Monday, 3 August 2015

Redemption, of a sort - South Melbourne 3 Oakleigh Cannons 0

South coach Chris Taylor and captain Michael Eagar lift the Dockerty Cup
trophy, as the rain pours down. Photo credit: South Melbourne FC/unknown.
There was an obvious fear that no matter how well we played yesterday, that we'd nevertheless fall short. This fear wasn't just based on the 120 minutes we'd played on Wednesday, but also on the mentality of the players and whether they'd be able to get up for the game following the FFA Cup disappointment. Instead the team put in a solid 90 minute performance and took home a third trophy in 12 months, and our first Dockerty Cup in 20 years. The win, in front of about 1200 people braving wind, rain and cold, also showed that the club needs to be and can be about more than the odd spell in the mainstream limelight.

I'm struggling to recall a South game with a more even performance from every player that took the field. While we weren't faultless, I'd argue that every South player contributed to the win yesterday, and that they were superior to everyone in their opposite position. Even with Oakleigh's relative abortion of a 2015 season, they'd still managed to get this far and were still a side comprised of several quality players - yet they struggled to penetrate the 18 yard box, and were left scrambling to defend our attacks on multiple occasions.

Even with the aid of a strong wind in the first half, Oakleigh weren't able to conjure up much to trouble Nikola Roganovic in the South goal. One long clearance from defence (actually a clever chip from midfield) saw Oakleigh beat the high offside trap, but Roganovic was quickly off his line and dealt with the oncoming attacker brilliantly (Lambros Honos hit it straight at him). For the rest of the game, the back four of Tim Mala, Brad Norton, Luke Adams and Michael Eagar were superb. Eagar in particular had an outstanding game,

The midfield, which this time included Matthew Theodore (replacing Jake Barker-Daish) and a start for Leigh Minopoulos (replacing David Stirton out wide on the right) never stopped running. Rather than the one dimensional, predominantly left wing attacking side we'd been for several weeks, we were a team that looked dangerous from whichever direction we attacked from. While we had the better of a relatively even first half, the main concern from an attacking sense was how isolated Milos Lujic was once again. All this was rectified in the second half, as the early goal was symptomatic of the way we'd run the game out, with numbers running into the box to support our star striker. Scoring goals from a corner also helps, but to be honest we could have won this game by a lot more. Some of our finishing once the game was settled could have been better, but at least we were well in front as opposed to having to play catch up as we'd had to do in some of the cup games leading up to the final.

In the room after the game, Roganovic still felt the need to apologise to supporters. What I would say to him is that his service in his brief time at the club has been exemplary as both a player and someone who feels part of the club, and that there are many, many former players and people involved with the club over the years who'd need to apologise before he does. And while it clearly sucks not having a social club, I'd like to say a big thank you to the players for allowing the supporters to share the win in the locker room after the game.

Speaking on behalf of myself, on a personal level...
I was pleased that we'd won the Dockerty Cup rather than some no name trophy or that light bulb trophy. Having been one of the people that fought for the return of the Dockerty Cup name and trophy - albeit this season in its stupidly truncated semi-final onwards only format - it was great to be able to lift the trophy in the change rooms as a supporter rather than as a historian during my sojourns to FFV HQ as part of the Historical Committee. It was even better to be able to share that experience not just with the players, but with other long serving supporters of the club. A pity that South's habit of breaking trophies was once again on display; having broken last year's NPL trophy, and the 1998 NSL trophy, yesterday this happened:
Time to break out the Tarzan Super Grip I think.

The questions that keep you up at night, and then follow you into the next day
After the consistent appeal for an answer to Chris Taylor's questionable substitution decisions on Wednesday night, did Taylor make no subs in yesterday's game out of spite? Was there a great overarching plan somewhere in there that we just can not perceive, nor be trusted to comprehend?

Five years!
If the rumours are to be believed, when our board had claimed that we'd signed Chris Taylor for a 'long time', they weren't kidding. Five years?! That's almost as long as we've been waiting for a social club! Of course this could turn out to be either a masterstroke or disaster. Not wishing to judge (five years, what the hell?), I reckon we should all agree to meet at this spot in about five years time and see how it all worked out.

