Friday, 26 December 2014

South of the Border celebrates seven years of seething, and lesser seething

Fear and loathing are for the other 364 days of the year. Today is reserved for thanking the following people:

The club, especially those who volunteer their time to keep it going week by week.

The players and coaching staff who won us a title.

Thanks also to Steve from Broady (stats), Supermercado (security management artefact), Arthur and Nick Vertsonis for sending some great artefacts to put up, Cindy Nitsos (many, many photos), Pavlaki (assorted hilarity), Mark Boric (for lending me his VSF yearbooks), Manny (comics), Skip Fulton for the odd under 20s report and around the grounds bizzo before I lent him to Goal Weekly and the South official site, the Agitator, and of course Kiss of Death for another erratic year of contributions.

People whose match reports I stole details from because me no see very good and stuff.

The Hon. Hugh Delahunty for responding to my letter.

Engel Schmidl and Athas Zafiris at Shoot Farken for publishing my Heavy Sleeper world cup pieces. It was a pleasure doing them.

Anthony Colangelo for letting me have an hour on radio to put forward my world view, albeit an hour that I had to share with someone else.

Tom Pollock, for letting me be on his radio documentary, even if Roy Hay managed to get both the first and last word.

The peerless Walter Pless, who took up my offer of doing a write up on his site, explaining South Melbourne's season in the lead up to the South Hobart game.

Also Pave Jusup, Joe Gorman, Chris Egan, Lou Tona, Nicholas Tsiaras, The Saint, Tony Montana, Cuddles, all for various reasons not necessarily related to the blog.

All the new people I met.

All the old faces.

Anyone who gave me and Gains a lift to some place.

Everyone who re-tweeted, left a comment, or sent us something to put up. Your interest in this project ensures not that it survives, but that I try a little harder than I otherwise might.

Anyone who thinks they should be in here but isn't - it's probably my fault.

And especially Ian Syson and Gains.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Book Review - Sweet Time, by Graham Reilly

Graham Reilly's 2004 novel Sweet Time is a nostalgic look at the birth of a soccer club, and the community which created it, as an assortment of mostly Scottish migrants attempt to settle into their new lives in Australia.

In the 1960s, former Catholic priest, now high school teacher Douglas Fairbanks and his wife Kirstin arrive in Australia from Glasgow. More specifically, they arrive in Melbourne, settling in the fictionalised western suburb of Baytown. As with many migrant tales, it is the immediate differences which fascinate them. The heat (they can't figure out whether to keep their butter in the fridge or pantry), the people and the sense of opportunity that exists - the working class Glasgow streets they've left behind being mired in the usual social ills.

It's perhaps a slightly atypical Australian migrant narrative, in that the focus is on British migrants, mostly from Scotland. It's also for the most part light hearted, as the migrants of all stripes try to make the best of their situation, appreciating what their new country has to offer. The main conflict in the novel comes from inside of Douglas, unsure about the choices he's made in his life, including his marriage, a struggle which doesn't necessarily engage as much as it should - but that may be an issue of personal taste.

What is most fascinating about this text, at least for me, are the passages dealing with the creation of the Baytown Soccer Club. In large part, this is because the suburbs of Baytown and its new soccer club share a few traits with the suburb of Altona and the Altona City Soccer Club. The now long defunct Altona Star newspaper becomes the Baytown Star. Like the fictional Baytown S.C., Altona City was formed in the 1960s in Melbourne's western suburbs, on swamp land across the road from Cherry Lake. 

Since Reilly was a 1960s migrant himself to Altona, and because of the obvious references to those real life entities, it makes one think about which parts of the Baytown club are based on actual Altona City history, which parts are a re-telling of historical facts about other clubs in an amalgamated context, and which parts come entirely from Reilly's imagination.

Overall, the soccer narrative, like the rest of the text, is couched in nostalgia. The group which forms the new soccer club, despite being dominated by Scots, also includes Maltese, Italians and the odd local, breaking with the commonly held idea that soccer at that time was a sport completely dominated by mono-ethnic clubs. Indeed, apart from a brief mention of Celtic, there is no mention of any other clubs, scant mention of the Victorian soccer system, and no mention of ethnic divides within the game. The club also has relatively humble ambitions, unlike those clubs which exist in say relevant novels by David Martin or Peter Goldsworthy.

As mentioned earlier, the club’s land is located in semi-reclaimed swamp land, mirroring the fringe lands historically allocated to other soccer clubs. The volunteers put in countless hours of labour to get the place up to scratch. There is also antipathy from certain quarters to the establishment of the soccer club. This includes members of the council and the local Australian rules football fraternity, who attempt to sabotage the creation of the club. At different times, they pull down the fence, destroy the field, and burn down the pavilion. Compare this treatment to the real life attempts at sabotaging soccer grounds (Middle Park and Hobart) and denying soccer clubs access to land (Footscray JUST and Hakoah).

Part of this antipathy and vandalism is linked in the novel to local antipathy to migrants and ‘their’ game – the inference being that they should assimilate and all that - but also to the mayor (and president of the Australian rules football club) who is seeking to drive the club away from the land allocated to them, in order to build a new large scale housing development. It's an interesting tack to take, pairing soccerphobia with self-interest, even if the mayor's villainy makes him look a little cartoonish, with Reilly taking much glee in creating a caricature of the ultimate soccer hater. In some ways, it's an antecedent of the soccer hating journalist from Adrian Deans' Mr Cleansheets.

Reilly also tries to find ways to secure an Australian place for soccer, by showing the hard work of the soccer club's volunteers, as well as their diversity, open mindedness, and their ability to participate in other parts of Australian society. Reilly attempts, not very subtly but effectively nonetheless, to overcome the perception of soccer as a weak game.The most notable way he does this is via the teenage ‘schemie’ immigrant Wullie Henderson, who has a no-holds barred attitude to violence and swearing. Wullie, with his accent and role as comic relief, is also by far the most interesting character in this novel.

Even without the Altona City touchstone, you don't need to know how the soccer side of the story ends. The main plot involving Douglas' internal struggle has its dark moments, but overall this is a text that would rather celebrate the migrant narrative than question it, seeing in it an overwhelmingly positive story - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. A good, entertaining read.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Calculator artefact Wednesday - Kimon Taliadoros, Playmaker of the Month

This was sourced from Australian soccer historian and Hellas fan Damian Smith. Two things about this image. Firstly, I've been waiting for a suitable time to put it up, but let's be honest, there was probably never going to be a suitable moment. Secondly, I have next to no idea what the context of this photo is. Is there an article attached? More photos? What kind of Greek is that hairless? Will Kimon use the excuse 'that he was young and needed the money'? And perhaps most importantly, does Kimon still own that tie?

This seems like a good note to sign off on for 2014. Apart from a couple more posts - one a book review, the other my annual thanksgiving post - that's it this year from me. Unless of course, something really stupendously amazing happens - like going broke, or getting into the A-League - and even then I'd probably wait until the new year.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Book Review - Keep It Simple, Stupid - Peter Goldsworthy

Peter Goldsworthy is one of Australia's better known writers of literary fiction and poetry, as well as being one of its more lauded exponents in recent times. He's also someone whose work has managed to cross over into the popular sphere as well, with some of his texts (such as Maestro) also studied widely in high schools across the country.

So some years ago when I was told that in the mid-1990s Goldsworthy had written a soccer novel, it was with no small measure of excitement that I sought it out. And yet Keep It Simple, Stupid, or KISS for short, seems to be one of Goldsworthy's least regarded novels. Does it merit that antipathy? Well, as we'll see, it depends on who's reading it.

Paul 'Mack' McNeil is the veteran star of his local Italian backed soccer club in suburban Adelaide. Raised by an emotionally distant and war affected father and a timid mother, as a young man Mack found a more satisfying surrogate family not just in the local soccer club, but also in its dominant Rossi family. Mack feels so ingrained in the club's culture - he's even picked up conversational Italian - that he can't picture a life without the club. However the club, and its new success at all costs British coach Billy Colby, don't see it that way. As Mack struggles to come to terms with his aging body, and the ball flying over his head courtesy of Colby's route one football, he realises his time may be up, but he struggles on regardless.

