Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sunk by ghost of Hellas past - South Melbourne 1 North Eastern MetroStars 2

The club sandwich at the Limerick Arms is a joke. Scott Tunbridge scored the winner against us ten years down the line from his South stint. And the corneal scarring on my good as gone left eye got inflamed again. All in all, a top day at the soccer.

I'd like to think it wasn't hubris or over confidence on the part of those South fans discussing the costs of heading to Sydney to play Bonnyrigg White Eagles - whom North Eastern MetroStars will meet in the final - more so the need to be prepared in the event of South beating MetroStars and being required to make plans at very short notice, made more complicated and expensive by the fact of the NRL grand final this week. All this while a bee tried to get into the remnants of my gin and tonic, and while Steve From Broady poured himself a beer from the communal jug and made it frothier than an Eaton Mall frap.

For what it was worth, I thought we'd justly be favourites for this game, but victory was hardly an assured thing. Going into a gale force wind and copping an own goal in the first ten minutes or so, not a good start. Barely looking like we'd bothered to turn up, it looked like this was going to get nasty, as the visitors played a skillful and pacy sort of game, while our skill level deserted us. It didn't help that the wind changed direction at halftime, but that'd be short changing the visiting team with the name straight out of Lawn Bowls Rendell's and Old Man Dunkerley's Victorian Champions League Summer Soccer Football competition.

(By the way, how good was it sucking up to Martin Foley again? We'd ditched him for the Liberal Party candidate for his seat once we got the job done with the Lakeside lease arrangement, and then we had some sort of special ceremony for Foley to show that we still loved him, baby. That other woman meant nothing to us. Girl, I do not even remember her name. Pamela or something. It is irrelevant for our purposes.)

That we somehow held on long enough without conceding another goal, and actually managed to work our way into the game whereby our equaliser was unapologetically deserved, was a pleasing development. In typical retrospective sports report fashion though, Jamie Reed's missed penalty doomed the side to lose. Never mind James Musa's effort against the crossbar in the second half which still could have given us the lead - Reed's miss was the clincher.

And if that's being unfair to Reed, in singling him out for blame when there were 92 other minutes of stuff to be done, and considering he'd put in the great cross for Milos Lujic's equaliser, then that's the whole point isn't it, of the aforementioned typically lazy hindsight afflicted match report. Pick a scapegoat, and run with it for all it's worth. A good match reporter, even one that can't really see, would for professional reasons take the time to write a nuanced, relatively objective report.

But I'm not getting paid for this, and I suspect that like the players themselves, the long season - 32 league, cup and playoff games, not to mention the long pre-season - has caught up with all of us. We clapped the players off, disappointed as we all were to witness that kind of end to an otherwise successful season - but with no social club yet to hunker down in, sticking around on the concourse in front of our grandstand, even if there was the women's game to follow, seemed kind of pointless, especially since now my left eye was playing up again.

Four or so hours after I entered the Eye and Ear Hospital's emergency department - and I'm not complaining here about the wait, because there were clearly others with a higher level of priority than me needing care - and having been told that I probably wouldn't be given the anaesthetic drop into my eyeball, because 'we can't keep doing that', which probably had some sound, 'let's not get this guy addicted to steroids' medical reasoning behind it, I stood waiting while the doctors talked about having an absinthe party, and then sat down in the optometrist's chair as we went through what one nurse has previously called the 'fat file' of my left eye's history - retinal detachment, cataract, light sensitivity, ulcer, the herpes simplex virus causing blisters to explode on the surface of the eye with attendant corneal scarring.

The doctor and I agreed that while it was an option which would probably need to be undertaken at some point, removing the eye would be a fairly drastic step, especially as it could cause an auto-immune response in the other eye. So keep taking the ointment and these drops, and come back on Friday. In the end, I was glad to be able to get some sleep. Then I woke up on Monday, watched some NFL, played Grand Theft Auto IV, went and bought a power supply for my brother's computer, and did some reading. That no one seemed to miss me during this delay in getting this post out hurt my fragile ego somewhat. Worse is the horror of having the facade of my affected disaffection swept away so easily.

What now?
I don't know, you tell me. Some pre-season kick and chase, not much on the line kind of affair, some time next year, or very late this year. Who knows? Maybe we'll find a way to get the Lakeside ticketing system running properly. We'll start hearing rumours about players coming and going - it's already started, if you know where to look. There'll also be the gala ball on October 31st. Not sure if I'm going to that yet, though I suppose it would be nice if I went to Merrimu Receptions for something other than my funeral. That's a little inside joke there, by the way, understood by me, SMFC TV cameraman Tim Dovas, and maybe Cuddles.

As for the blog...
The usual deal. We'll (I'll) be slowing down. At some point in the next two weeks, I'll hand out some awards. I'll put out the odd book review, try and find some historical artefacts to put up, and thank everyone that needs to be thanked at the end of the year. There'll also be an AGM, and hopefully news of the social club beginning to take shape - and even though it may create the most hits for this site, I'm hoping for a minimal amount of controversy.

Something I thought about while reading a Stewart Lee book recently
Ever had a great idea for a written piece, but you were worried that no-one would publish it? No? How about a slightly above average idea, but had no where to even pitch it? Well, that's the situation I'm in at the moment, whereby I have this idea for a piece - and not just an idea in and of itself, but a means in which to potentially rescue a great but reputedly borderline mean and unpublishable piece, and add to the myriad discussion on all things Australian soccer identities in the post-Lowy, post-multicultural era. And I've found that epithets like 'best Australian soccer writer', 'most underrated', 'funniest', 'most obscure', hell even 'fifth or seventh best Australian soccer writer', or 'one of its worst' - some semi-real, some of which I may have made up about myself - mean close to nothing. What's the point of this hard earned imaginary and/or imagined street cred, when there's no one to turn to get this 'idea' into print (and it needs to be print for aesthetic reasons, if nothing else). So kids, the lessons are. Don't shoot from the hip. Neuter your sense of individuality. Don't upset old people. Play the game.

After much debate, we eventually decided that
the shade of blue of Upfield's playing kit was
most similar to 'Robin Egg Blue'.
Around the grounds
Robin Egg Blue
Ian Syson made the offer of giving me a lift out to neutral Truganina to watch the champions of State League 4 West, Hoppers Crossing, and their North division counterpart Upfield, play off in a post-season finals series. After finding myself in a state of confusion on the importance of this game, I was eventually convinced that both sides had already won promotion regardless of this result, and that this was just part of the process of determining who was the best of the State League 4 sides - so, in short, the stakes were pride. The first half saw Hoppers start off with a bit more polish and vigour, but once Upfield settled down they looked good, putting together some quick passing play. One of those plays, along with a bit of patented individual brilliance saw them open the scoring. Too bad for them they kept giving away fouls, and thus they copped a goal from a set piece. The second half was all Hoppers, as they stormed to a 4-1 win, which could have been more if not for the intervention of the woodwork. Arndell Park, the current home ground of the Truganina Hornets, is not a bad ground, though the addition of an extra lighting pole in between the benches on the outer side would not have gone astray. It wasn't too windy last night, but I can imagine there'd be days where it'd be horrible to watch games there,

Final thought
Things could have gone worse this year.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Details for this week's game against North East MetroStars

Since the Kiss of Death is on its usual second half of the season hiatus, and I haven't bothered with match previews for a while now - and anyway, I know almost nothing about our opponents this week - so this is just a quick post to sum up what's happening this week.

We're playing in an NPL national playoffs semi-final against South Australia's North Eastern MetroStars. It's at Lakeside, this Sunday at 3:00pm. Your 2014 South membership will not get you into this match, and I assume by extension neither will your FFV season pass should you have one of those - I'm not sure about FFV media passes though.

The tickets seem to be a little bit more expensive than the usual NPL Victoria gate prices, but how often will we get to play in a game of this relative importance? It took eight years just to win the state title.

Even if there isn't a massive crowd at the game, the ticket printing system at the gate at Lakeside can be painfully slow, so it's worth considering using the Ticketmaster site to pre-purchase your ticket.

If for whatever reason you can't make it, FFV will be broadcasting the game both on a radio stream as well as internet video stream.

Regardless, for those that can make it to the game, I hope to see you there to hopefully see our boys get us to the final.

The match will also serve as the first part of a Lakeside double header, with the South Melbourne women's team also playing for a spot in the WVPL grand final, against Bulleen, the team that vanquished them in the recent cup final. That game is due to start at 6:00pm. I know they're not part of our fine organisation at this present moment (hopefully one day soon), but depending on the mood after our match, I may end sticking around for that game as well.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A measured response to David Gallop's 'state of the football nation' address

The following missive was sent to us by the same writer of last year's popular anti-NPL piece. Feel free to share and comment upon this effort.

