Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Let's begin the seven days of bitterness

The following lengthy post was not written by me. Publishing does not equal endorsement. Archiving this material does not imply historical importance. Disclaimer does not equal dismissal. Appropriate comment will be made some time in the future. That comment may not necessarily fit into existing confrontational frameworks.
Well I am new to visiting this soccer sub-reddit, but I thought I would like to share the story of my club South Melbourne FC , its history and other similar clubs that have gone through a similar transition. I know its long but give it a read.
Avid A-League supporters, please hold your criticism and read the plight of a club like South Melbourne that has never done anything more than strive for excellence as a club and what they got in return for the success they created and how it feels for a die hard fan. First of all I will give an insight into the history of the sport. Football in Australia was fairly non existant until the late 1950s, when there was a massive influx of European immigrants into the country. It was far behind Australias traditional sports of Aussie Rules football, Rugby and cricket.
Therefor different immigrant communities started their own clubs. My club was started by the Greek community in South Melbourne and was called South Melbourne Hellas in 1959 (for those arent aware Hellas is the name for Greece in Greek). Most of the clubs were formed by different ethnic minorities and the top tier leagues in all the states (there was no nation wide league at this time) were all backed by ethnic communities.
In these times the general non-immigrant public in Australia didnt care for football, branding it 'Wogball' (wog is a derogeratory ethnic slur against European immigrants in Australia). Also evident of the attitude of Australians toward football is described in Johnny Warrens biography 'Wogs, Sheilas and poofters'. (Johnny Warren was a former Australian captain in football and spent most of his life trying to promote the sport in Australia, the award for best player in the A-League is named fter him). The name of his biography refers to what non-immigrant Australians said football was for (Sheilas is also slang for women). Even when I was in highschool 15 years ago I remember being taunted for liking football from families that were non-immigrant and wogball was a very common term at highschools.
So that is the sort of racism that existed in Australia towards people who liked football, it was a sport for the foreigners, not a traditional Aussie sport. 
Move onto 1995-2004 era of Australian club football. This would have to be the start of a new form of racism in football. But now it was coming from within, coming from football lovers in Australia that did not come from immigrant families. One name was David Hill, he brought in new rules to the sport that included things like: -No clubs are allowed to have a logo or name that has any reference to their ethnic roots. -No flags of any nation other than Australia are permitted at games.
The result of this is that my club South Melbourne Hellas had to change its name and drop Hellas out. How this is allowed I still do not understand. Imagine Hellas Verona in Serie B were told to drop Hellas out of their name or Boston Celtic were forced to drop the Celtic name and any Irish insignia or CD Chivas in the MLS had to change their name and drop their Mexican ties. It is utter and a complete xenophobic attitude to not allow others to deny the ethnic roots of their club and deny people to carry the flag of their country.
The reasoning behind this was said to be because of the ethnic violence at the football between immigrants of warring nations bringing their homeland disreputes and venting in Australia at the football. This was massively overhyped in the media and the general public believed it. Thinking going to a football game in Australia was a European warzone. A classic example is the rivarly between the two Melbourne clubs in the National League, South Melbourne Hellas and Melbourne Croatia. Every few years there would be some violence at the game, but this was always put down to ethnic and racial violence between Greek and Croatian immigrants in the media. Even though Greeks and Croatians do not have any resentment towards eachother and have never been at war with eachother, it was simply a heated Melbourne rivarly that had been brewing for 40 years over the biggest football clubs in Melbourne. Im not denying the fact that there had been instances of certain games when there was racial violence previously when there were other teams in the national league (e.g. South Melbourne Hellas vs Preston Makedonija, Melbourne Croatia vs Footscray J.U.S.T. a serbian club), but this was rare and these clubs were not even in the national league since the early 90s.
This overhyped media sensationalism was mainly due to a xenophobic attitude towards a foreign sport and the fear of football rising and gaining popularity and taking support from the traditional Australian football codes in Aussie Rules and Rugby. Big commercial stations were run by Australians who loved Aussie rules football or Rugby and any chance the news had to report on a fight that broke out in football they would jump all over it. Meanwhile I have been to cricket matches where I have seen massive brawls of up to 100 involved at an Australia vs India match get no media attention.
Lets move forward to 2004, the new era of football in Australia. The current national league pre 2004 (the National Soccer League) was a disaster in terms of management and advertising. A reform was definately needed. They were in debt and struggling to find sponsors and were terrible at marketing the sport. A new body was set up 'FFA' and a new national league was made 'A-League'. Football was no longer wogball, it was a cool sport to follow and as all things European became a kind of 'in' thing in Australia. (Just like when the USA was the 'in' thing in the mid 90s and basketball was all the rage in Australia, but now Australian basketball is in tatters). Now the people in control of the sport were dead set against any teams with an ethnic connection as they wanted to bring the sport to the general public. South Melbourne was and still is the most successful club in Australia and we had decent crowds that would compare with current A-League crowds. We represented Oceania in the 2000 world club championships and played against Man Utd, Corinthians and Necaxa. Lost all games but by no more than 2 goals, which is a great feat considering how big the other clubs were. After carrying the sport for 50 years without general support from the Australian public or even the Australian government, we were basically tossed aside as the FFA decided to only allow one club from the NSL to participate in the A-League. This was Perth Glory, the only club that didnt have an ethnic connection. The reasons why any of the immigrant formed clubs were not permitted was simply due to the fact we did not meet their requirements. The policy was one team per city in an 8 team league that will have no promotion or relegation. 7 brand new clubs in a bran new league, sorry not clubs, franchises.
So this is the thanks the old clubs were given for carrying the sport for 50 years when basically the whole nation was against the sport. The thanks the clubs got for producing players that got Australia into the 1974, 2006 and half of the 2010 world cup. So there it was, South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights (formely Melbourne Croatia) were now relegated to their state leagues with no chance at being in the A-League. But it didnt stop there, there were still a few fans sticking to their old clubs (75% had left, but the Football Federation Victoria) was determined to ruin our clubs even more as they had a stake in Melbourne Victory and wanted all Melbournians to drop their club and support Melbourne Victory. There is some evidence of this.
The World Game (Australias premier weekly football program) went out of its way to not give any attention to clubs like South Melbourne and Melbourne Knights, even though we were still somewhat significant in Australian football as being some of the biggest clubs outside the top tier. The footballing bodies and the media were all against the old clubs.
In 1990 and 1991 the great Ferenc Puskas became the coach of South Melbourne and led the club to an Australian Championship. Upon his death in 2006 The World Game did a half our special on the life of Ferenc Puskas. Not once in the whole segment did the World Game ever refer to the fact that Ferenc Puskas had been involved in Australian football and that he managed a club in Australia or even that he had won a championship in Australia as coach. How an Australian football program can fail to mention this in a 30 minute segment of Ferenc Puskas is absurd. I watched this program religiously and was in shock that my club didnt even rate a mention on an Australian made program. This caused alot of negative feedback and the program had offered an on air apology the week after. A few years later one of my friends who works in the media was able to get a hold onto one of the World Game reporters David Basheer and asked how this happened. Basheer told my friend that word had come down from the station management that South Melbourne should not be mentioned on their program as the channel was trying to win the rights for A-League matches and mentioning any of the old clubs would hurt their chances.
The national TV station of SBS was purposely trying to not mention our clubs name on their station. At this stage our average attendance was a fiscal 1000 supporters. Were were so insignificant yet still they were kicking us whilst we were down.
Other ways were new laws put in by the national governing body Football Federation of Australia regarding player transfers. They put a cap on the transfer limit any A-League club could by a player from our club for. It was $3000. We could not make any more than $3000 off any player who was wanted in the a-league. Even though within the Victoria league clubs were spending up to $10 000 on transfer fees, the biggest clubs in the country only had to pay $3000 for any player they wanted.
The last thing that the old clubs still had was player development. When the A-League and all the new clubs were formed, they never set up any junior systems as this is costly, so instead they let the old clubs produce the players and if they did produce anyone they could rape the club and take that player for $3000. This backfired as clubs realised they could make more money creating affiliations with European clubs and sending their youth straight to Europe. The old clubs still had significant power in terms of football in Australia and that was they were the only ones producing young players and had that power. So Football Federation in Victoria set out to destroy the junior systems and try take away the best players from the old clubs. The junior system in Melbourne consisted of a Super League at every age group where there was a league where all the best junior clubs participated in. So all the best 16 year olds were playing eachother for clubs like South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights and other local clubs since Melbourne Victory and any A-League team had no junior set up whatsover. So the FFV scrapped the Super League and reformed all the competition at each age into zonal leagues. So South Melbourne Juniors were zoned into a league with our junior clubs in the direct vicinity of South Melbourne. Kids now had to play against clubs that were previously 4 or 5 divisions below them. Then Football Federation Victoria created a new elite league for juniors full of new clubs that represent each zone of Victoria. Thus making it far less attractive and less emphasis for kids to flock to teams like South Melbourne as they were no longer in the Elite Junior Leagues. To my knowledge this system has failed. So the story continues of the media, Football Federation Victoria and Football Federation Australia all trying to destroy whats left of my club.
Currently they are trying to set up new leagues in every state, that have strict guidelines and are purely based on player development in an attempt to make clubs like South Melbourne direct feeder clubs into the A-League and clubs who do not wish to participate will then be in the second tier of state football. The clubs will have a points system where you have a certain amount of points dependant on the age of a player making it hard to sign older players. Although I am big on clubs developing players and producing players rather than signing old players, no club should be forced to do it. And if you dont like this system you then have to play in an even lower league.
I still hold onto the hope that one day South Melbourne will return to its former glory, although I know its very unlikely and the chances of that deminishes every year as slowly year by year my club loses support. Still I buy my membership every year, chant at every game with another 10 guys (Clarendon Corner) in crowds ranging between 500 to 1000.
Overall it was my dream that football in Australia would reach more people, but it didnt need to be done by destroying clubs that have nothing but love for the sport. I think its great that more people are watching football in Australia just apalled at the way the game is run. Especially how now every club is a franchise in a league that has complete control of how everything is run with a strong basis of the game being run by corporates rather than the fans. No a-league teams are clubs, they are franchises. The term club means there is a membership base that the board answer to. A-league teams simply answer to the owners not the fans. This is one thing that I am proud of how my club South Melbourne in run and something that I have over any A-league fan. As a member I have a say in my team and my team answers to its fans, your team answers to their owner.
To anybody who has read this far thankyou and I hope you realise the injustices that have occured to Australian immigrant formed clubs starting from the racism from the general Australian public, to the xenophobic actions shown from the football governing bodies and media over the last 10 years.
I know many people have a sad story about their club going down and if it was a genuine failure on South Melbournes behalf i could accept that, but South Melbourne were nothing but successful and were simply brought down by the powers of the FFA and FFV. 
Here is a clip my friend made on our clubs 50 year anniversary in 2009. Its a run down of great goals scored and very important goals in our clubs 50 year history that was captured on TV. At the end you notice the low crowds of when our team was put into the state league.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Eight years of wielding my integrity like a chainsaw

