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.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

A passing thought on the FFA's National Club Identity Policy

Sometimes you can write an essay on an issue, hoping to get people across to your point of view using the age old arts of rhetoric and reasoned argument. Sometimes you can't be bothered, so you get someone else to do it, as has increasingly been the case on this blog. Other times, you watch a lot of TV and a week after you see a classic episode of The Simpsons for the 50th or 60th time, it occurs to you that, as per usual, someone else has done the overarching issue far better justice, so why not just let a simple image, familiar to every 1990s couch potato, do the job. So praise be to FFA and their crunch patties, flavour sauce and pocket bread. But do spare a thought for poor 'Christopher', just another in a long line of foreigners forced to assimilate because of the host culture's own insecurities.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Joe Gorman on Middle Park in The Guardian

Just in case you've missed it on its various Facebook and Twitter incarnations, Joe Gorman has recently written an excellent piece on Middle Park for the Guardian. It includes interviews and reminiscences from Mike Mandalis, Jimmy Armstrong, Kimon Taliadoros, Ange Postecoglou, Francis Awaritefe and friend of South of the Border Pavlaki. It also includes speculative commentary on the future by Tom Kalas.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Social club artefact Wednesday - Middle Park 'field of dreams' flag

2014 is not only ten years since we nearly went kaput, but it's also twenty years tomorrow since we played our last game at Middle Park. The acquisition of Middle Park is a huge part of our history, and it's the reason why from the start - or at least the merger of Hellas and South Melbourne United in early 1960, which perhaps should be the real founding date for the club - we've been known in English as South Melbourne FC/Hellas/Lakers/Pirates, and not probably something like Melbourne Hellas ala Melbourne Croatia.

That Middle Park is still sorely missed, and that Bob Jane Stadium/Lakeside never had the same feel, is almost a given. As an aside, it's disappointing, though not surprising, that the loss of soccer's suburban grounds was never given as much focus as those from footy, when the equivalent blood, sweat and tears were invested into the soccer venues, and that their demise as top tier venues was, aside from being linked with ethnic, non-conformist soccer clubs, also due to the same forces of economic rationalism and ground rationalisation.

Anyway, the video below is an absolutely priceless bit of footage for all sorts of reasons, including but not limited to:
  • The souvlakia grilling on the barbecue.
  • The most badass women's team ever assembled, with superb motley hairstyles and a keeper with sunnies. They're also wearing this rare jersey.
  • The ad hoc parade of champions
  • The Bristol Rovers style jerseys which harks back to 1966 when we wore a similar jersey.
  • The run through banner which the players will tear through unlike the weak AFL players of today who need a door to go through a banner. Soft.
  • Highlights of the actual game, including Gus Tsolakis acting like a bit of a knob after his goal. When he was playing for the Bergers, my uncle (then a diehard fan, later, meh) called him a monkey. When Gus was playing for us, he was dynamite. True story.
  • The post game scenes overlaid with cheesy music. Really cheesy music. 
  • There's a flag at 5:28 that I would kill to get a hold of.
  • A montage of photos including several run through banners and shots of the Middle Park outer.

The flag below was obviously designed and made especially for the occasion, The design looks a bit stiff, very dated even by 1994 and is, well, just plain ugly. Usually I'd find that charming but for some reason I've never been able to warm to this design. Still, it's a part of our history and any anecdotes about the design or the day are most welcome.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Off-season digressions - WNBL: Dandenong Rangers vs Melbourne Boomers

Towards the beginning of the year, or maybe some time in March, a friend of a friend's grandfather had died, and thus a discounted general admission ticket became available for a Melbourne Tigers game against the Adelaide 36ers, which I was able to take advantage of. Now the usual thing for me to do following attendance at such an event would be to write about it, especially because it was my first time at the basketball - but because of the hectic approach of the 2014 season, that never came to pass, though quite why I never wrote about the experience at all, with the intention of putting up in the following off-season I'm not sure. It still might happen at some point, though I can't really remember any of it too clearly. Maybe a eulogistic piece on the death of the Tigers is needed.

