Sunday, 27 February 2011

About four years ago - reminiscence of Langerak's brief VPL stint

Dean Anastasiadis got injured in round four against Green Gully. On came a skinny kid by the name of Mladen Tosic who, try as he might, was never able to convince the coaches, the fans or even his fellow defenders that he was the right man for the spot between the sticks.

So for the second half of the season, in came a young lad by the name of Mitch Langerak, a Queenslander on loan from Melbourne Victory. He made mistakes, to be sure - the worst of which was letting a harmless grubber of a cross by Henry Fa'arodo go through his legs for a tap in and the win for Richmond on a dispiriting Friday night. But he also showed enough in his aerial exploits, dubbed by Ian Syson at the time as either 'solid as a rock' or 'safe as houses' - I can't remember which, but it's the sentiment not the wording which matters - that even I was making uncharacteristically bold predictions like 'future Socceroo keeper'.

The years and keepers have come and gone at South in our VPL era. Deano came back after his injury and apocryphally kept Neil Young out of a job; Nick Jelic filled in for a game or two, as did Andy Sfetkopoulos; Tommi Tommich was awesome on short notice at the tail end of 2008, and then fell in a heap the year after; and the still young Stefaan Sardelic has pinch hit over the past few years without being able to nail down the starting keeper's spot.

The Agitator leaves his mark on the scoreboard
But for whatever intangible reason none of these guys excited me like Mitch did on a cold and rainy Sunday in June at Chaplin Reserve, against a dogged Sunshine George Cross outfit. It was a hard fought 2-0 win, well earned in the mud by the players, as the South fans huddled together under umbrellas not always their own on the hill at the Anderson Road end, and scoreboard shenanigans by one of our stalwart fans kept us amused as we fought off the onset of frostbite.

But just one of the enduring memories of that game was our old foe John Markovski, who was coaching George Cross at the time, doing his by that stage almost compulsory act of subbing himself on against us. When the home side won a free kick within Markovski's range, there was just that moment of dread. Loathe his as we do, he still had a phenomenal left foot shot - he hit a volley as sweetly as he would have done in his prime, but Langerak made the save, and was re-christened 'Mitso' by the faithful.

Billy Natsioulas fights for the ball.
It was a glorious day all round, back in the day when there was still a sort of VPL  camaraderie amongst South fans before we divided ourselves into innumerable factions; when Gate 1/HFC faction splitting was the height of our worries; when some people still thought we were a shoe-in for the second Melbourne A-League spot when it opened up; when a few wins against some of that season's strugglers, which included the aforementioned game, had us run into a bit of form halfway through the year before the Victory game and the subsequent collapse into an inconsistent heap, whose misery was only occasionally punctuated by moments such as this.

This morning Mitch 'Mitso' Langerak made his Bundesliga debut for the ladder leading Borussia Dortmund away at Bayern Munich. Dortmund won 3-1, their first win away at Bayern in 20 years. From all reports, Langerak had a good game, including making one great reflex save against Mario Gomez. Four years on from what for most football fans would rightly be viewed as a game between two also-rans of Australian football, a young man brought in almost as a last resort to try and solve a goalkeeping crisis at Lakeside is one step closer to achieving his potential. Now, as then, I have every confidence that he will fulfill his promise.

Change of venue for match against VTC

Probably owing to the pitch at Kingston Heath being in a horrible state, our match against the VTC on Wednesday has been moved to Port Melbourne's SS Anderson Reserve. I assume the kickoff time remains 8:30.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Highlights from the match against Green Gully

Exhausting and ridiculous - White Eagles 4 Hellas 6

To the few who claim that the Serbian Sports Centre is not in the middle of nowhere, please be quiet and/or go away. When they switch the lights on at the MCG, you can see them from Northcote's grandstand; out at Keysborough, all you can see are horses and people on the other side of the fence who were too tight to pay to get in. Now to the game.

Our first half was beyond atrocious. White Eagles dominated every facet of the game. Former South forward Goran Zoric did most of the damage, playing wide on the left. Time and again he destroyed Sebastian Petrovich who was stationed at right back.

Petrovich looked slow and out of place. Even when attempting to establish attacks, he was being harried relentlessly by Zoric, who exploited the pace advantage with merciless zeal. Petrovich first received a yellow card for a clumsy and frustrated tackle on Zoric, and then a penalty after bringing down Zoric. Luckily for South, Zoric smashed the ensuing penalty against the bar, but South wasn't able to rally from that piece of fortune.

