Hobart in mid-January next year.

    South Hobart travelled to Melbourne before last season and played South Melbourne there, so the Victorians will come here prior to the 2011 season.

    They will arrive in Hobart on Thursday 13 January and games have been scheduled for Saturday 15 January and Sunday 16 January.

    South Melbourne’s coach is the former Socceroo, Eddie Krncevic.

    South Hobart have a new German fitness coach, so the squad should be fitter than ever.

    Marcus Parschau is a sports science educator and will employ the latest techniques in fitness coaching.

    South Hobart commence their pre-season training at Cornelian Bay on Thursday, 25 November, at 6.15pm.

    Sunday, 7 November 2010

    Lakeside from the sky, October 20th 2010

    A rather quick update from Nearmap from their previous flyover, and therefore not massive changes visible. The new stand is the most noticeable difference, with works continuing at a solid pace to my untrained eye. You can also see the outline of where the the track will be, with the soccer field in the middle of it. Behind the goals won't be the best spot for viewing the game.

    Friday, 5 November 2010

    Department of oversight - Sporting Afrique

    Did you know that defender Lukmon Anifaloyin, who recently joined us from Fawkner and played in the two Singapore Cup quarter final games against Bangkok Glass, actually played in the S-League? He played for defunct side Sporting Afrique, which lasted just the one season, which had been plagued with controversies, including being investigated by a corruption watchdog. Not sure what came out of all that.

    Monday, 1 November 2010

    Off-season digressions - international rugby league

    This is a demographic/sociological/ephemeral digression from almost everything this blog has stood for over the past three years or so. It has naught to do with South, or soccer, so it's OK if you decide to skip this entry. If you still haven't dropped off, I warn you also that the following is all very convoluted, but I've tried to break it up into sections.

    Preface - State of Confusion

    Earlier this year, I took my buddy Gains to his first Australian Rules game, the Queens Birthday clash between Melbourne and Collingwood. It seemed a good choice. No soccer that weekend, big crowd expected (or average crowd by Collingwood standards), but not a terribly hyped game and neither side at that stage really turning it on. It was a pretty rubbish game in the end, though the fact that it was a close game (a draw), gave it a little bit of an edge. Still, the poor lad was utterly confused by what was going on.

    Of course, I tried to explain what was happening. That came up a treat when a mass of players dived on a loose ball on the Southern Stand side of the ground, the umpire picked out a free kick (for us I think, and by us I mean the somehow 2010 premiership Pies), and I was only able to explain the decision by remarking that probably no one in the ground, umpire included, knew how he'd arrived at his decision. Enjoyment was certainly diminished by factors such as these. As I've maintained for a long time, it's a game with its own stupid rhythm, and if you ain't born into it, it's a very hard rhythm to become accustomed to.

    Yesterday, it was my turn to feel all discombobulated.

    My History With Rugby League
    Until the recent introduction of One HD, unless you had a subscription television service, as an Australian sports fan you've been reliant on what the free to air networks deem commercially and culturally appropriate for you to see. Which means that, if for example you're a rugby league fan in Victoria, you only get to see midnight replays of NRL games, except for the grand final and possibly one other game during the season, and perhaps some live State of Origin fixtures.

    It's not much. So unless you're already dedicated - and in a Melbourne rugby league context, it would be a fair assumption that you're less likely to be a convert as opposed to having been born into an ex-pat rugby league culture of some sort - it can be difficult to understand the culture underpinning the game, the tactics, and even the rules themselves.

    Which is not to say that I don't understand the basic rules and the gist of the game. I have picked up something from Channel Nine's (at best) scatter-shot programming of the game into Victorian loungerooms. And I have a bit of an understanding of the history of the game and its development, even internationally. But like many Australian rules following Victorians, I still can't find an 'in' to the game - but unlike a fair few other commentators, I'm interested in trying to find reasons other than Victorian parochialism for why I think this game won't take off here.

    So it was in that spirit that I took up an offer of attending my first rugby league match yesterday, which happened to be not a club game, but Australia vs England at Swan Street Stadium. Turns out our tickets were for third row seats at the Yarra end. Not that there's a bad seat in the house in this stadium, but we were close enough to have our eyebrows singed from the half-arsed flame oriented pyro show before the game. But despite the close proximity to the field, it did not make for a good initiation.

    Lollies, Chocolates, Donuts and Chips
    With kids, the general rule of thumb with them seems to be that you wean them to spectatorship slowly, and mostly with bribery - chips and lollies being the main currency. When attempting to initiate an adult into a new spectator sport, it's a different story. They already have all their preferences and allegiances. And thus the conversion gimmick of choice seems to be, the bigger the game, the higher the quality of the combatants, the more likely one is to succeed in gaining a new follower.

    Once I would have followed that same kind of logic, but my thinking on the matter has shifted considerably over the years. If looked at dispassionately, most sporting contests are predictable affairs with mostly predetermined results, even if the methods may vary. It is allegiances to teams and fixations on the end result that blinds us to the massive letdown that these games are from a neutral's entertainment point of view. So if this is the case - and I believe it to be so - why not seek to initiate someone with a lesser fixture, especially as it will be the modus operandi for the rest of their spectator career?

    International contests are not the pinnacle of rugby league. England is equivalent to a second tier side in a sport which internationally barely has one tier  - the Australians with only New Zealand as a near competitor. And the visitors were fortunate that the Kangaroos were in cruise control for much of this game, otherwise the English would have struggled to score at all. And it rained as well, meaning the game contained several elementary handling errors. And the crowd was flat sounding, with even most of the tries having the celebratory sting taken out of them.

    But this I felt, despite the protestations of the league folk I was with, was more true to the nature of the game as it exists week to week. Not every game is a blockbuster, tight contest, or high quality affair. Most aren't, and thus I feel that saw I'd witnessed something authentic, despite, or perhaps rather due to what I perceived to be its pedestrian quality.

    Against Modern Everything
    There are many things that bother me about modern sport. Right near the top of that list is the desire that the game itself no longer be the centrepiece. It wasn't just the music played after all the tries, drowning out any possible fan reaction, which is not unique to rugby league. And I can deal with the incessant advertising before the game and during the half time break, if only they'd turn the volume down just a little so I don't have to shout to the person next to me in order to be heard. For some reason, they thought it'd be a good idea to have Brian McFadden sing some songs off his new album, and have some woman sing at halftime. Little chance to even start a punch on with the English supporters in the ground.