Next game
Back to league action, with a game against Port Melbourne at home on Friday night - please note that kickoff has been pushed back to 8:30.

Nick Epifano, born charmer
Nick Epifano was interviewed last week on the Sydney based Soccer Stoppage Time show, in what turned out to be a brief interview. The main presenter of the show appears to be a huge fan of Epifano, and is flabbergasted by the fact that he's not in the A-League yet. When he asks Nick that question, Nick replies with I don't know, guess I have to work harder, etc. Nick goes on to say that he owes a lot to Chris Taylor; that the Dundee United experience, although truncated due to personal reasons, was an eye opener in terms of what kind of professionalism is required to play at that level; some guff about the club's FFA Cup preparations (this was recorded prior to our loss to Palm Beach); and there being interest from Adelaide United and Perth Glory. Epifano doesn't make a very good interview subject; his answers are short, nervous and provide little prospect for elaboration. After the interview ended, the main presenter once again praised Epifano's footballing ability, took aim at the struggling A-League franchises that hadn't done their homework, and while acknowledging that there were some concerns about behavioural issues, brushed them aside.

Film review - El Cinco
The Melbourne International Film Festival has made a habit of showing some really interesting soccer films. Two years ago it was the North Korean film 'Centre Forward', while last year it was Romanian experimental doco 'The Second Game' (which I really regret not reviewing for this blog). This year it's 'El Cinco', an Argentine film about a professional footballer who has made the decision to retire. It's a low key and poignant film, but which also has several hilarious moments.

This is a film about the end of what director Adrian Biniez portrays as the extended childhood of life as a professional footballer. Defensive midfielder Paton (Esteban Lamothe) - a sort of man child who spends his spare time on video games, booze, pot and annoying his wife -  is 35 years old when he receives an eight match ban following a red card; the ban rules him out of all but the final matches of the season. Locked away in the change rooms by himself and sitting out the rest of the game in what resembles a prison cell, Paton clearly feels the hand of football's Father Time resting on his shoulder. At home later on, he calmly announces to his partner Ale (Julieta Zylberberg) that this will be his last season - and the rest of the film follows what will be the final portion of his career, as Paton struggles to find what his purpose in life will be after his career is finished, including several schemes for his post-footballing life, as well as attempting to get his high school diploma.

The portrayal of Argentine professional soccer in this film is almost unrelenting in its working class aesthetics. Paton's side, Talleres, plays in a dilapidated stadium; but then again, so do most of their opponents. Money is short, and wages are often delayed. His team mates are mostly, if not all, working class boys like himself, who seem to have few other prospects apart from being professional footballers. Playing in a match is at best a reward for the repetitive exercises and training sessions that have to be undertaken; at worst, they are a frustrating and unfulfilling experience. Adulation is there for the players, but more often than not they are employed as a way for the club's supporters to be able to vent the frustrations of their own lives.

As Paton dithers about telling his family and his team mates the news, he learns about the fate of those from his junior soccer days who never quite made the grade, and tries to fight a battle against anxiety and boredom that threatens to derail his post-football life before it begins - because as much as playing football is the chief means of his employment, it also makes up almost his entire identity as a person. Football is not only a job for Paton, but also his vocation - he knows little else of the world. The pending loss of the companionship and camaraderie of the change rooms are heightened by Paton's impending retirement.

If that sounds like all too much po-faced seriousness, then it should be clear that there are a lot of funny moments in this film as well. While Paton is usually quick witted, he can be undone by his own determination to get even with those who have slighted him (at one point a radio talkback segment goes very, very wrong). The supporters and club directors are always there to make a nuisance of themselves. The most comedic (and tragic) lines in the film though go to the team's coach, a slob of a man with little obvious football nous, who sometimes sleeps in his car and is always at a loss as to how to inspire his troops in their quest to escape mid-table mediocrity.

And as much as this is a film about soccer and the life of a professional athlete, it is also a film about marriage. As another review of this film has noted, the marriage portrayed in El Cinco is not a typical film affair. We are shown a relationship that is in the middle, not at its beginning or end; we are not shown a relationship in strife, but one that has its protagonists constantly renegotiating the terms of its existence. Paton's partner Ale is neither harridan nor long suffering saint, and this portrayal is aided by the excellent acting chemistry between Lamothe and Zylberberg.