Zoric went on to score two goals in the first half, almost identical in their execution. Running around Petrovich and across the face of the 18 yard box past Topalovic, he blasted both his goals into the bottom corner, which made one wonder where this form had come from. At South - though admittedly he wasn't the only one - he would struggle to bury chances from the six yard box, and his defensive efforts were mostly negligible.

White Eagles were helped further in the first half by South's tactical shortcomings. Springvale played very high up the field, and yet South refused to move the ball quickly, preferring to mess around with aimless short passes, which would almost inevitably gift the ball back to the home team. The home side's high tempo also saw South unable to win much in the middle of the field - the only saving grace was that Springvale weren't able to create any more clear cut chances, and that South wasn't down by further.

Not seeing any immediate way out of the predicament we were in, one was left hoping for damage limitation. In the second half drastic changes were brought about. De Nittis and Petrovich off, the new Heart loan signing Kamal Ibrahim on as well as Kyle Joryeff and much to my surprise, the game swung almost immediately. Ibrahim's fellow Heart teammate Kliment Taseski wss moved to right back, and shut Zoric out of the game.

Within 13 minutes South was in front. Fernando scored first with a long range effort, before a dreadful error by Springvale's goalkeeper gifted Ibrahim a goal on debut. Coming out for a ball over the top, the keeper collected the ball, which was then accidentally dislodged by a collision with one of his defenders - the ball fell to Ibrahim, who stroked the ball home to level the scores. A minute later Taseski hit another long range effort to put the visitors ahead.

Celebrations were shortlived after O'Dor gave away a penalty, and this time Springvale didn't waste their chance. 3-3 and still half an hour to play. Carl Recchia put South back in front after Fernando's shot hit the bar, and Jesse Krncevic made it 5-3 and seemingly out of the reach of Springvale, but the home side managed to pull it back to 5-4 after a parried shot was tucked away. Krncevic made it 6-4 moments later, and that was how it stayed, somehow, for the rest of the game.

While many were happy with the win and in particular the fightback, there were many obvious concerns to come out of the game. Fernando De Moraes undoubtedly gave South the spark we needed in the 2nd half, but as with last week against Green Gully was obviously not 100% right, and a bad tackle on him late on the game when he should have been subbed off, may have made things worse.

While the half time tactical reshuffle worked, it should have come far earlier. The manner of our first half capitulation required far earlier intervention - against a better side, we might well have been down further than what turned out to be a measly two goals. In addition, while we could even have scored 10 goals in the second half - Krncevic's overhead kick and some close offside calls will be interesting to see on the replay - it was done against a defence which had already leaked seven goals in its first two games, and will almost certainly concede many more by year's end.

Indeed all the positives - the stellar efforts of the new signings, the fightback, the scintillating attacking play of the second half and the general buzz after such a win could well be negated by the eventual inferiority of the opponent. White Eagles were unable to shut up shop or adjust tactically, and I believe that as with their previous stints in the VPL, they will struggle to survive the fight against relegation.

For us, once again we looked magnificent going forward once we got going, but against better opponents, and especially against sides which are able to grind out results, we'll need massive improvement across the board. Next week with games against the VTC and Bentleigh Greens, we'll see if we're able to show the requisite improvement. Two grinding 1-0 wins might be the order of the day after the two opening rounds defensive efforts.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Kiss of Death, Round 2, 2011

What a shocking round last week. No money for anyone. I was at two games last week, Oakleigh vs Northcote and South vs Green Gully. Oakleigh vs Northcote was full of drama. Oakleigh should’ve had a man sent off, should’ve lost the game, and overall was pretty poor. Northcote was lively and should’ve been declared the winner. South provided an excellent first 60 minutes, then began to fade away after Gully had equalised. In what easily could’ve finished 5-5, the final result was 1-1. This week, we have the following.

Oakleigh Cannons vs Green Gully
What is it with Oakleigh and playing a few of their games at home in the opening rounds? Something must be done about this. No explanation would be valid, and I find this decision by the FFV as very daft. Oakleigh did not impress me last week at all. Early days one would say, but they don’t seem to be a threat this year. Impotent up front, slow in the backline, and the midfield lacks that X-Factor player. Green Gully is just Green Gully. Will always be tough opponents and I see them beating Oakleigh this week. Oakleigh Cannons 0 – Green Gully 2.

Springvale White Eagles vs South Melbourne
White Eagles are coming off a 3-0 loss to fellow relegation battlers Bentleigh last week. As stated in last weeks Kiss Of Death, White Eagles peaked too too early in the pre-season, and have quite frankly run out of legs. South is looking good, but just needs to iron out a few things in the backline. The transition from defense to midfield is fine, but last week a few errors in the backline nearly cost them the game. Keeper Stefaan Sardelic will be the club's no.1 this season. Deservedly so with young Stefaan performing well when being called on. White Eagles 0 – South 4.

