Sunday, 26 July 2015

Windy - Pascoe Vale 0 South Melbourne 0

This game's only highlight as a South fan was watching the ordeal of some of the Pascoe Vale volunteers looking for a stray ball that had landed in the front yard of one of the houses behind the southern end of the ground. Being in the running for three competitions is great, but it puts a strain on your resources, and your priorities also go on walkabout somehwat. So whi;e Bentleigh scraped a draw against Port, meaning we had a great chance to make up some of the difference, instead of taking advantage of that opportunity we played lacklustre football inappropriate for the windy conditions, probably with more than one eye on not exhausting ourselves for the FFA Cup match on Wednesday.

We played conservatively in the first half, which I suppose is understandable considering the fact that we played against a very strong wind; but our second half performance was no better. David Stirton had the best chance for us in the game in the first half, when instead of heading home a cross he tried to nurse home a volley and missed it completely. Apart from collecting an over hit cross, the Pascoe Vale goalkeeper's only exertion was to make a witty and self-deprecating riposte to some banter he received from the South fans behind the goal. At the other end of the ground, Pascoe Vale had two or three shots cleared off the line, and a number of botched attempts which should have resulted in goals.

And really, apart from the pizza man no longer being at the ground, apparently due to ill health, there's not much else to report from this game.

Next game - FFA Cup, preparations, where to meet, etcetera
Our next match is in the FFA Cup against Palm Beach Sharks on the Gold Coast, at Robina Stadium on Wednesday night. The following is some general info for those who are going up and what's going on, as well as for those in Melbourne who may want to watch the game with other South fans.

For those heading up to the Gold Coast:
The local Greek-Australian soccer club Surfers Paradise Apollo has posted the following relatively vague details on their Facebook page about South holding a training session at their ground, along with lunch.

The training session will be held at 9:30AM. Apollo's ground is about ten kilometres from Robina Stadium. Public transport is a less than convenient option in this case, so carpooling with hire cars or organising a taxi will be better options should you choose to go to Apollo's clubrooms first. Some other South fans will be drinking at the Dog and Parrot in Robina from 4:30 onwards. It's about three kilometres from the ground, or about a half an hour's walk.

As for the game itself, it appears that under the circumstances a reasonably healthy contingent of South fans is heading up, The numbers will hopefully be bolstered by members of Surfers Paradise Apollo and Brisbane Olympic. While not a decree by any means, it has been suggested that South fans should congregate together rather then spreading themselves throughout the stadium.

For the record, this writer will not be making the trip up for this game, due to work commitments.

For those watching the game in Melbourne:
While many of you will no doubt prefer to watch this in the comfort of your lounge room in suburbia, a group of the usual pre-match pub crew will be congregating at the Limerick Arms Hotel in South Melbourne, which is located on the south west corner of the Clarendon Street and Park Street intersection. Don't ask me about parking, but both the no. 12 and no. 1 trams stop at that intersection, making it a pretty convenient location on that front.

The Limerick also seems to be offering a free drink if you follow the instructions below.

Hope to see as many of those South fans not going up to Queensland, at the Limerick instead.

Around the grounds
I took up an offer to watch Brunswick under 16s play Ballarat Red Devils up in Ballarat. That's what happens when your team's game gets postponed and you have nothing else to do. After my previous visit to watch this Brunswick team, I wasn't expecting much, but this time around the game resembled a soccer match. Neither side was particularly good, there were elementary errors aplenty, but at least it wasn't scrimmage ball. At the conclusion of the game, which I think Ballarat won 3-1 (but which is not important, because it's about development, not winning), I made note of the following things which troubled me and/or which I would like to see rectified.
  • If Altona East's reserves know how to use their fullbacks for overlapping play, why was there not one overlapping play in this game? 
  • Isn't part of the point of the 433 formation being made mandatory the fact that it's supposed to be the most flexible formation? Why then do so many NPL junior teams seem to use it so rigidly?
  • Unless they're offering encouragement, I'd rather not hear what parents have to say during a game. I want to hear what the coach and players are saying to each other.
  • Just because you're a bilingual parent, using Greek to express your bitchiness towards other players that aren't your son because you think that only you and the coach will understand, is not acceptable. It's actually deplorable.
  • If you're the coach and you think you can gain an edge by giving an impromptu instruction to a player in a different language, by all means go for it. But don't single that player out for abuse in that language, especially in a way that you would dare not do in English to all the other players. You want to blow off some Greek cultural steam at the soccer? There's 30-40 Greek-Australian soccer clubs in Melbourne with senior men's teams that expect and can handle that kind of banter (just not South Melbourne, obviously).
  • Skill level is one aspect of the curriculum that the NPL and its affiliated reforms will be judged on in the future, but right here, right now, surely we can teach defenders about the offside rule and how they can use it to their advantage. Soccer is not Australian rules football. You don't need to chase your direct opponent everywhere. If they want to be offside, let them.
  • That when Margaret Thatcher said that 'there is no such thing as society', she could have well been talking about the NPL.
The cake I had was OK. Always finish on a positive. that's my motto.

