Tuesday, 1 November 2016

October 2016 digest

Two weeks after the season was finished I was glad it was over. Now I'm bored. Anyway, here's some stuff that happened during October.

Congratulations to...
Matthew Foschini for winning the Theo Marmaras Medal for our best and fairest this season. Best and fairest? Maybe just best. Or maybe the guy the who TOLD IT LIKE IT IS AND/OR WAS in post-game interviews more than anyone else. I don't know what the criteria is. But that's small fry news because, drumroll...

Social club news
Well, actually, yes, there is actually some news on this!

First there was this photo from October 13th by board member Tony Margaritis' (who is also working on the redevelopment in his guise as someone who does electrical work, which I suppose is more useful than getting in someone to write a poem or provide an undergrad level cultural studies critique) Twitter feed, showing something maybe happening, albeit two guys just standing around looking busy doesn't automatically mean they are busy being busy. I have a whole bunch of photos of Steve from Broady from when he was on work placement for school at the club when we cleaning out the social club, and I can tell you now still shots of people holding boxes aren't evidence of any work actually being done, especially if they don't include photos of people playing foosball.

Funny story about that foosball table actually, which I can't remember if I've told here before, but ti's the off season and we've got to pad out the time until the new season starts. In cleaning out the absolute junk heap that was the back part of the multimedia room, Steve and I found an old 'assemble it yourself' foosball table. In between actually doing work, we found that there enough pieces available so that we managed to put it together, and I killed Steve in every single game we played - that's what happens when you outlaw spinning and play properly. Anyways the table eventually ended up in the senior change rooms, which may or may not have contributed to the alleged party atmosphere in the change rooms under Gus Tsolakis, and the eventual decline of the on field performance and off field discipline.

Anyway, the talk that there was something to be released from the club on the social club matter got the cynical juices flowing. But then a few days later there was the photo below posted on the club's Facebook page, accompanied by a very low-key media release which included pretty much only the following statement. That's right, I said low-key. No more grandiose verbosities for this matter, just for the time being.

South Melbourne FC would like to confirm that construction has begun on our exclusive areas at Lakeside Stadium.

As part of the extensive development, we will be completing our new offices, social club, restaurant / bar, shop and futsal court.

We anticipate completion by early 2017.

My understanding is that rather than start with the offices first as was originally envisaged, the whole thing will just be done in one big go. There is also of course the matter of the club borrowing money to supplement the government grant allocated for this process.

No one's really talking about what role, if any, dank will play in the design, which is a concern. But early 2017! Who can't help but excited about that? For Twitter folk, Tony's Twitter account might be the best place to get spontaneous updates. That means you'll get little tidbits like the hoped for completion date
and stuff about the museum
It's all very exciting.

AGM date news
Not yet.

Arrivals and departures
While player movements around the rest of the league have been taking place at a brisk pace, there has been little news on the South front. Three departures are the main bit of news -  confirmation that midfielder Iqi Jawadi has officially departed the club, as well as the departures of Amadu Koroma and Chris Irwin. All three departures are sad, in their own way: Jawadi had given good service in midfield, and even added a goalscoring string to his bow, but injury and apparent disaffection took their toll; Koroma filled in for a struggling Tim Mala on several occasions, and added an attacking option, but injury it seems saw him left out of consideration towards the end of the season.  Irwin, whether you thought he was worth the punt of signing in the first place or not, never got much chance, his 'as late as possible substitutions' becoming maddeningly predictable.

As per last time, the following players are known to be contracted for next season.
Players who have left the club.
South Melbourne offered WNPL licence for 2017
South Melbourne has been offered the single expansion licence on offer for the 2017 season of the WNPL. While there were apparently two other applicants, one of which was from a regional consortium, it was expected that South would win the bid, and that's what has happened.

That that expectation has been fulfilled has not been met with acclaim by most people involved with Victorian women's soccer; nor has the reaction of some South fans online, who know very little about the state of women's soccer in Victoria, done much to endear them to those who have doubts about this decision.

Apart from the natural self-interest of the existing licensees, there are also valid questions about whether there is enough depth of talent to go around at this time; as an extension of that question, whether it would have been better therefore to place a team in another regional area; and even some more conspiracy laden accusations that South was granted the licence because FFV president Kimon Taliadoros' daughter plays for South Melbourne.