    Which brings me to the English. There were quite a few at the ground and the pubs around town - the most logical explanation being that they were cricket tourists who had arrived early for the upcoming Ashes series. There were flags dotted round here and there, and the odd English rugby league jersey as well, but seldom have I seen such a forlorn bunch of supporters, knowing they would get spanked even before the team got onto the plane. I wish I could say it endeared me to them but the effect of their fatalism was both disheartening and ludicrous.

    Degrees of Altitude and Comprehension
    Back to the game, it made a little more sense sitting near the top of the stand where the side to side movement was easier to see, but the game is missing something. I'd get rid of the ten metre rule for a start. The game needs more kicking, and for a supposedly territorial game, its rather more about maintaining possession while marching it up the field withing a certain amount of tackles while being given a fair amount of breathing space to do so. They should also get rid of the video referee, let him go with his gut and if it's wrong, it's wrong, and just tally those mistakes as part of the great narrative arc. The big tackles that I was promised also did not eventuate. Not that there wasn't big tackling, but there wasn't that sense of exhilaration that one was meant to feel.

    Despite not understanding a great many things about the game, I did manage to have one minor breakthrough. Inevitably when watching a Channel Nine broadcast of the match, Ray 'Rabbits' Warren is the chief commentator. His style of getting excited at seemingly random, innocuous moments of play - innocuous in that the plays Rabbits gets excited about seem identical to each other, at least to a person uneducated in the game such as myself - finally made sense. The way I came to this conclusion was in the random outbursts of excitement from the crowd. Had they seen a gap, a movement, a tackle that I failed to comprehend? Possibly, but I was not able to pick up a particular pattern.

    I've struggled since late yesterday (not helped by the Flinders Street Station chip wagon closing moments before I could gorge on deep fried starch and my choice of condiments) to pinpoint the thoughts and find the appropriate words to explain my very 'meh' and perplexed reaction to the game, and further to that, reasons beyond parochialism. I'm disappointed to find that I have failed, and not necessarily because I've failed to overcome mine or everyone else's parochialism. I still feel that there is a deeper answer beyond a cultural slant. I just haven't been able to isolate it from that factor entirely yet. Work into this problem may continue into the future.

    Wednesday, 27 October 2010

    South looking for new General Manager

    Here's the official site link. And here's the Seek lisiting. What follows is an absolute piece of crap analysis of the situation.

    A newly or (re-)created full time paid position? That's big news for a club in our position. Another attempt to make this position work? Even bigger news. The last paid general manager we had was a Maltese bloke back in 2006. I bought my first ever membership from him, with bonus scarf (I know, the shame of not doing so for the previous years I was a fan - but it was a complicated situation) and then apart from memory seeing him run around like a little bit of a headless chook at the opening home game, never saw him again.

    And there of course have been others who have filled this or similar positions, such as that of the CEO - though being a complete industry/workplace noob, I have next to idea what the difference is between some of these job descriptions. Anyway, some people have fond memories of the work Mark Patterson did back in the late NSL days. Current PFA chief Brendan Schwab reportedly tried and failed to do something worthwhile with the mess he found, but was thwarted allegedly by the very people who'd hired him. And there's probably been all sorts of actual South fans who have of course tried working in that environment and been burnt and have become bitter about everything and everyone to do with the club. Or something.

    Which makes me wonder if a South fan really is the best person for the job. Isn't there an old adage about not mixing work and pleasure? Maybe. Are there actually any soccer people or people who know about enough about Australian soccer with these skills in Victoria who at the same time don't hold a grudge of some sort against the club? That being said, this job isn't only about soccer,, because there's also new money, operations and opportunities which need to be dealt with.

    And where's the money coming from? Is this person going to be expected to, in some way, pay their own way? That is, doing such a good job that part of the revenue they bring in is their wage? No, that would be a little silly. That would mean then that the club will soon have enough or has budgeted enough that they believe they can afford this - and they must also believe quite strongly that the need will soon be upon us to hire such a person.

    And while the argument could (and will and already has been made) that we should spend excess money on better players or improvement to other areas, I reckon the thinking behind this move is to hire someone who will end up both saving time and money for the club, as well as running our expanded (potential) commercial operations well enough that we also start raking it in a bit, and more efficiently too.

    Now I don't know what the situation is with Green Gully and their pokie club operation, but I doubt that it'd be run by one or more members of the football committee. It's a job that requires both a certain amount of expertise as well as free time. Some of the less brain addled (or more accurately, trainspotting type) readers out there may recall that former CEO/GM or something of the FFV Tony Pignata, when he came out with his version of the V-League, had a permanent/full time general manager as one of the prerequisites for participating in said possible revamped competition.

    All I know for sure is that the old member/patron model is unsustainable - and that ripping off juniors and their parents ain't gonna be much of a replacement, given the voting powers they've been granted of late and the chance/willingness of them to use that power. You're not dealing with illiterate wogs any more. So if we are going to go down the road of being responsible for and making use of a commercial operation in order to create a sustainable future as well as create the cultural environment that we are moving forward into a position where we can p;ave ourselves in the best spot to take advantage of whatever may come in Australian soccer, than why the hell not? Hire away!

    Monday, 25 October 2010

    Singapore Cup quarter final videos

    There's a lot of footage to take in - 45 minutes in all, over 3 parts - so rather than embed the videos or spread them out over several days, I'm going to just post the links to the youtube locations. Part 1 takes in the arrival, preparation and first leg highlights. Even though we got comprehensively beaten, our goal after a long period of maintaining possession was a positive sigh of what this team can produce - though the factors of a flat playing surface and an opposition playing style which eschews a hard press over collecting stray passes must also be considered.

    Part 2 contains the end of the first leg, the post-match press conferences, discussions with the players about the game, and the first beginning of the highlights set from the second leg. Part 3 contains the remainder of the second leg, post-match press conference, and more player talk. I must say, the production values are excellent, and all credit must go to the volunteers who headed over there, but most importantly who've honed their skills over an extended period of time to get to this standard of work.

    Wednesday, 20 October 2010

    Lakeside redevelopment, October 1st 2010, photo by Nearmap

    Took a while to be uploaded by the folks at Nearmap, and its not quite a substitute for photos from within the construction site, but what the hell.

    South of the Border awards 2010

    Finally we get to the end of this utterly bizarre season marred by everything, and with an AGM and election still to come. I'm not sure how much more I can take, but here goes.