OK, that's probably a bit far fetched, but the imagery is interesting.

Thanks to the following people.

Kiss of Death for another heavily truncated season.

Savvas Tzionis, for his article on re-finding South, and his many thoughtful comments.

Manny for contributing his bit on polygamy.

Peter Filopoulos for his look at being South Melbourne general manager in the 1990s.

Chris Egan for his article looking at the six years that passed since his last article.

Joe Gorman for his piece on the NCIP.

Our resident realist crowd estimator.

Cuddles for a certain photoshopped effort, and unsolicited intercession on my behalf.

Steve from Broady for the witch's hat artefact, but also for being a really good sport.

Brogan Renshaw for interviewing me on the Behind the Game podcast.

All those people whose photos I used this year, including Cindy Nitsos, Skip Fulton and Kevin Juggins.

Anyone who helped spread the word, tweeted, re-tweeted, and especially those who left comments. Special mentions to the irrepressible MelbCro and the always interesting Savvas Tzionis.

As per usual, anyone who gave me and Gains a lift to some place.

The good people at Football Today, who I should have thanked last year for their support.

Lastly, Ian Syson and Gains, the latter doubly so for pinch hitting with a match report when I couldn't make it.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

My accidental career path in sports - Peter Filopoulos

Peter Filopoulos, current CEO of Perth Glory, and former general manager of South Melbourne, originally posted the following piece on his own blog. Because of its unique insights into what it was like to be at South Melbourne during the 1990s - an era of rapid transformation for the club both on and off the field, but also an important period for the concept of sports administration in Australia - I asked Peter if it would be OK to republish his piece here, and I'm glad that he's given his permission for me to do so. 

With the exception of one or two things (such as the final score of the first game at Bob Jane Stadium), I have left everything as Peter has written it.

A memoir of my accidental entry into the world of sports administration
Over the years, I am regularly asked by bright eyed young people, how did you get into sports administration? A career in sports has become a major career option progressively over the last fifteen years or so, but this career path wasn't so prevalent when I graduated from university in 1991.

My first job in sports came in December 1993 in a totally unplanned and unexpected manner. Prior to this and as a Bachelor of Business graduate with a major in Accountancy, in 1991, I embarked on my career in this field, firstly with a construction company and then a marketing/licensing business.

Around the same time, a close friend, Peter Abraam, invited me to join a sub-committee at the National Soccer League Club, South Melbourne Soccer Club. Peter was a former player and now on the Board of Directors of this historic club and at the time, working as a Project Manager with the City of Melbourne. South Melbourne Soccer Club was making a conscious effort to attract a younger profile onto their Board, which was at the time predominantly made up of first generation Greek businessmen. Around this time the famous Hungarian, world renown ex player and coach Ferenc Puskas was coaching the Club and had coached the Club to its first national Championship in 1991 since 1984 with Ange Postecoglou as captain.

The 1990/91 South Melbourne Squad with Ferenc Puskas as Coach, Ange Postecoglou, captain. Also in the pic is President, George Vasilopoulos and Major Sponsor, Jack Dardalis from Marathon Foods, a generous benefactor and philanthropist.
My initial involvement was as a Social Club sub-committee member where our charter was to raise much needed revenue and funds to support the Club’s quest in the National Soccer League. Over the course of 1991 and 1992, we managed to initiate a number of successful activities and initiatives resulting in a secondment onto the Board of Directors in 1992. I recall the Annual Presentation Night Balls we used to hold where I worked with fellow Directors such as Peter Abraam (ex head of the Victorian Major Events Corporation), Emmanuel Kotis, Jim Karakoussis, John Dimitropoulos and Peter Cartsidimas. They were amazing nights well renowned within the South Melbourne Soccer Club and Greek communities of Melbourne held in the most prestigious functions rooms around Melbourne.