I can't speak for the depth of talent matter, suffice to say that one shouldn't just brush aside the concerns on that front. On the other hand, much as I like to question South Melbourne's genuine commitment to women's football, if the club does indeed take this seriously - and judging by more recent actions and even their licence application, they do - then South Melbourne will be able to offer facilities to women's football in this state that few other clubs or franchises can or are willing to do.

Having said that, it will be interesting to see how the relationship will then work between South Melbourne with a women's team, and the still nominally independent/it's sometimes hard to tell what's going on there South Melbourne Womens FC. Will there be enforced name changes? How will the two different boards - and unless special exemptions have been made for SMFC, there will still need to be different committees - function? Many interesting questions, but I think on the whole this is a positive development.

Puma Pride!
For the first time since about the year 2000, Puma will be the club's merchandise and kit supplier. That means the end of the deal with BLK, which was touted last year as a boon for the club both financially (massive savings compared to our Adidas deal) and aesthetically (in our being able to design our own playing strips as opposed to getting off the shelf stuff). That the three year deal with BLK lasted just one season probably comes down to the disastrous delivery times produced by BLK - any savings the club may have made, and any benefits from being able to customise our kits meant nothing if couldn't even get anything to sell to fans or even to kit up our players.

Some weren't fond of the BLK merch anyway - I wasn't too amazed with the home or away strips - but I did like the hooped socks (which you can buy online anyway, being just regular footy socks), and the modernised heritage strip they provided for our FFA Cup appearance in 2015 was rather excellent I thought.

On the face of it people are happy to be back with Puma. There's nostalgic reasons for that of course - they were out kit supplier in the club's on field peak. Compared to BLK, it's also a name brand and a soccer brand. Here's hoping that customisable kits are part of the arrangement, and that a trip to Brazil doesn't undo everything like it allegedly did last time we were together.

In recent times Twitter has relaxed the criteria for which accounts it chooses to award its 'blue tick of verification'. And thus the long battle for South Melbourne FC to have that blue tick next to its name is over.
Not a major thing in the scheme of things, but it does make the account look a smidgen more professional and therefore reliable in the minds of those who take things like blue ticks and verification seriously - I'm thinking potential sponsors and everyone who will subliminally hold South Melbourne FC twitter in higher esteem because of this badge.

Offseason digressions - Vicbowl XXXII
Here are the reasons I went to Lakeside during a Sunday evening some time in mid-October to watch the Victorian gridiron championship game.
  • It was at Lakeside, and I was interested in how the field dimensions would work.
  • I don't actually mind American football.
  • I was bored.
The fact that it was free helped, but it wasn't a primary motivating factor.

The field dimensions were interesting. Plenty of space on the sidelines for both teams, thanks to the narrowness of the gridiron. The length of the field was more problematic, because the end zones took up almost all the length of the field. The goal posts were portable (and short) rugby posts rather than the fork goals of American football, but this is understandable given most of these teams probably use rugby goals during the regular season - not that they got much use, as you'll see. To that end, I was also interested in how the thing would be organised. For a small organisation probably not awash with funds, they did a pretty reasonable job. Both stands were open, and there was plenty of security on hand. Not that the crowd warranted the opening of both stands, but on a showpiece day, why not?

One really cool thing was the production of a simple eight page match programme.
Nothing fancy. Full colour, team lists, the gist of the rules. Less impressive was the first game running over time by quite a bit from its scheduled end time, and thus the Division 1 game started close to an hour late, because there were some ceremonial and award duties to be attended to as well. But there was at least some comedy there, with the marching band on hand not getting the memo to hold off their entry until later.
Interestingly the costumed marching band didn't get much more air time than that during the evening.

The match arrangements for the game were pretty professional though. Live video screen, with replays. Commentary over the PA that somehow didn't feel intrusive. No match clock as far as I could tell, but there were play clocks at either end of the field. The referees were miked up, so we got the thrill of NFL referee style explanations.

The crowd was probably split 50/50 between the two sides, with the Footscray (and by association western suburbs based) Western Crusaders having a number of Maori and/or Pacific Islander players and thus also family members and/or friends and relatives in the crowd. The Monash Warriors had their own crew doing some sort of soccer style chanting at times, and there was a decent atmosphere all things considered. Not very much NFL gear in the crowd - if anything, people tended to prefer wearing their team colours.