Northcote City vs Melbourne Knights
Northcote City were very unlucky to lose to Oakleigh last week. A disallowed goal (which was NOT offside), and two goalkeeping errors cost them the game against Oakleigh. Melbourne Knights I am yet to see, but they will be contenders this year for a change. They won’t be good enough to beat Northcote at home, but they will be this year's quiet achievers. Northcote City 2 – Melbourne Knights 1.

Dandenong Thunder vs St Albans Saints
Dandy will struggle this year, but will be good enough to just beat St.Albans. St.Albans won’t get relegated and will be a mid table finisher. Dandenong Thunder 3 – St.Albans 2.

Hume City vs Richmond
Yet to see anyone, but Richmond losing to the Bergers tells me that they will definitely struggle this season. Changes off the park will impact the players. Hume City 2 – Richmond 0.

Heidelberg United vs Bentleigh Greens
Heidelberg, one of my least favourite teams. Credit to George Katsakis though. I have been to many a state league game in the last few years, and every bloody game I’m at who walks in... George Katsakis. My hat goes off to him for his scouting abilities. He seems to find players from all over the place, and they end up paying off. Bentleigh Greens are all rapt that they beat Springvale White Eagles. Woopeedoo, you’re both going to get relegated anyway. Will be a tough match, with plenty of cards. Heidelberg United 1 – Bentleigh Greens 1.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Heart duo Taseski and Ibrahim sign for South

Young talent brought in to bolster ranks; Steve from Broadmeadows isn't happy though

Rumours of potential Heart signings rang true today, as South signed up youngsters Kliment Taseski and Kamal Ibrahim on loan from Mirabella's minions.

While talented players in their own right, both are suited more to positions further up the field, which is not the most obvious area of need of attention at South.

Still, they should be handy additions to the squad - unless you're like my mate Steve from Broady who thinks this announcement is a massive disappointment. Steve doesn't rate these guys, and is rightly skeptical of how long they'll be with us.

Time will tell if he's right or not. Me, I have no idea.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Comical finishing extravaganza - South 1 Gully 1

This game could have ended up 4-4; it could just as easily ended up 7-7, thanks to some atrocious finishing and shaky defending. Both teams would be glad to get away with a draw to open the season.

Jesse Krncevic gave us the lead with a nice finish, the kind of stuff that we missed so much last year (and the year before, and the year before that...). Nicky Jacobs got a surprise start and did well, before being subbed for what reason I don't know. Sardelic got the no. 1 keeper's spot, and made a hash of several moments. Trent Waterson came on late and looked terrible. The defense was messy and failed to deal with the diagonal balls being played by Gully.

Fernando looked sluggish - though he did hit the woodwork twice, he fluffed a golden chance one on one with the keeper where Nando, racked by uncharacteristic indecision, allowed the keeper enough time to nullify the chance. Supposedly new players from the A-League to come soon - from the Heart apparently, while a couple of other players are waiting for clearances.

Clarendon Corner returned to their patch inside the ground after self-imposed exile of sorts. Rama was there, and got a rousing reception from them. They had some banners about injustice. For some inexplicable reason they started chanting my name before the match started. It's headed straight to the lead for best chant of the year. I'm an egoist

Next match against Springvale White Eagles on Friday night in the middle of nowhere. Half the fun for my posse will be getting and back. The other half will be seeing how we deal with a side who had raging hot pre-season form and yet has coughed up seven goals in it's first two games.

Dinner was Es Teler on Swanston Street. Nasi Uduk - coconut rice, fried egg, chicken soup, fried chicken. Not too bad. Washed down with Jus Pisang - banana smoothie made with condensed milk. Tasted good, but I drank mine too quickly and almost gave myself a brain freeze.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Kiss of Death, Round 1, 2011

How about that? We bid a fond farewell to the Kiss of Death last year, as it sought to pursue bigger and better things, but then realised that this blog is the be all and end all of Victorian soccer. Whatever helps me sleep at night I guess. Good to have the Kiss of Death back, now with its own merch.

After a short hiatus and many requests, I have decided to rejoin the South Of The Border blog with my weekly Kiss of Death segment. This year I will be going all out in naming and shaming and leaving it up to the editor-in-chief to decide if he publishes it or not.