Well, I was really looking forward to this when I heard Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop was going to address the public – but like most things in Australian soccer, and life, it has served to disappoint and reinforce the entrenched power structure to continue on as it pleases. What a great box ticking exercise to get the sheeple in a hype over the start of the A-league season, while at the same time showing the ‘unconverted’ how forward thinking and hip soccer is. Yes, you know that you’re in for a bad read when I refuse to use the word football. I grew up knowing the game as soccer and I’m not ashamed to use that word. If I was as well-heeled as Frank Lowy I might be inclined to get the Skyhooks to do a remake - 'Soccer is not a dirty word' has a nice ring to it. Kind of like Coles teaming up with Status Quo, but I digress, maybe on a further tangent than where Paul Mavroudis has ever dared to venture. Probably not. That guy is wacky in an intriguing kind of way. I’m not. I’m pretty straight up and if you’ve been following my not so infrequent tirades against the (soccer) man you’ll know that what I’m about to tell you is going to be frank, open and in your face. Some of you may not like it, but do I care? No, because the truth is confronting and speaking it is not a crime, should not be frowned upon and is the morally upright thing to do.

Leading into the Gallop ‘speech’ I was thinking to myself which David Gallop would turn up. Would it be the David Gallop that has been polished out of recognition by the marketing department’s copywriters? Those pesky fedora wearing types that sit in a dimly lit room smoking hand rolled pencil thin cigarettes churning out the annoyingly catchy buzzwords that corporate Australia loves to latch onto? What the fuck is robust?

Anyway, it was as I thought. A thoroughly rehearsed, bland and ultimately false-hearted delivery by a guy that is capable of much better. But, you can’t blame him. I mean you can, but I won’t, not just yet. Let’s begin where David Gallop begins:

Everywhere you look at the moment, you can see that Australian football is enjoying a golden period. And it's about to get better. The months ahead have the making of football's biggest ever summer.

We have an unprecedented run of finals, tournaments and big occasions that will see the game of football in the daily lives of more Australians than ever before.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say golden period - but if that’s the way you want to spin it, I’ll let that go because I see through that shit, as do most people – especially the ones that are so rusted on and fanatical about the game that they will watch an exercise in ticking boxes from a soccer administrator.

The game has 1.9 million participants - the biggest of any sport in this country - but we expect to see the football family swell in the months ahead.

David, this is a lie. The FFA marketing department, and you as its mouthpiece, love to bring out this line whenever they get the chance. It’s a good line as well. The biggest participation numbers of any sport in this country. Wow. If only it were true. This number, as you know, is based on the FIFA Big Count where Australia is ranked in the mid 50s. The FIFA Big Count is split into three categories. The first is registered players which National Associations cannot falsify, as you’d know it’s part of FFA’s official reporting to the world body for soccer. The number of registered players in Australia is 435,728. There is another section which is in regards to unregistered players, or players that play socially, in church competitions and other parts of the game such as indoor soccer not under the auspices of the FFA. This is an estimated number put forward by each association and then vetted by FIFA. This number is 535,000. The third and final section relates to officials (being match officials, club officials, registered coaches etc.) – this number is 67,632. This gives us a grand total of 970,728. It’s an impressive number, but the one that really counts is the number of registered participants. That’s 435,728.

All the other numbers are irrelevant. Your recent survey which you commissioned with the purpose of inflating Australia’s participation numbers, because of the age old soccer small man complex that has infected the game in some quarters ever since I can remember is a big fat lie. The FIFA Big Count numbers more than likely have double and in some cases triple counted participants (a person that simultaneously plays for a club, plays indoor or school soccer and coaches, referees or is in a club committee) which is a concern, but how you got to 1,960,000 participants is anyone’s guess. Creative accounting was never my forte. Please stop bringing out this propaganda, because people see through it for the most part, and it’s kind of embarrassing that our own national body craves relevance so badly. This is a good point of reference from a source that is more reliable than a privately commissioned survey designed to reinforce how good you are.

We'll have record-numbers of Australian fans in stadiums watching the Socceroos at the Asian Cup, the Hyundai-A-League's momentous Season 10, the Westfield W-League, which is underway right now, and the final stages of the Westfield FFA Cup and PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues finals.

Australian football will be on the TV screens in homes, pubs and clubs, in digital channels and social media - and we expect bigger audiences than ever before.

These are all good things and I can’t disagree with much here.

And because of the game's booming profile, the mainstream media will generate more attention than ever before.

Football has a great story to tell, and I thank all the media here today for their interest in telling it to your readers, listeners and viewers.

Read: thanks to the media for getting behind us, you’ve been a powerful ally in propagating our message for the most part.

You can see there are six trophies up here today... three will be won before Christmas, and three after...

The three before are the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues trophy, the Westfield FFA Cup and the Westfield W-League trophy.

And the Hyundai A-League Premiers Plate, the Hyundai A-League Championship trophy and of course the AFC Asian Cup.

There'll be all sorts of drama, great football and magical moments before the silverware you see here is held aloft by the winners -- but that's just part of the story.

This exciting period for Australian football is book-ended by two major global events ... the FIFA World Cup in Brazil earlier this year and the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada next year.

Having the Socceroos and Westfield Matildas at World Cups creates a wonderful halo around Australian football and showcases what it means for Australia to be a part of the world game.

This is one area where any Australian soccer administrator can’t make a mistake and is something 99% of people within the game agree on – that the Socceroos are the single most unifying factor within the sport.

There are other major factors at play to make this a remarkable time for the game.

Firstly, the convergence on the calendar of so many events - from international to the grassroots - and the way they showcase a sport so full of opportunity, optimism and growth.

Secondly, we're seeing the connection between all the tiers of our game come to life - it's closer and more productive than ever before.

This is currently my most hated buzzword coming out of head office. Connection between all the tiers. What fucking connection? There is no connection. There is no promotion and relegation to and from the A-league. Likewise in some states, the new-old NPLs have also entrenched clubs as either ‘elite’ or ‘community’ (two more shit corporate buzzwords that can fuck right off) while at the same time people generally go about their soccer business (playing, supporting, administrating) at the non-A-League level totally oblivious and very much in contempt of any metaphysical connection that you have cooked up on Level 22 in Oxford Street. You talk about connection? There are currently the privileged and the rest. Ten teams (I won’t give them the courtesy of being called a club, because it takes more than a graphic designer with a design brief to create a club) receive a television rights dividend of $2.5M per annum from the FFA to cover player wages and to ensure the sustainability of the league.

Meanwhile, the rest of the clubs up and down the country have to self-finance to field teams in all ages, find sponsors (normally friends or family) and volunteers to work in the kiosks to sell the dim sims and kransky rolls that go into subsidising the costs of the clubs. And when a club like this, run on a totally voluntary basis for the love of the club and by extension the game actually contributes to the greater good of Australian soccer by producing, unearthing and nurturing a player to a high level of quality – he is stolen away by the privileged few at the top, who not only get their TV money, but at the same time get free pickings to any player in the country. And then they sell him off for a big profit while the little club is still selling South Melbourne Dim Sims. What do these clubs that do the hard lifting get? A token mention on Fox Sports about player 'x' coming from club 'y'. Yeah, club 'y' has good 'z' (food). Awesome connection.

The lower tiers of the sport (and by that I mean anything not the A-League) are not there to be servants to the A-League. This is where our philosophies diverge. You have a Head of Community Football, who I thought was responsible for looking into and taking care of everything except the A-League. But no, the God of the FFA, the almighty dollar, dictates that this position is for a person to engage ‘community football’. What does this mean? This means that not a fuck was given by FFA to the plight of anything but the A-League – so much so that the Head of Community Football’s job is to go out and ‘engage’ with these ‘community football’ clubs and basically sell them why the A-League is so good and why they should all jump on board to follow the A-League. So it’s actually not about helping these clubs up, it’s about helping the A-League up while shitting on anything else below. That’s been the modus operandi since day one. You shouldn’t be surprised, but you are a little bit, I know you are.

The success of the Westfield FFA Cup is proof. That's an historic development - the football community is moving as one.

The announcement of the FFA Cup is a welcome one. The Cup has been a good step in the right direction. However, the tokenism of, for example, calling South Springvale a pub team, when most in Victoria know that they have a relatively high budget is pretty disingenuous. On top of that, you keep banging on about the magic of the cup, 'like our very own FA Cup' – like England is the only country in the world to have a cup competition. Australian soccer has gone backwards in some respects - where before we were comfortable within our own skin, ability and knowledge, now we continue to second guess ourselves. The football community is not moving as one. Your number one priority is the A-League, and there are still plenty of people out there that don’t want a bar of it and care deeply about their traditional club, youth development, futsal, the Pararoos and another whole host of ‘agendas’, for want of a better word.

Unity of purpose - too often a question posed about us, rather than an affirmation - is now a strength.

No it isn’t. We don’t have a unity of purpose and I don’t think we ever will because the history of the game in this country is disjointed and I don’t think you stating that we are all on the same page makes it true. Nice words, no substance.

That's why today - on behalf of the football community - FFA is making a major statement on the future of Australian football.

It's time for a National Plan for the Whole of Football that will set us on our way to making football the biggest and most popular game in Australia.