    Player of the year: Fernando De Moraes had this sewn up half way through the season. Then Peter Zois did his thing, rescuing us from several beatings. But Fernando was just so good to watch, he brought others into games and even took out the VPL's player of the year award. Zois' defection to Oakleigh had nothing to do with my decision.

    Under 21 player of the year: The Cliff Hussey Memorial Trophy goes to Stefaan Sardelic. Under 21s players in the senior squad were incredibly thin on the ground in 2010. Sam Torrens and Sash Vranesevic were the only two outfield players under that category at the beginning of the year, and both departed for more opportunities elsewhere during the season. Sardelic's performance in the Singapore Cup quarter finals though were more than enough reason to give this award by default.

    Goal of the year: Fernando's curling shot from outside the box, late in the away game against Bentleigh, giving us a hard fought 1-0 win in the rain and slush out at Kingston Heath. One of those shots you knew was in pretty much instantly.

    Best performance: The second leg against Bangkok Glass. No doubt.

    Best away game of the year: Oakleigh away. We won, and we had some fun afterwards at the train station with the vending machine. Nothing illegal, mind.

    Call of the year: Quack. I'm not sure it actually quacked even once, but whatever,

    Chant of the year: I spent a lot of time away from Clarendon Corner this season, for obvious reasons, but the rendition of the Pink Panther theme in loving tribute to Dandenong Thunder keeper Stuart Webster's all pink outfit (except for his black socks) was clever and tasteful. Runner up was the medley of classic chants run through during the last game at Lakeside.

    Best retrieval and return of a ball that had gone over the fence: Gains against Sunshine at Northcote. The ball had gone over the fence for a corner. Gains threw the ball gently over the fence, only for it to roll around right into the corner arc, to mild applause from those paying attention. Only for the player taking the corner to adjust the blessed thing anyway. Poor form.

    Best after match dinner location: Well, we ended up going to several places during the season - I even went with Steve (aka Chris Griffin) to Subway once, but I never eat there, because if I want an overpriced baguette style sandwich I'll get it from Waffle On in Degraves Street. Es Teler 77, a cheap Indo place on Swanston Street near Melbourne Central wins this because of its Ayam Balado, spicy deep fried chicken served with steamed rice and chicken broth.

    Friends we lost along the way: Old Blacky. Rest In Pieces. And Aussie Disposals Blue and White No. 1.

    Sunday, 17 October 2010

    It's not cajun, it's burnt

    OK, so I ripped that line straight from Hangin' With Mr. Cooperbut it doesn't lessen the impact of that pearl of wisdom - that there is a difference between a smoky charcoal flavour and carbon. Otherwise the food at last night's gala ball was good, helped by the fact that I am now becoming accustomed to the smaller portions dished out at these events.

    Anyway, enough about the food. Board member and Jimmy Armstrong endorsed 2004 saviour of the club George Koukoulas decided that there was no better opportunity to rip out some killer dance moves, and good luck to him for doing so. Sure, there's the quote by Cicero that 'sane men do not dance', but Cicero was apparently also a terribly inconsistent and malleable piece of work; whose rhetoric and reputation was tarnished even in contemporary times for being prone to constantly changing his opinions to suit the prevailing political winds. Am I headed that way too? Perhaps.

    Crown Casino, in its quest to have everyone become lost in its labyrinthine mess - and preferably in the gaming room part - doesn't seem to provide floor maps of its extensive facilities. I was able to find out that Studio 3 was where the old Heat nightclub used to be, but of course that means nothing to me. Whatever, I managed to find the place easily enough. Just another razzle dazzle function room with staff who struggle to hold their drinks even before patrons get to the trollied stage. As a person who generally abstains from drinking, it's no skin off my back. I'm more concerned about the staff member who took away a friend's main course from right under his nose, without asking him if he was finished, and even as said friend was still had a mouthful of food. Is this what we paid so much for?

    Anyway, there the usual retrospectives of the season, Jimmy Armstrong talked about the club's London trip to receive our Oceania Club of the Century award, and there was also a recap of the Singapore adventure. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of two Sam Papasavas Awards, for outstanding service to the club, to Michael Dimoudis and George Kouroumalis. Both have worked tirelessly especially in the fields of media and promotions. The tv show, the youtube stuff, enhanced marketing, website renewal, radio, membership, databasing and so much more, all of these things would either not have happened or would have been in a far more parlous state had these two not given their extended time and efforts in these areas.

    Should one be listening to Tasmanian black metal this early on a Sunday morning? Could be worse I guess - I could still be back in Studio 3, or at any of the after parties, listening to Apollo knows what kind of hellish music, unsuitable for moderately pretentious indie ears. Anyways, a good time was had, and congratulations to Michael and George on their achievements.

    Friday, 15 October 2010

    Camera Shy/Tram Stop No. 130, corner Clarendon and Albert Streets

    I headed out to Lakeside today to take some photos of the redevelopment from inside the ground. I'd gained permission from the site officer two weeks ago, and finally had the time and a much better camera than my crappy Kodak point-and-click, to take some pictures. Alas, after snapping away for a couple of minutes, and just about ready to pack up and head back into the city, someone, possibly from Major Projects Victoria though that detail escapes me now, popped out from behind something and made it quite clear that I was not allowed to take any photos, print any photos, disseminate any photos, etc, unless I went through Major Projects Victoria, though that detail was only included after I'd asked how permission could be gained.

    Which is a pity, because I was looking forward to providing periodic updates that weren't limited to Nearmap's aerial shots. The latest Nearmap photo of Melbourne is currently undergoing quality control - hopefully it's up soonish. In the meantime, here's a photo I took from the tram stop across the way. You can see the 1926  grandstand being held up by steel girders. The stand has been gutted of its internal mess, and one can actually see through it from outside. I would have taken a photo of the back of the stand from the adjacent carpark, but it was raining quite steadily, and I'm a wuss. That, and I didn't want to get the camera all wet, seeing as it was very new. You can see from the outside as well that three of the light towers have been removed - the sole remaining tower is from the ticket entry corner, and it's probably still there because of the Vodafone transmitter that's on there and the fact that it's not particularly in the way of anything at the moment. Anyways, when the new Nearmap update comes through, we can discuss that to our heart's content.

    Monday, 11 October 2010

    Gala ball is on Saturday night

    A little pricey, but should be an interesting night, once again at Crown, but this time at Studio 3 rather than the Palladium.