Oakleigh Cannons vs Northcote City - Jack Edwards Reserve
I will be at this one on Friday night. Key point of interest for myself will be Arthur Papas. The youngest senior coach from VPL to Provisional League 2. I'm interested to see the team he has built, and how they react to his tactical approach. As a youngster with a well filled resume I will be expecting a lot from him. He is the new poster boy of every young aspiring coach. I wish him every success in the future. Why am I saying future? Because I only give him six weeks at the Cannons. Northcote will be the same as last year. Counter attacking, long ball football straight to Rixon. They were exciting at times last year, but I don’t see them making the finals this year. There are only so many times where they can ride the wave of luck. Oakleigh Cannons 1 – Northcote City 2

Richmond vs Heidelberg United - Kevin Bartlett Reserve
Will Kevin Bartlett show up to this one? Who cares. Will anyone show up to this one? LOL, two major powerhouses of Victorian football battle it out on a Sunday arvo down at KB Reserve. The Bergers did well during the Hellenic Cup finishing second behind South Melbourne. I haven’t seen Richmond this year, so I don’t really know what they are capable of. Richmond 2 – Heidelberg 2.

South Melbourne vs Green Gully Cavaliers - John Cain Memorial Reserve
About time we get to play these guys early on. South is coming off a win at the Hellenic Cup, and Green Gully is coming off a ? no idea. Controversy down at South the last few weeks with Rama being shown the door. I’m here to make people money, not to discuss politics. South is looking good from what I’ve seen and will be a serious contender for this year's championship. A couple of weak points, but nothing of major heart failure status. South Melbourne 3 – Green Gully 0.

St Albans Saints vs Hume City - Churchill Reserve
Ole! St Albans Saints are back in the VPL albeit one year overdue. They are looking a bit shaky. I saw them lose to Altona Magic a few weeks back and was not really impressed with my fourth favourite team in Victoria. They will have some teething issues early on but I think they will survive the drop and most likely be a mid-table team. Hume City has been quiet from my perspective. Haven’t had a chance to venture out to Broady and they haven’t been playing anywhere close to me. This one is kinda a blind tip. St Albans Saints 0 – Hume City 3.

Melbourne Knights vs Dandenong Thunder - Knights Stadium
Have looked at both lists, and nothing really fancy to talk about. Hopefully the Knights are a little more competitive this year. Dandy will struggle. Will survive the drop, but only just. Melbourne Knights 3 – Dandy Thunder 1.

Bentleigh Greens vs Springvale White Eagles - Kingston Heath Soccer Complex
The 2 relegation bound teams fight it out early on, which is a good thing kinda. Gives one of them some hope and false belief that they actually are a good team. Bentleigh don’t look anything special. Were pretty poor in the Hellenic Cup and didn’t really show me anything. Bentleigh Greens 3 – Springvale White Eagles 3.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

... but on the plus side

my media pass just became even more valuable. I guess somewhere deep beneath my anarchist exterior beats the heart of a Scrooge McDuck capitalist. Or maybe I just like sticking it to the man.

Mirabella Cup announced by FFV - requisite whinge follows

So the good old FFV managed to pull a surprise out of the proverbial hat by announcing the return of a cup competition to the Victorian season. Details are still fairly sketchy, but here's what we know.

  • According to the FFV, it will be open to all clubs - I assume this will also include regional areas, considering the emphasis on 'statewide' - but clubs must choose to enter the competition, and there are entrance fees involved.
  • The amateur clubs - that is State League 2 and below - will sort themselves out first, with the semi-professional clubs - State League 1 and the VPL coming in at stage 2.
  • The competition will include Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory, who will come in at the quarter final stage.
  • It has half decent prizemoney - $50,000 apparently, though I'm not sure how that will be divided.
  • It's not the return of the Dockerty Cup - it will be something that 'builds on the traditions of the Dockerty Cup', whatever that means.
  • Apparently Mirabella International, global leaders in the manufacturing of light bulbs, have committed to support the competition for ten years.

And now for my complaints.

  • Short notice much?
  • Where are these games going to be held?
  • When are these games going to be held? 
  • What happens with postponements? 
  • Why couldn't they keep the name Dockerty Cup with the sponsor's name attached at the front?
  • If Victory fans screw up, will the fines go towards the FFV coffers or FFA ones?
  • Gate money? Security? Referees?
  • Will members of the amateur VicSoccer system, which is not affiliated with the FFV, be allowed to compete?
  • Why couldn't this have been organised before the fixtures came out?
  • Seeing as every club in the FFV system is being asked to pay a fee for participating, are the two A-League outfits also being asked to contribute?
There are people out there that are saying we should be glad that this sort of thing is back at all, and I suppose they have a point. I just wish it had been done in such a manner that all the details could have been made available on announcing this initiative, and not have people scratching their heads as to how it was going to work.