Wait, what you’ve done over the past 10 years was without a strategic plan? Or is it that you’ve realised that there’s more to soccer than the top national domestic division into which you have sunk most of your time an energy as an organisation?

This is not a plan just for FFA; it's a plan for the Whole of Football.

From the five year old playing MiniRoos to the heroes playing for the Socceroos.

From the grassroots of community football to the pillars of the professional game.

For all the stakeholders and all the partners at all levels of the game.

I find that very hard to believe. FFA since its inception, and at the behest of Frank Lowy has been an organisation in a position of absolute power. He wouldn’t have taken it on if he wasn’t guaranteed a tenure, because as we all know and sometimes forget, Mr. Lowy took his ball and ran home in 1987 after his team had already played a match in the national league that year. What people accuse those on the outside today of doing, Lowy did himself in trying to destabilise the game when he didn’t get his way like a petulant little child. Just to prove to you what the FFA thinks about stakeholder engagement – I’ll run through the National Constitution just quickly. Specifically Rule 3.5 relating to Standing Committees. The Directors must establish Standing Committee x, y, z etc. I started to investigate these national standing committees. When I couldn’t find them listed or referenced anywhere, I called Head Office. I spoke to a person in the legal department who relayed to me that the FFA hasn’t had the need or ability to convene these Standing Committees. Oh, OK then. It must be all too hard. So let's recap. The FFA has within its Constitution provisions that it have certain Standing Committees (like the State Federations) that will give advice to the Board on issues that it has been convened under. The FFA decides not to have these Standing Committees at all. And you keep believing that they give a shit about you and your shit opinion.

It's a plan for all the fans who love this game and those who are on the mission with us.

I suppose I’m firmly in the not with ‘us’ camp. It’s OK, I’ve been called much worse before. It’s just disappointing that the FFA thinks they ‘own’ the game, can control its dynamic wishes and ultimately decide who can and can’t be a part of the mission. Seems like my description of the old wog clubs and their disciples, of which I am a proud standard bearer was right – they do see us as a dangerous fifth column.

The need for this plan has become obvious to me after almost two years as CEO of FFA.

I am excited and ambitious for the game, but I've come to understand that Australian football suffers from a "burden of opportunity".

It's the reality we see today - the game has a huge growth trajectory and massive potential, but we don't always have the capital, the resources and the structures to harvest the opportunity.

To put it another way, we have many mouths to feed, but rarely do we have enough to go around.

We could sit and wait for things to change, and certainly the game will continue to grow if we were to continue our current course, but leadership demands more of us at FFA.

I agree to a certain extent, but I am cautious to believe you as you’ve disappointed on a number of occasions, not least of which your recent correspondence with a fellow concerned football administrator. He wrote to FIFA about promotion and relegation in regards to the statutes and the A-League, you cracked the shits when you found out and basically asked him not to write to FIFA but to you. So he did and asked the same question. Your reply was more words with no substance. Basically, there will be promotion and relegation, one day. When is that day? Ignore and talk about something else. These CEOs must have a module at school on how to talk without being pinned down to anything specific. I reckon there is room to make a compilation of AFL journalists asking questions of Andrew Demetriou being answered by the CEOs of other sports. You all speak the same double-Dutch, no pun intended.

The National Plan for the Whole of Football will not be an overnight fix, and it will take longer than the next four-year World Cup cycle.

Yeah, we’ve heard that give us time rhetoric before. National Curriculum anyone?

But we need to start and the first step is to galvanise this generation to address this challenge. I will have more to say later on how we intend to proceed.

First, it's important that we celebrate the State of the Game today, because we are in amazing shape for a sport that was on its knees just a decade ago.

The sport was never on its knees. The national body was broke (none of the States were) and was subjected to various political maneuvering to allow for the messianic complex of the Australian soccer pleb to be fulfilled. Clubs across the country were in better shape overall then, than they are today, especially at the lower levels.

This summer, in the middle of the busiest domestic calendar on record, our nation will host the biggest football event we've ever seen.

The AFC Asian Cup is bigger than anything we've seen since the 2000 Olympic Games.

16 nations, 32 matches in 23 days in five cities. That's big enough from a sporting point of view, but beyond the tournament and the matches, football is bringing the Asian Century to life in our own backyard.

I’m a lifelong soccer fan, and up until recently I didn’t know much about the Asian Cup. Most people couldn’t give a shit about it. It’s not going to capture the national audience like you hope it will, I wish I was wrong but that is the reality of it.

Australians will see Asian football and culture on show. And from the outside looking at us, Asian audiences up to 1.3 billion will see Australia on show.

This is nothing new, of course. Our national teams and Hyundai A-League clubs have been building links Asia for years, especially with Western Sydney Wanderers and their fantastic run through to the semi finals of the Asian Champions League.

The Wanderers' 0-0 draw last night in Seoul leaving them tantalisingly close to the Asian Champions League Final.

Football is leading the way for Australia in the people-to-people connections in Asia.

It's another way that football is once again playing a crucial role in nation building.

I agree, but again, much more can be done. Instead of A-League clubs signing washed up hacks, why not sign a promising Vietnamese player that will forge that link between Australian soccer and Vietnamese soccer, as well as the large Vietnamese community in Australia? This is much more beneficial to the connections to Asia and the future of the game, rather than signing the Mario Jardels of the world.

Our game is inclusive, accessible, multicultural and international - they are the qualities that make Australia such a diverse and successful nation.

I was hoping you weren’t going to give me an opening to bring up the National Club Identity Policy, but now I have to. When the policy was released, you were quoted as saying; “The intent of the National Club Identity Policy is to ensure the game remains inclusive and accessible, not just in the way we organise ourselves, but in how we engage with the community. The very name and logo of a club sends a message about what that club stands for. We want clubs that stand for uniting people through the joy of football,” You may want clubs that fit a neat little box so that the marketing department has a straightforward sell, but imposing your political opinions upon the clubs in your jurisdiction is not your place. So step off.

Secondly, the wording of the policy states as a preamble “
FFA acknowledges the multicultural nature of Australia and the valuable contribution that various communities have made to the historical development of football in Australia. FFA also respects Clubs’ desires to acknowledge their heritage and contribution to their local communities. FFA has a responsibility to protect and grow the reputation of the sport of football in Australia and to ensure its openness and accessibility to all Australians.”

No you don’t Davy boy. No you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. Either you embrace multiculturalism, warts and all, or you go down the assimilation path which is your policy in practice, not theory. You say that the name and logo of a club sends a message about what the club stands for – if a club chooses to call itself Morwell Italia to cater for the Australian-Italian community in the La Trobe Valley, who are you or anyone else to say that they can’t or shouldn’t or that their message through their name and symbolism is not to be tolerated? It is a club’s choice to stand for whatever they like. For whatever reason, and this is related to your earlier point, if you don’t fit the bill, your plan is to excommunicate (in some way) those that don’t toe the line. I think you’ve bitten off a little more than you can chew here and I sincerely hope that it bites you, and everyone else that has their dirty fingerprints over it on the arse.

By excluding certain types of personal and collective expression through soccer, you are being the opposite of inclusive. By stopping multicultural communities of Australia publicly displaying their culture is being the opposite of multicultural.

Beyond the sporting, cultural and social links, we're now seeing Asian investment driven by football - the $12 million takeover of Melbourne City by the Abu Dhabi interests, the owners of Manchester City, is a snapshot of our future.

I like to say that "as the world gets smaller, football gets bigger" - our game will make sure Australia is always a vibrant player in sport's global community.

The Asian Cup is a festival of football not to be missed. The joyous scenes of Brazil will be coming to your backyard. Tickets are on sale, so let's "Unite for the Asian Cup".

Blah blah, words, buy tickets, Asian Cup, blah.

Let me share the insights to the domestic game that have me seeing blue sky for the summer ahead...

The Hyundai A-League is on target to set new benchmarks for attendance, TV viewership, digital engagement and club membership.

The aggregate attendance is set to surpass 2 million for the first time.

We're aiming for a fourth straight year of TV ratings growth, to see a weekly viewership of 660,000.

The boom in digital and social channels shows no signs of slowing, with 2 million web users and 1 million followers on social media.

Across the league, club membership is currently 13% ahead of the same stage as last season and on-course to break the 100,000 mark for the first time.

Thanks to the huge vote of confidence from SBS TV, we'll have unprecedented reach and audiences for the A-League with the move of Harvey Norman Friday Night Football to the primary free-to-air channel SBS ONE.

The same is true internationally. New rights agreements in India and Africa mean the weekly reach of the Hyundai A-League will top 300 million across 30 nations and five continents.

Of course, this season will celebrate 10 years with our primary broadcast partner Fox Sports, a foundation investor in the Hyundai A-League.

Fox Sports has covered every game live since day one - and given millions of Australians world-class coverage of the competition.

Tomorrow, the attention turns to the terraces. The Hyundai A-League National Ticket On-Sale gives fans the chance to secure their seat for the big matches in Season 10.