All of which is a roundabout of saying that my attendance at yesterday's WNBL fixture between the Dandenong Rangers and Melbourne Boomers was not the first time I'd ever been to the basketball, though it wasof course the first time I'd been to a women's basketball match. How did I end up at this game? Because fellow Australia soccer historian Chris Egan was in Melbourne for business, and as usual the thing to do was to find a 'random' Melbourne sporting event to go to. With the baseball not in town until next month, and Chris not wanting to go to the national volleyball league fixture being played out at St Albans, because it would clash with the A-League, we decided on women's basketball.

So after a trip to Laverton Market, because Chris wanted to see the real Melbourne and venture as far as away as possible from the World's Most Liveable City garbage, we made it to Dandenong Stadium, the home of the Rangers.
The stadium complex is fairly impressive, including the main arena itself - though I did find it curious that as the Rangers game was taking place, there were several simultaneous games taking place on the many other courts in the building. Also strange to see that the pennants for the Rangers' men's team seemed to be larger than women's WNBL titles at the opposite end of the arena. After initially entering via the side of the arena with the cheap seats, we made our way to the other side, with the proper fold out seating. These were located above small corporate booths, mostly filled out by Jayco employees and/or franchisees, the Rangers' major sponsor.

The game itself - part of the Michelle Timms Cup, played between the two teams over the course of the season - was a bit of a disappointment. The Boomers were appalling defensively, and while they managed to get the early deficit back to six points, the lack of an inside presence in particular (but what would I know?) seeing them fall further and further behind. For their part Dandenong weren't that crash hot, but did what they needed to do. Some of their shooting could have been better, but the US import Cappie_Pondexter was impressive, as was the range of scoring options at the Rangers' disposal.

All things considered, the actual match day presentation of the game was of a very high standard. There was a mascot, and the volunteers, announcer, scoreboards and court presentation were all of a good standard, and even though I find the entire concept of a 'matchday experience' anathema - just let the game be the centrepiece and all that - this was less offensive to me than usual. The national anthem being played before the game reminded of the NSL - I'm not sure if they do this for every game, or just for this, the opening home game of the Rangers' season.

The crowd itself was into the game, but there was a definite lack of nutjob, over the top style supporters, maybe two or three for the home team and one for the visitors. Chris noted that the gender balance of the crowd was fairly even, which would be an interesting phenomenon to analyse alongside the probably very female dominated netball crowds, which in Melbourne at least seem to be very healthy nowadays compared to the small crowd at Dandenong Stadium. Perhaps a comparison with the demographics of W-League crowds would be more useful? Hell, maybe just a study of why some women and girls choose to play basketball over netball would be interesting.

What was most fascinating was simply this: the experience of watching how a second tier sporting club by the standards of women's sport - if one counts swimming and netball as top tier in comparison - operates a national league team of any sort, ostensibly out of the working class outer south eastern suburbs. Something interesting going on there.

A better apology than the one Phil Moss dished up/South of the Border public transport saga nos. 562 and 563
Then this happened, and there was really nothing more that needed to be said about yesterday's adventures.
Though people did of course keep saying things - but that's democracy for ya.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Hubris artefact Wednesday - The Score Fanzine

This is truly one of the more bizarre Australian soccer publications I've ever seen. The short version is that it's a fanzine created specifically for the occasion of the second leg of the 1998 World Cup qualifying tie between Australia and Iran. However, the content makes this a bit more complicated than that.

The person who lent this to me claims, to the best of his recollection, that he bought this on the night of the match. Now this is an important detail, because this fanzine is so full of hubris that one can only hope it was made before the game and not afterwards as some sort of elaborate attempt at trolling. It includes everything from claiming the game as won, Pauline Hanson parodies, to advice about how to go about booking your tickets for France '98 (including entering as many competitions as possible).

While there is an email address in the fanzine, my attempt to contact the writers behind this effort was not successful, with the email address now either inactive or deleted. This was part of a collection lent to me - mostly of newspaper articles circa the end of Middle Park and the beginning of Lakeside - by the supporter known as the Agitator. Hopefully I'll be able to upload a few more things from this collection to upload soon.