Mack also faces issues with his wife, Lisa, and their inability to conceive as well as her hostility to Mack's soccer career, in which women take a back seat. Mack, too, is fed up with his primary school teaching gig, and considers taking up a milk delivery route, in an attempt to remain a physical creature, and not just an intellectual one. So, this is very much a book about masculinities, and about the refusal to grow up, or outgrow his youth as Lisa points out. It's another novel about a male character who's unable to deal with his midlife crisis, unable to relate to women, nor come to terms with his troubled and often ephemeral, non-expressive relationships with other men.

The men in this novel are all damaged in some way, and their inability or refusal to express themselves is a massive part of that. However, even those who can express themselves often do so with a level of deviousness. Colby's hardheadedness is perhaps the exception to the rule. The women, for their part, often seem to live lives either in the shadow of their men, or in lives apart. There's little meaningful communication between the sexes, the only perceptible evidence of life in suburbia being the blue hue of televisions screens.

The broader commentary in the novel is about the decline and fall of the ethnic soccer culture in Australia, and what that might mean for the cause of the game and even multiculturalism itself. Crowds and interest have fallen away, and with it the money that spurred the game on to new levels of professionalism. The questions of loyalty and of insiders and outsiders, and what exactly it means to be part of a club, especially if such a thing is only the hobby of a rich benefactor aiming for a sort of glory from a community which largely no longer cares for the clubs they built.

Goldsworthy has a long background in Australian soccer, with an extended playing and coaching career under his belt. His depiction of the mid 1990s ethnic soccer scene is as true as any I've read. Through Mack, he shows an obvious love for the people at these clubs, but not without casting a critical eye on the negatives as well. The politics, the cowardice, and the conservatism of clubs like these is there for all to see. The members, mostly elderly gentlemen, are at best an amorphous mass, wielding no obvious power, but nevertheless remaining powerful as a barometer of who is in favour and who isn't.

KISS's final act is its weakness. After the soccer storyline gets wrapped up satisfactorily, the other story line, dealing with Mack's marriage and the ghosts of his past just doesn't sit right with me. It's too melodramatic, moving too quickly and suddenly into a sort of heightened tension that doesn't feel like a natural resolution to the narrative. Having said that though, for any Australian soccer fan with even the merest interest in this kind of work, and even for those with an interest in the game's broader history, this novel is well worth seeking out.

Post script
Year later, Goldsworthy would return briefly to his soccer theme, with the short story 'The Bet', which is focused on the absurdity of junior soccer. It's much more lighthearted in nature, but also a useful milestone on where the game had progressed to, the egoism of senior soccer transported to its junior scene, with those who are supposed to be older and wiser now living through their children.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Social club artefact Wednesday - Team of the Century team sheet

I found a small bunch of these during my social club clean out a few years back. Not being there on the team of the century night, I assume these were made available on all the tables. Of course, the team of the century concept has always been something that's baffled me slightly, not only because it was clearly influenced by both the AFL's centenary celebrations as well as the millenarianism that was in vogue at the time, but also because the club was barely 41 years old and well short of the century mark. Of course as with all such endeavours there was also controversy regarding the selections. George Donikian noted at the time (in an interview with the Four Diegos I believe; wherever the link to that transcript was, it's now gone) that Ulysses Kokkinos was left out due to character issues. But perhaps the most interesting decision was to have Michael Petkovic in as first choice goalkeeper, ahead of the very popular Peter Laumets. While Petkovic did have the runs on the board with two national championships, his tenure at South up until that time had been comparatively brief; then again, Oscar Crino's South stint was much shorter. Petkovic is also the only person in the team of the century to have begun his South career in the 1990s - his 1996 starting date coming in seven years after the other most recent inductees. More disturbing perhaps in hindsight, is that due to the circumstances we find ourselves in, there will probably never be another player that could be included in any future or revised team of the century affair.

Friday, 5 December 2014

FFA's Whole of Football extravaganza - Melbourne edition

So FFA had decided to do some old fashioned box ticking public consultation about the future of the Australian game. Part of that includes a survey, and the other part a traveling roadshow of heavy hitters ready to face the Australian soccer public - well, at least those who bothered to apply and get selected for entry.

I had put in my application for the meeting, and was pleased to receive the metaphorical golden ticket to attend. It's easy to be cynical about these affairs, especially if you come to it with an obviously partisan point of view; but self-perpetuating cynicism shouldn't be the only outcome possible, only one of many possible outcomes.

A small audience in a large auditorium, it made me wonder if the FFA were being selective with who they allowed into the meeting, or whether there just wasn't that much interest from the general soccer public. There have been similar meetings in the past, which I have not attended, and which reputedly turned into farcical, partisan affairs. The Melbourne event on Thursday did not turn out that way. Most of the few people attending managed to ask sensible questions and make reasonable commentary, no matter how much I disagreed with their position. Apart from myself, the most rambling, elusive effort was by someone going on about the quality of referees, especially 'home team' refs who have dudded his team.

More problematic perhaps than partisan commentary, is apathy. The small crowd was one thing, but the follow through of discussion across the net appears to be negligible. Where I would have expected various soccer forums and bulletin boards to at least have a topic on the several meetings taking place across the country as part of this project, there appears to be next to no interest.

The meeting was chaired by Kyle Patterson, who steered the two hour long meeting from one animated slide to the next. A panel made up of John Aloisi, Damien De Bohun (head of the A-League), Emma Highwood (FFA head of community football and women's football) and FFA CEO David Gallop was also on hand. Gallop also provided a speech outlining... well, I don't know what exactly. He droned on for what seemed like a while (though it was probably only about ten minutes), saying as far as I can tell nothing of any importance and doing it in the most boring, soul sucking way possible. And thus in one fell swoop my desire to avoid being cynical was crushed.
It wasn't helped when they brought out the 1.9 million participant number, a hokey tactic straight out of the AFL, NRL and cricket playbooks.
That was just one of several things that would come up to which I felt there was not a satisfactory answer given, More on how the FFA see that number later on.

Of those people involved in a non-administrative role (that is, not within a Federation or other paid interest group), many seemed to come from the east and the south-east. Skye, Brighton, Ashburton were all represented, but rarely did there seem to be a northern or western voice, or an 'old soccer' voice heard. For mine, there was also not much discussed on women's soccer, at least not as much as I thought there would be, considering that's one of the Australian game's unambiguously brighter spots. Nothing at all that I can recall on futsal, some on disabled soccer.

The issue of representation came up every now and again. Jack Reilly (former FFA board member, and one time South goalkeeper) made the point that we have too many representative bodies, and that it'd be better to stop the doubling up of services and administrative bodies - but to me that came across as code for 'let's abolish the states, bring it all under FFA's command, and let's have no recourse to any sort of representation as recommended by the Crawford Report'. I wonder how the several FFV personnel in attendance, including FFV president Nick Monteleone, felt about that, especially when there was talk of too much political self-interest. But more on that later.
There was much discussion on the accessibility of football in terms of price, once again focusing primarily on the elite pathways. While all sorts of reasons were given as to why the costs were so high, there was one observation made that leaped out at me. When Patterson brought up the costs of his kids' violin lessons as a comparison to elite junior soccer training, I was taken back to 2012, when Tom Kalas made a similar point (which I noted in the comments section) when trying to explain or justify the proposed $3,500 cost of that original version of South's academy approach. In a nutshell, the point was that we had to stop comparing the costs of elite junior soccer to other sports, especially other football codes, and instead think about other expensive activities that kids might partake in, such as music, dance or karate.

The conclusions that I've drawn from those observations is that when it comes to the FFA and administrators within clubs who hold the same ideology, is that soccer is now a middle class aspirational pursuit. Whatever the social or fun aspects may be of violin, karate or dance, there's also quite clearly a bourgeois (both petite and haute) element to it. Soccer is no longer a game played at that level because of, or even primarily due to the fact that the kids enjoy it - it's now enmeshed in the same aspirational, civilising, networking, status seeking culture of the elite private school system.