As a volunteer on this sub-committee, I was able to bring to the table some strong administration skills and one of my first initiatives was to request a computer for the Club. I still recall the looks on people’s faces when I made this request, explaining that I wanted to digitalise a lot of our processes. Peter Abraam was delighted at the time as he had been asking the same for some time. The main reason I had requested a computer is that I wanted to migrate the Club’s Membership database from a manual database to a computerised database. Direct Mail under the old manual system was simply a nightmare. Quite quickly, once we acquired the computer, we managed to migrate the entire database onto a D-Base system at the time and we embarked on a data acquisition campaign so that we could begin a more aggressive membership program. Marketing material would be generated from the computer and Direct Mail became more prevalent. On the back of these campaigns, we had immediate impact. Each week at the Board meeting, I would present hundreds of new membership applications with enclosed cheques and our Treasurer at the time was one happy gentleman. It’s hard to imagine that the Club functioned with only a committee of management in place at the time who met for hours each Thursday evening which often went well into the morning hours. Thankfully we had a great social club where we would gather to have dinner after we had watched the first team training and before the meetings would commence at 7:30pm. The mixed grills prepared by Jimmy and Filio were something to look forward to. Having met Cameron Schwab, then CEO of Richmond AFL team, their management team wasn't very big at all either at the time in comparison. Full time administrative set-ups and careers in sports administration in 1993 were not very prevalent.

After months of this activity and other influences the younger generation had on the Club via seats on the Board, the Board turned their focus to the possible requirement for a full-time General Manager, given that they could see the great outcomes generated from some organised activity. The Club already had what they titled a ‘Marketing Manager’ in a gentleman I remain very good friends with today, Barry Horsfall. The fact is, Barry was a self-funded employee as he was only earning a commission on new sponsorship and adverting deals he would generate. He did a great job in selling signage packages at the old ground, which was demolished in 1994 to make way for the Australian Grand Prix track. He would bring a cheque in for $X and he would immediately be remunerated with his pre-agreed commission of 30%, a formula that worked for some time. This was a win-win and successful arrangement.

Fellow South Melbourne Soccer Club Directors, Peter Cartsidimas and Emmanuel Kotis around 1994 at the South Melbourne Soccer Club Annual Ball and Presentation night.

The discussion of a full-time General Manager occurred whilst I was on vacation and on my return I received a phone call from fellow Director, John Dimitropoulos, then an associate solicitor with a former President’s and Chairman and co-founder of the NSL, the late Sam Papasavas OAM, to advise that the Board was now actively looking for a full-time General Manager and that several people had nominated me as the ideal candidate. The conversation went as follows:
Pete, while you were away, we spoke at the Board Meeting about the need to appoint a full-time General Manager at the Club to oversee the day to day activities of the Club, some of us thought that you may be the ideal candidate. If you are interested, this would require you to step off the board and become our inaugural General Manager. This could change your life for ever.
At the time, I was returning from vacation to accept a job with a national architectural firm as their State Accountant, a great job with an attractive package and consistent with my qualifications. This and subsequent conversations with John, the President, George Vasilopoulos and fellow Director, Peter Abraam, threw a spanner in the works. In speaking to my family, they thought it was a crazy idea. I recall clearly my father asking me if I had lost my mind at the prospect of deviating from my chosen vocation to take up a post with the Club.

A career in sports in 1993, was not a well known or accepted career path, not the way it is today. So much so, the most asked questions at barbecues was, “so what do you do in the off-season?”

Against all advice, my instincts told me otherwise and at the age of 25, I accepted to become the inaugural General Manager of the South Melbourne Soccer Club in December 1993 and commenced immediately. I clearly recall waking up on the first day of my new job bouncing out of bed with a spring something I still do over 22 years later. At such a young age, I had so much to learn and was wide-eyed and full of energy as General Manager of the biggest and most successful football club in Australia.

What I didn't know at the time was that I had embarked on a career in sports something I look back on today. This was the platform from which created my opportunities from thereon. John Dimitropoulos was right, this decision was about to change my life forever in a way I couldn't possibly imagine.

The beginnings
From my appointment as General Manager of South Melbourne Soccer Club, it was a baptism of fire. So much to learn, however, it was great to have such good mentors and people that supported me. Peter Abraam in particular, would be on the phone multiple times during the day, steering, mentoring and inspiring me. He still inspires me to this day. We all became such close friends and every one at that time had an influence to my induction into the new role. Many of these friendships remain in place even today, with both players and board members.

Our offices were underneath a grandstand at the stadium which accommodated a board room and a small office where I think I banged my head on the ceiling on several occasions. It was in this office that one day in 1994 I received a phone call from the Head of Sport at Melbourne Grammar School who were searching for a Head Football Coach.  I recommended that they speak to our recently retired star player in Ange Postecoglou who was by this time Assistant Coach with the Club. Ange took on the role and I remember him coming back and telling me it was fantastic and that the school was paying him more for a part-time role than what the club was to be Assistant Coach. Ange delivered that message in a way only Ange can and we often joked about it.

Last Game at Middle Park in 1994 after 34 years of memories
My initiation into the new role went into a spin. Within weeks of commencing, we had received a phone call from the Premier’s office to arrange a meeting with the Club. Upon attending the meeting, we were advised in absolute confidence that Victoria had almost acquired the Australian Grand Prix from Adelaide and that the race track would be in Albert Park Lake. We then learned that as part of this grand plan, the pit straight was going to run right through our then home ground, Middle Park Stadium, home to the Club since 1960 and which we had just signed a 21 year lease for and had plans to re-develop with a new grand stand. Our world had momentarily turned upside down.

An NSL game at new home, Bob Jane Stadium in
December 1995 and the beginning of a new era.
Negotiations commenced immediately for appropriate compensation which resulted in the Club receiving a 21 year lease on Lakeside Oval (now known as Lakeside Stadium), once home to South Melbourne Football Club who was years earlier relocated to Sydney as the Sydney Swans. The lease also incorporated a two-storey dwelling which housed a function centre upstairs and a social club and office space downstairs. It was perfect!

With significant additional funding also provided by the government as part of the relocation package, we raised another $3.5M to build the purpose built football ground and after selling the naming rights, soon to be known as Bob Jane Stadium, which opened in December 2005. It was a facility admired by all in football and this legacy remains today.

This process took a lot of hard and dedicated work and we were fortunate to have so many good people on our Board, lawyers such as Peter Mitrakas and John Dimitropoulos, Architects and Project Managers such as Peter Abraam, strong accountants such as Jim Karakoussis, a PR specialist in Jim Stiliadis and a politically savvy President in George Vasilopoulos at the time who forged a close relationship with the Premier Jeff Kennett, someone who also became our number one ticket holder in 1994.

Then Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett with our President, George Vasilopoulos, farewelling our old home ground at Middle Park in 1994 and announcing our new home ground development at Lakeside Oval.  Also in the picture was Managing Director of major sponsor at the time, Marathon Foods, Jack Dardalis

In July 1994, we had appointed the longest ever serving Socceroos Coach, Frank Arok as our coach after lacklustre 1992/93 (after finishing first) and 1993/94 (after finishing second) NSL seasons where we would reach the finals and bomb out at the Preliminary Final.

Frank was crucial in the identification and recruitment of a raft of upcoming young talent which formed a nucleus for the successes we enjoyed long after Frank’s tenure. Names like Billy Damianos, Tansel Baser, Steve Panopoulos, Con Anthopoulos, Con Blatsis to name a few. Frank brought in a renewed belief in our junior development and plucked these players from our juniors to add to the big names like Paul Trimboli, Con Boutsianis, Ange Goutzioulis, Socceroo captain, Paul Wade, Mike Petersen, Steve Tasios, Francis Awaritife, Mehmet Durakovic to name a few….

With Frank Arok at one of his recent visits to Australia along
with friend Manny Gelagotis who Frank also coached at Gippsland Falcons.
For 1994/95 season, under new coach Frank Arok and his recently retired South player, assistant coach – Ange Postecoglou, we played out of the old Olympic Park in Melbourne, as our new stadium at Lakeside Oval was being constructed, where we again bombed out at the Preliminary Final against Melbourne Knights with a memorable 3-goal performance by the V-Bomber, Mark Viduka.  I still remember the hurt on everyone’s faces after this game and there was even a little scuffle in the dressing rooms involving a couple of players that day which reinforced how much we were all hurting. We had drawn the line in the sand – we wanted and demanded success. This came several years later under a new coach, a young Ange Postecoglou, who picked up the baton from Frank and continued the journey in his own style. Ange was magnificent in instilling a sense of ambition and desire for success.