I scowl, therefore I am
Why did I go to the Roma vs Manchester City game? The availability of free tickets alone couldn't have been the answer, though heading to Leo Athanasakis' Brunswick office provided an excuse to also go across to Brunswick Savers (I bought a coat). Was it just to go there and wear a trademark sneer or scowl? Perhaps, but I'd like to think that's not all I do. Nevertheless, I did pick up two tickets for this game, expecting little and getting about as much in return; though I did get to share the experience and have a good chat with Shoot Farken's Athas Zafiris, who was third in line for consideration for my spare ticket. The game either lived up or down to everyone's expectations. It was played at something between half and three quarter pace, there was too much space, and nothing at stake. At least there were goals, and a couple of them rather good ones. The penalty shoot out was completely unnecessary; but then again so was the countdown timer at the end of each half which was counted down with gusto by many in the crowd.

The crowd was reported as being about 41,000, which seemed about right, though it was also hard to tell because as a Collingwood supporter, for that number I'm used to seeing a usually a two thirds full Ponsford Stand, which was mostly empty along with the neighbouring MCC Members' Stand (apparently the MCC members had to pay to attend). While I'm not sure why I expected every South person who accepted a free ticket to be located in the same part of the stadium, the cynical part of me wondered how some people ended up on Level 2, some on Level 1, and some on Level 4. Not that it's such a big deal - it's hard even for me to complain about free tickets to a game that I otherwise wouldn't have gone to and besides, I've willingly sat in similar positions at the MCG for soccer and footy matches - but you just wonder sometimes.

It could have been worse: the view from level 4 of the Great Southern Stand prior to kick off. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.

Maybe I watch too much local soccer and conversely not enough overseas stuff on the television, but my reading of the action seemed to be out of synch with much of the crowd. While most of the game saw a very muted reaction from the crowd - aside from the goals and some bizarre early hatred for Raheem Sterling - there were some passages of play which to me clearly seemed like they weren't anything special or that they would lead to a goal, which were anticipated with heartfelt oohs and aahs. For the most part though the crowd came across as politely bored, with the muted paper plane invasion coming only during the last ten minutes or so. There was also no Mexican wave of which to speak.

It was hard to tell who outnumbered who in terms of actual supporters of the two sides. The organised 'active' Roma fans seemed to outnumber their Manchester City equivalent, but neither group made much of an impact on the atmosphere of the game. The cheers for the goals seemed to be even handed, probably because most of the crowd were neutrals who just wanted to be entertained, and at about $70 a ticket for the cheap seats that's the least they were entitled to I suppose. On the matter of ticket prices, I myself couldn't see the value at that price, and anecdotally at least it seems that there were a lot of free tickets that got thrown about for this match.

In terms of entertainment, I'm going to echo Athas' point made on the night that there should have been more show-boating. If the two sides weren't going to go in full bore (and as already stated, there was no reason to do so), they could have at least pulled out a few more daring dribbling maneuvers, or taken a few more shots on goal from range. Too often the game was a slopfest caused in part by well drilled players not knowing how to play in a game with no meaning and little intensity. Too many times it seemed as if players would rather take an extra touch, avoid a volleyed shot, make an extra pass or even prefer to get fouled rather than do something even remotely daring.