This week, the pre-sale for Sydney Derby was the hottest ticket in town - Wanderers members bought at a rate that outstripped two finals in another code.

The Sydney Derby will sell out once again - so if you want to sample this incredible event, go to www.a-league.com.au/tickets from 9am tomorrow (Friday).

Another blockbuster on sale tomorrow will be the Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory match at Adelaide Oval in round 2.

The fixture was a sell out at Hindmarsh Stadium last season, and we expect a new record Hyundai A-League crowd for Adelaide.

Sydney FC's opening round match against the new Melbourne City outfit is also selling strongly, no doubt driven by the expectation of seeing the Spanish World Cup star David Villa.

It's really pleasing to see so many great Australian players choosing to stay in the competition - it's notable that Mark Milligan, a starting X1 player at the World Cup in Brazil, has chosen to stay with Melbourne Victory.

This is a dividend of the growing stature of the Hyundai A-League.

It's the fastest growing professional competition in Australia because it gives us fantastic football, star players and the best atmosphere you'll experience. I can't wait for the kick off.

As expected, the largest chunk of the address reserved for the A-League. Surprised? I’m not.

Last weekend the Westfield W-League started - again with live TV coverage on ABC TV -- and is heading for a Grand Final on 21 December.

Our finest female players are also on the mission of making the Matildas squad for FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada next May.

One of our top priorities is to appoint a new Head Coach of the Matildas, and that's now just days away.

I don’t want to come off sounding sexist, but the women’s game doesn’t interest me at all. Not that I want it to be hampered or discriminated against, it just doesn’t interest me.

There's a renewed mission for women's football thanks to a $500,000 development grant from FIFA and we're building stronger player pathways for our rising talent.

It’s a nice touch to mention FIFA’s grant, but it’s really a drop in the ocean compared to the funding that the women’s game needs.

The FIFA grant will partly fund nine development officers into the community across Australia.

See above.

Females already make up more than 20% of our participation base and we are forecasting the numbers to grow strongly in the years ahead. It's our big point of difference in the Australian context and we intend to make the most of it.

See three points above.

Right now, we are in the midst of the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16 and can I say I've never seen a new competition make such an impact on the Australian sporting landscape.

It's not just the romance and upsets of cup football - this is a festival of the Australian game.

From the self-titled "pub team" of South Springvale to the national champions Brisbane Roar, we have a great mix of clubs from across the country.

One of my favourite moments was the Thomas Love goal for Adelaide City that knocked out the Wanderers - whatever else he achieves, Thomas will go down in folklore for that goal.

The magic of the Cup has captured the imagination of sports fans everywhere.

If I may say, I'm so proud of the way FFA has rolled out the Cup in conjunction with the Member Federations, commercial partners in Westfield, NAB, Harvey Norman and Umbro and our broadcast partner Fox Sports.

Yes, give yourself a pat on the back for starting a Cup competition that could have begun in 2005, but didn’t because the FFA wanted to protect the A-League at all costs. Rules still exist in all states that don’t allow any games to be held at the same time as an A-League match, at the discretion of FFA and the local federation. Has everyone forgotten that?

We talk a lot about the strategic objective to connect the grassroots to the professional tier - well; here it is, alive and kicking.

See above for explanation about buzzword ‘connecting grassroots’ et cetera.

Best of all, we have a countdown of dramatic mid-week matches still to come before we reach the inaugural FFA Cup final on Tuesday 16 December.

I can tell you now, other sports would love to have this sort of opportunity, but it can only happen in a game based primarily on skill, not those based on collisions.

Cue crappily veiled troll of other sports. Was waiting for this. A bit of a letdown to be honest.

In the first week of October, the Grand Final of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues will be another chance to elevate the semi-pro tier to the national stage.

OK, how in fact does it elevate them to the national stage? In actual fact, what is the point of the national playoff anyway? You can’t get promoted into the A-League, there is no prize money on offer, your club might get the opportunity to play one or two games in a national playoff once every 7-8 years or so if you’re lucky. Awesome. Can’t wait for South to play in the NPL playoffs again in 2021. Hopefully they’d have invented those wretched hover boards by then.

This year we have clubs from eight state and territory member federations in the play-offs to be crowned NPL champions.

The NPL is the engine room of our player development pathways and - again - a vital connection between local clubs and the national tier.

So far I have counted three. Connection, local losers and national glamour.

So far that's three glittering occasions - the Westfield W-League Grand Final, Westfield FFA Cup final and PS4 NPL Grand Final - all before Christmas.

That's an entree to our national team the Socceroos to take centre stage and seek to become champions of Asia.

Without doubt, Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou has transformed the team - on and off the pitch - in a matter of months.

The FIFA World Cup showed his strategy of bringing the best young players into the team is quickly delivering results - our team played really attractive football in Brazil.

Already, some of the young guns - like Jason Davidson, Adam Taggart and Josh Brillante - have moved to bigger clubs in Europe.

This is a key part of Ange's plan to rebuild our national team, by fast-tracking our best young players and having more Aussies playing against the world's best, week-in, week-out.

Next month we travel to the Gulf to face the UAE and Qatar and in November we travel to Japan.

Each step advances the cause of the Socceroos and their rebuilding as a national team that truly unites the nation. We saw the journey commence in Brazil, just wait till you see it at home.

What happens on the pitch is the rightfully the main focus of fans and media. What happens behind the scenes is my responsibility.

Let me preface this; personally, I don’t think Ange Postecoglou is a bad or incapable coach. The current bunch of players that we have, and more importantly the ones coming through are incapable of achieving results that mirror or exceed the 2006 World Cup results. Hang on, let’s take a step back and qualify for the next one as a start. I wouldn’t want to be in his position to be honest, not going to be easy.

It's fair to say that the game's governance structures have been a work-in-progress since the reform process of the Crawford report in 2003, and the inauguration of the FFA under the leadership of Frank Lowy in 2004.

Frank Lowy and his board have done so much - starting new national competitions, qualifying for World Cups and joining Asia.

Our chairman's energy and commitment is a source of inspiration to so many people and I want to personally acknowledge his guidance and wisdom.

FFA could not have done this in a decade without the support of so many companies, broadcasters and governments.

At least he admitted (in a long bow kind of way) that the Governance Structures of the Crawford Report were designed in a way to give Lowy absolute control and no threat of a takeover. After that was achieved nothing else was important. Not Standing Committees (see above), not actual accountability…

There are too many to name individually, so you'll see our acknowledgement on the video screens.

I personally thank the leaders of these organisations. They see the opportunity that football presents and we applaud their vision.

Let me return to our major announcement - a National Plan for the Whole of Football.

It's a sign of our confidence in the future and our determination to build on today's foundations - to turn the "burden of opportunity" into an institutional strength and prosperity.

The plan will put the football community at the heart of everything that's important.

If you are a player, a fan, a volunteer, an avid TV watcher - if you are among those who love this game - you are incredibly important to this plan.

And the plan will be critically important to your future enjoyment of the beautiful game.

The scope of the National Plan and some of the key questions for the football community look like this;

In elite player and coach development, I have no doubt we need to overhaul the way we do things. Do we want to see others in Asia setting the standards, or do we want to be the leader?

I don’t think Australia, or any country outside of South America or Europe will be able to develop players to a world standard in house. Why we continue to bang on about this implausibility is anyone’s guess. Our efforts should be centred around a concerted plan in promoting what the Crawford Report wanted to stop (and did) – the player drain of young talented Australian players going to Europe. For the national league this was a bad thing. For the national team, it was great. You have to find a balance and decide which is more important. I think the answer is pretty obvious.

* For our national teams, qualifying for World Cups is fantastic, but do we want to be a contender and challenge the elite nations?

Unless soccer becomes the number one sport in this country and our population grows quickly, only then can we begin to try and be a contender and challenger to the elite nations. Both of those things are out of our control and unlikely to happen.

* Community football is currently a strength in the participation base and our collaboration with our Member Federations. But is it enough to have a model primarily based on clubs and outdoor football when so many people want to play indoor, at schools or just for fun in parks?

So many people do play indoor, in school and just for fun? This statement doesn’t really make sense as the FFA doesn’t receive any income from any of those three activities.

* Facilities are at the heart of our game, but how can we thrive as a sport when the space to play remains a critical shortage?

By lobbying Government for a $1B facilities fund. Without it, it will be left to the clubs to scrounge together the money to get it done, and in that case, it will never be done to the standard needed or in the time-frame needed

* Our national competitions, the Hyundai A-League, Westfield W-League, PS4 NPL and Westfield FFA Cup provide us with a 12-month of the year calendar, but structures, connections and expansion are big questions for our future.What? Connections, again?

* Fan Engagement is the life-blood of everything we do, whether it's in the community, with our major brands or through the many channels where you find football content. But we need to stay ahead of the trend in this digital world if the football family is to remain strong.