    Saturday, 9 October 2010

    Second leg, South Melbourne 3 Bangkok Glass 3 - Aggregate score 4-6

    Faced with a two goal deficit from the first leg, South went out with an unchanged starting lineup, and began the game brightly, gaining the upper hand in the territorial battle at least and winning free kicks in dangerous areas and the occasional corner. It seemed that rather than Bangkok Glass sitting back it was Hellas that was on top in general play.

    De Nittis had a great chance on 19 minutes, but failed to hit the target from the penalty spot. A penalty shout was turned down on 24 minutes after a tense moment for the Thai defense. On 26 minutes, poor communication between Stefaan Sardelic and his defense saw the Glass Rabbits open the scoring against the run of play, leaving South a mountain to climb.

    Gianni De Nittis made up for his earlier miss by finishing some good lead up work by Daniel Vasilevski on 30 minutes to level the match at 1-1, and reduce the aggregate margin once more to two goals. It was a match marred by several poor tackles from the Thai side, which mostly went unpunished. De Nittis was fouled in the box on 36 minutes and Fernando De Moraes stepped up and slotted home the penalty to give South the lead, and reduce the margin to one goal on aggregate.

    Bangkok Glass stepped up after that setback however, and leveled the match on 40 minutes after taking advantage of slack defending. A late corner for South saw Recchia clatter into the opposition keeper and receive a yellow card, and the two sides head into half time locked at 2-2 for the game and the Glass Rabbits 5-3 up on aggregate.

    De Nittis couldn't make the most of a difficult chance early in the second half, and Bangkok Glass sought to hit back with chances of their own. Fifteen minutes into the second half, the Glass Rabbits failed to capitalise on a good move which saw them get numbers into the box. De Nittis, played through by Jesse Krncevic, hit the ball to the keeper on 64 minutes.

    After several minutes of mostly subdued play, De Nittis gave South another glimmer of hope with 16 minutes to go by heading in a goal over the keeper, setting the scene for a tense finish. Soon after the latest go ahead goal, Krncevic failed to get a shot on goal after the pass from Rhodri Payne came a little behind the returning striker. Rhodri Payne made an incredible run forward but the ball was cleared off the line from De Nittis shot. The need to send players forward eventually cost South however, with Bangkok leveling the game again, and putting the game out of reach with their superior finishing - though their third goal did come off a deflection. The game then petered out towards its close, with only the antics of the Bankgok players giving the game any sort of genuine interest, though for the wrong reasons.

    It was a sterling effort by South over the two legs despite the result, as the team sought to attack their more credentialed opponents, though the Blues had every right to sit back and attempt to play a cautious counter attacking style. The superior conditioning of the Thai side was telling in the first leg, as was their goalscoring, demonstrating the difference in class between the two sides - one wonders what could have been had Joe Keenan been available, he being the best finisher in the side. The gamesmanship of the Thais was brought into question into several times by the commentary crew, particularly the feigning of injuries - something frowned upon in Australia, where physicality in football is celebrated (for better and worse). One could spin it positively though, by interpreting it as a measure of the credit that our boys had earned from their opponents, that they resorted to those tactics.

    Looking to next year, there are a number of questions that have been thrown up, such as why do we still persist with short corners? The question of whether Sardelic has done enough to cement himself in the number one keeper spot is up in the air - after so many years of struggling to find a reasonable first choice keeper, and believing we'd found that player in Peter Zois, his defection to Oakleigh leaves us with a tough choice to make. Do we go with the youngster, very much still untested and inexperienced, but who has certainly paid his dues in the reserves for several years? Or do we go for the safer option of forking out big money to someone with a more established reputation?

    Krncevic seems to have already slotted in nicely, while Gianni De Nittis seemed to find a bit of form - but how many times have we said that about him in the past few years? Though he did seems to be working well with Krncevic. The midfield created enough chances and more than held their own over stretches of the two matches, but defensively we still seem susceptible, especially conceding goals despite the opposition having few chances. The fight for defensive spots will be hot next year, with the arrival of Lukmon Anifaloyin meaning that someone is going to miss out.

    As to whether the club seeks to participate again next season, my guess would be that it's pretty doubtful - the ability to not only get a capable group of players on the plane away from their work commitments on more than one occasion during the year, but also to deal with the fact that the latter stages, should we make them fall into the VPL off-season, means that preparation is never ideal. Logistically, for a volunteer run organisation, it's also a massive task, though they seemed to handle it rather well for the most part.

    A massive thank you to the team providing the radio stream, commentator John Kyrou, special comments man George Kouroumalis, and tech guy Michael Dimoudis. The first leg presentation was good; the second leg presentation was great. Thanks also to Paul Zarogiannis for the camerawork, whose efforts will be seen hopefully in the coming week. Great job boys, we'll see you back in Melbourne soon.

    Wednesday, 6 October 2010

    Match report via S-League's official site

    RHB Singapore Cup: South Melbourne skinned in second half

    Bhaskaran Kunju

    South Melbourne’s bid to progress further in the Singapore Cup faced a setback as they crashed 1-3 to Thai outfit Bangkok Glass in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie at Jalan Besar Stadium.

    The Australian part-timers took the lead first through Daniel Vasilevski after just 20 minutes in a keenly-contested tie, but a second half fight back by the Glass Rabbits, spearheaded by Gbenga Samuel Ajayi, floored the Victorian Premier League side.

    While South Melbourne had fatigue as well as a short preparation time working against them, it was the introduction of Ajayi just over 10 minutes after the restart that completely changed the course of the game.

    Two assists and one goal from the super-sub turned the tie on its head and broke Hellas hearts, though the slim scoreline also leaves the prospect of a close second leg and much to take from an otherwise tight affair.

    Eddie Krncevic, the South Melbourne coach, was unperturbed by the result, readily accepting the inherent gulf between the two teams.

    “There’s a big difference between a professional team and a part-time team, you can see it,” said the former Australia international.

    “I thought we did quite well considering that we have only been training for three and a half weeks. The first goal we scored for me was world class but we tired, you can see it.

    “Once again, complete difference between professionalism and part-timers, we can see all our boys cramping up towards the end. But its a good experience.”

    Krncevic however conceded that his team’s preparations for the game had not been ideal, though he refused to press on the disadvantages as excuses.