No amount of scholarships - and really, considering the costs involved, and the lack of top down funding, how many scholarships can there be? - can resolve the inherent inequity in the system. And it's a system that's unequal in part because of the willingness of people to pay the outrageous fees to both the NPL sides and the academies promising the world, but possibly delivering more run of the mill players without any distinguishing features, except for an unearned sense of entitlement.

Though I was satisfied in my own curmudgeonly way to produce cynical tweets, throughout the night I was still wondering what question I would ask, because in all likelihood I'd only get to ask one. Sitting two seats to the left of me, Sydney FC fan and Australian soccer historian Les Street had the microphone in his hand twice, and didn't get to ask either of his questions.
Eventually the opening presented itself, when Patterson asked the audience about who felt engaged with the A-League, both as a supporter and in terms of whether they felt their community involvement, whether at a school or club had a genuine connection. It was interesting that there didn't seem to be this overwhelming feeling of connection to the A-League on a personal level, but that could just be a willfully pointed observation from me. Whatever that number for the supporter connection, far fewer people in the audience felt that their club, school or community engagement with the A-League was in any way satisfactory (ignoring the old soccer council of doom in my vicinity).

With only two A-League teams, it's of course difficult to spread those resources out - but with such a long off-season, surely there's more time to engage in these kinds of events? It does remind me however of comments on this matter that Melbourne Heart CEO Scott Munn once made at a local sports academic conference back in late 2012. From a marketing point of view, he seemed to see little value in terms of converting kids into fans from such one off visits.

And this is where the issue of leverage mentioned comes into it. The FFA, and Emma Highwood in particular who used that word, seemed to think that things like school visits and absurdly inflated participation numbers - which included intangibles like kids playing street soccer - were all about converting kids into being A-League fans. The difference with those of the community club sector was the community club representatives were showing annoyance at the lack of school visits not because of the missed opportunity of getting kids to follow the A-League, but to get them involved with the game of soccer as opposed to other sports. The example given to counter the FFA and Scott Munn approach was that Essendon and Melbourne Storm would make trips out to the relevant far more regularly, and that there was evidence to suggest that their efforts had more impact, because kids were taking up those sports.

Patterson then asked the audience for a show of hands of who didn't have a connection to the A-League, and I made a motion for the microphone. After I bumbled my way through a self introduction, including forgetting to give the blog a plug, I started off with making the obvious comment that I didn't feel connected to the A-League because my team wasn't in it, which presents one with a conundrum.
While in the majority of the rest of the soccer world, not having your team in the top-flight is reason enough not to take an interest, the peculiar situation of Australian soccer means that this position makes you come across as a recalcitrant. So how do you separate the appearance of selfishness from the driving principles which also underpin that disconnect? And how do you make an argument that can carry any sort of weight against the relatively overwhelming commercial and popular success of the A-League, Socceroos and FFA in the eyes of the backers of the new dawn?

It's a persistent problem, which is in some ways related to the issues of governance and accountability. If you're getting everything your own way, especially with regards to public relations and the lack of being able to be turfed out, why should you even care what some nobody from Altona North has to say?

What I did have to say is why did the FFA feel the need to bring in the NCIP, which threw off most of the panelists in part because they didn't seem to understand what was meant by NCIP - a classic Railpage Australia forums faux pas, whereby you should always remember to avoid abbreviations - and partly because I don't think people were expecting the issue to be brought up.

As has been made clear in my other writings and interviews on the matter of the National Club Identity Policy, I don't like it. I don't like it because regardless of whatever piecemeal regulations have been brought in over the course of Australian soccer's history, it's an irrelevancy. The A-League has superseded the ethnic bickering (such as it was) of the NSL. At state league level, with a couple of exceptions, no one is fooled about where each club's loyalties lie in terms of the game's ethnic mosaic, and there's little to no prospect of positive change being gained if you de-ethnicised the clubs at this level, regardless of what Roy Hay says.

And apart from all that, we're still a multicultural society and it should not be up to the FFA to decide how different groups are categorised. That's where my sense of oppression regarding this matter comes from. De Bohun got annoyed by this, and brought up the case of Bentleigh Greens and their moment in the FFA Cup limelight. Never mind that Bentleigh spend most of their existence being lucky to pull a hundred punters through the gates, nor the patronising Fox Sports commentary which, as several people have noted, reduced Bentleigh to the status of a late night kebab joint.

Patterson asserted that the push for the NCIP roll out - and really, who cares if it's not retrospective, that's nothing to do with anything - came from the grassroots. Patterson then brought up the absurd idea that the introduction of the NCIP so close to the launch of the FFA Cup, that tournament designed to bring together soccer's estranged factions, was entirely coincidental. Suffice to say, I'm not buying that, and neither did a lot of people when that came out.

Not wanting to deal with the issue, Patterson decided that the matter was best ended then and there, to be discussed with me personally after the meeting. (and I'm sorry Ian, even though you weren't there, for saying 'right' too many times again). To be fair, this wasn't out of step with the rest of the meeting. Topics sped by at a rate of knots for the most part, and I was clearly the most fired up person in the audience. The rest of the meeting then became a bit of a blur for me, as I sat seething in my seat.

 After the official parts of the meeting were concluded, I finally got to meet Evan Binos, an interesting character on Twitter. Binos' particular bugbear of late, an entirely valid one, is how can we ensure that community clubs are able to entice enough young and talented people to volunteer and run their committees? This is an especially important issue when looking at clubs designated as development clubs, whose responsibility is to create elite players. The paradigm being set up in these clubs is that of inherent self-interest, with the inevitable outcome seeming to me to be that loyalty under these conditions is almost impossible. How can the loyalty of a player be sustained, when the club is only keeping them there so long as they think that no other player can replace them? How can loyalty be built if a player is at a club only so long as they think their development couldn't be better served at another club? It creates a poisonous self-interested symbiotic relationship. And no, I don't think the zone system originally proposed by the FFV would have been any better.

 It finally came time to talk to Patterson on the side. This informal post-meeting gathering also included several South people, as well as Melbourne Knights vice-president Pave Jusup. Quite why Patterson felt he had to bring up the NSL only he knows. He began by comparing crowds, and mentioning his own pedigree with regards to involvement in the NSL, as if he was the only one involved, or as if we were petulant children too young to remember what the NSL was like. But the issue was not about back then, it's about the system as it is now. For all the talk that 'bitters' are hung up about the past, and willing to bring it up at any opportunity, those on the other side of the ledger are just as likely to bring it up, if not more so, because they see it as a useful stick to beat up anyone who disagrees with the current regime.

Of course, Jusup then got stuck into the NCIP topic, especially with his club's issue with their sponsorship being banned by FFA, after initially being approved. Patterson accused the Knights of trying to subvert the rule to make a political point, to which the answer was obvious - so what if they did? And how did Broadmeadow Magic get away with its ethnic sponsor? And who were these people from down below that suggested to FFA to bring in the NCIP? 'I can't tell you that' was the response. That's accountability right there. Never mind the fact that, when the policy was announced, it not only caught members of the new dawn online commentariat by surprise, but also saw significant opposition from them - because they thought that ten years on, the idea was utterly unnecessary and deliberately provocative. 

The reasoning used by Patterson that there were ethnic issues in junior soccer was almost laughable. I say almost because I could never be sure if he was trolling us. Surely bad behaviour by parents at junior games, as well as racial abuse and angst, is already covered by a plethora of other laws and statutes? What's the NCIP going to do to stop those kinds of people? Since when did dickhead parents at the soccer become an ethnic issue and not a dickhead parents issue the way that it is in other sports? Why focus on the symptom but not the disease?

The discussion then became a tit-for-tat about the way that the changeover to the new era happened, and whether it could have been done better. Where Jusup made the assertion that if Frank Lowy had simply made the call, that Knights and South could have been let into the VPL in 2004. Patterson pulled a Pontius Pilate on that one, absolving the FFA of any sort of responsibility, which quickly became a core theme. 