Fan engagement = converting people into customers of the A-League above all else. It isn’t a conspiracy, he just said it. Don’t say I didn’t tell you that it’s the FFA’s number one priority above all else. Why have a vibrant 2nd, 3rd or 4th tier that’s well supported when they’ll be considered a threat to our plan to convert every fan of the game into a fan of the A-League. Why not be happy that people are part of the game supporting their club, whether they play or watch in the local league, State league or NPL?

* Commercial revenues are the dividends of a successful sport, but we know we need to do a better job telling corporate Australia about the massive potential if we are to have the resources to deliver on the game's promise.

Every other time I’ve heard Gallop and the FFA speak about this it has been a very rosy picture of moving forwards in leaps and bounds and gaining the confidence of corporate Australia – this is the first sign of alarm in this regard. Interesting development.

* And our governance structures need to be aligned, efficient and ready for the challenge. Every stakeholder needs to know their role and have the trust in others, and that's the starting point of our ambitious thinking.

The Governance Structures were designed with the specific intention of limiting the influence of stakeholders, and now you want them to push your agenda onto those they have influence over? So either toe the company line and you’re a good bloke, or speak up about the massive structural issues within the game and be condemned a trouble maker.

The first phase of the National Plan is to listen to the game's key stakeholders - clubs at all levels and their members, our state and territory Member Federations, sponsors, broadcast partners, governments and stadium managers.

That is rich. This comes only a month or so after the announcement of the National Club Identity Policy by the FFA where they failed to ask a single club about what they thought of the policy prior to its publication. So someone got an idea in their head that we need this policy, went to the trouble of writing it up, presented it to the State Federations and passed it as gospel. Where and who did they listen to in that instance? I can’t see this organisation and its culture changing from being outright belligerent towards anyone with an opposing view to inclusive and listening.

We'll consult individual participants and fans via an online portal that will capture the voice of the people.

I suppose the results of which will not be made public? Definitely not. Because I could easily hire 50,000 bots proposing a variation of the same idea, it being the overwhelming response to the consultation and it still won’t be accepted as what the people want. If it’s not in line with what FFA and Frank Lowy wants, it won’t happen. The whole thing is a sham and a farce and will not be transparent, like everything else they’ve ever done.

The outcome of this national plan will be a road map to guide all the key stakeholders in the game.

To achieve that, we need to align all the game's stakeholders - without unity of purpose, we can't make a difference.

There's no time to waste. We aim to publish the National Plan at the conclusion of the Asian Cup.

And what of it? After it’s published it’ll be another nice piece of paperwork to add to the National Curriculum, Coaching Handbooks and other wastes of time that the FFA has wasted resources and energy on. More actions, less words.

We need to capture the momentum and make the most of our biggest ever summer.

There is no momentum to capture. The game is in a state of flux, and if you can’t see that – we’ve got even bigger issues than what I thought.

We want to see this simple, skilful and safe game played in every backyard, every school ground and every suburban pitch.

Cue second subtle troll.

We'll do that by ensuring our sport is always inclusive, accessible and multicultural.

Cue second hypocritical lie about inclusiveness and multiculturalism. How do these cocksuckers sleep at night?

This summer, the vision will come into focus. We'll see opportunities starting to turn into tangible achievements.

I’m not holding my breath.

We'll see the enormous promise take shape in our competitions week-in, week-out

We will see football looking forward with dreams that can become reality.

We will unite people in the joy of football -- especially this summer.

I just know you can't wait to be a part of it.

We Are Football. Thank you.

OK, that ended with a barrage of clich├ęs that hurt my brain. If it has indeed whipped the plebs into a frenzy of Craig Foster-esque parochialism, I suppose it has done its job – but I, and many others are after a bit more substance and maturity from a body that is responsible for the promotion and regulation of the sport of soccer.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hellas get the win - South Hobart 0 South Melbourne 1

Maybe it was due to my crook eye, all puffed up and sore - though I prefer to think that it was because of sense of anticipation of the day ahead - I woke up several times in the middle of the night, and upon waking up, proceeded to head to Spencer Street Station even earlier than I had planned, ending up waiting for Gains outside the Bourke Street Hungry Jack's next to some crazy motherfucker with a Balkan accent, who was going off at some taxi driver as Port Adelaide Power supporters trickled into town for their team's preliminary final.

By the time I got to Tullamarine, those South fans due to depart on earlier flights had gone, but there were still plenty of us waiting for the 9:45 flight. The guy at the screening area asked me to take my beanie off, but otherwise there were no issues clearing that barrier, other than him mistaking us for North Melbourne fans.

The flight itself was rather dull, as cloud cover blocked out most of what was worth looking at, and besides, I was in the middle seat and having to look past a sleeping woman's head to see outside the window. I amused myself with the in-flight magazine, and suffered an OCD moment when I had to ask Gains for a pen so I could complete the unfinished crossword. I can understand maybe missing out on Isaac ASIMOV, because you don't know science fiction or the three laws of robotics. I can even understand missing out on Margaret POMERANZ, because you don't know how to spell her surname. But missing out on the name of AC/DC's second album, when the answer's only three letters long and already has the 'N' in the middle filled in?

Upon landing, it's straight from the airport to the pub around the corner from the Darcy Street ground, a trip made cheaper by the fact that someone had planned ahead and hired a maxi cab, so give that bloke a medal. The Hellas faithful had already commandeered the Cascade Hotel's beer garden, the banners up along the fence, and the chanting in full swing. There was even a chant for my arrival, and one for the super beef schnitzel on the menu. I also got to catch up with former South Hobart players Shae Hickey and Dan Brown, as well as local soccer journo Callan Paske, who thanked me for doing up the Hellas write up for Walter Pless' site because it helped. If only I'd bothered doing as much research on South Hobart, my readers would have known what to look out for.

Now last week I had a go at Brad Norton and our taking of short corners, to which one of our readers, Neil, left a comment on the general uselessness of corners, short or long. While an interesting study, I think it still more or less supports my position from last week, which is not that I believe that we will score from any given corner ipso facto, but that the act of getting the ball into a dangerous position, with the possibility of either scoring or at least regaining possession from a defensive clearance - as opposed to hitting it into the first defender on the edge of the box after a botched short corner - is a better option.

That the article in question says that short corners should be considered because of the greater chance of maintaining possession, is not applicable in the case of South Melbourne as we have come to know and love them, because we have not used short corners as a way of maintaining possession - rather, we have used them as a means of supposedly opening up an angle and/or drawing out defenders towards the ball and away from their own goal area in preparation from an a semi-delayed cross. The problem here is that we either fuck up the initial short pass from the corner, fuck up the pass back to the corner taker, or if we somehow manage not to cock up those two passes, we cock up the cross that's meant to come from that contrived trickery.

On a related matter, when people ask me do people from the club read this blog, here's the proof of the pudding. While waiting at Hobart's airport to go back to Melbourne, our lovable larrikin president Leo Athanasakis pulled me up to have a bit of chat about one particular event of this game, which happened very early on in the piece. Brad Norton had taken an early corner, sent it deep, and saw the South Hobart defence at sixes and sevens trying to deal with it. The subsequent corner, which followed immediately on from the first one, was played short and sunk without a trace. The president felt inclined to point out to me that when that happened, he looked towards my direction to see my reaction of utter disbelief.

Anyway, before the game, the one thing that I was worried most about - apart from Brayden Mann and Andy Brennan up front for South Hobart - was whether we would take the home team seriously, and not rock up thinking that a Hellas win would be a fait accompli. Thankfully we started off like a house on fire, and duly opened the scoring off a Jamie Reed overhead kick.

Note to all South Melbourne players: that goal came from a corner sent deep, which caused all sorts of mayhem. You know, like the first one we put in. What's that line that Dr 'not registered in California - this show is for entertainment, informational or educational purposes only' Phil likes to say? That the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour? And what was it that old drunk WC Fields is alleged to have said? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again? Then quit - no use being a damn fool about it.

Walter Pless' brilliant photo, capturing the moment after Jamied Reed connected with his
 overhead kick, but before it sailed past South Hobart goalkeeper Kane Pierce.

At that point I thought, here we go, but then for whatever reason things started to go a bit pear shaped. South Hobart starting winning more of the ball, but the biggest problem was that the complacency I thought we'd left back at the hotel had turned up, and we started doing things that we pretty much hadn't done all season. We spent so much time knocking the ball around, which would have been OK had we actually done it properly, and were we not playing a pitch with a wicked slant down which made what would have been normal passes into a variation of trick pool, such was the swerve and spin that was on display.

It didn't help that some of our players had all of a sudden discovered their inner Garrincha and tried to dribble through and around everyone. James Musa in particular seemed to become manifest as a reincarnated Steven Topalovic, which is strange because Topa's not dead yet. And while often enough the skills our players were looking to pull off actually managed to be completed, too often it was just looking for trouble.