    “We spent 16 hours (in flight and transit), not that it’s an excuse but it didn’t help. However it was a big difference, like I said, between being a professional outfit and part-timers,” added the former Belgian First Division top scorer.

    “The conditions weren’t agreeable. Melbourne’s been cold for the last couple of months, obviously Bangkok is in similar conditions (to here) so it suits them,” he claimed.

    “And obviously Bangkok were here at the tail end of their season, so they had more rhythm. They came with 26 players, we came with 15. To me I saw some positives and we’re going to prepare for 2011.

    “When we were fresh we played okay, an example is the goal that we scored. There were some nice touches and a beautiful finish.

    “And we tired 15 minutes before the end of the first half. Up until then we had the legs. It was very hot for us, we’re not used to the climate it’s obviously and advantage for Bangkok Glass. But I’m not taking anything away from Bangkok Glass.

    “I thought the No.9 when he came on, he really changed the game for Bangkok Glass. No doubt.”

    The No.9, Ajayi, was revealed by his coach, Carlos Roberto de Carvalho, to have been below a hundred percent fit prior to the game, which explained his exclusion from the starting lineup.

    Apart from him, former S.League regular Sutee Suksomkit was also left on the bench, making only a five-minute cameo towards the end of the game.

    Carvalho revealed that the Thailand international had been in treatment for the past three months for a knee injury, and was making his first return to action against South Melbourne.

    The absence of the key players from the Bangkok starting eleven was evident in the stuttering start the team made, as nobody was able to establish control of the game until Vasilevski’s opener.

    The midfielder, who also netted in the previous round against Gombak United, calmly finished off a neat one-two just inside the penalty box with a powerful left-footed shot that left Klisana Klunklin no chance at all.

    The Thais’ only response was a series of long-range efforts, with Sarun Promkeaw coming the closest as his shot from outside the penalty area ten minutes from the break was acrobatically tipped over at full stretch by the young Stefaan Sardelic.

    But Sarun would eventually open the scoring for Bangkok Glass right on the hour mark, and it was the lively Ajayi who was the architect.

    The forward cleverly worked his way down the left flank and to the byline, before pulling back to the unmarked Sarun, who had to apply the simplest of finishes from just outside the six-yard box and with a clear view on goal.

    The introduction of Ajayi, as well as the concession of the equaliser, clearly weighed heavily on the part-timers’ capabilities, as they were fully stretched in all departments.

    Just ten minutes after the equaliser, Ajayi put his team in front himself after latching on to a through ball from Kunihiko Takizawa. His effort, though weak and aimed low at the near post, managed to deceive the inexperienced Sardelic.

    But Sardelic could not be blamed for the third goal eight minutes from time, as this time Chatree Chimtale bravely dove on to the ball inches from the open goalmouth after Ajayi had powered his way past three defenders to chip into empty space inside the six-yard box.

    Carvalho was a calm presence after his team’s shaky win, but accepted it was always going to be a difficult tie.

    “It wasn’t going to be easy because both teams were a little bit tired,” said the former Brazil international.

    “We had a team that knew how to win. But football is football, inside the field it’s not easy.

    “I’m not surprised (with how South Melbourne started). Our team started well, but after that we lost concentration, that’s why they scored.

    “After that we controlled the game, we got more possession of the ball and we had some chances. But we didn’t play so well in the first half, second half was okay, much better.”

    The former Thailand national coach also let in on his team’s preparations for the second leg, as well as their expectations.

    “Today we enjoy this win. Tomorrow we start to do (training). Tomorrow we have one friendly for players who did not play today or didn’t have enough time to play,” he said.

    “We must respect the other team. Football is football inside the field. Today’s game is history. The second game will be another history.”

    With the tie balanced at just a two-goal margin, Krncevic was also aware that the possibility of salvaging an aggregate win was a possibility.

    “How we recover is very important now (for the next game),” said the 50-year-old.

    “We’ll get the boys back into ice baths and hot spas. And hopefully feel a little better come Friday.

    “So we’re not going to give up. We’re not saying we’re giving up. We’ll try to go out and win the game on Friday.”

    South on verge of exiting Singapore Cup

    An early goal by Daniel Vasilevski has been overshadowed by a second half defensive collapse, seeing us go down 3-1 to Bangkok Glass in the first leg. A possible sending off that wasn't for the Glass Rabbits in the first half might have swung the game a different way, but you've got to deal with the hand you're dealt. Away goals don't count for double, but it's hard to see us coming back in the second leg - the professionalism and class of the Thai side, as well as the difference in playing depth and adjustment to the conditions, will likely to be too much of a hurdle in attempting to overcome a two goal deficit. And in truth, it probably should have been more. Still, one can hope that the side can adjust its tactics and turn this tie around - but it's long odds from here.

    Monday, 4 October 2010

    Singapore Cup tie to be streamed over radio

    After being required to follow the opening round on gambling sites and Facebook, it'll be good this time to have something more substantial provided by the club itself. Apparently the second leg is being broadcast by one of the television networks over there, but the rights are far too expensive for the club to buy. I can understand that. If people manage to find online streams, good luck to them - if not, the radio broadcast should be good enough. Both matches start at 10:30pm Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time.

    Friday, 1 October 2010

    Some general ponderings on the Worlds of Football Conference

    Apologies to my readers in advance, but this may very well be my longest, most jargon laden, left wing piece yet on this blog; so I can understand if the general reader, who visits this site to gain news and opinions on South (and who may or may not also be fascist sympathisers) may feel shortchanged by the experience. However, I do encourage people to have at least a skim of the article, as it might provide some folks here with an insight not only into the range of work currently being undertaken by academics into sport (and the crossover it has with mainstream/lay people), but also perhaps create a better understanding of my own social and political positioning.

    This was my first such university run, scholar oriented conference, but I'm not going to bore you with the details of the catering arrangements. Rather, I'd like to provide some notes of indeterminate length of some of the papers presented and the conversations undertaken over the two days. I'll do it in one go, even though it's a fair bit to take in one hit.

    Rob Hess' keynote address on the past, present and future of women's participation in Australian Rules football, was both illuminating and of course frustrating. A lot of the evidence presented, particularly the photographic evidence, gave a certain level of nuance and detail to an area that like much of women's sport, and indeed women's histories, very much hidden, ignored and undervalued.