That, and keeping the Dockerty Cup name and trophy. Oh, well.

Hellenic Cup 2011 final highlights

Monday, 14 February 2011

2011 squad lists released

As seen here on the FFV's site. Some interesting names on and not on the South list - and that of several other clubs. The big surprise is seeing Trent Waterson's name on our list - yes, that Trent Waterson. Some may recall Waterson having a sort of breakout season in 2006 for Sunshine in the VPL, including scoring the winning goal against us from an unmarked header in the six yard box at Chaplin Reserve. He joined us the following season, but was never really able to on a consistent basis recapture the form that brought him across in the first place. Then as several players have done in recent times, he went from South to SouthLite - aka Oakleigh - and had their relevance disappear off the face of the earth, and in Waterson's case, even had him being asked - let's just say politely, for what it's worth - by a fan to give back the trophy he was awarded by Clarendon Corner. With so many midfielders in the squad, you have to wonder what people are thinking in bringing him back.

The big story player wise this off-season has been the Ramazan Tavsancioglu saga. Not wishing to revisit the gory details - you can do that elsewhere on this blog - he's found his way to Oakleigh. But in a surprise, Peter Zois, who left us hanging prior to our Singapore Cup quarter final, is not on their list. As aren't Joe Keenan and Yianni Galanos on our lists. Keenan perhaps is still technically regarded as an Adelaide United player, and rumours have circulated that Zois will be a permanent number two at Heart, although as their still current number two he may still be registered there. There's also no Nathan Caldwell - is this the final admission that his playing career, which was halted by a stray Robbie Wynne tackle during the 2009 Hellenic Cup, is never to resume? If so, it's a sad end to what should have been a tidy career at this level - here's hoping I'm wrong.

But what of Galanos? Is his injury so severe that he won't be available for the entire season, as previously rumoured but quickly quashed by the South media machine? Is this why Watersin has been brought back into the fold? And what of the several rumoured super signings waiting in the wings at several clubs? What's the point of putting up a list if there's going to be more added to it and the people you thought were going to be on it aren't on there? Once again, I just don't know how this is all meant to work - but that's part of the fun I suppose.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Buy a membership and stuff

Hellenic Cup Final - South Melbourne 2 Heidelberg 1

We had to come from behind, rode our luck and needed extra time, but we got there in the end, winning our third Hellenic Cup in five years. Osagie Ederaro shook off several defenders on our left hand side to slot the ball past Stefaan Sardelic to give the Bergers the lead, before late in the first half some great work by Kyle Joryeff saw him win a contested ball and send in the perfect cross for Jesse Krncevic to score from point blank range. Both sides had their chances to take the lead in the second half, though as the game wore on I felt we were the more dominant of the two sides, after a slow start. In the first half of extra time, Marinos Gasparis ripped out a wonderful goal which have Griffin McMaster no chance - you could tell it was going to go over his head almost immediately - and we did enough to hold on to win the cup.

The crowd seemed smaller than last year, perhaps due to the absence of one of the south-east based sides in the final. Jesse Krncevic was one of several players to receive some heavy tackles - he was subbed off late in the match, but will hopefully be right to play against Green Gully in round one. Defensively we looked shaky at times, mostly through trying to be too smart with the ball, but nothing dramatically different to last year as of yet, except for the now apparent lack of depth. Sardelic had a good game with some excellent saves, but needs to work on his clearances, and when we're in the lead, not look to rush to get rid of the ball.

It's still very early days having yet to meet the full force of grinding, results oriented, VPL football, but we moved the ball well, and played with some style, in complete contrast to almost everything we presented last year. Joryeff has seemed a more complete player over this pre-season period than all of last season, and we all hope he can take that sort of attitude and form into the real stuff. Jesse Krncevic looks like he will be that class striker that we've lacked for years, with the exception of an aging Vaughan Coveny. Sebastian Petrovic, criminally ignored last season, looked like he hadn't missed a beat. All in all, more positive signs than negative ones but the real test of course starts from next week.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Fuck. Yeah. (and a really dodgy photo)


Possibly the worst entry ever submitted here.

I had an FFV media pass back in 2009, due to helping Ian 'The Big Fella' Syson out with various streams of research during his stnt as writer in residence at the Federation. It was great fun as you'd expect, helping me get into several games for nothing including the 2009 grand final and Altona Magic - Green Gully 3-3 super classic, but I never saw myself pursuing a media pass beyond that year. After all, my eyes were so bad it was all I could do to remember to cheer on the blue team (in most cases), let alone write frequent match reports.

