Gully have been a bit all over the shop this season, while we ourselves hadn't put in anything close to resembling a cohesive 90 minute performance; yet we were still undefeated and picking up points against some good teams under difficult circumstances. Leigh Minopoulos, who got a start at the expense of Andy Brennan, scored during the first half only to have it called back for offside. My immediate gut instinct, admittedly from viewing the incident from the halfway line, was that it was offside, though others closer in line insisted it was a legitimate goal. Minopoulos had another chance though to open the scoring, but mucked up the opportunity spectacularly - either shooting or better still, passing it to his right to the unmarked Milos Lujic would have sufficed - instead his inaction saw the chance squandered and Leigh copping a barrage of abuse for the effort. What was that it that Mr Miyagi told Daniel-san about being decisive?
Speaking of South fans abusing players, I didn't hear anybody abuse Nick Epifano at the point in time when he decided to abuse the South supporters. Now whether he said 'Greek cunts' or 'spastic cunts' or 'spastic Greek cunts' is irrelevant. But more on this later. And as something completely unrelated to this (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), the call of the day outside of the farcical post-match scenes was one of our fans offering to buy Roddy Vargas' Socceroo jersey for ten bucks.
It was a very even game, with Gully also finding themselves in good positions to score, but more often than not failing to make the most of their opportunities throughout the game. This was either due to woeful finishing, overuse of the ball, or when required, the heroics of Nikola Roganovic - and before I forget, yes there was a substitute keeper on the bench yesterday!
Remember also when I was a little mystified by Chris Taylor's comments following the Community Shield win over Melbourne Knights about us playing too direct? I mean, isn't that the supposed hallmark of the Chris Taylor game plan? Well yesterday highlighted to me what he was going on about. As with with several games this season, there have been too many moments where we have coughed the ball up cheaply in completely unnecessary situations - situations which weren't down to opposition pressure, but merely poor decision making. I'm no opponent of the long ball, but when it becomes the default option even in circumstances where it's not warranted, and all you do is end up giving the ball back to the opposition under no pressure, with the opposition closer to the middle of the ground... it just sucks man, you know?
|Andy Brennan dispossesses Green Gully goalkeeper Kieran Gonzalez.|
Photo: Kevin Juggins.
Quite why Tim Mala received a red card after all of that is probably only known to those who were on the field. The inference being made is that Mala abused Gonzalez for screwing up, and after Gonzalez made an issue of it the referee decided to send Mala off, a heinous overreaction akin to when Jesse Krncevic was sent off a few years back against Heidelberg. Chances are that the red card won't be overturned, and who knows how many games Mala will miss because of it. Then the game finished and another tumultuous game at Green Gully Reserve had come to end,
the Bentleigh game, one of our supporters had posted a comment critical of Nick Epifano's performance during that first half (see the screenshot on the right) on the South Melbourne Facebook page. Epifano responded in a hostile manner, and tagged in Iqi Jawadi to the discussion. I only became aware of this because of anonymous person who mentioned the incident in the comments section of that post. Upon trying to find evidence of the discussion, I came up mostly empty, as apparently comments with swearing automatically don't get published on the South Facebook page. If that's true, what this means is that the person who saw the post was either an insider, or was otherwise Facebook friends with Epifano and thus able to see the comment regardless of its content. Since I don't befriend any of our players on Facebook, and follow almost none of them on Twitter - a deliberate policy of mine - I can't say for certain how the comment was seen.
Regardless, all of that is beside the point. Epifano bit back in a very offensive manner to what was fairly tame commentary, and while the club tried to keep it quiet, it did leak via the relative blog comment onto smfcboard.com where it was confirmed by Con Shomos that indeed the incident had happened. From there, I asked the club via Twitter if Epifano would be punished, to which board member Tony Margaritis replied that the matter had been dealt with, without elaborating on what the exact punishment would be. Fair enough, give the bloke a bake behind closed doors, let the internal processes try to sort the situation out,
Now I'm always reticent to try and say things like 'all supporters think this' or 'most supporters consider that'. The risks and pitfalls are too obvious. But I think I can safely say that for most of our supporters, in their minds abuse directed at our players is not personal - though I can certainly see how it would be taken personally - but almost entirely an expression of their frustration at a given passage of play, or match or even season. In that sense, it's no different to supporters from almost any sporting club around the world.
|Nick Epifano heads clear during the game. Photo: Kevin Juggins.|
South fans don't have the best reputation for abuse of their own team, but the fact that Epifano seemed to get upset at that and not abuse is kind of disturbing to me. Does he have other issues that he's dealing with? I'm struggling to figure out what his problem is. I'm also hardly the eternal optimist when it comes to pretty much anything South related, but even at the end of the match I felt that the situation could have been rescued (even if only partially or temporarily) if only he'd come over with the rest of the team and thanked the fans for turning our, and in turn receiving thanks for the team's efforts - a display of mutual respect despite whatever tantrums were had in the heat of the moment. Instead this happened.
Picture says a thousand words. @smfc @PaulMavroudis @LAthanasakis @sthmel pic.twitter.com/NiO5q2rVpdInstead of swallowing his pride somewhat and trying to defuse the situation, his actions only served to make what was a hard fought win in a game that could have gone either, all about himself.
— KissOfDeathFootball (@KODFootball) April 4, 2015
Then, as those of us along the fence were about to begin our exit out of the ground before having to deal with the traditional bottleneck situation in the Green Gully car park, attention turned to supporters further up on the hill getting into a blue with Nick Epifano's mum and assorted other friends and relatives of his, all while you could clearly hear the players singing the song in the change rooms with gusto. Now what exactly was being said and who started it, I have next to no idea, as I stayed near the fence watching on in amused horror at the utter farce shambles of the situation, only joining in with the childish yet appropriate Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! chant.