Should South Hobart have had a penalty? I don't know. Unlike other crucial moments in the game, I haven't gone and looked back on the video. I'm going to stick with 'no', just for the sake of it. Regardless, we managed to go into the break 1-0 up, and came out looking better in the second half. Sure, there were still mistakes being made, and openings there for South Hobart, but if they're going to blaze their shots wildly into the backyards behind the goals, whose fault is that?

Steve Hatzikostas' knee injury was a concern, though apparently he's been cleared of serious damage - whether he'll play in the next game though is doubtful. Had he not gone off, I would have taken Iqi Jawadi off, who unfortunately had an awful game. As it was, the bloke I would have replaced Iqi with, Tyson Holmes, came on and did an OK job.

The critical moment of the second half was when Lujic, having been released into space and having also beaten the offside trap, went to go around Pierce on the edge of the box, only to be clattered into cynically by the South Hobart keeper. Somehow Pierce escaped with only a yellow card for his efforts. Looking at the video, I'm still mot quite sure how he managed to escape a red. Still, we ground out the result despite putting in ordinary performance.

I'd said in my preview for Walter Pless' blog that our vulnerabilities were in our lack of pace at the back, and in our tendency to be a grinding out team suited to league rather than cup or playoff successes. On the latter front, our unconvincing Dockerty Cup wins at Sunshine George Cross and Dandenong Thunder seemed to suggest that when it comes to one off games, as the team likely to go into them as favourite, opposition teams see us as a likely scalp. Certainly, I think South Hobart lifted and perhaps played at a level they perhaps wouldn't be able to sustain over the course of an entire NPL Victoria season, if they were involved in such a thing. All these things are hypotheticals of course, but that's the nature of knockout football, and something we have to deal with.

I can't say much for most of the team, who battled hard, but put together a very disjointed performance, one of our worst this season. Too often our defenders were exposed by the speed of the opposition forwards and our own poor decision making further up the field which gifted them the ball back. Milos Lujic was relatively starved of chances, though he could have done better with those that he had - credit to Kane Pierce for making some good saves. Jamie Reed held the ball up well and caused a lot of problems for his direct opponents.

However the man of the match was our skipper Michael Eagar, who when everyone else was still trying to find their bearings, sorted out the danger time and time again. Added to that, despite whatever looks on goal South Hobart managed to eke out, they barely if ever (Walter Pless counted one) forced Chris Maynard into making a save - a point I made when speaking briefly with South Hobart coach Ken Morton after the match, who rued his side's inability to take their chances.

How can you have a trip to Hobart without a visit to the Hellenic Club? 
Because apparently they were hosting a wedding reception instead. Now that I think about it, we probably should have crashed that party. Instead a few of us ended up back at the pub, and I ended up drinking with Joe Gorman, Australia's second best soccer writer, discussing Leopold Method's upcoming print edition, the Macedonian issue, Ian Syson's romanticism, my bitterness, and how Joe had never picked up on Kimon Taliadoros' South African accent.

Meanwhile those of us South fans at the pub had more or less resigned ourselves to playing either Western Australia's Bayswater or South Australia's MetroStars away. An expensive trip on short notice to Perth, or a cheaper, easier one to Adelaide - and sure I've got a mate in Perth who's offered to put me up should I ever end up on that side of the country, but it's not worth it for a fly in fly out deal. Making matters worse, we'd arguably been dealt the easier part of the deal - go to the weaker opponent, score three or four goals, don't do anything stupid. Well, the stupidity was limited to James Musa's yellow card for a rash challenge, and we managed to win in regular time, but the lone goal meant that in likelihood we'd have to travel.

What could have been had Pierce been sent off? Or had Lujic managed to find the back of the net instead of the cross bar? Bayswater got a man sent off early, and as that game dragged out into extra time, and then penalties, it turned out to be MetroStars, and what's more we'd play them at home. Sometimes things fall into place, even when you try hard to screw it up.

Next game
South Australia's North Eastern MetroStars (what a terrible name) at Lakeside. Date and time to be confirmed. The Transplant Games are apparently on Sunday from 7am to 3pm - does that allow us to have our game afterwards? Would we dare to host the game on a Saturday night? Is Friday night even a possibility?

Former South players Scott Tunbridge and Adam Van Dommele to return to Lakeside. This world just gets a little crazier.

This Sunday at 3:00pm, at Lakeside.

The view from the other side
Some fascinating reading over on Walter's initial summing up of the game, mostly in the comments section. It's all over the shop to be honest, as the occasional Hellas fan chimed in with positive words, surrounded by those locals talking up South Hobart's performance and talking it up, those inexplicably (to my mind) talking us up, and the internal conflict between supporting an interstate interloper over a local team, and whether such brotherhoods as may exist in the case of one Greek Australian club and another can supersede those state loyalties, whether that shouldn't even matter, because South Hobart represent themselves first and their state second, and is the nature of such things, a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda.

The best local view of the game, at least in terms of matching whatever biases may exist in this blog, is from Richard's Rant Blog. Passionate, provocative, but not without praise when he feels it's due - though a lot of that praise seems to be reserved for the supporters who made the trip down for providing a rambunctious atmosphere. Considering the flak South fans cop on occasion for supporting their team a bit more vigorously than a lot of the smaller clubs here in Melbourne, it's a nice bit of respite from the hate - though I suppose it's easier to appreciate what we do when the chants about inbreds were quickly howled down, and instead replaced with 'Scenic ground, some fans'.

Baby take off your dress/Self-diagnosis spectacular
I would have thought that wearing a Shoot Farken t-shirt would have had me singled out immediately, but it was the overly precious metal detectors at Hobart airport that kept pushing me back, rather than whatever stray coins I thought my have been left in my pocket, and thus off came the belt.  It also turns out I probably suffer from airplane sinus headaches or some such affliction, a stabbing, jabbing pain over one side of temple. Makes flying a less than pleasant experience. At least we the Hobart flight left early, and the SkyBus and train connections synched up beautifully.

Final thought
Shaun Kelly buys Nesquik cereal. Make of that what you will.

Monday, 15 September 2014

South eases to the finish line - Goulburn Valley Suns 1 South Melbourne 4

What's the point of Sunday trading, and how can you really call yourselves the world's most liveable city, when one can't even organise to have regular trams running before 10am? Never mind, I got to the Lakeside car park on time anyway, so good on me. Mind you, the bus did not leave at 10:30 am sharp as advertised, not that I'm complaining. Bloody Greeks and their sense of punctuality.

Apart from fielding text messages from one nincompoop who asked that we stop by the Hume Highway near his house - which I fobbed off as brusquely as possible - the trip up was uneventful apart from pulling the curtains open and shut fifteen million times because of the sun. Also we stopped in Nagambie for lunch, and got to the ground in Shepparton in time to watch the second half of the under 20s (including one unfamiliar spindly Bambi-esque specimen playing for us).

Being 160 kilometres closer to the equator and/or hell, Shepparton was a lot warmer than what Melbourne was when I left, and thus rather uncomfortable but that's also my fault because I should have known that'd be the case following my one and only other trip up there back in 1999, a short stopover while on a bus to the Gold Coast for a school trip, where I had lunch at Maccas while our bus drivers perved on my female classmates, back in the days when a term like jailbait had yet to cross over from internet geek lexicon into daily real world usage.

The senior game itself had all the intensity of a pre-season friendly, and what's more I barely even saw the first goal go in after just a couple of minutes because I was still trying to figure out where the best place to stand or sit was - note to everyone who visits John McEwan Reserve, there are no really good spots - before Matthew Theodore's terrific effort in just the second minute (never mind folks, I saw the video while it was being edited on the bus on the way home) made it 1-0 and we could have gone home right there. Nick Epifano made it 2-0 not that long after, a detail I'm adding for the sake of that I actually saw that one go in.

When Brad Norton took an early corner and proceeded to play it short (and badly), an entire year's (and then some) frustration came out and I threatened to jump the fence if they ever took a short corner again, to which he replied 'why don't you take it then' to which I said no problem, or words to that effect. Now whether I would actually take the corner with any sort of competency, let alone managing to avoid pulling a hammy is not the point - the point is that my intention would be to actually put in a decent corner, something nice and deep (giggity). Norton's subsequent corner was sent nice and deep, causing all sorts of chaos in the Suns' penalty area, thus more than proving my point, but in the hours since the incident I've wavered between cocksure defiance and abject shame about my actions yesterday, before finally settling on defiance because SHORT CORNERS SUCK, THEY DON'T WORK FOR US AND WE ALMOST NEVER SCORE FROM THEM APART FROM BY COMPLETE ACCIDENT AND EVEN THEN STILL LOSE GAMES WHEN WE DO SCORE FROM THEM and LEST WE FORGET THE ATTEMPT TO GO FOR A SHORT CORNER LAST YEAR AGAINST GULLY WHEN WE WERE 1-0 DOWN IN THE DOCKERTY CUP SEMI, PURE FUCKING GENIUS THAT WAS. SO HOW ABOUT JUST STICKING TO TRYING TO SCORE GOALS DELIBERATELY, BY SENDING IN CORNERS WHICH GET THE DEFENCE SCRAMBLING AND THE GOALKEEPER FLAPPING, INSTEAD OF FUCKING AROUND TRYING TO BE TOO CLEVER BY HALF, ORRIGHT? ORRIGHT.