After a persistent eye infection I got new glasses late last year, which improved that situation a great deal, but not nearly enough to become a fully fledged match reporter. And even though I'd had offers of having a form signed by the club to get a media pass, I preferred, in an atypical bout of hubris/misplace morality to maintain my independence from outside entities and pay for my concession ticket, which I'm glad to do, partly because it's the right thing to do.

For some reason though during this off-season, I got it into my head that three years and over 1000 entries later (mostly by me, but also with nice contributions by Cliff and the Kiss of Death),that it might be worthwhile to very tentatively try and branch out and see if all this work was enough to merit a media pass. After overcoming my customary trepidation, doubt and self-loathing long enough to submit an application, it turns out that yes, good things sometimes come to those willing to commit to the task of spilling somewhat disturbingly soothing bile across the interwebs.

Thanks to Mia Hayes from the FFV for answering my questions, such as this absolute pearler - should I bother applying?. It's either a great and timely acknowledgment of the increasing relevance of the blogosphere, or obviously undeserved reward for three solid years of writing crap, but whatever the case, it's time to once more cop greasy looks from the guys at the Altona East ticket stand when I get in for free, possibly vote in the media's player of the year award, the Bill Fleming Medal, and hell, maybe even attend a press conference or two this time around.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Lakeside update February 2011

Don't know who gave Athletics Victoria permission to take happy snaps and put them online, but I'm glad they've done so. Here's a few to whet the appetite, and don't forget to click on them to make them larger.

The first photo contains a pretty decent look at the new stand that will be on the opposite side. I'm not a huge fan of the decorative concrete stuff on the top, and it's hard to tell at this stage what kind of view people will have from that side of the ground. But from back row of our stand, and admittedly going on a purely rough idea of how far the field will be from that, it doesn't seem to bad - where they put the benches will have a large impact on the viewing quality. At least compelling people to use the stand might get a bit more atmosphere going.

In the second photo, you get a view of what our grandstand will look like. The old 'SMH' is being removed, which is both sad and somewhat inevitable, and apparently being replaced with something a little bland. No 'SMFC', just white seats. I guess we get to have nice new seats, which after the beating some of the old ones copped over the years, can only be a good thing. Here's to hoping that those who have a penchant for ripping seats out stop and pause before dpoing so this time. Here's also hoping that the people whose names are located behind those seats haven't lost their place in history - whether they are still with us or not, they made an important contribution.

In another photo (not shown here) there's also refurbishment taking place in our corporate boxes. But for those with an eye for history, there's bound to be interest in the progress of the refurbishment of the so called 1926 stand. As you can see, there's still a very long way to go. The structure is fragile, and I wonder how they're going to finish it buy the proposed July/August project end? Or was that only for the rest of the venue, that is, the playing and new stand parts? I don't believe they've started yet with Athletics Victoria's new home either. It looks like even after we've settled in that there'll still be a fair bit of construction happening around the place. But by keeping the old stands, refurbishing them, and adding the several new buildings, the venue will have a point of difference to many new stadia - that of the ground with an obvious history, and not a completely out of the box feel.

Hellenic Cup finals schedule

Going by the match programme, this is what the Hellenic Cup finals day this Saturday should look like - but knowing how the Hellenic Cup has gone this year, who knows how it will actually turn out?

  • 10.00 Youth Final - Heidelberg vs Bentleigh
  • 11.45 Veterans Final - Bayside Argonauts vs Lalor
  • 1.30 Women's Final - South Melbourne vs Ashburton
  • 3.15 Minos Cup - Belmore Hercules vs someone or other
  • 5.00 3rd vs 4th Playoff - Oakleigh vs Bentleigh
  • 6.45 Hellenic Cup Final - Heidelberg vs South Melbourne

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

South through to another Hellenic Cup final

A 2-0 win over Bentleigh Greens in our semi-final, with goals to Vasilevski (freekick) and Fernando (penalty), means we're through to another Hellenic Cup final, this time against Heidelberg, who defeated Oakleigh 4-0. It'll be our fifth appearance in the final in the last six years. I'll try and get the finals schedule up on here soonish.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Whatever, I give up

Look, if you're planning to go to the Hellenic Cup semi, get there by 7:00 to make sure that you actually see the senior game, because it might be on at 7, it might be at 8:30, I don't know. If it's the latter, just watch the youth team strut their stuff. I don't know anymore.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hellenic Cup Semi Final on Tuesday

We'll be playing Bentleigh Greens, at Kingston Heath, kick off 8:30.