    The dress-up craze of the early 20th century means that in many articles addressing women's footy games, you can't actually be sure that it's women participating despite what the piece may say, as much of the photographic evidence appears to suggest that it was often men dressing as women who were in these contests. Other photographs showing women in footy guernseys can't be taken as evidence of continuous organised competition; more often, it was evidence of one off novelty or charity contests, or once again, merely posing for group shots in a whimsical fashion. The lack of continuity in women's footy is emphasised by the fact that the Victorian Women's Football League, founded only in 1981, had no idea of this past legacy.

    While all that is quite well and good, Hess' (who has an eerie resemblance to former AFL coach Robert Walls) bias towards Aussie Rules means that there this participation is not put into quite as clear a context as I would like or deem appropriate. No mention at all that proper soccer leagues for women were organised in Victoria almost a decade before the beginning of the VWFL, and that women's sports in general were used for charity and novelty purposes, much as the rare tours and matches of soccer by Asian opponents were heralded more for their novelty.

    As to the future, Hess sees a continuing boom for Australian women in footy, but I feel he over-stretches it somewhat, especially in comparison to soccer. After all, women's soccer, which has professional leagues and international competition, provides a level of competition that women's footy can never aspire to. Likewise, with the rude health of college women's soccer in the United States, talented young players from Australia may also have the chance to both play soccer and get an education at the same time, bundled with the experience of a lifetime. Maybe I go too much the other way, but footy people can have a certain degree of tunnel vision.

    Jessica Carniel's look at Australia, Asia and the Geopolitics of Soccer, was by her own admission, rather slapdash and still a little primordial. Key themes which she addressed were not Football Federation Australia's particular reasons why they switched to Asia, but rather what it might mean in the context of the wider Australian nation's attitudes towards our place and role with East Asia in particular. To that end, I felt Carniel failed to adequately place the Australian game within the fullest context of both Australian soccer's relationships with Asian soccer, but also Australian society's attitudes as well. Limiting herself somewhat to comparing Australia's first (failed) attempt to join the Asian Football Confederation to our success in doing so in 2005, she did not address the attitudes to Asian and international participation in the preceding 80 odd years of soccer's existence in this country.

    What this means is that there is the very high possibility of committing the oversight that different attitudes brought along with the non-British migrants along with their zeal for professionalising the local game, may have been part of the instigation for attempting to join the AFC and indeed have a red hot go at participating in World Cups and so forth - as opposed to the previous administrations overt preference ot waiting for the Old Dart to send a group of relative nobodies out here. There was however as with most of the conference, little time for questions, unless one wanted to speak with a mouth full of falafel wraps.

    Roy Hay presented a paper on 200 years of reporting football in Australia, a slightly ambitious claim in terms of length, and while ramshackle in its approach, still managed to provide a very general overview of how (and who) reported on the different games of football in Australia over its history. One thing already familiar to me through being exposed to the work of Ian Syson, is in the early days of attempts to organise competitions, the lack of clear descriptions in articles of what exactly people were playing on any given day. It leads me to the conclusions that either there is an assumption on the part of the reporter that the reader will immediately understand or implicitly know what is being played - or my preferred option, that there was in most cases a uniform lack of a desire for posterity's sake, an inability to live beyond the moment and provide something of use to future generations.

    Which contrasts so sharply with what happens to soccer writing in the 20th century. Despite whatever marginal positions the game found itself in, there is a demographic amongst soccer followers, both trained and untrained in journalism, who are prepared to collect, collate and maintain the game's history. The reasons for this were mulled over only briefly by me and Roy, and fell within the usual scope of why it turned out this way - namely that soccer as a marginal sport, especially within the media, unwittingly created a niche that could be filled by people that sought to do so. Thus, there are specific soccer newspapers in the 1920s, 1950s, 1980s and 2000s, all seemingly run on the smell of an oily rag.

    I also put it to him that for whatever reason, the Australian soccer media's quality and scope of writing, from both a journalistic and lay perspective was often of a higher calibre (especially when discussing the nuances of the game) and more politicised compared to its footy counterparts. Within so much of the available soccer specific press, we find so much to do not just with matches, but with issues and personalities. It's an ambitious and probably unfair claim to make - but I tend to find even the most brain-dead of Australian soccer forums simmering with these tensions. Perhaps there is element of distance between ordinary supporters of Aussie Rules from their administrative masters that does not as yet exist in Australian soccer.

    I was unsure how I would react to linguist Kieran File's look at post-match interviews - linguistics is an area of study that I am certainly interested in, and  find fascinating when presented well, but I also find myself struggling to deal with the terminology and unique forms of discourse. In the end, I came out of this presentation considerably underwhelmed. While quite ready to forgive the fact that the research was both apparently novel in its scope and that it was still in its early stages, File presented little that I felt was new to the field of the post-match interview.

    File focused on data collected from European Rugby Union matches, and presented flow charts detailing the mode or function of the different sorts of questions asked by interviewers and the responses obtained. Perhaps it was not within the scope of his work, but I felt a little shortchanged by the lack of what I consider the obvious question - why do we care what players say especially if they're only going to provide the usual self-censored and mechanical responses? When there is the rare occurrence of something 'interesting' being said, it'll be splashed across youtube and news networks soon enough, and the giddy little thrill of seeing it live is relatively minor. Maybe when he gets data to compare the differences of post-match interviews in team sports and individual sports, as he plans to do, there might be something more substantial to chew on.

    Of the various topics on offer - all the presentations were run against either one or two other sessions - those focused on social and new media and networks always tugged at my geeky heartstrings. Hey, I've spent so much time on these things over the past decade or so. All of which meant that I was a little disappointed in the papers presented on these issues, which I feel continue to either undersell and/or misinterpret the place of the online sphere.

    Brett Hutchins' paper on Twitter and the new ways that it allowed players and sports organisations to bypass the traditional media, while acknowledging the importance of new media in speeding up communications in the public, still isolated it from traditional practices and functions. More than anyone who presented over the course of the two days, I'm probably being most harsh and unfair on Hutchins, perhaps because I'm more in line with Ian Plenderleith's view on these things. I wrote about it an only slightly cantankerous article a little while back, which is oddly enough one of the more popular articles on here in recent times. Go figure. You can skip that and go straight to Plenderleith's When Saturday Comes. My argument is that none of this new media is particularly new, just more organised and more open to legal action.