Whether accidentally or on purpose, Patterson admitted that the FFA were like FIFA - in other words, a self-styled benevolent dictatorship. How we even got to that stage is illuminating in itself. I made the point at one stage to Patterson that local representation was a crock, when someone like Jusup (also an FFV zone representative) could not even call an EGM. Patterson's reply was 'why would you call an EGM?' Maybe because you're concerned with the way the federation is being run, losing money hand over fist and becoming increasingly out of touch with its constituents? Because under a democratic system - the one the Crawford Report promised us - we should have the right to do so?

It was, really, the most disheartening part of the whole evening. Forget whatever hang ups I have about the NCIP, or my customary and safe cynicism. The fact the FFA can admit that it's a dictatorship, without shame because it knows it can't be touched, is deeply distressing - and I'm saying this even within the context of years of conspiracy building, and super hyper backs against the wall nonsense to make ourselves feel righteous. Earlier in the evening, I'd tweeted about feeling as if I'd walked into a meeting of the Politburo, the decisions already made and the audience being there merely to clap and agree with the secretariat's already made decision. And then you more or less get it confirmed.

Right at the end of the discussion, I noticed that Patterson had a 'we are football' sticker or badge on his jacket. It reminded me of the time I went to an FFV life members Christmas function several years ago, which I attended courtesy of my being on the FFV's historical committee. After Rale Rasic had given his speech as special guest, Nick Monteleone went about making a big deal about the slogan handing out badges and the like. While the new dawn run around with their slogan, those of us not entirely on board are branded with the ethnic soccer
Mark of Cain, a curse forever separating us from the chosen people. How's that for melodrama?

The next day, while going through an online debrief with several like minded people, the FFA's version of events was put up. All that managed to get included were Reilly's governance remarks, Aloisi's idea that we need to focus on funding better coaching and talent identification, and that there was lively debate. What's that line about never starting a royal commission unless you know what the result will be in advance?
Then again, all this is only one point of view. Others probably thought the affair was well worth the effort.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Novermber 2014 digest

Some of the things that happened in November.

I'm reliably told that when we do it, it's called recruiting, not poaching.
Bonel 'Bones' Obradovic, central midfielder from Oakleigh, also ex-Northcote. Milos Lujic seems particularly pleased with this signing. David Stirton, a forward of sorts, arrives from Bentleigh Greens - maybe he wasn't Queenslander enough to play there. Luke Adams, a Kiwi defender with an Aussie passport. Also Andy Brennan from South Hobart. Brennan is a forward/winger, and the standout player in Tasmania over the past few years. This will be his second stint in the Victorian topflight, after his 2013 stint with Bentleigh was ruined by an osteitis pubis injury.

Chris Taylor has also been signed to what the club is calling a 'long term' deal, without specifying what long term means. The inference seems to be that Taylor will also be doing something like a technical director's role, which seems funny to me, because I thought that the roles of senior head coach and technical directors at NPL clubs were supposed to be separate by now.

Lastly, assistant coach Graham Hockless has left for Queensland. His replacement will be the recently retired Tsiaras. Some more obsessive and/or observant readers of South related media may have noted that I hinted towards that signing on the South Facebook page. Honestly, it was a lucky guess. Also, the meaning of the word 'honestly' has now changed.

Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it/When everyone's special, no one is/That's not enough! We demand MORE asbestos! MORE asbestos! MORE asbestos!
First up, we have the addition to NPL1 of Eastern Jets/Nunawading-without- anyone-from-the-real-Nunawading/Dr Angelo Postekos' Football Young Talent Time Superstar XFactor Dream Factory, and Murray United, who had already been granted licences from the original contingent of applicants with a year's delay so they could get up to speed in their own time. Then, because of the deal the FFV was forced into with the Coalition of the Unwilling last year, Moreland City and Eastern Lions - the winners of their respective State League 1 divisions have accepted the opportunity to move into NPL1. But no Preston. Seriously. They didn't win their respective title - they blew it in the last two rounds. If they're good enough, maybe they can join in 2016.

Also, Victory and Heart's youth teams are into the NPL Victoria, but not in our division - they'll start in NPL1, which is now split into two conferences, East and West. Everyone plays everyone in their own conference twice, and the teams from the other side once. It's like an oldskool NFL season, only with more chance of teams going bust and worse facilities that teams will be begging local governments to upgrade. Anyway, back to Victory and Heart. Some people will no doubt be aware that players from NPL teams, like our own Andy Kecojevic, play for those teams in National Youth League season (if you can call that handful of a games a season). Will those players choose to stick it out with their 'winter' clubs, or will they move across to their holiday house A-League setups on a permanent basis?

And also, are there enough facilities for everyone? Are there enough players? Are there enough coaches? Is there enough money?

Or, in other words...

Or, as a very wise man on said...
Can't see the problem here.
The clubs voted for this system/structure.
The clubs sued the FFV for this.
The clubs voted for all clubs to be given a fair and equal consideration.
The only thing the FFV have done is implement what the clubs wanted.
Are we suggesting that some clubs are more equal than others??
I wonder if the results of the South Melbourne fans survey, even if just given in a gist, will ever be released? Probably more chance of the FFV's NPL facilities audit being made public. Also, when's the AGM?

On honouring soccer's Australian history, even those stupid wogs who spent 27 years in that trench warfare filled cesspit of history called the NSL. Did I mention the NSL sucked? Also, let's put the museum in Sydney.
Museums. They're actually complicated things to fund, locate and set up. For instance, where should history be stored and presented? Can a nation's soccer heritage be stored and presented effectively in just one location? What benefits are there in putting non-Sydney histories in Sydney, away from their origins? If non-Sydney centric materials aren't sent to Sydney, would a national soccer museum based in Sydney end up telling an almost inevitably Sydney centric version of history? What is the role of historians for Australian soccer? Is it to confront the myths and mythologisers or is it to jump onto whichever bandwagon is in charge at the time, in the hope of gaining more patronage, and isn't that something that could be asked of so many people in the game right now? What's the story they and/or we want to tell about Australia's soccer history, and who'll get to tell it?

Here are some of the thoughts I made on a Kevin Moore keynote address about the founding of England's National Football Museum, many of which would need to be considered I think in any attempt to recreate such an enterprise here:
First up was the keynote address by Kevin Moore, from England's National Football Museum. How do you create a museum for the entirety of the game, in a nation that has such fervour for the game? It's not easy. But Kevin Moore says you start off by not targeting it at die hard football fans, because they'll turn up anyway.
Because you see football as part of broader society, you don't try and gloss over all the negatives in the game's history, including the stadium tragedies, the violence, racism, misogyny and homophobia, no matter how distasteful these issues are to some. You provide an outlet for people to create and provide their own memories, within reason.
You do not make yourself the be all and end all of historical preservation. You work with local communities to find ways of preserving local history locally, and only step in to preserve history as a last resort. You try and tell stories, not just provide facts and figures. You recognise the importance of topophilia, but you do not become a slave to it, in part because football topophilia can be expressed in several ways.
In summary, Kevin Moore provided a very interesting look at the development of the National Football Museum, from its beginnings in Preston to its move to Manchester. Moore talked about the difficulties in securing funding, the fact that there is no national sports museum in England, and that the museum in some ways has to compete against Premier League club museums, which seek to tell a very different, hagiographic story, and which are often not standalone enterprises, but part of the 'stadium experience'.
The key parts for me are about hagiographies and local histories.With regards to the latter in particular, the emphasis should be on teaching local institutions - clubs, federations, local councils, whatever's relevant - how to maintain and preserve their own local histories locally. Australian soccer is such a diverse experience that to move it all into Parramatta (hypothetically) would be denying local people from being able to learn and add to their own soccer narratives, while replicating a top down approach to preserving history.

On the other hand...
Is the writer of the original article actually being serious? Considering he has to have a dig at the past for reasons I'm not sure of - except, possibly, because it's the right/cool/expected thing to do if you're not Joe Gorman, who is addicted to the street cred one gets as Anglo-Australian soccer fan hanging out with bitter wogs; at least that's my extrapolation of some stupid comment I read responding to one of his posts in The Guardian, probably the article on Middle Park -  I don't see the point, if that's going to be the dominant attitude. I mean, is it really going be worthwhile having a museum which will be:
  1. Kings School vs Wanderers
  2. Football doesn't exist outside of Sydney and, at a pinch, Newcastle.
  3. 1974 Socceroos.
  4. Huge gap due to ethnic strife.
  5. Frank Lowy is grouse and stuff.
At least I learned what the word 'internecine' means.