Anyway, 2-0 up the break we were on cruise control, but then the home team decided to make it 2-1 when some very slack defending from our end, letting those orange freaks pull one back. Thankfully we got it back to 3-1 pretty much straight away, with Milos Lujic equalising from the penalty spot to equal the Jimmy Armstrong and Dougie Brown record of 22 goals in a league season, though of course if Lujic would occasionally pull the trigger just a little earlier he may have had some more this season, but what do I know? I just thump these keys and scowl at the fact that I will never be able to run a lap of the ground without throwing up my lunch, let alone slot one on ones past fast approaching and maybe even competent goalkeepers.

But speaking of orange freaks, there was this one Suns player in the second half whose face almost turned the colour of his jersey. It was a bit warm out there, but it was nothing akin to the heat of the bake that referee Perry Mur gave to one of the home team's players after said Suns player went down a bit easy and Mur told him to stop whingeing or else he'd send him packing. Or words to that effect, which one would hope were captured by the camera microphones because it was about as close as one could reasonably get.

We gave Andy Kecojevic his debut yesterday, which I'm not against (if you're reading this, hi Andy, nice through ball you played yesterday), but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, because if we were still in a situation where we needed to win this game instead of just turning up because we've already had one forfeit too many in these past 54 years, he would not have played, nor would Dion Kirk have started the game. I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that I still miss Nicky Jacobs.

Aside from a Jamie Reed goal to make it 4-1, that was it. The game over, we sauntered over to the sheltered area where the folks from Shepparton South Soccer Club put on a free barbecue, which was a nice gesture since it wasn't their home game (even if it was their home ground), and was better than whatever efforts the Goulburn Valley people put forward to anyone that wasn't a visiting dignitary. We kept in touch with the results from the rest of the day's games, notably Port's 96th minute equaliser against Werribee to stave off relegation (whatever that means) and send Ballarat down in their place (also whatever that may means, and I don't care how much otherwise respected people say that Ballarat won't be coming back and nor will Goulburn Valley BECAUSE STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED and just try claiming otherwise, go on do it, I once saw Glen Trifiro play a ball forward instead of sideways, so there's your proof). The trip back was spent watching the NSW grand final and Dimi Hatzimouratis' Sydney Olympic go down 2-1 after extra time via someone's phone. A mandatory stop in Wallan was the only break on the way home through the increasingly impenetrable darkness before reaching the outskirts of civilisation.

Next game - National Premier League national playoff series
The Victorian season now done and dusted, we move on to the National Premier League national series, which is being sponsored by someone or other, but since I didn't get any free gifts from said sponsor, they ain't getting a plug on here. Of course for some time it's been known that the Victorian winner (which is of course us, just in case you missed the news) would be playing the Tasmanian winner, and wouldn't you know it it's South Hobart again from the Apple Isle, a team we are quite familiar with, even if we haven't come face to face to face with for a couple of years.

South Hobart were last year's runners up in this competition, going down 2-0 to a Trifiro (who cares which one, it was Glen by the way) led Sydney United on their home turf at D'Arcy or Darcy Street, whatever it's called. It's a great little ground with a massive slope of some sort, and that's where we'll be playing this week also, rather than  on the Federation's ground at KGV Park with the synthetic pitch.

South Hobart's strength is in its two forwards, Andy Brennan and Brayden Mann. Not only did they score a massive 57 goals between them this season (in 21 matches), they also finished in the top two of the league best and fairest (ex-South player Jake Vandermey finished third). If South Hobart has a weakness, it's in defense, because they do seem to cop at least one goal a game. And while Sam Kruijver is a good goalkeeper, goalkeepers in general don't enjoy a stellar reputation in Tasmania, it often being difficult to find a good one. (lame correction - Kruijver no longer plays for South Hobart - it's Kane Pierce in goals for them now, with thanks to Walter Pless).

As for the midfield, it'd be industrious and effective at the level they're playing at, but quite how it copes with a team of our calibre remains to be seen. When we were last down in Hobart back in 2011, with a team that was not as accomplished and battle hardened as this one is, South Hobart put up a good fight and probably should have score at least a goal or two, but nevertheless went down 5-0. That day they probably gave us too much time on the ball, and tried too  much to play their own passing oriented game instead of perhaps trying to press

Of course this is mostly from stuff gleaned from Walter Pless' blog and memories of the times I've seen South Hobart play both on their visits here (also here and here), and our one trip there. They still have players that played for them in that 2011 fixture, while we've probably gone through about two entirely different squads since then, including Carl Recchia about 15 times by himself. (some folk looking at that match programme will also notice the names of Cameron Williams, who was attached to our under 20 squad for a little bit this year, and Kosta Kanakaris who played for Heidelberg's seniors this year on and off the bench).

They say that the winner of this mini-tournament will end up securing a place in the FFA Cup next year, as well befuddlement about who would host a possible semi-final in this playoff series and against who (check here for something vaguely official) but I'm more concerned with taking it one week at a time. But as Steve from Broady said to me the other day, Paul Mavroudis and sensible got together like a souv and tzatziki; and though my thoughts on the matter are if that the gyros meat has enough flavour you shouldn't need to drench it in garlic and yoghurt, I still get the point he was trying to make, his ability to construct metaphors and similes far exceeding mine

If you haven't booked your flights yet, well, I don't know what to say. No one can make you go, and you certainly shouldn't be forced to go down there if you have work, not enough or other commitments. That's just the deal life hands you sometimes. As for myself, I fancy I'll be seeing a fair few South fans at the Jetstar terminal on Saturday morning.

Just over a year left of Channel 31?
You may recall that not too long ago I mentioned that Channel 31 was in danger of not having its broadcasting license extended? Well, it turns out that Malcolm Turnbull, the Minister for Communications, has made the rather moronic decision to extend Channel 31's license to the end of 2015, before booting them off the spectrum so telecommunications companies can use that spectrum. According to Turnbull, community TV will end up on the internet, as if that's nearly the same thing as being part of what's available on broadcast television. So once again, I ask that you visit Commit to Community TV and add your name to the petition, or write to the minister personally.

Around the grounds
Under the skysigns they who have no arms
Have cleanest hands, and, as the heartless ghost
Alone's unhurt, so the blind man sees best.
(Dylan Thomas)

Paisley Park and its collection of old men and magpies on a Saturday afternoon; Altona East down but not quite out, playing Sydenham Park who have been neither quite here nor there in 2014, and are now stuck in the middle waiting until next season. I watched the game from the far side, trying to catch whatever warmth I could, as dust clouds sprouted from where the balls bounced and players fell, staring out into the open field and wondering whether I've snookered myself into a never ending cycle of decrepit spectatorship, and also whether this stray golf ball nestled in the grass in front of me could double as an egg from some long lost species of bird. The home side starts brightly enough but is 1-0 and then 2-0 down, and there is no way out. What's worse is that the bread rolls on this last home game of the season are halfway to being half stale, and if that doesn't indicate some sort of impending doom than I don't know what does. Sydenham add one more for good measure, and Altona East are one wrong result from their end or from Sunbury's from going down a division. Maybe it'd be a good thing, a chance to reassess priorities, to reorganise and maybe somehow come back stronger. Maybe it'll be another nail in the club's coffin. Lot of maybes in that.

Final thought
Sure, there were a lot of laughs. You probably couldn't hear them, the acoustics were so bad.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Bureaucrats and Bohemians - South Melbourne 2 Oakleigh Cannons 2

Lots of things happened yesterday, some of them were even football related. It was great to be able to mingle with all sorts of different South fans, in a relaxed atmosphere before an end of season dead rubber, not because the team was poor, but because they were good. One of the older gentlemen had even brought along a large container full of lollies to share, and I decided to side with Homer as opposed to Marge:

Marge: And don't take candy from strangers.
Homer Simpson: Marge, they're only human!

But now to the rest of the day's events.

Formeroos! Copperoos!
Rather than have the under 20s play as the curtain raisers, the pre-game entertainment was a friendly match between a selection of former Socceroos (including among others, Dean Anastasiadis, Kimon Taliadaros and Fausto De Amicis) playing against the Victorian Police soccer club. The Formeroos won the game quite comfortably, the final score being apparently 8-3 (though whether anyone as actually keeping proper score is doubtful), but the highlight was De Amicis coming down to the fence at half time and doing a bit of meet and greet with the early bird South fans, even saying that it was good to see us still supporting the club, without it coming across as patronising. A fair effort.

After the conclusion of that game, the crowd was presented with several surviving members of the 1964 and 1974 state champion teams, as well as the 1984 national champion team, which was great to see.