There were fond memories for the South Melbourne faithful of Olympic Park where we had one our latest Championship during the 1990/91 season in spectacular fashion against cross-town rivals Melbourne Knights in the most amazing penalty shoot-out one could ever imagine.

For the 1995/96 season, construction at our new stadium, Bob Jane Stadium, was completed and we played our first home game on Round 9 on 26 November 1995 against West Adelaide where we lost 3-2. The stadium was a major feature for the National Soccer League and the Club continue to prosper with record membership, crowds and sponsorship.

As we approached the end of the 1995/96 season, we saw the end of the Frank Arok era with three games to spare as it became evident that the Club would miss out on the finals for the first time since 1989 and Assistant Coach, Ange Postecoglou was put in charge as interim coach for the last three games winning all three at which point the search for our new coach commenced immediately and I will touch upon in a later blog as to this journey and the emergence of Ange Postecoglou and the successes of that time in more detail. Ange’s path to where he is today as Socceroos coach is a fascinating tale of passion, commitment, ambition and hard work – I will share my insights into this wonderful story of Ange Postecoglou and his journey from retiring National Soccer League player through to back-to-back championship winning Head Coach of South Melbourne Soccer Club.

I do vividly recall prior to Frank’s removal as coach, after a game where we had lost to Marconi 3-0 at Marconi and a spray Ange gave the players on the long bus trip to the airport which has left its mark on me even today. To be fair the players were misbehaving on the bus and carrying on somewhat and Ange felt it was time he reminded them in the strongest possible way about the badge that they represented and “how they had disgraced it that day”. Little did I know at the time that the Socceroos Coach was born that day. A word was not spoken amongst the traveling party for the remainder of the trip and even remember the players shuffling boarding passes so no one would sit next to Ange on the plane. I don’t think Frank said a word for the entire trip slumped in a chair on the bus reflecting on the performance. I also remember telling my President the following day of Ange’s exceptional display of leadership and how he would one day be our Head Coach.

After a whirlwind meeting at the Board meeting the following week, I recall having to call in Frank Arok the following day and arrange a meeting to advise him that the Board had unanimously decided to terminate his coaching tenure with the Club effective immediately. I couldn't believe that I had just sacked the longest serving ex-Socceroos Coach and a man I admired and learned so much from. He was a friend and still remains a friend to this day. Many will tell you that Frank’s impact at the Club was effective and long lasting. He began a process where he had set the foundations for our successes in the subsequent next few years. Unfortunately the Board and Fans had run out of patience and as a Club we succumbed to the the need for immediate success. Clubs like South Melbourne and its strong fan base, demanded success.

Since taking on the role as General Manager a few years earlier, the Club was achieving record membership, sponsorship, match day attendances and had built a formidable team which was in desperate need of a coach to help reach their potential.   South Melbourne was widely acclaimed as the leading and most professional club in the National Soccer League.  So many worked tirelessly to reach this stage and as a young administrator learning the caper, I rarely was home before 8pm every night.  By 1997 we had an office which consisted of a General Manager, Sales & Marketing Manager, Office Manager, full-time Social Club Manager and a team of Chefs and casual staff.  It was only recently when some one tweeted a match day programme, “In Blue and White”, from the 1998/99 season where we had announced a major sponsor worth $1M over two years which would have rivaled most of the AFL clubs at the time. Having a look at the list of sponsors we had fantastic corporate support.  My entry into the world of sports administration was a whirl wind experience and by the end of the 1998/99 season where we had one back to back Championships under young Coach, Ange Postecoglou, I was beginning to contemplate where this journey would take me next. I had completed six (6) wonderful years but I knew that if I would master this new career path, I needed to expand upon my experience maybe outside of football.

It was in early 1999 that I had meet President, Ian Dicker and CEO, Michael Brown from Hawthorn Football Club via our mutual sponsors Puma.  My next opportunity was about to take shape, which I will also elaborate in a later blog.

During my six years at South Melbourne, I can now say, I was thrown in the deep end and in front of buses, however, I recall these days with fondness and have taken so many learnings from this experience and remain friends with so many wonderful people from that era. It was a ‘sink or swim’ environment and I am proud to say I swum and I swum well.

South Melbourne still exists today and participates in the NPL Victoria based at Lakeside Stadium which has gone through another major transformation and most likely the best facility in the National Premier League.

I am proud to remain a life member of the Club today and I am grateful for the opportunity given to me back in 1993 to take on the reigns as General Manager / CEO which has paved my career to where it is today.  So many fond memories and close bonds that I will never forget.

In my current role as CEO of Perth Glory, I draw upon my experiences and learnings from South Melbourne often and I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received since returning to the game I love, all because I was once involved with South Melbourne which has helped get instant respect.

Peter Filopoulos

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Two pre-Christmas friendlies

An early start for our pre-season hit-outs for next season. First up is an outing against Box Hill United at Lakeside this coming Wednesday at Lakeside (16/12), followed up by a visit to the Veneto Club against Bulleen on Monday (21/12).

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Book Review - Patrick Mangan's Offsider

I really should have got around to reviewing this years ago, when I first read it, but having re-read it on the bus back from Canberra recently, it seems like as good as time as any to finally get a post up about it.

Mangan was a soccer journalist back in the 1990s (at this point in, while he's still in the writing/editing/publishing game, I don't think he's in soccer any longer), but this book is mostly about everything that happened before that. While Mangan does detail some of his experiences as a soccer journo, mostly working on the old Soccer Australia magazine, most of this book is centred on Mangan's childhood and adolescence as an English immigrant Arsenal fan shunted to rural Victoria.

Think about that for a minute - you're a kid who's just got the taste for football and the Arsenal in the early 1970s, living just minutes from Highbury, and all of a sudden you're in Swan Hill. Much of the book's charm then is in how Mangan and his brother John concoct ways of keeping in touch with Arsenal and soccer more generally, from Swan Hill to Horsham to Ballarat.

From week old screenings of English football on television to three month old copies of Shoot! magazine, Patrick and John are nothing if not resourceful and determined to keep up with football. The most interesting part of these efforts were the attempts to create little handmade zines, which were even used to spread the love of soccer to classmates. Mangan's family and close circle become evangelists for the game, even (re-)introducing a soccer club to Horsham

Offsider is an usual book not just for its setting, but because of its source. It's not about a famous player, it's not about an official or backroom shenanigans and political turmoil - it's the story of what it was like to follow soccer in rural Victoria, in the pre-digital age. Calling Offsider an outback Fever Pitch does neither book any favours. While part of the narrative core is the same - the travails of following a largely mediocre Arsenal in the 1970s and 80s - the tone of Offsider is entirely different. The style is genial and charming. There is angst there, sure, of adjusting to a new country, a new culture, and leaving everything familiar behind, but nothing too severe. Though the book occasionally digresses into the 1990s and early 2000s, it does something unusual for an Australian soccer book published post-2005 (it was published in 2010) - it doesn't go into any detail on the post-NSL era of the game. To be fair, while this is an entirely within its thematic remit, it's reassuring that the book doesn't feel it needs to go there at all.

I feel (with likely little supporting evidence, but that's the thing about feelings as opposed to evidence) that there is perhaps a tendency in Australian soccer writing and historiography to go for the big picture at the expense of the particular and individual, when the experience of the game is too fractured for those takes. Where we should be going then I think, is in focusing on smaller, more targeted works like this - the net effect then would be to create a mosaic of experiences and interpretations. More works like Offsider, which are aware of their distance from the centre of power, and that the game is not just about close proximity to power and influence, are an important part of Australian soccer's story.