Victorian Election Part 1 (Number 1 ticket holder vs wheeled after five years of waiting for the social club vs the bloke who put his hand up and then said for Number 1 ticket holder anyway).
Well, after a tough race between the shadow arts minister and current sitting member Martin Foley, and the Liberal candidate wheeled out when the Liberals finally signed the lease - and Tex Perkins, who once Foley said Labor would fund the repair and restoration of the Palais, said basically you don't need to vote for me anymore - it looks like at this stage that Foley will get retain the seat of Albert Park. Now where's the fuck is our social club?

Victorian Election Part 2 (Someone's crusin' for a bruisin'/Next year in Jerusalem) 

Speaking of the social club.
In case you missed it
Me and Pave Jusup  talking about how much the NCIP sucks. Ian Syson is more ambivalent about it. Roy Hay thinks it's grouse.

Does not compute/pots and kettles/γαϊδούρια και πετινούς
So apparently earlier this month Perth Glory played a Cheltenham based souvlaki joint in the semi-finals of some kind of nationwide soccer tournament. Anyone got any idea what that was about? And to make things really absurd, the bloke who wrote this, is now noting in this article the patronising souvlaki commentary. YOU COULD NOT MAKE THIS SHIT UP.

Bitter is as bitter as does/Fuck this cunt and his never-ending lap of honour/"And how we just made fun of those who had the guts to try and fail"
A lot of people have been getting all misty eyed over the apparent retirement of Les Murray (the soccer pundit, not the poet, and the fact that I'm not as spiteful of the latter as I am of the former these days is disturbing). As for myself, the first thing that's thrown me is that I thought that Laszlo was already more or less retired, because when was he on TV anyway? Was he on The World Game while it was still buried at 11pm on SBS2 on whatever day it was scheduled? Anyway, people have been lining up to offer their praises on a worthwhile career promoting the game, and more power to them and to him, as he did put in the hard yards over the journey. However, one bit of misplaced praise in this grizzled nostalgia fueled marathon has really pissed me off, and that's the recent line Les has been trying to spin about being a friend of the ethnic clubs, and 'why oh why are we so mean to them?'

And of all people to be asking the question in the most recent notable case, it had to be Mark Bosnich. The same Mark Bosnich who can't decide if we should  or shouldn't have ethnic clubs in the A-League. Now the reason of course that I get upset at Murray's commentary is because SBS - the supposed promoter of multiculturalism and of migrant communities - has in my most honest and considered opinion (as seen through red mists of rage and possibly incidentally coinciding with Ezequiel Trumper's thoughts on this matter) long forfeited any right to speak on behalf of Australia's ethnic communities. And this is not just because SBS has long exorcised non-English language programming off its prime time schedule on its primary station, and filled SBS2 with American sitcom repeats. It's because when it came time for SBS's soccer pundits - including Murray - to stand up and defend the migrant and ethnic soccer milieu from its detractors, they were found wanting.

For me, the most glaring example is of course the hatchet job Southern Cross A-League bid profile, a piece so vile that even one of the people behind our then rival bids for A-League expansion (Canberra United) could only shake his head at how bizarre it was. If that sounds like I've got a massive chip on my shoulder, so be it, but I don't think there's any need to apologise for holding that stance. I'm not going to begrudge anyone that wants to get a little misty eyed for Les' final bow, but as for me, this bloke sums up my feelings on the matter.

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about
Those crazy Melbourne Keniggets fans. Some of them seem to like talking about South even more than I do. More of it, I say.

You can always sleep through work tomorrow
- OK, I'm done.
- You're done?
- Yeah, there's no point in dragging this crap out any longer. Do you want to do the thing?
- Sure. You're reading South of the Border, the South Melbourne Hellas blog that hates old people just because it can.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


In a forthcoming post about everything (well almost everything) that had happened during November, I was going to ask the question 'WHERE ARE MY (AND GAINS' AND HIS MATE CHRIS') FUCKING ASIAN CUP TICKETS YOU FUCKING CUNTS?' except not like that, but rather more like 'Where are my Asian Cup tickets?', because there's no need to get worked up over it, even though they said September, then October and then when I rang them last week 'if you don't get them by early December, give us a call'. Right.

I was going to go COMPLETELY OFF TAP whatever that means, taking aim at everyone vaguely responsible - the local Asian Cup organising committee, Australia Post, even that bloody wombat named after a spice which can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes and don't you dare tell me that it can't. Tripod said it could in a song about Adelaide being shit, and who are you to disagree?

Anyway, I even speculated that the following would have happened before I got my tickets delivered.
  • South will have held an AGM.
  • South will have apologised to the Hamiltons and permanently adopted the heritage jersey for away matches, putting it in the constitution and thus making it incontestable.
  • South will been granted entry into the A-League, as South Melbourne playing in blue and/or white, and playing all games out of Melbourne and/or Darcy Street/North Hobart Oval/Launceston/Souvlaki Stadium.
  • Les Murray's farewell tour will have ended.
  • The social club will have been completeda dn ready for use, after officially being opened by Frank Lowy.
But lo and behold, yesterday my dad brought in a waterlogged card saying that I could pick up a package tomorrow at the Duke Street post office in Altona North, and I got very excited. And then after awhile, I kinda thought, 'maybe it's not the tickets. Maybe it's my copy of the inaugural edition of Leopold Method which is being mailed out this week'. Well that killed my buzz a bit, but there was only one thing to do - go to the damn post office and get the package.

And so here we are.
The envelope was severely waterlogged, the fancy case had some damage on the sides, but thank goodness the tickets - which are moderately attractive - managed to arrive in excellent condition. So, Gains, you can relax now just a smidge. And Steve from Broady, you can keep waiting for your cricket world cup tickets to arrive. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Book Review - David Winner's Brilliant Orange

David Winner's Brilliant Orange, an idiosyncratic look at Dutch football and its culture, is one of the more unusual soccer books I have ever read. (I read the updated version, which includes a chapter on the 2010 World Cup; the original book was published in 2000). It's unusual because it is a football book which is not necessarily about football, but about a cultural mindset, and the history which had to occur to create that mindset - the transformation of an inherently conservative country into one that's equated with the most brazen sort of liberalness.

Brilliant Orange, at least as far as I'm concerned, asks two important questions. Firstly, how much can sport represent or be representative of the particular cultural aspects of a nation? Secondly, can the pursuit of intellectualism and the arts be not just reconciled with sport, but also influence each other to the enhancement of both?

Winner tries to examine how Dutch football emerged from its entertaining but backward amateur era, and how it ended up with this small nation becoming the world leader in both attaining results (World Cup failures aside) but also beautiful football and revolutionary tactics. To that end, Winner opens up with an intriguing comparison of Dutch concepts of landscaping, space and architecture, and the development of Total Football. In it, Winner sees the influence of Dutch 17th century art and the necessarily efficient use of space by the Dutch as essential components of that tactical development.

At times it feels like Winner is shoehorning his argument, using retrospective analysis to make his point. This is inevitable, but he overcomes the worst excesses of this phenomenon with the help of several of his interviewees, not all of whom are footballers or coaches, let alone even fans of the game. I must admit I was reluctant to read this book. I haven't been interested in overseas soccer for close to a decade, and I especially wasn't interested in another hagiography of the brilliance of Total Football.

But to my surprise, by about page sixty I was hooked. Yes, there are hagiographic moments, but there is also a great amount of dissent as well. For every Johan Cruyff who is all about artistry being foremost, there is a contemporary of his who makes the point that the game is about winning. Caught in the middle of these debates, which are as much about perception and nostalgia as well as ideology - there are those like Louis Van Gaal, who are in a hopeless position.

While wanting to use the talents and strengths of the Ajax system to his advantage to get results, Van Gaal is forced by the footballing circumstances of the mid 1990s - bigger, faster, stronger and better organised defences - to negate the excesses of that method. He is then accused of turning something beautiful into something mechanistic; turning what in the 1970s was an attitude into a highly disciplined system. The reality that modern football just doesn't allow talented players to slalom their way through 3-4 players at a time is a reality that the old timers don't have to deal with.