Meanness for the sake of meanness can be entertaining on occasion, especially when it cuts through far too much unnecessary treacle, but in the long run it gets boring. Going down to Level 1 to get a better look at the penalty shoot out, it became clear that those clearly most thrilled with the experience were the children. Not all the children, as it was a dull game despite the goals, and children do get bored easily; but there were kids thrilled with the simple fact of Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart not only taking a penalty, but successfully smashing it into the back of the net; the comically missed penalties provided a moment of clownish levity; and on the way back to Richmond station, and the train back home to Sunshine, the kids seemed happy with what they saw.

The problem, if you want to call it that, is that as much as we as soccer people would like to believe that these games by touring sides will usher in some sort of soccer golden age, by inspiring the children to play the game, next week there will be a different circus in town, and the week after that another one, and so on. I can see the point in Real Madrid touring, in terms of spreading their global brand; I can sort of see why Manchester City would tour, for similar reasons as Real Madrid, albeit with delusions of grandeur as to their own importance; but the point of Roma being here is less tangible, since their scope for marketing themselves is rather restricted by the reality of them not being an especially popular club outside of Italy.

These games have said a lot about Melbourne, and for the most part not very good things. The city has an image of itself as the 'sporting capital of the world', but what does that actually mean in reality? What does it say that we would rather pay for overpriced tickets to glorified practice matches, but ignore the local variants (and I include the A-League in this)? As Australian soccer fans, we tend to scoff at Asian fans - in Singapore, in Malaysia, in Indonesia - of these European behemoths who gather in their national stadiums to pay to watch the same glorified practice matches we are now falling over ourselves to watch (at least those games involving true giants such as Real Madrid and Liverpool).

And yet the fans of Malaysian football have recently turned against these tours, noting the negative impact it has on their local football. Meanwhile in Melbourne, our insecurity which is dressed up as self-regard has seen us fall head over heels in love with a traveling circus. And considered on that level, I start to think that maybe it's not about sport at all, but about proximity to celebrity and the ego of the city that are at the forefront of these events. The Herald Sun, who are as responsible as anyone for the inferiority complex this city has, found itself torn in two this past week. On the one hand there was its usual reactionary and rank 'Aussie Rules is better than sockah' rhetoric, and on the other hand there was its 'how great is Melbourne that it can attract such big events' rhetoric. It was the very definition of cognitive dissonance.

Bigger cities get bigger and better circuses, and this is why Melbourne gets Cristiano Ronaldo and Yarrawonga gets Brendan Fevola. But at the end of the day, a circus is still a circus. The FFA picks up a cheque no matter how many people turned up, and believers in trickle down economics that they are, they believe that these games will create converts to the local scene. I suppose if someone's willing to cough up the cash, it's a case for all concerned of 'why wouldn't you take it?', but I also wonder: does a big crowd and a good show means people won't take the local scene seriously? Does a big crowd and a poor show mean the game won't be taken seriously? Was this mediocre affair (the Roma-Man City game), which was effectively the matinée or tight-arse Tuesday performance, worthwhile in any way in the long term?

Pardon our French
Did you happen to watch the footage of the win against Heidelberg in the Doockerty Cup semi final? Quite a bit of audible swearing in there. Not that I'm offended, but it does make you think.

The Cros make an emotional breakthrough after being banned from smfcboard
Mumbles: I guess I've always used trolling smfcboard as a way of getting attention.
11.Boo: Yes! Yes! Me too!

Final thought
When exactly did the club learn that they were going to get free tickets for the Roma - Man City game? How far back did they know that we wouldn't have access to Lakeside last week? What happens if the ICC series comes back again next year? Was Steve from Broady the only person in Melbourne who actually bought a ticket to the game? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind...


  1. Love the simpsons meme

  2. Woo hoo, I get a mention and with a Simpson reference no less!

  3. There were sh!tloads of freebies for the Tuesday night ICC match. On the day of the game SEN gave tickets to every caller (not "best callers", just any clown who happened to call in).

  4. You should have simply posted the clip from Seinfeld where George rings Jerry and says ... "Hey, it's George. I got nothin' to say".

    1. Yeah, it was a pretty crap game.

  5. More like craproudis

    1. No repeats of your AC2015 pre-match disasters today, Griff.
      Stick around with your fellow supporters (unless there's some third tier tennis tournament on offer, of course).


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