    Which brings me to RMIT student Hugh Macdonald's look at Virtual Communities in Australian Rules Football. Hugh looked a little nervous, and I probably didn't help when I corrected him about when Richmond entered the VFL (he said 1925; it was of course, 1908). It was such a mundane and inexcusable error, of the kind that threatens to overshadow your entire presentation. Which to be fair to Macdonald, was not that bad, but ran into trouble where most essays looking at internet forums do - the almost inescapable fact that these places are temporary and elusive. Not just in data and hardware terms, where discussions literally disappear from caches, but also in the behaviour of the participants. While most online forum participants display a certain level of honesty, that level varies greatly between different people - in some cases to the point where, intentionally or not, it becomes a form of identity art, creating malleable personalities.

    Whether by purpose or design though, Macdonald does stumble upon something important within an AFL context - just as the last vestiges of club differences are being utterly demolished, and where the AFL, its clubs and the media are on the verge of monopolising how different events are portrayed, the rise of the internet allows disparate supporters to come together, not to necessarily agree with each other on certain issues, but at least in the majority of cases make a social contract, whereby they choose not to be enslaved entirely to the corporate sports machine that has set up camp at the foot of Afghani like impenetrable mountains looking for the last rogue elements of resistance. It's a guerrilla campaign, and as mentioned earlier, not everyone is on the same page when it comes to what's being fought for. But the fact that there several outlets providing access to resistance shows that the internet can do some good, even if it's only providing a place to run to.

    Dave Nadel's paper on the state of footy in Gippsland was interesting in as much as it allowed a moderately in depth look at how regional towns, and especially those with very small permanent populations, are managing to hold on. Squad point systems were only briefly touched upon, as was the effect of combining netball and football clubs into one entity on survival. There was no comparison with Gippsland soccer, which was disappointing because while there are less competitions and clubs, there is still a three division competition (with the remnants of a former national league participant). Maybe it just wasn't in the scope of the argument that he was trying to make? Maybe I want soccer to be in everything.

    Moving on to a completely different tangent now, to the problems, and possible solutions of football in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. These two separate papers were presented by Peter Ochieng, in part presented on behalf of the absent Majed Alahhmad (Saudi Arabia) and Qusai Mubaidin (Jordan).

    In the case of Saudi Arabia, the issues of women's participation was one that stood out like a sore thumb, but so it is with the rest of Saudi society. Instead the focus was on why Saudi Arabia's performance in men's football had slipped so dramatically in the last few years, after at least being able to reach the World Cup finals. Issues of the use of money to solve the problems, the lack of patience and the lack of trust and initiative placed into its own development systems, for players, referees, volunteers was at the forefront - and similar problems seem to exist in the soccer fortunes of other Gulf States (albeit those do not necessarily have the population of the Saudis).

    The lack of hesitancy to use foreign players as part of the national team (provided they convert to Islam of course) was explained within the cultural parameters of the Gulf - so much of the workforce (quite possibly due to the restricted lives and opportunities for local women) is made up of guest workers - it seems only natural to import footballers as well. The scope for improvement is also dependent on which Saudi prince is in charge - a 'progressive' may seek, for whatever reason to undertake the necessary changes, but there's no guarantee that Prince will remain in that position for long - and the archaic method of having to personally consult the one person with any power makes things go slower. Still, the one bit of obvious hope for the game in Saudi Arabia is that the more religious lobbyists, cadres, demographics, call them what you will, show little interest in football, allowing more leeway perhaps than in many other sections of society. The climate of the region doesn't help though.

    In the case of Jordan, a small population (about 5.4 million) and limited financial resources makes things harder. And yet, there has been improvement of late for the Jordanians, by restructuring its internal systems and attempting to promote the abilities of its young players overseas. All this work is still in a very nascent stage, but there appears to be an acknowledgement that they should send their best young players to Europe to develop further. For both Saudi Arabia and Jordan, comparisons were made with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations, highlighting the importance of human resources - administrators, referees, coaches - to a national team's success.

    Which leads into Peter Ochieng's discussion on African football, and the surprising (to me) and important re-evaluation of the influence of player managers and agents in the footballing fortunes of a particular nation. It's fair to that say player agents have a bad reputation, and in the public's mind at least, a well earned reputation, And yet, properly organised, accountable, well trained and ethical agents can have a tremendously positive influence on footballer's lives - for many young footballers, living thousands of miles away from home, their managers may often be as close to father figures as they may get.

    This can be seen in the transformation of the industry from being dominated by player agents, whose main goal is to help negotiate contracts and then departing the scene, to full service player manages, on beck and call 24/7 to iron out any situation as it arises. The other side of Ochieng's argument, is that competent player agents can also be a means of both providing avenues to players to more lucrative employment, but also to create an environment where prospective clubs looking for new players are made aware of the widest possible range - this links back to the Saudi and Jordanian examples, where the argument is also made that as part of reforms, more player managers and agents are required to establish the networks and open the door to these opportunities for player from so called football backwaters.

    I also managed to have a good and lighthearted chat with Ochieng, mostly centred around how we got to where we were and/or are in Australian soccer, and comparing each other's corruptions, with his example of his native Kenya, where the official responsible for providing the uniforms to a team of athletes ending up selling them. Well, he won that debate, though my buddy Gains' recollection of the Indonesian FA boss who was running his organisation even while he was in jail is still way out in front.

    On to the second day, with the opening presentation being the keynote address by Jayne Caudwell, on Football in the UK, LGBTQ Participation and The Justin Campaign. For those like myself, unaware of the Justin Campaign, it's an anti-homophobia group with the specific aim of tackling homophobia in football. Cauldwell's was the outstanding presentation of the conference, her research rooted solidly within academic theory and yet also remarkably accessible. She presented the reluctance of the English FA to assist or partake in the campaign against homophobia until very recently, and the similarities in the long road to getting action on tackling racism on the terraces.

    There was also analysis of the geographical/personal space that the homophobic insults used amongst football fans (and indeed amongst the wider public) sought to penetrate and use to establish dominance over minority opinion, as well as the way it is used to transform oneself into a more usually more masculine presence (in both men and women homophobes). The problems which arise in confronting the problem were also discussed in the presentation and later on - with one of the chief issues being that soccer fans, and in particular the organised groups of mostly young men that make up chanting/singing groups at games are (mostly unconsciously) self-identifying as reactionary traditionalists - that is, people who more often than not offer no other excuse for their behaviour than the often trotted out line of 'tradition' - irrespective of how long or short, how damaging or ignorant participants may be about these traditions.