Click the following link to download the entirety of this fanzine.

Update - 14/2/2016
As it turns out, there was a follow up edition - which you can download from here. Both extant editions of the fanzine have also had text recognition applied to them.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

South of the Border Awards 2014

There were many fine efforts this year, and many memorably moments. This awards ceremony fits into neither of those categories.

Player of the year: Milos Lujic. He scored lots of goals.

Under 21 player of the year: The Cliff Hussey Memorial Trophy goes to Nick Epifano. When his head was in the right space, which was more often than not this year, he was pretty good.

Goal of the year: Milos Lujic's goal away against the Knights, following Leigh Minopoulos' run down the sideline. The comedy answer would have been Stipo Andrijasevic's goal against the Knights.

Best performance: The second half against Bentleigh at home.

Best away game of the year: Werribee away, because of the scaffolding. Yes we had an interstate trip, and more memorable games elsewhere, but scaffolding.

Call of the year: 'Conya' away at Ballarat. As we noted at the time:
After another dreadful call with the requisite whinging by South fans, one of the Ballarat smartalecs yelled out 'stop your sooking', to which one of our own wits replied, 'well at least we get to home to Melbourne after this', which was perhaps a little harsh but seemed a fitting response at the time.
Runner up: Me, when I wrote off the season an hour into round 2.

Chant of the year: 'Scenic ground, some fans' against South Hobart. A neat inversion of the usually derisory chant. It can't all be all farce and hostility.

Best pre-match/after match dinner location: Late kickoffs and unrelated circumstances meant that thus category now includes pre-match eating options. Nevertheless, Thai Deli is always a strong contender and would be right up in contention on most years, but for the serendipity of the moment it goes to that Indian joint in Ballarat that we went to after that game. I forget its name.

Friends we lost along the way: One third of the Public Transport Crew, because we're not cool enough anymore for said person.

Barely related to anything stupidity highlight of the year:Just before the game against MetroStars, under 20s coach Sasa Kolman driving his blue Toyota FJ Cruiser over the top of the concrete barriers on the boundary of the Lakeside carpark, A-Team style.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Stupid in-joke artefact Wednesday - South Melbourne guestbook photos

Admittedly, in a week where I could have pulled out several thematically appropriate artefacts for the purposes of reminiscence, I've decided to go in the completely opposite direction. This entry, dear readers, is pure farce.

The following images all predate the destruction of the social club and office spaces. Back in the old days, aka or sometime around the year 2009, the old South office at Lakeside had a guestbook, as is the norm for any organisation that... I'd finish this sentence, but with my entire employment history consisting of having worked at a) my folks' business b) four days as a temp for a school supply business c) two days delivering beer d) various stints as a university tutor/lecturer/research assistant, I don't know what kind of businesses use these things, nor for what purpose.

Obviously, the standards of this type of bookkeeping weren't too high at South Melbourne, and I certainly wouldn't try and pull the same stunt with the FFV office guestbook, but if it was only me writing nonsense in this thing, it probably wouldn't be worth uploading.

And it's barely worth uploading as it is, with in-jokes that only a select few people who both frequented a certain forum at the time, and also happened to hang around the South office during that same period, will be probably get. For those that fit into those categories, feel free to click on the photos and enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Lujic player oif the year, Taylor coach of the year at Gold Medal night

Last night Milos Lujic picked up the FFV Gold Medal for the NPL's player of the year award. The most recent South player before him to win that award was of course Fernando De Moraes back in 2010. Lujic also collected the golden boot trophy for the second year in a row, as well as the player's player of the year. Chris Taylor rounded out what was a good night for South, by winning the NPL coach of the year award. This is the first time that a South coach has won a coach of the year award since Ange Postecoglou took out the prize for the 1997/98 NSL season.

While Oscar Crino was inducted into the Hall of Fame, sadly, my nomination of Cindy Nitsos' photo from the game away to Ballarat didn't win photo of the year, losing out to a photo of South Springvale. Neither did any of the half dozen submissions I made for article of the year - all of them blog posts from here - managed to get up, with David Manuca winning that prize.