For South Melbourne Hellas fans, the book contains a couple of neat moments - a section dedicated to the day Malcolm MacDonald played against St George at Middle Park, and a photograph of British comedian Frank Skinner with a Lakers scarf. Otherwise, this is recommended reading for material for any Australian soccer fan, and especially those who support Arsenal.

Monday, 30 November 2015

November 2015 digest

Social club and Lakeside lease saga
Unresolved. And what's worse, none of the important people I tweeted yesterday asking what's going on have seen fit to respond.
Look, I know it's a slightly informal way of going about things, but I thought I'd save myself the postage and make use of the wonderful internet we have in Australia. Have I been blacklisted like the Kiss of Death? I hope not - I thought we were all friends. Maybe big news is just around the corner? Or are they looking for a way to tell us we're only going to get 21 years and not 40?

Season 2016 start date
NPL Victoria's 2016 season will begin on the weekend February 19th/20th/21st/22nd.

Trip to Sydney in 2016?
There has been talk from both South Melbourne and Sydney Olympic folk that South will be making a trip to Sydney in either late January or early February to play Sydney Olympic in some pre-season fixtures. 

I've also come across a rumour that Olympic may also head down to Melbourne for some pre-season fixtures, but that has not been corroborated yet.

South Melbourne in the National Youth League?
An article by Mike Cockerill on the revamped and cut down NYL seemed to slip under the radar somewhat, at least as far as it concerns South Melbourne. To a degree, that's understandable - having being split into two five team conferences, it's merely another step in the process where youth football is done as cheaply as possible by most of the franchises, by dumping them in the state NPL systems. The best playing the best? Hardly. 

But more to the point, Cockerill makes this observation about where such a two conference, cost cutting summer NYL system may end up:
According to the grapevine, NPL clubs like South Melbourne, Blacktown City, Perth SC, Gold Coast City (replacing Palm Beach Sharks) and Wollongong Wolves, as well as state federation-funded entities Tasmania United and Canberra United, are also exploring their NYL options.
So, does Cockerill's rumour have any validity? I don't know, but if it does, it will be a situation which will no doubt serve to spread division and hatred throughout our membership. Which, to be fair, is as things should be at our club, but you have to wonder if too much self-loathing can be fattening and therefore dangerous to your health. Anyway, if there was a chance for our boys to take part in the NYL as South Melbourne, for me it'd be a good thing - you'd hope that at the very least it would help attract and keep talented youth players at our club instead of having piss off to other teams. That, and it'd be just going back to what we had in the NSL anyways, except this time we'd be the state league club with delusions of grandeur.

The (re-)construction of Ange Postecoglou
I don't know why Australian Story has introductions to their episodes. Unless you're adding genuinely adding something to the experience, in the manner of the legendary Des Mangan, I don't really see the point. As for Santo Cilauro's comment on the game in Australia being called 'soccer' by the unconverted, there's about 50 million things wrong with the question is where would you start?

I did have to laugh at the mention of 'lead, follow, or get out of the way', but you would too if you had seen Idiocracy; the use of Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk' by comparison for the intro music is just confusing, unless they only wanted for its tribal rhythm. And then there's Les Murray, talking about the reason for the existence of ethnic soccer clubs in Australia - first and foremost, they are used as a refuge by people in a strange land. A refuge is one thing, but surely there were also people at these clubs who maybe liked soccer? Because soccer is not the only avenue for safely expressing Greekness, or Italianess or whatever the case may be?

But at least Les has the right to make that judgement by virtue of once upon a time spending much of his spare and working time in around ethnic soccer clubs. In contrast, I'm less sold on the notion that Francis Leach knows squat about Greek football, let alone the squalid third division cesspool that Panachaiki were in at the time and the circumstances in which Ange found himself there, and then found himself leaving.

The main thing that I took out of this show was how Ange's character was portrayed as some sort of lone wolf; a pioneer who, if not quite coming out of nowhere, had few antecedents or direct influences. Anything that may have influenced him was almost limited to the environment he was in, and even that took a secondary role compared to his own drive to succeed. It's hard to know if the show took the direction it did because of Ange himself, or perhaps more likely, the production team generally had not very much knowledge of Australian soccer and thus skewed the final edit in that direction.

At the beginning, there is Ange's father and his love for his son and the sport; but there are no mentions of Ferenc Puskas, or Len McKendry, or Frank Arok, or even George Vasilopoulos, the bloke who gave him the South job because he was the least expensive of the suitable candidates available for the job. Ange claims, quite fairly, that his own interest in the game is to see attacking football - but how did he come to that conclusion? Was it not influenced in some part by the expectations that South Melbourne Hellas fans had of South Melbourne Hellas teams? Was not a huge part of the joy of the 1984 and 1991 teams their free-wheeling, free scoring manner? In Joe Gorman's article on South Melbourne and Middle Park, Ange doesn't shy away from acknowledging the impact of playing under Puskas (as well as being his interpreter).

The second, post-Australian youth teams era of Ange Postecoglou is remarkable in terms of succeeding to a large degree on his own terms, but also for having now no (obvious) mentors, and no patronage. But that question of soccer lineage remains frustratingly out of reach. Here's one of the chief links between old soccer and new football, and yet there's nothing made of that. Instead the image is of a sort of compulsive loner, sitting at a computer for hours looking for obscure Australian talent; a man who once read everything to do with soccer because of his love of the game, but who now is interested if not more so by books or management - something which you would not learn from this doco, but rather the first edition of Leopold Method.

Player movements and contract statuses
Confirmation this month that forward David Stirton is on his way to Port Melbourne. Meanwhile, back up goalie Fraser MacLaren has joined Dandenong Thunder. He has been replaced by Thunder keeper Zaim Zeneli, back for his second stint at the club. Hume City midfielder and former South junior (and two game senior player) Marcus Schroen has also joined South. Never did quite find out how that happened when Hume were supposed to have signed him for next year.
We've also signed former Wellington Phoenix midfielder Jason Hicks, and utility Matthew Foschini, most recently of Oakleigh Cannons. South fans with razor sharp memories will recall that Foschini was listed as part of the 2009 squad, but disappeared soon thereafter. No word on any potential forward recruits. By the time of the next monthly update, the squad will have begun its pre-season regime.
Players signed until the end of the 2015 season.
Players with unknown contract statuses
  • Jake Barker-Daish
  • Andy Bevin (Team Wellington)
  • Thomas Lakic (Oakleigh Cannons)
  • Fraser MacLaren (Dandenong Thunder)
  • Dane Milovanovic (Hong Kong Pegasus)
  • Nick Morton (returned to South Hobart)
  • David Stirton (Port Melbourne)
  • Zaim Zeneli
  • Marcus Shroen
  • Jason Hicks
  • Matthew Foschini
Meanwhile, in 'Internet is Serious Business'...

Monday, 23 November 2015

Soccor - П. O.

П. O. (pronounced 'Pi O'; the link also has some more info and further links)  is an anarchist working class poet of Greek-Australian heritage. He is also, in my humble opinion, one of Australia's most important poets.

Before П. O. went off the deep end and lost much of his audience (or at least me) with his number poems (strange concrete poems with mathematical in-jokes), П. O. was best known for, I suppose, mastering two things - the world of the inner city migrant, and the language and especially the sounds of the street and of those ethnic communities.

П. O.'s exploration of sound (as well as the attendant narrative imagery) is not however there to act as simplistic mimicry - it is also not about accents or parody - it is about the mangling and re-imagining, or the 're-hearing', of Australian English grammar as it appears in the real world. Before sociologists and linguists got all on board the 'Globish' bandwagon, a writer like П. O. was essentially years ahead of the curve in his portrayal and analysis of the way migrant Australians used English to communicate with each other, and even set cultural-linguistic barriers of their own preventing others from understanding them.