    It's not just a soccer problem of course, and Cauldwell coming from an English background (she's also from the University of Brighton) meant that, so much of what she presented which made perfect sense within in an English context, comes out all askew in an Australian context, because here soccer is the 'poof's game'. I wish we could have Cauldwell spend a couple of years in Australia getting a feel for how it all works here.

    Ian Syson presented a shortened version of his paper How Lost Was My Archive, looking at 'new narrative possibilities in Australian football histories'. I'd seen this presented at least once before and was familiar with its content - this was a tightened version, the most coherent so far. For those not up to speed, Syson (and all all right thinking iconoclasts) are seeking to tear down the mainly Aussie Rules created ideas of the clear and concise birth and development of the various codes in Australia. To that end, soccer's appearance in Australia has been pushed back from its 1880 Sydney debut, to an earlier date (which escapes me now, bah) in Tasmania, to other matches where half and half games were played.

    The other part of Syson's work was to do with promoting the work of the National Library of Australia's newspaper archives, which we've spoken about in other places on here. While the positives of the archive were extolled, the dangers of using it to the exclusion of other sources and traditional methods of research were emphasised, especially with the 'magpie approach' of picking out bits and pieces and moving on and the pitfall of ignoring the cultural environment that exists around certain articles. That, and the fact that other newspapers and sources could have quite different views of an issues, or whether they give it any importance whatsoever.

    Steve Watters talk on The ‘Battle of Solway’ Wairarapa versus Hawke’s Bay, was interesting mostly within the context of learning a bit about provincial New Zealand rugby, but for me, not too much else. It's a good story, but it really did seem out of place amongst much of the work being presented, as if the details were mostly already settled - certainly it didn't seem to be a 'lost' history of any sort.

    Ken Mansell's look at the Charles Boyles photo collection was a bit of a revelation to me. Boyles took photographs of many sports, but principally footy, between 1916 and 1953. They are almost uniformly artless and mundane photographs of teams and players across the decades - there are no action shots, no crowd shots, just posed photographs. Boyles sold these photos around the football grounds of Melbourne - such was his lack of interest in any sort of posterity, that he left no notes, no writings, and none of the photos are marked with anything other than a copyright notice consisting of his name and address on the back of the photos.

    Thus, many of the photos are now of unknown and unidentified clubs and players, with often the only clue to an era being the grandstand that may happen to be in the background. Boyles, though crippled since childhood, created a small empire, in Mansell's words 'controlling the production, distribution and sale' of his work, and 'encapsulating, in primitive form the basic elements of the marketing colossus that is today's Australian Football League'. So many photographers try to capture 'the moment', a defining image of an era - it is part and parcel of action oriented photography, an art form seeking to find something that will survive in the public consciousness due to its unique ability to wordlessly sum up a passage of time. Boyles' photos are at the opposite of the scale - they are everyday, making gods into mere mortals - though that could be because we don't know or are not intimately and personally familiar with the exploits of these past players. As an aside, I was apparently able to help confirm that an unidentified team photo from the late 1930s or early 1940s was that of the Williamstown Football Club, from the time when they seemed to have a gold guernsey with a blue sash, as opposed to their usual and traditional blue guernsey with a gold sash.

    John Cash and Joy Damousi, and after them Deb Agnew, both looked at the issues faced by retired AFL players. The scope covered the practical, such as work, education, lifestyle, money, and the 'theoretical' - that is, in creating a new persona independent from football, and the requirement to create and re-mold one's sense of masculinity. The data presented was mostly of players who seemed quite well adjusted, and even somewhat already prepared for life after football. Notably, this preparation seemed to originate from within themselves, and not from initiatives originating from the clubs.

    The players interviewed crossed several eras of the post-1990 AFL transformation from 'state' to 'national' competition - thus covering players from across the nation, but not omitting players who played during an era still describable as semi-professional. The AFL apparently did not consent to having current players being interviewed, which to me indicates that there are problems with the player welfare initiatives that currently exist. Are players being enrolled in dud TAFE courses just to comply with education/employment targets? What are the levels of literacy and numeracy amongst AFL players? All this, and the frequent question of whether some of these blokes even have the basic social skills to function without player managers and clubs micromanaging their affairs. Deeply concerning - but most of us will happily look the other way if our team can get a flag.

    The last session I attended was a panel discussion, looking at anti-homophobia initiatives in Australian sport. Sadly, Pippa Grange from the AFL Players Association was a no-show (I don't know why), but Sunil Patel from Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria was there to talk about his organisation's poster campaign, which sought to use sport/aussie rules as a common ground to help people come out to their families. It's an interesting angle, and I fancy that if you live in inner city Melbourne you've probably come across these posters (there are several variations) adorning various walls. Next up were a couple of representatives of the queer (or queer friendly depending on your definition/choice of words) soccer club Melbourne Rovers. The Rovers, apart from playing under their own moniker in games against other gay clubs, also play within the metropolitan system under the auspices of the Yarra Jets. Once again, an interesting angle, with comparisons made between playing for a 'mainstream' sporting club as an openly gay man in comparison to playing in a gay team within a a club that is open about its zeal to be diverse and open, and yet not listing the gay wing of its club amongst its achievements. We have a ways to go it seems.

    Jayne Cauldwell was also on the panel, as was Eric Anderson, an American who's done some work amongst British youth with regards to their attitudes to homosexuality, and boy was he keen to tell us the good news. And it is good news. Turns out that in much of the nation, when choosing the most average/median schools they could find (both public and Catholic) that young people's attitudes to homophobia are markedly different to even those of people their age ten years ago - and by different, I mean far more progressive. Maybe it's just a British thing at this stage, but evidence in Anderson's research suggests that homophobia is quickly attaining the status of racism.

    So why was I not as ecstatic about these facts as I should have been? Can it be the classic lefty preference for truly unwinnable causes, that should certainly not be won, lest we get what we're actually fighting for? Do I hang around South people and other assorted reactionaries too much? Or was it just the fact Anderson paces along the front of the audience like the  self-help guru, eager to sell us the message that will save us? Maybe a bit of all those things. He was up there for maybe 10-15 minutes, and I felt exhausted by his approach and demeanour, and could not contemplate sticking around for his keynote address, though I don't doubt that it was informative and passionate.

    Nevertheless, it was a pretty full on and worthwhile couple of days, providing much food for thought. And if you've managed to get this far through this article, I hope that some of that feeling has entered your headspace too. I just hope some of it makes sense.