Here come the fun police
Of all days for whoever the manager of Lakeside Stadium is to get his knickers in a knot about Clarendon Corner, he had to pick yesterday. Now I don't know the bloke's name, so for ease of use and to give him some semblance of anonymity, let's just call him Hermes Conrad. Old mate Hermes, reportedly in the job for about three months, decided that today he was not going to let the drum be played. Never mind that the drum has been used all season long, nor the fact that, as one supporter put it, 'it's not a fucken funeral', Hermes pointed to his little piece of paper and said that drums were not allowed. Credit to the fans who negotiated with Hermes, who tried to reason with him rather than get fired up, even as some of those a few metres away hurled abuse.

Credit also to the bloke with the annoying air horn device, who decided to sacrifice it for the sake of keeping the drum. He also brought along a giant cardboard champagne bottle, decorated with South motifs (and which made it into several photos), which I'm surprised was considered acceptable by Hermes, though I'm not sure what Hermes could have done about the newspaper confetti and the streamers. The most stinging comment anyone said to him was, 'we're here for another forty years, so get used to it'. Like the shenanigans various A-League supporter groups have had to deal with though, this probably won't be the last we hear about this. That's the problems with no longer being the venue manger I guess.

Eventually Hermes went back to his little hidey hole and I don't think I remember seeing him for the rest of the game. Newly installed FFV CEO (and former interim CEO) Peter Gome hung around Clarendon Corner a bit in the second half, and didn't seem to have much of an issue with what was going on.

Bohemians on tour
The leather blown they now pursue
And deftly through goal-posts guide
Who taught the world the way to woo
In songs that vibrant passion sighed.
The revelries in which they vied
To give the graver lands a shocker
Merely as memories abide
Now Czecho-Slovaks shine at Socker.
from 'The Modern Bohemian' (1927), by Thomas the Rhymer (pseudonym of Charles Hayward, editor of The Bulletin).

One of the most bizarre things I've ever seen at South Melbourne was the arrival of a dozen or so people in green and white, carrying banners and a Czech flag, and end up near Clarendon Corner. Turns out they were supporters of the Czech club Bohemians 1905, apparently on tour to commemorate the club's 1927 tour to Australia. Looking at the dates of their tour, it seems as if Hayward's poem is about that tour specifically, which is a nice thing to know.

Bohemians are of course famous for having a kangaroo in their logo, courtesy of apparently receiving two kangaroos as a gift on the tour, and which were taken back to Prague Zoo. The took a lot of photos and videos, and seemed to be having a great time, but the most bizarre moment was when the supporter known as 'Stevie' or 'Kev' (who has an intellectual disability), objected to the Bohemians fans being in Clarendon Corner, and tried to barrel through several supporters holding him back (and he's a strong, low centre of gravity kind of bloke) while being told that they were our friends and that it was OK. He must have thought they were Gully fans or something. The good news is that the one person he pretty much always listens to when he gets fired up about something managed to calm him down, and nothing serious actually happened. It was certainly all smiles when they filmed the celebrations following Milos Lujic's equaliser late in the contest.

The chanting varied from the very good, to the absurd. The very good was the changing of certain lyrics to fit the situation (Already won the league! Fuck off Oakleigh!), and the inclusion of Bohemians into some chants. The absurd was going back to the rank lower class chants ('Everywhere we go' "Let's go Hellas, let's go', but that was more of an indication

There was a game on?
I can't remember much about the game to be honest. We scored first, they replied instantly, they took the lead, and we equalised late, probably should have pinched it. John Honos made some good saves for them, but he also seemed to milk every slight bit of contact for all it was worth. No matter.

The mating call of the loser
As Buzz Aldrin will tell you, second comes right after first.
Not that we want to harp too much on it, because we've harped on about it enough during this season as it is, but Oakleigh must be some of the biggest sooks in Australian soccer (and that's coming from someone's who majored in sooking, with a minor in communications). Now, admittedly throwing more money down the toilet for no silverware must hurt, as would not bothering to take the Dockerty Cup seriously, because it's not like it has anything to do with the FFA Cup (oh, wait...), but Miron Bleiberg's comments following their loss against Melbourne Knights, about how Oakleigh have scored more and conceded fewer goals than South was classic straw clutching, even if he begrudgingly admitted that we were the more consistent team over the course of the season

Not one to be left behind on the coulda/woulda/shoulda bandwagon (to which South of the Border has a lifetime pass) was Oakleigh defender John Black, who said after yesterday's match:
"At the end of the day they haven’t beaten us all year and congratulations to them for winning the title but we haven’t lost to them and I think that if we brushed up our performances in lesser games we could’ve been the champions, but that’s the way it goes.”
On that front, we didn't beat Oakleigh in 2006 either, but we won that title as well. Different rules back then, what with there being a finals series, but in the end the same glorious result - South winning a title, and Oakleigh being able to crow about the fact that they didn't lose to us. Whatever helps them sleep at night, I guess.

Having said all of that, the fact that at least one person was disappointed that Oakleigh didn't form a guard of honour for us is a bit silly, because it's just not necessary, and we had the kids from our own club there to do it. What next, are we going to parade them in chains in a triumphal march down Clarendon Street (well actually...)? Neither was I annoyed that they didn't stick around for the award ceremony - I mean, would you want to be there in that situation? Frankly, I didn't want them there anyway, because the day wasn't about them, it was about us. Best to leave them go off so they can add another star to their logo for goodness knows what reason.

Here's your prize, don't break it now... 
The awards ceremony went off pretty much without a hitch, The right people were booed, and they teed up FFV president Nick Monteleone to appear alongside the one day to be beatified South legend Jimmy Armstrong in order to avoid getting Monteleone booed, in much the same way that Tony Abbott was paired up with a sick kid at Manly. Like the 1998 trophy before it (at least I think it was 1998), the base of the trophy decided that it wanted a divorce from the top half of the trophy.

The official (and Liberal Party heavy - poor local member Martin Foley has been thrown on the relevance scrapheap, at least for the time being) part of the celebrations done and dusted, the celebrations moved into the changerooms, where Kosta of Blue Thunder Security made sure that not everyone could get in, and while it's easy and and fun to take a big whack at him for doing so, realistically the place was that full that no one else could get in. Your correspondent was therefore happy to stay outside until the place emptied out a bit, and I got to mingle a little and soak up what was left of the atmosphere.

Afterwards a few people kicked on at Beachcomber (oh wherefore art thou social club?), where even I was photographed with the trophy (thanks to Chris Maynard's dad Richard for taking the photos). After dinner the players debated going out to Ljubo's one time favourite hang out Love Machine, which long time readers are well aware, I draw the line. Nightclubs aren't my thing, and besides, it was way past my bedtime.

Next game
Goulburn Valley Suns away for the final round of the season. The club will be organising a bus up to Shepparton. Cost is $35, and the bus will leave from Lakeside 'at 10:30am sharp'.

South Hobart NPL playoffs trip
The date was already known - Saturday September 20th -, but now the kickoff time has also been confirmed - 1:30pm - at South Hobart's ground at D'Arcy Street.

The scheduling is ideal for both a weekend stint or a day trip. Since I'm only making a day trip out of it, I've booked my ticket for the 9:45 flight from Tullamarine, and returning on the 21:40 out of Hobart, which a few fans are also reportedly doing, but there are also people who will be getting in on earlier flights, as well as those doing the weekend thing - so I think we'll have decent numbers.

The fly in, fly out option has become significantly more expensive as the computer algorithms of the airlines have cottoned on to the fact that people want to get in and out for this trip on that date - my $49 flight out of Hobart is now selling for an absurd $149. Hopefully there'll be at least be an internet radio option provided for those who can't make the trip down.

Play Off The Park podcast
Last Monday I was a guest along with Dr Ian Syson on SYN 90.7FM's 'Play off the Park' show, talking about soccer history, heritage and politics. Due to technical issues, the first 34 minutes of the show are separate from the rest of the show. It was a lot of fun, even if Pave Jusup reckons I sound more ethnic than he does.

Victoria University's Worlds of Football conference seeking abstracts
If you're in academia, or have an academic inclination, check out this flyer for details of the upcoming Worlds of Football conference being hosted by Victoria University. The conference will be in mid-January 2015, and abstracts need to be in by mid October 2014. Or you can just check out my reviews of the 2010 and 2012 conferences.

Around the grounds
Up the hill and down again
I had been invited by Box Hill United's Nicholas Tsiaras to come down to Wembley Park at some point in the season, and finally made there on Saturday for their game against the ladder leading Avondale Heights. A win for the visitors would almost guarantee them the championships while the home needed to nwin to keep their promotion chances alive. Wembley Park has a severe slope to one end (though good luck to those with shocking depth perception trying to figure out which way it goes). Anyway, Avondale Heights were kicking to the down sloping end in the first end, and probably should have gone into half time a couple of goals up. Box Hill played better in the second half, but really only had one good chance, which they botched. A better result for the visitors than the home side.

Final thought
I laugh at one joke about herpes and people start killing each other because of it.