П. O. does this by playing with grammar and phonetics, in his own way undertaking the guise of an ethnic and working class Dr. Samuel Johnson, collecting and recording the linguistic world of the migrant and the streets of Fitzroy. Of course, this in itself creates a limited sphere of 'research', because that period when the Southern European migrant was king of the inner city is rapidly diminishing (something addressed in his more recent work); neither does Fitzroy equal Footscray or Sunshine or Brunswick, where different migrant groups make different sounds.

Anyway, apart from the journals he has contributed to and the poetry books he has published, his main achievements are probably as follows: the mammoth 24 Hours, 700 pages on one day in the life of the English language (it's subtitled 'the day the language stood still'); and more recently, the publication of Fitzroy: The Biography. But back to the poem at hand. 'Soccor' is an atypical poem for П. O. on several levels. First, even a cursory glance at his oeuvre reveals that П. O. has a blindspot when it comes to sport, especially the migrants' game of soccer. Secondly, this poem is not littered with too much of П. O's experimenting with punctuation, phonetics, phonemes and what might be termed 'Greeklish'.

Indeed, in many ways this poem is prototypical, almost primeval in nature when it comes to much of П. O.'s work. It is not about listening or hearing, but about learning to do those things and not even that, because most of the poem is about what the narrator sees. The departure of the Hellas fans for the 'soccor' game creates an aural vacuum of sorts; it is only upon their noisy return that things seem to get back to a sense of normality. The poem then, in its recording of the few passersby during the shop's quiet time, is in this way antithetical to П. O.'s obsession with sound - the poem is private, introverted, quiet - it is about the lack of noise. The poem is also indirectly about the outsider-ness of being literary and thoughtful in the boisterous migrant culture of the time (and one would argue even the one that attempts to mimic that sort of environment in habitats like Oakleigh's Eaton Mall). In its autobiographical Promethean moment, it shows П. O., or a writer like П. O., about to start the journey into the literary.

'Soccor' from Pi O's Fitzroy Poems collection published in 1989. Click the image to enlarge.
I had, or at least I thought I had, nailed down the details of the relevant match between Juventus and Hellas at Royal Park, in order to pin down a date for when the subject poem is supposed to have taken place. Maybe someday I'll have a look again.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Ten Years Gone

For Joe Gorman and no one else, notwithstanding the public nature of this reluctant salvo.

While I was somewhere between Canberra and Holbrook on a Greyhound coach, Joe Gorman asked me via Twitter to write a story on this event. This was made difficult by a number of factors. My laptop battery threatening to run out of juice; the woman in front of me who wanted to push her seat back down into my crotch; and the fact that now, ten years apart, these two dates - 16/11/2005 and 16/11/2015 - are not momentous moments in time for me, but rather signposts from which to ponder everything that’s happened in between. Under the circumstances, that's probably the most 'bitter' thing anyone can say, which doesn't fit the desired mood of most of Australian soccer's recollection and experience of the event. That I think it's based on a cultivated, carefully thought out point of view and not some sort of reactionary bitterness will not make me feel better about writing about this in any way. It is what it is, which admittedly is not a very academic explanation.

The second leg of the 2005 World Cup qualifier I watched at home, with my dad, at what is now my old house, which itself has been demolished by its new owners. What struck me most about the game at the time, apart from the unaffected joy I felt, was just how lucky we were. I've not bothered to watch the game again, and doubt that I ever will (nor do I have any plans to watch the highly esteemed documentary on the game), but it seemed that every piece of luck that had deserted us over the previous 32 year stretch had been condensed into this game. Being short sighted even with three inch thick lenses, I sat up close to the TV, hoping that we’d win, glad that we did, with no misgivings. In that sense it feels like a lifetime ago, though for me at 32, it’s only one third of a lifetime.

On the way back home from Canberra, I re-read Patrick Mangan’s Offsider, partly for the sake of my stuttering doctoral thesis, but mostly to pass the time instead of staring out the window at the repetitive landscape. In that book, Mangan occasionally branches out from his childhood and adolescent support of Arsenal to talk about watching and covering the Socceroos and Australian soccer during the 1990s. For a book published post-2005, a relative boom period for Australian soccer books, it includes a strange omission – it fails to mention November 16, 2005 at all. Its narrative falls short, and so the book takes no political position on that or any matter for the way the sport would turn out. In its own way, leaving out that date sums up the problem better than most writings on the matter have done – that there was a before and an after. To that I’d add that there was a during, an 'in the moment' quality which we will likely never touch again.

I don't want to change people's experience of the occasion, and to be honest, I couldn't do it no matter how hard I tried - and goodness knows I've tried to get my spiteful (but also annotated) review of Tony Wilson's Australia United published in at least two different print journals. A little reluctantly then, I thumped out a couple of thousand words trying to figure out how I got to this place, especially when I'd started off somewhere very different - but apart from being self-vindicating and awfully precious, it was also nothing that hasn't been seen here before. It was just another version of the chief subtext of what I've been doing for nearly eight years. The position of chief unofficial cultural surveyor of the South Melbourne Hellas exodus years is possibly a fate worse than the exodus itself: every Sunday night or Monday morning during the season writing a report, competing with SMFCMike for the title of de facto voice for the Lost Cause. And while I have a personal aesthetic interest in artistic failure, especially as it relates to failed albums and novels, I'm not so attached to the concept of failure that I can't appreciate success, especially that which happens on the sporting field. But I digress.

Since its achievement, November 16 2005 hasn't just been celebrated for its own sake, but also taken up as justification for everything that has happened since. Of course that makes sense, but it’s a sense that relies a lot on a hard, remorseless kind of logic. Realistically, winning that game didn't guarantee anything that came after it, but it did make it easier for that future (which is now also inevitably part of our past), to happen. Having said that, it would be beyond appalling if I was to say that I would exchange a win on that day for a different sort of future, one that would also have no guaranteed positive outcomes for whatever barrow I'd have ended up pushing. If I did, I'd be no better than those who have retrospectively celebrated the Iran '97 failure because it hastened the end of the NSL and Soccer Australia. It should also be noted however that the quality of one's personal ethics can't and shouldn't really be measured on whether you refuse to stoop as low your opponents have done.

Ten years ago, November 16 felt almost uniformly glorious. Ten years on, it feels like a different event, something which my memory and experience has found to be tainted. The feeling I have then is that there are two November 16s. There is the one that was lived in that moment, and the one that was appropriated, or in far lesser cases, discarded, for political reasons. For most Australian soccer fans, especially those that were in the thick of it that night at Stadium Australia, nothing can sully the memory. In that sense, that night and the 2006 World Cup campaign are perhaps the last moments which remain untainted by Australian soccer’s sectarian tendencies.

As time has gone by, the notion for me that November 16 and the national team could be something that would remain untouched by the factional wrangling has proven to be untrue. This is not to say that either side is right, or that coming to this position was inevitable. Let it be each to his or her own on the matter. For those of you out there on whichever side of the fence you stand, who can still tap into the joy of that night, enjoy it. Aside from one or two stirrers looking for some fireworks - one of them rather unexpected - most of what I've seen on social media has been focused on the joy of the day, and little beyond that. Maybe the people I follow mostly happen to be reasonable folk, and thus I avoided the worst of the new dawn triumphalism; or perhaps I've just avoided the seedier parts of the internet; more likely most people have a bigger capacity to just let things go, at least as far as this event goes. More power to them.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Medium Density Nightmare (Australia 3 Kyrgyzstan 0)

Or, conversations with Canberran taxi drivers

Or, does Canberra deserve an A-League licence? No, of course they don't.

Or, three or so mostly wasted days in the nation's capital due to cutbacks to the National Library

The driver of the Greyhound coach leaving Melbourne for Canberra in Thursday morning runs through the list of essentials: what to do with your rubbish, where to go to the toilet, and not to use deodorants as it gets into the air conditioning. Seeing as there's only five blokes on the thing, spread out across the bus, that shouldn't be an issue.