The book is idiosyncratic in several ways, with a mostly positive effect (aside from its nonsense chapter numbering system). Apart from one drawing showing the effect of a Dennis Bergkamp pass, there are no diagrams. The reader is therefore compelled to imagine the field of play during those moments. There is also a huge emphasis on Ajax at the expense of almost every other Dutch club. In part this is because Ajax are the most successful Dutch club and the pioneers of Total Football, but Winner is also interested in the city as well. In terms of other clubs, only Heerenveen manage to get anything resembling a thorough profile.

What might the inclusion of Feyenoord and PSV have done to the book? A certain element of working class perspective could have done this book some good, but by doing so, would it also have destroyed the nature of what the book is? The absence of Ajax's chief rivals creates a sort of negative space, though whether Winner intended to use that in that kind of artistic manner I'm not sure.

One last minor quibble. Where is the speed skating? How can you go through an entire book on Dutch sport and culture, and not mention even once what is apparently The Netherlands' true sporting passion? Nevertheless, this is a fine book, one which can be enjoyed by both the tactics nerds and the artistically minded alike - there's even room for the cynic, too.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Donald Sutherland artefact Wednesday - 1954 South Melbourne United reserves

I was going to post this some time ago, but I wanted to get a few things checked out first. MFootball writer Donald Sutherland put this up on Twitter towards the start of the year. It's a photo of the 1954 South Melbourne United reserves team which, if nothing else, shows that youth development at South Melbourne was working a bit better back then. Donald's grandfather (also known as Donald Sutherland) is in this photo (see caption for more details).

1954 South Melbourne United reserves team, from left to right:
Back row: ???, ???, ???, ???, ???
Middle row: Des Hamilton, ???, ???, ???, Graeme James, ???, Peter Hathaway
Front row: ???, ???, ???, Macka(?), Donald Sutherland, ???,  ???.

Former South player Ted Smith was able to fill in some of the player details. Peter Hathaway went on to play for South Melbourne United's senior team, as did Graeme James. According to Smith, both these players also played in the Laidlaw Cup (the local mock world cup tournament of the time) representing Australia. Des Hamilton was of course one of the two founding vice-presidents of South Melbourne Hellas (the other was Floros Dimitriadis of Yarra Park), and reportedly was still coming to South games in the 1990s.

(as an aside, I believe the original South Melbourne Supporters Group may have even named an award after him, for the fans' player of the year. Maybe we should bring that back...)

While the official in the top row, second from left remains nameless, he has been equated by former South Melbourne United junior Graeme Hocking as being the same person as the man in the middle of the back row in the team photo in this entry, and I reckon it's a pretty certain thing. Of course, any help people can offer in filling in the gaps would greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Tom Pollock's NCIP/ethnicity in Oz Soccer radio documentary

Tom Pollock, Swinburne media student and MFootball/Melbourne Knights media man about town, recently interviewed a bunch of the usual suspects about ethnicity in Australian soccer for a uni project. The piece goes for about 20 minutes, and includes contributions by myself, Melbourne Knights vice president Pave Jusup, and historians Ian Syson and Roy Hay.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bubblewrap artefact Wednesday - framed Team of the Century print

This post is tinged with both sadness and also a bit of hope. I have lived in the same house for something like 27 years, and now it's on the market. Quite where my family and I will end up is undecided at this point in time, but wherever that new home happens to be, one thing I will finally be able to do is find somewhere to hang up this framed South Melbourne team of the century poster - since I had it framed back in July, it's just been sitting on the floor of my study, leaning up against my brother's barely used drawing board.

The club still has a small handful of these posters left - probably fewer than ten - and not all of them are in the best condition, but most are still in acceptable condition. I found them during my stint cleaning out the social club several years ago in preparation for its renovation, and since then have always wanted one, even though I did cringe at the $150 cost, not including the framing. I suppose I could have nicked one then and there, but I would have felt sick doing that. Besides, I was compensated for my efforts well enough.

As for the painting itself, I'm not sure who the artist is. I may have had the detail somewhere, but I can't seem to find the information now. I'm pretty certain that it was not done by Jamie Cooper, who did the AFL team of the century paintings, and I probably wouldn't class this painting as being equal to that standard - to me at least, it seems like the players' bodies are too similar, and there doesn't appear to be a sense of warmth, camaraderie or connectedness - the subjects being too scattered and lacking in focus, the antithesis of your typical soccer photo, with the starting lineup looking forward with just a hint of the askance, waiting for battle. I suppose I would have liked to have seen the players in the various jerseys used by the club over the years as well, something akin to the Fitzroy team of the century painting - but you can't always get what you want.

Of course the original painting - rarely seen by South supporters, because of the fact that it was located in the old Lakeside boardroom - is in storage at the moment along with our other treasures. Will it be brought out into the public areas of the revamped social club, or will it retain its place in the new boardroom? I'm not too fussed either way, but I did like the way it dominated the old boardroom space, reminding whoever was in charge that there was a profound legacy that they were being asked to maintain, with the muted, but still inherent menace of the framed photos of the club legends in David Williamson's The Club.

Our friend Pavlaki tweeted this as part of his response to this piece.
The suggestion is that the artist's name may be Dave Thomas, who has also done a few other team of the century paintings, from what I can tell mostly rugby league ones.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Johnny Warren and George Negus time capsule - ethnic question 1996

I wasn't going to do anything for the 10th anniversary of Johnny Warren's death - it had both not occurred to me to do so, and neither am I into beatification - but some of the commentary around Warren's legacy - whether he would be proud of where soccer has gone in Australia, and the treatment of the ethnic clubs - was mildly interesting, in a 'party like it's 2006' kind of way.

If, as I've mentioned previously on Twitter, the Crawford Report is the Australian soccer equivalent of the Christian bible that no-one's read but everyone quotes, then Warren is Australian soccer's Jesus, a figurehead whose existence could be co-opted into whatever cause you needed him to, a situation made easier by the fact that now that he's gone, we - and I mean all Australian soccer fans - can turn him into pretty much anything we want, and which suits our particular agendas. WWJWD if you like.

One particular aspect of the debate, as noted earlier, was about the treatment of the ethnic club constituencies in the game, and in particular comments made back in 1996. While digital newspaper archives have improved (especially for pre-1950s stuff), the fact of the matter is that unless one has access to university databases, archival newspaper material in a digital format from the 1990s is very hard to get a hold of. 

To that end, here is a snapshot of the 'ethnic' debate, as it was at the time, no more, no less.

The old curse rears its ugly head, Warren, Johnny. Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, N.S.W] 22 Aug 1996: 48.

Television commentator, writer and former Socceroo captain JOHNNY WARREN has his final say on soccer's LOST CHANCE .

Soccer's shameful "ethnic logo" controversy may end late today with a simple compromise - the tweaking of a symbol here, a change of colour there.

What the weeks of bad blood and distraction will prove in the end is one, big, blank nothing.

If Soccer Australia bosses David Hill, George Negus and company were hoping to lead the revolution, if they were hoping to storm the barricades of the recalcitrant old guard, then they failed.

They succeeded only in changing some logos. The club boards are still the same, the membership is still the same, the staff is still the same, and the players are still the same.

And so they should be, for they are the heart and soul of soccer in this country.

The muscle-flexing might have given Soccer Australia a real adrenalin rush, but this little exercise has fooled no-one.

Who cares about logos? On my list of 1,000 things soccer can do to improve itself, changing the logos of ethnic clubs does not figure.

My father, a passionate man about soccer, told me two wise things about the sport in Australia. One was that the code would not reach its potential in this country because "they always fight amongst themselves".

The other was that soccer is the only Australian sport where the officials are better known than the players. Both applied in his day and they apply now.

The fact is that this latest fight is just one of a series over the years that has stunted the growth of the sport. The controversy over the colours in a club logo should have been dealt with behind closed doors at the administration level.

But no. Soccer Australia dragged it out only weeks before the start of the competition and all it served to do was distract everyone from the game itself. Soccer has shot itself in the foot again.