Rama Rumours Run Rampant

So the story's going something like this.

Eddie Krncevic has stripped the captaincy off Ramazan Tavsancioglu and given it to Steven O'Dor, for reasons which have not emerged yet in any official capacity. Since then, the situation has deteriorated so much that Rama is out of the side altogether. Rama is a free agent and assessing his options - with a return to South under Eddie's tenure almost impossible. Naturally this has set off a massive torrent of support for Rama and a heap of abuse against Eddie Krncevic and the board. But it's never so cut and dried.

Eddie's appointment as coach was not a universally popular one. His previous stint at the club back in the NSL days ended in controversy, with rumours of transfer impropriety, which it must be noted, have never been definitively established in the public sphere. More recently, with his work as a player agent, it has been assumed that he would try and get work for some of his clients, even though as a coach he can no longer be an agent. Bringing over his son Jesse, despite Jesse's undoubted quality as a striker and our desperate need for one, is just another target to aim at for his detractors.

In his first stint as coach at South, Eddie took over after Mike Peterson upped and left for the Football Kingz - Eddie was left with a weakened squad, and after the betrayal of a favourite son, was granted a bit of leniency. For his second stint as as coach at South, Eddie has replaced Vaughan Coveny, whose contract was not renewed. This time will not be easier. Of course, Horsey is a 'club legend', and all sorts of rumours started about how he was treated poorly by the club. All this ignores the fact that the style of football we played was atrocious, regardless of earning enough points to finish in the finals.

Add in the anti-board agendas of several groups, of whom few have had the temerity to actually say something at an AGM, where they did actually attend; the fact that before this situation started, half the Greeks of and even some non-Greeks wondered how a 'Greek' club could have a Turk as captain, a tune which has now changed to focusing on the club's apparent betrayal of Rama. And lastly for now, the fact that Rama's uncle was providing sponsorship to the club as well, and it keeps getting worse and worse.

Now if Eddie's goal was to stamp his authority on the team - and I seriously hope it was - he's seriously messed up this situation. If it's merely a case of not rating Rama as a player, Eddie has obviously gone about conveying that message in the worst possible manner, and it has only emboldened those who had him as a marked man even when his appointment as coach was still an internet rumour. It's also interesting to note that Rama has still been appearing at our Hellenic Cup fixtures, while at the same time also acknowledging that the rest of the squad has not risen up in rebellion against Eddie's decisions and processes. Why this is the case, I do not know.

For what it's worth, I like Rama. He seems to genuinely care about the club, has improved his disciplinary record a great deal, and the players generally seem to look up at him. However, there is also the playing side, which I;'ve felt for some time hasn't improved significantly. His crossing is still very poor, which nullifies his effectiveness as an overlapping player. And he's still having difficulty judging balls going over his head, as well as getting dragged towards the middle far too often. But Eddie's also cut James Stefanou and Eddie Cetkin from the side, meaning that experienced defensive stocks are thin on the ground, and that perhaps Eddie's squad management and people skills aren't exactly crash hot.

Should Rama not return this season, will it mean more opportunities for players from our youth squad, such as Josh Colosimo and James Riccobene? I certainly hope so. Krncevic, as coach of Carlton, despite having a large budget for which to purchase high profile players, which he certainly did, also gave opportunities to young players such as Marco Bresciano, Simon Colosimo and Vince Grella. Several young players have been trialled against the lesser likes in the pre-season, and our under 21s did of course cruise to the title last season, playing some attractive football. And isn't this what having sttrong junior sides is all about? Using them to rebuild and replace without needing to shop around?

I'd say this is going to be fun, but it obviously won't be. Once upon a time this club even sacked Paul Wade, who was the Socceroo captain at the time. In part this was because the coach at the time, Frank Arok, felt Paul Wade wasn't up to it any more; and surely an additional reason would have been because Arok wanted to create his own group with new leadership. I hope that this is what Eddie has been aiming for, and that his methods are proven right. Getting rid of a captain and player with several years at the one club is never easy, and Eddie's success and legacy may well rest on this issue alone. The old maxim that no player, no coach and no fan is bigger than the club is about to get a massive work out.

Meanwhile, I'm going to be in my bomb shelter until this thing blows over.