Steve from Broady had asked if I wanted to join him on this trip - no budget airlines fly to Canberra, remember - and I said yes, thinking I could also double up by doing some research up there. Apart from a dodgy roadside cafe cheeseburger somewhere Albury, the bus ride up is uneventful, even as it stops to pick up no one on at least half a dozen occasions.

Our first cab driver of the trip, taking us from the Jolimont Centre towards our budget hotel in some suburban outpost, takes up the soccer theme. He himself was a player he says, for Olympic in Canberra and Canberra Deakin, as well as some Spanish mob I didn't quite get the name of. He also takes credit for introducing Tom Rogic to football, which is the kind of claim that’s impossible to verify under those circumstances.

If, as in my day job, I was marking someone’s paper at uni, I could go back and check the reference, or mark them down for not including it. In this case that’s impossible to do. He also asks us if we know about Johnny Warren, which is like asking a Christian do you know about Jesus. Even if I’m not one of those who has beatified Johnny, I can’t help but get offended at the question. Still, he gives us the good advice of making sure to get to the ground early before the traffic builds up.

Another Socceroo fan staying at the hotel (the Ibis Budget out in Watson - don't go there, just pay the extra bucks for something closer to town) ends up inadvertently stealing our cab to the ground, and while there are also a couple of guys from Wollongong waiting fort an Uber service, we get another taxi instead and make it to the ground well in time. That's more than can be said for many of those attending the game, who get caught up in traffic on the way to Bruce Canberra Stadium, apparently even leaving the shuttle buses early to get to the ground.

The match seems to play second fiddle to everything else. There is some sort of carnival atmosphere here. I suppose you take it for granted in Melbourne or Sydney that you’ll see the Socceroos play at least some sort of upper lower middle class team on a reasonably frequent basis. In the outposts, you take what you can get and make the most of it. The merchandise stand is making a killing, several local radio stations are in place, and there are two brass bands. Ordinarily that would be overkill, even one would be overkill, especially when they start playing AC/DC covers, but in a stadium with a bowl shape, that sense of Americana is not entirely misplaced.

Adjacent to the home end, we have a prime seat – that is near enough to the worst seats – to view the antics of the home end crew. A megalomaniac of sorts has a megaphone, and as the night goes on starts abandoning chants in favour of taunting the families of the western stand (who initially won't respond to his spit roast chant) as much he taunts the Krygyz players with comments about Russia and the USSR. Worse, there are even people wearing onesies, a fad which passed by my metropolis years ago.

One deadbeat in front of us offers to go buy some beers for his mates during the first half, but after going up three steps, realises that he doesn't have any money and comes back down to take some out of his partner's purse. Another group go off to buy beers before Australia has even scored, at the a moment where the ball is desperately pining around the Kyrgyz goal. That's something I've never quite understood, this inability to at least time your run to the beverages or have the patience to wait until the end of the relevant play at least.

Others watching the game both in the stadium and at home seem impressed with what the Australians are trying to do, even if they aren't quite up to doing it yet. Me, I think we're playing like donkey balls, but that's a matter of taste, no? In this case it's also a matter of perspective, because the view from right behind the goals in row R (in a part of the ground that for some reason skips rows O and Q) is kinda crappy. And who the hell built a stadium in a wet city without almost any roofing? It's a good thing the rain paused for the duration of the game. All things considered - the weather, the opponent, the weeknight fixture, the crowd number, at a touch under 20,000, was excellent.

Exiting the ground has the vibe of less muddy Waverley Park. Those on shuttle buses do OK; goodness knows how long it took to get out of the car park for those who drove there. The bus driver on the shuttle bus back to the city loses his cool when someone presses a button they shouldn't have, and then goes on to deny it. The bus lights are blue, which makes me wonder if Canberra has a night time bus riding junkie problem, but it turns out the real reason for the blue lights is for reducing glare for the driver at night.

The next day, trying to measure the impact of what had happened is almost pointless. My goal here in Canberra is to delve in the past. On the way to the National Library, the cab driver has the local commercial talk radio station on, and the presenter muses about whether Canberra could ever host an A-League team, before moving into an aimless discussion with the resident meteorologist about how much it had actually rained in various Canberra suburbs and the peripheral Yass.

I'm in Canberra to look at the archives of David Martin, and to confirm the existence of properly record materials to do with 1962 novel The Young Wife, which includes several soccer passages within his fictionalised Greek-Australian milieu. A magnifying glass helps sort out some of the handwritten details - I'll feature this as an artefact someday - but the thing I thought I had once perceived in this collection, an extended opening where Martin muses on the nature of sport in Australia turns out to be a mirage. That disappointment is compounded by the cutbacks to the library meaning the library not only does not open its special collections room on Sundays, but doesn't even make any deliveries on Saturdays at all. It's a terrible disadvantage for interstate scholars, both professional and amateur.

I turn up dutifully on the Saturday anyway, and having started on Martin's autobiography back at the hotel, I am able to at least get closer to what it was Martin was trying to do in this novel - and how, contrary to the praise he received for his work at the time of its publication, actually produced at best a fascinating failure of a novel. I also come closer to understanding his connection to soccer, but not close enough for my liking.

On the Sunday, the taxi driver taking me from my hotel to the National Portrait Gallery notes how he misses the EPL. Back in Cambodia, he could watch to his heart’s delight on dirt cheap subscription packages, and at reasonable times. Work now rules that out. How many Cambodians in Canberra? I ask. About 100 families he says, not like Springvale eh? He grins, and mentions his shock and delight at tne memory of hearing voices in his native tongue on the streets of Melbourne. It turns out the guy plays as well, socially at least in open parks with other taxi drivers and local uni students, but he rushed to play one day after getting off work, didn't bother stretching and did his back. Every time he comes back after a two week layoff, he ends up hurting it again, but he loves playing the game.

The National Portrait Gallery is worth a visit. It opens up with a room that's a sort of pantheon of mostly eminent scientists and the odd celebrity, before moving through history. Sketches of Indigenous peoples, explorers, and an endless series of black clad Australian petit bourgeoisie men, and their mostly pasty skinned wives. As time goes on, the works become more daring and more colourful, and their subjects more diverse, even if there's still way too many of the Fairfax family in there. Many of the subjects are either leaders of commerce and governance, or friends of the relevant artist. That makes sense - the former have both the desire and ability to afford their portraits being painted, while the latter are the persons the artist will most like to paint. I preferred the more adventurous and diverse subject matter - both the lefties out there, the huge Bob Brown portrait really has to be seen in the flesh, even though the subject himself is uncomfortable with the implied notions of sainthood bestowed upon him in the photo, as well as the disproportionate credit allotted to him.

The main gallery section finishes off with portraits of women. Unlike most of what has come before, many of these are photographs instead of paintings. I'm not sure of the reasons for this, and while I'm not generally not a fan of this kind of photographic work, the Lee Lin Chin portrait is stunning. Sports people get short shrift in the main selection. There are three fluoro images of famous cyclists (Cadel Evans, Robbie McEwan and Stuart O'Grady) and a stern Margaret Court. The seasonal gallery, which was in its last day, was called 'Bare' and was about various figures in different states of dress and undress. The Les Patterson on the toilet is a corker to see in the (too much) flesh, but other than that, it's not a particularly impressive collection. Sports persons get more time here, but too often its hackneyed, the photographers (most often its photographers) being unable to find the balance between the certainty and doubt, the athletic and the vulnerable. The only soccer man is a bare chested Harry Kewell, Liverpool era.