The only two gripes I had with the film? The on field soccer scenes are pretty lame, but then again they almost always are; and the subtitles are a little wonky at times, which only makes you appreciate the quality of subtitling we get on SBS. There will be those, too, who will feel that this film doesn't really go anywhere, and that would be a valid complaint, if only that was not the purpose of the film - to portray working class life in all its low key mundaneness.

It's showing again this Saturday, and it's definitely worth a look for fans of good football films, and of course Latin American cinema.

Sic semper tyrannis
If the moderation of smfcboard is going to be more active, in terms of banning people and deleting their posts, the least we could do is have some clear rules set out for what the mods consider acceptable posting. It was bad enough when posts were being deleted because someone from the board demanded it, but the moment it becomes about posts being deleted because of an arbitrary matter of taste, then we've crossed into really dangerous territory.

I have received my share of criticism for my own vague comments publishing policy on this blog, because I've more or less allowed just about every nutbag to have their say over the years. This is based on my belief that the vast majority of my readers are sensible enough to post thoughtful commentary, even stuff that I disagree with and even items where I myself am the target of the post. I also trust my readers to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff for themselves, and that stupid posts reflect badly not just on their own authors but also the cause they seek to promote.

There are few more powerful tools of rebuttal against a person's arguments than their own words and the passage of time. I hope the moderators keep this in mind before pulling the trigger in future.

Does Mornington count as being in Melbourne?
Remember this? Well, Mark Bosnich was in town on Saturday for Mornington's 50th anniversary, but I still had to pay for own crepes yesterday, and complain to people who've already heard all my complaints.

Around the grounds
Mummy, where does daddy go on Saturdays?
A trip to Bendigo was reluctantly knocked back; an opportunity to watch a tanking Collingwood was considered only briefly; so it was off to Paisley Park for the State League One North West Greek Derby between Altona East and Western Suburbs. And what a game it was! At least for the first 50 odd minutes anyway. East looked better than the ladder leaders, and took the lead when Gomer Pyle was given too much room to unleash a curling left foot shot from the edge of the box into the opposite corner. Then the little Japanese fellow blasted his shot miles wide on the goal line, and that's where things stopped going well for East. After a passage of play where East cleared desperately off the line, the keeper got up dazed and confused but continued. Suburbs equalised with a great free kick from out wide to go into the break level. The early parts of the second half saw East go down to ten men after a handball on the goal line. After the penalty was scored, East's keeper also got subbed off suffering from the concussion he got in the first half, and Suburbs made sure of it soon after with their third. Goals four and five were icing on the cake.

Final thought
I'm a worrier, it's true; but you'd worry, too, if you had people come up to you after reading last week's post after our FFA Cup loss and ask you to write something positive for once.


  1. Great day yesterday on and off field. Let's get our social club now. Anyone up for another letter drive?


    1. Since the club and the government are in the process of sending the documents back and forth, I'm not sure how much more the supporter can do now.

    2. It's like pass the parcel. Hopefully there is a prize at the end of it!

    3. Exactly. How do we know the action is sitting with the govt and not us. That's why we need an update. Then we can act accordingly.

  2. Stop writing negative dribble! Why can't you be more like The Podcaster and polish every turd until it is gloriously shiny?

    Really don't understand how this independant blog garners some of the reactions it does.
    It clearly pats people on the back when they deserve it, gives light whack when necessary, and asks questions that deserve answers.

  3. The run to the finals looks interesting. It's been a very long time since 3 traditional foes in South, Knights and Heidelberg have been this close heading into a finals series. Would love either a South v Knights or South v Heidelberg grand final. Still a long way to go but hopefully choking is a symptom of clubs in the south east.

    1. It does seem a bit odd that the only grand final post-NSL to feature two former NSL clubs was 2005's Green Gully vs Heidelberg final.


A few notes on comments.

We've had a lot of fun over the years with my freewheeling comments policy, but all good things must come to an end. Therefore I will no longer be approving comments that contain personal abuse of any sort.

Still, if your post doesn't get approved straight away, it's probably because I haven't seen it yet.

As usual, publication of a comment does not mean endorsement of its content.