The ethnic purging attempted by Soccer Australia was nonsense, as I said in the column that I wrote in the Herald on Tuesday. No other sport would countenance such a move on one of their members.

I can speak with authority on this issue because of my longterm involvement in the sport. Unlike SA commissioner George Negus, I have lived all my life in soccer and have experienced first-hand the passion and commitment of the people who are now being threatened with expulsion.

I played with St George, a club of Hungarian origin. I was there when members passed the hats around the stands to raise money to build the club which in 1974 provided eight players for Australia's only successful World Cup campaign. These are people who should be treated with respect not disdain.

The competition starts in a few weeks. Perhaps some teams will have new logos. Perhaps it will be a competition missing a few clubs.

The sad part about it all is that Hill and Negus have made the headlines but the fans have no idea what the starting line-ups are.

My father was right.


Soccer must change to grow, Negus, George. Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, N.S.W] 21 Aug 1996: 44.

Soccer's "ethnic" controversy reached new heights yesterday when Johnny Warren, writing in the Herald, took on the sport's hierarchy. Soccer Australia commissioner GEORGE NEGUS replies to Warren and reveals he would have handled the dispute differently.

I've agreed to write this article in response to yesterday's spiteful and personally jaundiced piece by John Warren, but, to better understand my motivation, let me put this in context.

This mess should never have happened. I have stated this view publicly and privately. There was always another way to deal with it, but irrational antagonisms have rendered the current hiatus inevitable. But, that's spilt milk.

On Monday, I was approached by the Herald and asked to respond to whatever was in John's piece, which, the paper indicated, was critical of Soccer Australia.

Fair enough. But what I didn't expect was that John's comments would degenerate into mean-spirited, personal slurs and insinuations. John has bought into the debate in a way that does him no credit, the rest of us a lot of harm and helps absolutely no-one! That's why I am responding.

To attribute racist and discriminatory attitudes to people involved - including myself - is a low, black act and probably actionable. So is to suggest that anyone - including myself - is involved in soccer at this point in its turbulent history to take the credit for any advances the game makes.

Come on, John. You're better than that. I don't think I'll sue, but, I can tell you, I am angry enough to be tempted!

Anyone who interprets as racist and discriminatory attempts by Soccer Australia, David Hill or anyone else to "Australian-ise" - as distinct from "de-ethnicising" - the world game by spreading its influence and attraction as far afield as possible in

this country, has either missed the point entirely or has his own curious agenda.

The sad thing is that much of what John had to say was intelligent and perceptive, even helpful. His analysis of Australian soccer's past is accurate. But, his view of the present is horribly flawed and unfortunately, as I say, personally jaundiced. Worse, any vision he has for the future of the game in this country appears to be non-existent.

As a non-elected Commissioner on the SA Board, I am somewhat at odds with Soccer Australia about the strategy that has been adopted on this so-called "logo issue", but, that's also academic at this point.

Instead, let me quote none other than the incomparable Mark Bosnich from last weekend's press.

Mark had this to say on the whole issue: "I feel sorry for Australian fans. There are so many people who are denied the game. I feel a little awkward that those fans can't come and watch a team they can identify with. It's up to the people involved in the game - of all ethnic backgrounds - for the sake of Australian soccer, for the sake of themselves, to make soccer into an Australian game."

What more needs to be said? Mark has said it all - as a young man of proud Sydney Croatian origins.

The point that John makes - and, it appears, simultaneously misses - is that soccer is the greatest, living, breathing example of multiculturalism this country has.

But, multiculturalism, John, is a two-way process. In this case, it involves non-ethnic Australians benefiting from soccer's old ethnic roots and the original ethnically based clubs benefiting from and becoming part of non-ethnically based Australia. It's all about two-way multiculturalism, John, not racism and discrimination.

Ultimately, this issue has nothing to do with logos, national symbols or even merchandising. It has nothing to do with whether John Warren, David Hill or Tony Labbozzetta - or even yours truly - is right or wrong.

It's about attitudes and vision. It's about removing forever counterproductive rivalries and power bases. It's about acknowledging the ethnic community's indisputable contribution to Australian soccer, without alienating the growing non-ethnic throng of soccer players and supporters. It's about the future, not the past.

That's what I meant, John, by "getting soccer out of the ethnic ghetto" and into the mainstream of Australian sport and society, where all matters ethnic - including soccer - are better enjoyed and appreciated.

That's contemporary Australian egalitarianism, a far cry from the dark image you paint of discrimination. It's also the "Australian identity" that John refers to but chooses to misread in this context.

I became involved with Soccer Australia to employ my profile, experience and contacts for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of kids - more than in all the other codes combined - running around the soccer fields of this nation every weekend - regardless of where their mothers, fathers, grandmothers or grandfathers were born!!

Like so many others, I want my soccer-mad nine year-old, his six year-old brother and their mates - many of them of ethnic descent, even though they wouldn't even know - to be proud of the game they love, not to have to apologise for its dubious history of inaccessibility to so many young and older Australians, particularly at the club level.

Call me an idealist, John. But, don't dare call me a racist. What is racist, however, is to deny non-ethnic Australians - who make up the majority of soccer's players and supporters - access, for whatever reason, to the game they play, love and support.

Speaking as a besotted "Europhile," the ethnic community might have introduced many Australians to the world's best and most popular game, and they should be thanked and acknowledged for that - but, they don't own it!!

And my Italian, Croatian, Maltese, British and other friends of ethnic backgrounds agree.

They also want soccer's enormous potential in this country - which has been talked of, but, never really acted upon since before John Warren's illustrious time as Socceroo captain - to be realised.

 This will not be achieved while we keep re-igniting old embers, John. But, that's what you've done.

Tell the club what you think

The club has an online survey running at the moment, asking about the general supporter experience. Please do take the time to answer the questions, to help the club better understand what kind of person (at least those that have internet access) follows the club in 2014, and what kinds of things they're interested in.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

More headgear artefact Wednesday - Lakers Headband

Back in July of this year, I put up a post celebrating the Hellas headband, a wonderful piece of South Melbourne Hellas merchandise history. Now in the comments section of that piece, someone mentioned that there was also a Lakers headband, and thanks to collector and friend of the blog Nick Vertsonis, we have an image of the Lakers headband for all to see, so thanks Nick for continuing to share the bounties of your collection with the wider South Melbourne Hellas supporter base.

Friday, 31 October 2014

October 2014 digest of everything (OK, some things)

This post is a bit of a grab all of a range of different concerns floating around, as well some news, in the middle of trying to avoid having a nervous breakdown, which is not an official term according to wikipedia. Also, don't listen to Bohren and Der Club of Gore if you're in that mood. Great record that one though.

Kids these days
With junior trials for next year now under way, just how many people are unhappy with the South junior system? Is it many or just a few? Are the things they're unhappy with South specific, NPL specific, or a combination of both? One thing is for certain, there are unhappy people out there - how the South board manage this issue will be interesting, especially after the failed Brazilian experiment of last year, and the fact that the junior system has, to this outsider at least, been the subject of continuous manipulation and upheaval. In addition to all that, the continuing failure to see any talent make its way through from the juniors to the seniors on a permanent basis - and not in a roundabout five years down the track kind of manner - would be a concern to everyone.

(woman or effeminate man or physical cripple or small child or palsied pensioner opens jar after the BIG MAN fails to open it, but he still tries to claim that he 'loosened it up') (or here comes the hero of the day and of course it's South Melbourne) (we're in the tent [is that a sex thing?] and so here comes South Melbourne in the A-League in 2017) 
What's our official position, if any, on FFA's National Club Identity Policy? Is it something that's even on our radar, or are we happy to just go with the flow? Flow it is then. Enough was said by both sides of the argument following a now infamous guest post, to not need to go over it again. I was speaking to a highly thought of Australian soccer writer, which narrows it down to about five people, four if you don't count me, and this person agreed with me that why don't South and Knights work together to achieve their goals? If Melbourne Knights want to the be the street fighting with western suburbs street cred coming out of their ears Problem Child, the loose cannon of the Ethnic Soccer Club Party of Australia if you will; and if South want to be the wheelers and dealers in the suits, the Albert Park Accountants and Masters of Realpolitik, with The Prince in one hand (a prince must want to have a reputation for compassion rather than for cruelty) and the Art of War in the other (On intractable terrain, Do not encamp: On crossroad terrain, join forces with allies: On Dire terrain, do not linger: On enclosed terrain, make strategic plans: On death terrain, do battle), who clean up the mess by looking down right reasonable by comparison, why can't they work together? 'All friendship is desirable in itself, though it starts from the need of help' said Epicurus, but then I would cite him, wouldn't I?