Some of the things I liked were Dave Graney's deliberately hilarious pose of dangerous sexuality; the frightening Robert Hughes; Les Murray attempting to sprawl, but coming across as timid in trying to do so; Arthur Boyd's portrait of his friend Carl Cooper on the edge of madness; and astronomer and physicist Penny Sackett, in a modernised renaissance pose, complete with screwdriver in hand. Someone in the gallery's guestbook grumbled about Rolf Harris' portrait of the Queen being removed, putting it down to political correctness. There were enough lords and ladies in there anyway, and a huge Queen Mary of Denmark.

The next day, my last cab driver in Canberra, in between grumblings about the apparent waste that is the planned light rail line and the pointlessness of the existence of an ACT government, asks me why I’m here. I tell him I came up with a friend to see the Socceroos, and he notes that he started watching it at home on SBS, not realising it was delayed, before his wife told him the final score – he’d forgotten that it’d also be on Foxtel. The circus, scaled down as it was for the provinces, came to town and left just as quickly. Anyone trying to weasel some sort of meaningful metrics out of that as a measure of what an A-League Canberra should probably find something else to do with their time.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

SMFC Best XI 2005-2015

The response to this wasn't great. No one from the blog only side of things came up with anything, but the members of smfcboard were better, providing enough of a guide and response. Naturally the bulk of this team is going to come from the 2006 and 2014 championship winning teams. But it's worth remembering that a good part of the 2006 team existed in one form or another from 2005-2008, and that the 2014 side was a product of the turmoil of mid 2013, and the foundation of 2015.

A 4-4-2 formation was by far the formation of choice among respondents. Most respondents didn't specify the style of 4-4-2, whether it was flat or a diamond, but it was nevertheless the clear stand out.

SMFC Best XI 2005-2015
Dean Anastasiadis was by far the most popular choice here. We've had two other keepers who've also won goalkeeper of the year, and one that has gone on to play for Borussia Dortmund and the Socceroos, but Deano was probably always going to come out on top.

Ramazan Tavsanciouglu came out way in front of Tim Mala. Steven O'Dor also had his share of backers, more than Michael Eagar even (who also gets into this team), which is odd as O'Dor played just three games in the 2006 championship team - score for longevity on that front. Brad Norton rounds out the back four,

Fernando was the only player to be selected across the board in the respondents' sides, which is no surprise. The rest was much murkier. Tansel Baser and Iqi Jawadi get in under their own steam, but as for everyone else, the results were too scattered. Maybe Epifano could have won more admirers if, you know, he wasn't such an arsehat; maybe Andy Brennan would have got in had he stuck around for a whole season; in that sense, I'm making a captain's call of sorts, and selecting out of that mess Billy Natsioulas, who when he was 'on', was an entertaining and effective player.

Milos Lujic is light years ahead of every other candidate here, and for good reason. No other forward got close to the same amount of votes, except for Vaughan Coveny, who is included here because of that, even though it creates a very top heavy kind of forward pair.

Fernando De Moraes, despite never officially being the standing captain, was nevertheless named as such by most of the respondents.

It was interesting to see so many choose John Anastasiadis over Chris Taylor as coach (even though I wouldn't have), but it is worth remembering that Johnny A started with almost nothing. Three players. Taylor may have started with a shell, but he also brought over several championship winning players from Thunder.

One of our readers/smfcboard folk, 'SJS' was kind enough to submit a team of South players who have played in the A-League.

Formation: 4-5-1
Goalkeeper: Langerak
Defence: Tavsancioiglu, Djulbic, Milicevic, O'Dor
Midfield: Salley, Fernando, J. Trifiro, G. Trifiro, Hatzikostas (played ACL for Victory)
Forward: Coveny
Coach: Durakovic (was a technical director at South in VPL tenure)

Something I cobbled up rather quickly. Defensively a solid central pair, but unless you want to chuck in Chris Irwin, not very high on attacking prowess. Keepers, could have gone with Zois or Gavalas, but ended up going with the 'default' option.

Formation: 4-3-3
Goalkeeper: D. Anastasiadis
Defence: Poutakidis, Tsonis, Blatsis, Tsiaras
Midfield: Tzirtis, Natsioulas,  Hatzikostas,
Forward: Minopoulos, Salapasidis, Vlahos
Coach: J. Anastasiadis

Contrarians XI
Just some mucking around on my part.
Formation: 3-4-3. It's what I've been using on my Hattrick team for ages now.

Goalkeeper: Seb Mattei. Mattei never played a single game for us, and sometimes didn't even turn up to be the bench keeper. But no mistakes.

Defenders: Shaun Kelly, Jake Vandermey, Carl Recchia. Kelly got in halfway through the season, was sent off in his first game, and still finished as leading scorer for us in 2012. Vandermey is in there for sentimental reasons, sure, but also because he came back with Olympia in that team that beat us. Carl Recchia had 50 million stints at the club, and we'd probably take him back even now, and maybe one more time after that.

Midfielders: Ljubo Milicevic: Pizzas, foul throws, match winning performances, red cards, and a shitty attitude. Oh, and the own goal against which scored us a point after he left us. It was a hell of a nine game stint. Billy Jones: played the opening game, never seen and seldom spoken of ever again. Who is he? Where did he come from? Some things man is not meant to know. Antonio Naglieri: while he was with us, no one liked him. But everyone forgets that, and instead claims that he was a vital cog and steadying hand in our 2006 championship team. It's better to be liked later than never I suppose. Anthony Giannopoulos: should have played many more games for us. Yes, I'm biased, but did you see the way he stared down at his Northcote opponent who was on the ground in that memorable 3-2 cup win? That's someone who wanted to play for South more than anyone.

Forwards: Kevin Nelson, Jesse Krncevic, Nick Jacobs. Krncevic played just two season for us; the first almost all off the bench, the second marred by long suspensions and being considered too close to his dad. Yet Jesse is still my favourite forward of the post-NSL era. Kevin Nelson gets in because despite how awful he apparently was, still managed to score seven times in 12 games; Nick Jacobs, well I loved him from the first time I saw him in Hobart, and still mourn the passing of his soccer career, but at least he's in a good place right now with an inexplicably 8-1 Memphis Tigers.

Coach: Gus Caminos. Could have offered it to Joe Montemurro or even Ange Dalas who both seemed to do their fair share of coaching during 2011 - even though they weren't the official coach - but Caminos' back to back under 21 titles, often under difficult circumstances, are what gets him over the line here.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Ancient Hellenic history II

Back in 2009, I posted a team photo of South Melbourne Hellas predecessor club Hellenic. At that time, the photo had neither names nor a year attached. In 2012, I found a larger laminated version of the photo, which included almost all the names of the people in the photo. Now a second photo of Hellenic has come to light, which has thrown up a few mysteries of its own.

Team photo of Hellenic, year and location unknown.
Back row: ???, Con Pappas, Antonis Karayannis, ???, Bob Mihovic, Costas Tzinis
Front row: Alecos Nanos, P. Palogianidis/Paleoyiannidis (first name unknown), ???, ???, ???, ???.

On the back of this photo, which was sent to me by club historian John Kyrou, is the following: "Bob Mihovic - back row, second from the right". Mihovic is a name I've never come across before in my limited dealings with Hellenic, and he doesn't appear either in any of the limited Hellenic team lists in OzFootball. A comparison of the two available photos seems to indicate that on the face of it, these are two fairly different Hellenic squads. I was only able to easily identify two other players, and make what I felt was a reasonable stab at one other. In the front row, both Kyrou and myself are certain of the first player on the left being Alecos Nanos. I am certain also that the goalkeeper is the same person in both images - a man for whom we still don't have a first name, but whose surname is Palogianidis/Paleoyiannidis. In the back row, furthest right, I am reasonably certain that the player is Costas Tzinis.

We have neither a year nor a location for this photo. As usual, any help in identifying any of these people is most welcome.