Hellenic Cup - South 4 Altona East 0

After a hard fought early 20 minutes, we took control of this match. Now to the semis on Tuesday. Don't know who we're playing though.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Soccer and Scandal in Squeaky Clean Singapore - Neil Humphreys' 'Match Fixer'

Neil Humphreys' novel Match Fixer – released in the first half of 2010, but reviewed a year later because that's just when I got round to it – is a satisfying enough tale of sex, drugs and football, whose best moments are not generated by the plot or characters, but by the central idea that drives it – but more on that later.

The novel begins with Chris Osborne getting his legs smashed to pieces with a baseball bat outside his Singapore apartment. Chris knows why he is being attacked, he knows who is attacking him, and that there is no point in offering any resistance. It's a surreal moment to say the least.

Osborne, an East End lad who dreams of fulfilling his and his father's dreams by starring in the English Premier League with West Ham, soon finds out that talent and hard work are not enough. Politics sees him jettisoned to the other side of the world, to Geelong of all places, in order play in a nation which culturally favours athletes to artists on the field, and for whom the beautiful game is a summer distraction at best.

More politics means Osborne's Australian stay is brief, eventually finding himself in one of football's most obscure corners, Singapore's S-League. The standard is low, the players poorly paid and the whole competition mired in apathy, as the image conscious Singaporeans of all ethnic stripes show more allegiance to the distant monoliths of the EPL.

But Osborne soon makes himself at home. He's scoring freely, his team is doing well, and his exploits are creating a buzz around an otherwise moribund league. He finds himself a beautiful and educated local girl, Yati, and he's even offered the chance of being capped for Singapore's national team. But the pervasive gambling culture of South East Asia is never far away.

Rather than supporting a team or admiring fine play, every football fan Chris meets seems more interested in how many goals will be scored in the coming week and who to put their money on. The highest rating football program in the region is due to the presence of journeyman player and loudmouth pundit Danny 'The Spear' Spearman and the supposed precision of the tips given by him, even while Danny is the subject of an ongoing corruption investigation.

Humphreys spent 10 years in Singapore, and made his name with several books (and a popular newspaper column) discussing various aspects of the island nation. I haven't read any of these, and I can't pretend to be an expert on Singapore's internal dynamics, but the Singapore that Humphreys presents in Match Fixer is a nation of almost impossible hypocrisy.

It's squeaky clean on the surface, yet corrupt to the core. Multi-religious and multi-ethnic, but full of distrust and prejudice. A first world nation just one generation removed from its colonial third world past, and yet with a class system so fixed and entrenched that it would make even its former imperial masters blush.

While the novel starts off brightly enough, it isn't quite able to pull off its increasingly complicated conspiracy narrative. It also falls victim to its own romantic notions of what football is really about. What holds the entire story together, and makes it work as something more than the sum of its parts, is the seed of doubt that Humphreys plants right at the start of the novel.

This is a work of fiction and the characters portrayed do not exist. It is a story about an aspiring footballer from East London who ends up in Singapore; it is not a book about football.

On the face of it, it's a standard disclaimer to any piece of fiction which could possibly be construed as speaking on real people and situations. And yet that is the novel's genius – it puts forward one of football's most pressing and yet most avoided questions. How do you know if a match is fixed? How can you be sure as a fan or player that every result, or indeed any result, is legitimate?

With gambling becoming intrinsic to all sports – with commentators now giving revised odds during matches, and the odds for the week's favourites even being presented as news - and with gambling revenue vital to governments seeking to provide even basic public services, such speculation should not be scoffed at lightly.

The Internet allows people to bet on even the most obscure and meaningless contests – even highly experimental pre-season Victorian Premier League matches featuring no-name trialists have people dedicated to turning up to rock hard grounds in Melbourne's industrial backblocks to relay details of goals, cards and the general flow of play.

If these people are that keen and so widespread, what could possibly stop the gambling syndicates from infiltrating any layer of football that they may choose? And what happens if (and some may even say when) gambling becomes the core part of the game? Where would that leave the old world romantics, those who support dead end clubs made up of also-rans and other assorted journeyman - whom it could be argued hold one expectation above all else - that even if their side is belted most weeks, it's because they deserved to be belted.

Match Fixer and Humphreys don't provide a definitive answer to what might happen to football in such a scenario – but the example of Singapore and one English footballer's attempt to play the game straight aren't encouraging. By the time the novel ends, and by the time Humphreys has stripped away the excess, much like the protagonist, the reader is left alone to ponder this question. It's an unsettling feeling.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Hellenic Cup - South 5 Kingston City 0

Krncevic hattrick, Nando with a brace.

Our next match will be on Saturday, and it will be a quarter final match against Altona East, at Kingston Heath once more. Kick off 7:30.