Speaking of which - Victory and Heart in the NPL in 2015?
So, Heart and Victory have enlisted the help of big brother FFA, effectively sending an ultimatum to FFV and the NPL clubs, let our youth teams in or else your FFA Cup spots could be under threat. I'm sure South Melbourne will come to the rescue, right after Melbourne Knights soften it up for everyone. It's called teamwork.

As important as whether Heart and Victory make it into the NPL or not, something will eventually have to give in terms of the massive number of teams now in the two Victorian NPL divisions. While the largeness of the league is in part a consequence of the compromise solution worked out between the dissenting clubs, FFV and FFA during the NPL establishment crisis, we already have the situation of 14 teams in each league, plus newcomers Nunawading, Murray United, and possibly Eastern Lions from. One news report suggests that Bendigo are re-considering their participation next year, and I've also heard talk that Murray United may also struggle to make it to the starting line - though their recent hiring of staff seems to suggest that their participation next year is more likely then not at this stage. But what happens at the end of the three year licence period? Will everyone be allowed to stay? And if not, can you imagine the furore from those that miss out?

There are two things a viking never does...
That  Phil Moss, eh? Puts out a stupid line, and then apologises. Not for what was said - that Sydney Olympic didn't sign him back in the NSL days because he wasn't born in Greece - only for the offence it caused. Sydney Olympic huffed and puffed a little bit, but in the end had to sit there and take Moss' apology like the little bitches that they are - and if that sounds like meanness for cruelty's sake, it's because I know that we'd almost certainly do the same. As for the two things a viking never does? It's a Hagar the Horrible joke.

Making a house a home.
Are our lights up to scratch? Some people keep talking about hosting an FFA Cup match as being of more importance than actually winning the state title, but could we even host a match under lights and on TV? There's been talk every now and again during our new Lakeside era that the lights aren't up to FoxSports broadcast standards. Sure there's plenty of room on the light towers to install more lights, and they may only need one more row each to get there, but are there any plans on actually making this happen? It'd be fairly embarrassing to win hosting rights for an FFA Cup match, and then not be able to host it at Lakeside. For that matter, what's the latest with the social club? Has construction started yet? Will we ever get signage on the ground to let people know we're there? Will I ever get rid of this albatross of a counter? And when's the AGM?

Are we any closer to to reconciling - if that's even the right word - with the women's team? While female players don't make up half the numbers of the male participant rate in the sport, it's still a massive blackspot in our attempt to be the broadbased and compelling club we love to portray ourselves as being, let alone one that could be considered as progressive. Still, this was interesting.
'Our' women? When did that happen? Interestingly, after Alan Davidson resigned or got the sack of the eve of the finals, his ultimately successful replacement was one Matthew Maslak, who had been sacked as coach of under 20s earlier this year.

Law and Order SVU episode blurb that could cover 90% of its episodes
The detectives investigate a series of sexual assaults, but come to realise that the prime suspect may not be the person they originally thought was responsible.

Comings and goings
Meanwhile on the South playing front, defender Shaun Kelly - who was also our leading scorer in 2012 - has parted ways with the club. Kelly, who missed the whole of the 2014 season with a lisfranc injury, has signed with Port Melbourne. At least he seems to have left on good terms, which is nice to know, as he always seemed to handle himself professionally, and it must have been difficult for him to sit out the entire championship season after hanging about during some very tumultuous times. Fellow Englishman Jamie Reed left this slightly cryptic message on Twitter
So is he coming back? I don't know. Tyson Holmes has left to go to Bentleigh Greens, apparently for a better chance of more game time, while Shaun Timmins has gone to Hume and Dimi Tsiaras has retired.

Staying put are Milos Lujic, Iqi Jawadi, Michael Eagar, James Musa, Brad Norton, Tim Mala, Nick Epifano, Stephen Hatzikostas, Leigh Minopoulos and Andy Kecojevic.

But did they actually get the terminology right? Aka, a souvlaki is not the same as a gyro, but OK we get what you're trying to say while being a patronising cunt
Some of those who watched the FFA Cup quarter final between Bentleigh and Γιουβέντους Αδελαΐδας - though not me, since I've been boycotting the tournament for various obscure and probably not very defensible reasons, but who are you to question my motives? Have I ever questioned yours? - noticed that the commentary kept hammering the souvlaki angle. Dedicated readers will however remember that Michael Lynch and I covered this earlier and better.

Frank Lowy mentioned that promotion and relegation in and to and from the A-League is imminent and everyone wet their pants or hunkered down in their bomb shelter
Me, I threw a tryhard nonconformist bomb of my own, but I mostly only got a few retweets.
Life after South Melbourne, if there is a such a thing; I still have my doubts
Congratulations to former South defender Jake Vandermey, who took out Hobart Olympia's best and fairest award. Vandermey also finished third in the state wide best and fairest count, behind South Hobart's Brayden Mann and Andy Brennan.

I'm playing all this week, tell all your friends
Now this I was not expecting.

Football Today, some sort of accumulating internet news service for Australian soccer - I'm sure there's a more appropriately tech-savvy phrase for it, but that's the one I'm going with - recently made South of the Border its featured blog.
I'm pretty chuffed with that, for reasons which I can't necessarily figure out. I mean, how did it even happen? I know how my blog got on the 'best blogs' list in the first place: I sent FootballToday an email asking them to put it on their registry, and they did it (I think it may have even been Bonita Mersiades who was responsible, so there's me momentarily running internet shoulders with an Australian soccer heavy hitter).

I don't subscribe to their Twitter feed, nor do I visit their site, because I'm not interested in the vast quantity of the articles that come through their feed. Sure it's not playing the game of internet 'I'll scratch your back and you'll scratch mine' that's a feature of the blogopshere and Twitterspheres, but I don't have a problem with that, my preference being for this blog to meander through time and space as it pleases, and not to the whims of aggregators. Nevertheless, I'm happy to have been noticed.

Maybe everything will change by tonight...
... and then this post will look stupid. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lakers artefact Wednesday - Lakers street sign

This arfetact was one of several images uploaded recently by Nick Vertsonis on Twitter, and which I'll be uploading one by one in due course. Now the first thing you need to know is that this is, of course, not a real street sign (der, Paul) but rather, as explained by Nick in email:
a decorative/novelty item to be displayed on a wall or in the garage... the sign was all the rage with all the AFL/NRL clubs at the time, around the mid nineties.
Irrespective of whether or not it was a legit sign, it's an interesting piece of memorabilia, which shows that the club was interested in not only trying out different merchandise ideas, but also a willingness to use the Lakers name, and hell, I'm going to just go out and say it: the logo's sorta crappiness aside, 'Lakers' was by no means the worst nickname that could have been conjured up for that unfortunate situation where we were forced to try and assimilate. At least we had a lake next to us, unlike the LA Lakers who allegedly tried to stop us using the name, though I've never actually seen the hard and fast evidence that they actually tried to do that. But that apocryphal story is so fun, that it just keeps on keeping on, though admittedly helped when I, too, have inadvertently given the story another push via one of Joe Gorman's articles on The Guardian.

It also reminds me of the photo on the left of an actual South Melbourne parking sign - originally posted in a Supermercado article which we've archived - which to me (and especially my dad, who was responsible for paying the parking fines for parking in those areas) always stood a bit menacingly. It makes you wonder though, if we were to ever somehow get back into the top-flight, where would all those people who wouldn't use public transport park? And would the local tramlines - the 12, the 1 and at a pinch the 96, be able to cope? Thank goodness that's not a problem we're ever likely to have to deal with.