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.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

October 2015 digest

I don't think Colin Mochrie knows what I mean, but that's
all part of the game's appeal, isn't it? Or perhaps not.
Social club and Lakeside lease saga
Unresolved. But you already knew that, didn't you?

Club best and fairest
Brad Norton managed to snare that. What a relief, if you know what I mean.

(hands Real Madrid a random gift basket in the manner of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, and asks the pertinent question) 
Now, are we friends? Colleagues? Lovers? Are you my grandmother?

Technical director Sean Gale is no longer our technical director
He was... and now he's not. Now without getting into that whole debate about what it is that technical directors actually do, if indeed they actually do anything, it does make you think about why he's no longer with us. Was he not good enough? If so, why hire him in the first place? Is it because being in the NPL, we have to have a technical director to direct technically whatever it is that they're supposed to technically direct? Is this another sign of the ongoing failure of the club to create and maintain a working and consistent junior program, even though the NPL is pretty much just a huge chunk of a system that's set to make everyone conform and provide standardised customer service, whereby in an ideal situation each role at every franchise licensee can be filled by any number of people of equal mediocre calibre? Anyway, our new technical director is someone named Stratos Xynas, but that's not the end of that story...

One club to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them
Well, well, well. Isn't this something? Can I firstly say well done to whoever was responsible for getting this sorted out on both sides of the ledger. In other words, isn't it to great to see the men's and women's sides of the South Melbourne equation come back together under one roof?

Apart from anything else  - including rolling my eyes at the use of the term 'super club' - , I am fascinated by the lengths to which the (our?) club has gone to make a big deal out of this, including a very professional looking document which has been released as part of the announcement, if for no other reason than the alleged poor standard of documentation supplied by SMWFC during their bid for a licence into the WNPL in 2016.

After some bits you can easily gloss over about history and achievements, the document starts talking about the facilities at our disposal including this pearler:

Facilities available in 2016

Which then goes on to list such things as:
  • Administration offices
  • Grand foyer entrance 
  • SMFC Museum 
  • Commercial kitchen 
  • Fully operational club bar 
  • 300 seater bistro/restaurant 
  • World Class Futsal court and café 
  • Sports / Merchandise Store

In other words, THE SOCIAL CLUB! Can you believe it?! In 2016 we will finally get there! Or maybe not, because how many other arbitrary dates have been thrown around already in this agonisingly slow and torturous process? A fucken shitload, that's how many. 

Anyway, the document goes on to talk about coaching and such, including the fact that Chris Taylor is our technical director, by which I hope they mean interim technical director as I don't the NPL rules allow you to have your senior coach as your technical director. 

Skipping past the social media palaver, you start getting to the nitty gritty of how this joining of the two estates. Significantly, it includes female representation on board, and the intention to increase female representation in the years to come. This is important because for many, many years, more than most can remember, there have been three broad, if unspoken, conditions for being part of the South Melbourne Hellas board: 
  • Were you baptised Greek Orthodox? 
  • Do you have money? 
  • Do you have a penis? 
Not all three have historically been required for joining the South board, but having two of those three has gone a long way. Have we ever had a female human on our board? This is an important question to ask because a lack of female representation on boards means that you only tap into half the available talent that's on offer - a situation made worse in our predicament whereby being irrevocably stuck in the state leagues takes away much of the incentive for 'talented' people to give up their time.

For a habitually conservative club (not that there's anything implicitly wrong with that) like South Melbourne this could lead to some interesting changes in culture. 50% female representation by 2020? It's a bold ambition to hold, and one I'm not sure some of our members will be willing or able to stomach. Having women's and men's senior matches as double headers by contrast seems almost quaint.

I must admit, I don't know how other clubs with both strong men's and women's programs - such as Box Hill United or Heidelberg - go about their business on this front. It'd be interesting, if I ever had the chance, to pick the brains of some of those involved in such clubs to see how they make it work.

My closing remark on this situation is this. As someone who has long advocated for the return of the women's wing into the broader South Melbourne Hellas family, I am broadly elated at this long overdue development. I hope that good outcomes result from it, such as
  • a larger membership base
  • more scope for revenue
  • a stronger position from which to lobby governments and other organisations
  • a stronger position from which to get SMWFC into the WNPL from 2017
  • another step to getting the club closer to the top of Australian soccer (however fanciful that notion seems)
It could all so easily go to shit, but I really, really, really hope that it doesn't, because done right, this should make both sides of the ledger much stronger.

Player movements and contract statuses
Not much news since last month's update. Thomas Lakic is off to Oakleigh. Nick Epifano didn't get an A-League gig.
Players signed until the end of the 2015 season.
Players with unknown contract statuses
  • David Stirton (rumoured to be heading to Port Melbourne)
  • Fraser MacLaren
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (possibly until end of 2016)
  • Luke Adams
  • Cody Martindale (assume until end 2015)
  • Jake Barker-Daish
  • Nick Morton
  • Andy Bevin (Team Wellington)
  • Thomas Lakic (Oakleigh Cannons)
  • Dane Milovanovic (Hong Kong Pegasus)
2016 Australian Grand Prix date
The date for the 2016 Australian Grand Prix has been revised, being brought back to the weekend of the 19th/20th March, two weeks earlier than the originally scheduled dates of 2nd/3rd April. Once again, a less than ideal situation when it comes to fixturing home matches for us in the earlier rounds.

The year was 1968. We were on recon in a steaming Mekong delta. An overheated private removed his flack jacket, revealing a T-shirt with an ironed-on sporting the MAD slogan "Up with Mini-skirts!". Well, we all had a good laugh, even though I didn't quite understand it. 
Here's an interesting little profile of Nick Epifano by Con Stamacostas, from a recent edition of FourFourTwo Magazine, as part of a series on the top ten players outside the A-League (ie, in the NPL). There may also be an Iqi Jawadi one as well. I wouldn't know, I don't buy FourFourTwo, as even if it does have snippets about South, those bits will be smothered by other, things, you know, of marginal interest to someone like me. That's not a slander on any of that magazine's writers and staff, mind you. People gotta eat, people think differently, and goodness knows I'm not expecting anyone else to live by my absurd but nevertheless finely tuned moral code.

Kookaburras (a couple of people, perhaps known to each other, have alerted me to this)
Is this for real? Like, serious?

They better get exclusivity over the condiments, too
I have heard strange rumours that part of the negotiations involved in the Lakeside lease is an attempt by the club to get exclusivity to the production and sale of souvlaki and souvlaki like products. Will we actually have a place to eat them in any time soon, or indeed ever?