It was hard to make head or tail of the situation, as those on either side of the argument ended up inadvertently ganging up on those who were trying to calm the situation down, as well as somehow involving those who weren't even in the discussion at all. As stupid and unseemly as all of this was, it only got worse when Epifano came out of the dressing rooms in his club polo and track pants, crossed over to the outer side, jumped the fence and looked like he wanted to fight with some of our fans, only to be held back by his mum.
Eventually our president Leo Athanasakis came out, and people started to move on slowly, though the yelling and abuse continued out into the car park area. Thank goodness that the situtation didn't manage to escalate even further. The remaining South fans stood in the car park holding an informal debrief, trying to figure out what had happened, how it had happened, and what would happen next - as well as an inordinate amount of people asking me when it would all go on the blog.
The general though by no means unanimous consensus seemed to be that whatever actions the club had taken to punish Epifano after the initial Facebook incident, they had failed to make the situation better; that by and large, Epifano was not copping any abuse out of the ordinary, that indeed it was still mostly genuine encouragement (though word had spread of his first half outburst, and thius some fans were in mood to be conciliatory) and that he was certainly not receiving the kind of attention that Minopoulos had received when he fluffed his chance in the first half, After fan frustration at a poor cross he put in during the second half though, the abuse and frustration was more apparent, and to make matters, Epifano had another go at the supporters. Epifano is now as good as persona non grata and that the club (and certainly not the coach) has no option but to sack him; and that had he been playing for Melbourne Knights for example, the hardcore fans there would have been a lot less tolerant of his behaviour than we had been.
During this debrief, several South players emerged from the ground on their way to their cars, all of whom were applauded by the fans. I even made the (unusually for me) witty quip to those players that they shouldn't worry that we were all in the car park, as we weren't out to get them. So what happens next? There are some who are still willing to believe that the club can deal with this issue. For others, perhaps most of those who witnessed the incident, there is no option other than the most blunt and most obvious - Epifano needs to be sacked, and anyone else who wants to go with him can please themselves, In the anger of the moment, that was my opinion, too. However, on thinking about the situation overnight, it occurred to me that in some ways this is a situation I've dealt with before, and that my reaction in that case was very similar.
For those not aware, part of my non-South life includes teaching literature classes at university. A few years ago I had caught a student of mine blatantly plagiarising. What made it worse was that upon discussion with some of my colleagues, it turned out that she was a serial plagiariser. I was all ready to throw the book at this student and be done with her. However, after going through the plagiarism process with the student advocate, it turned out that there were deeper issues causing the plagiarism. It was only after the adherence to due process though that we got to that point. Now this student, who was shy and lacked confidence, was at least able to get the help she needed, and eventually she graduated.
Whether that experience of mine is entirely analogous to this situation is perhaps in the eye of the beholder. I had got upon my high horse about the matter, but what had that achieved? Likewise, it's an easy and understandable fact about those South fans that have remained loyal with regards to getting on their high horses about the matter. Part of our self-esteem as South supporters these days is in the fact that we are still supporting our club in the same way that we did when we were in the NSL instead of this horrid existence trapped under the metaphorical floorboards of Australian soccer.
We still expect excellence from our players, many of whom have no regard or understanding about what the club means to us. In some ways this is inevitable - the players are from a different generation, and their experiences are often very different to our own. We don't even have a social club to get to know them outside of South's media team, where acknowledgement of the fans may as well be part of the performance as opposed to something from the heart - a harsh thing to say when clearly there are players of ours who do appreciate the supporters.
The entire experience was light years away from the recent Dockerty Cup game against Whittlesea United, where Tansel Baser was treated like the legend of the club he is, while he wholeheartedly reciprocated after the match. All of which is a very long-winded of saying, is there truly no hope for Epifano to remain at South? Are we past the point of no return? The evidence seems to say that he's a goner one way or another, and the supporters who have spoken on the matter seem to generally be on the same page on this matter. Will the club hold the same point of view? What will be the consequences if he isn't sacked? What's the point of having a code of conduct if its not enforced? Should supporters get access to the players' code of conduct? So many questions that I'd love the answer to.
Or we could just sack the bloke and let the chips fall where they may.
Saturday afternoon on Orthodox Easter Saturday, at home against the Melbourne Knights who have an equal share of the top of the table - and doesn't that second part of the sentence just sicken you?
Pearl Jam sucks
Yesterday myself and another music fan agreed on this matter. We may have to start a support group for all those who don't get why so many people seem to rate them.
Elias Donoudis and his narrow sense of what our clubs mean
More nonsense from this chump, this time complaining about how last week's derby against the Bergers was hardly relevant to the Greek community, as there were hardly any Greeks playing in the game. Nevermind that his beloved 1984 South championship team had only one Greek starting player during both grand final legs. What a malaka.
Later that night, after listening to Collingwood squeak home after almost coughing up a 50 point lead, I went out into the backyard with my dad so we could watch the lunar eclipse. In the background, the usual western suburbs hoons were doing their thing, passenger and freight trains rumbled past, and some fruit bats attacked my neighbour's fig tree in search of a feed. Watching the moon gradually become hidden by the Earth's shadow naturally brought out all the usual Sagan-esque clichés about how small and insignificant we are, and how stupid getting so angry and passionate about soccer is. Yet, we'll be back next week to do it all again, taking this game way too seriously relative to its cosmic importance, People are strange.