As for the game itself.... look, here's my take on American football. 
  • It's wonderful to watch when played by two high calibre, evenly matched teams.
I watch a reasonable amount of NFL on 7Mate, but I can't maintain an interest in really lopsided games, or games between mediocre teams.
  • First you love the passing game, then the running game, then you love defence.
That's how I've rationalised my developing relationship with American football. Sure, big down field throws to wide receivers are exciting, but it can get boring pretty quickly, like too many sixes in cricket. And the running game is great, especially when a team gets its rhythm going. But defense! The battle of a great defense against a great offense, where the former has to second guess everything the offense is going to do, and not make any mistakes - which is why my brief exposure to college football was so disappointing. So many high scoring games because of inept defenses. But what to expect from a bunch of amateurs in the truest sense?

Well, I didn't expect quarterback theatrics or pinpoint rapier passes. And that was certainly true of this game. The rain didn't help, but even before it came down, the run game dominated. There were two or three nice long bombs from the Crusaders, but the Warriors scarcely bothered with such antics. If defense, too, is the pinnacle of the professional game, then both sides struggled to deal with the running game, which made the game resemble a stop-start of version of rugby league, perhaps resembling the game as it was a hundred years ago before the use of the forward pass was used with any regularity. One thing which was in sharp contrast to your professional gridiron experience was how quickly the game flew by. I guess with no two minute warnings, few injury breaks, no score reviews and no coach challenges, there's less reason for things to slow down. The game almost felt, dare I say it, brisk.

The game itself was close. The underdog Crusaders opened the scoring with a touchdown, but completely botched the snap for the extra point. The Warriors scored two touchdowns after that, converting one of two attempts at the two point conversion. Another Crusaders touchdown, this time with a failed two point conversion saw them trail 14-12 at halftime. The third quarter was tighter, thanks in part to some desperate goal line defensive stands from the Crusaders, but their ill discipline (chop blocks, especially) and poor decision making cost them in the end. I mean, on 4th and long on your own goal line, just punt it! Instead they went for it and conceded the safety. They got the ball back for one more go, but couldn't do anything with it, losing 16-12. All in all, an interesting and eye opening day, 

MCFC 100 Years doco - some thoughts
Moreland City, via production company 3 Nerds - the same people who did the Fields to Dream series for the FFA Cup last year - put out a film on the 100 years of their club. While that 100 year time frame is contestable if you think it about for more than a few seconds, it's more useful to focus on what the film actually talks about and how it goes about trying to tell Moreland City's story.

And that story is complicated by a number of factors. First is the fact that we are talking not just about one club, Moreland City, nor even about the three clubs that merged to form Moreland City, but also about the other digressions - the split from Brunswick that lead to the formation of Moreland; the war time merger between Moreland and Hakoah; the intermediary merger between Moreland and Park Rangers. There are so many dead ends and diversions in this story, some of which by necessity get covered in more detail than others - and as you'd expect, the more recent something is, the more detailed the story that can be told.

Thus the foundations of Coburg are sketchy at best; Moreland's split from Brunswick, and Brunswick's fate even more so; and the transition from what kind of clubs Moreland and Coburg in particular were before 1945 and after never get satisfactory answers. What we do get though in the post-war analyses is a look at the British migrant soccer experience from an angle not often covered or taken into consideration. While for better or worse, the British player and coaching influence on Australian soccer is reasonably self-evident, the kinds of clubs and people involved with more or less explicitly British (as opposed to Anglo or 'native' Australian) soccer clubs is hidden behind the focus on the exploits of Contintental Europeans.

And in a lot of ways, this angle is the film's greatest strength, even as it avoids being as upfront about that as it could have been. The interviewees are almost all British. Moreland and Coburg apparently had a clear Irish and British influence (visible now in its iconography of the rose, thistle, leek and clover); even Park Rangers, which began as a split of sorts from South Melbourne United/South Melbourne juniors, eventually came to have a strong Scottish/Celtic influence by the time Hugh Murney came along.

It's that sense of Britishness which ties the different strands and different histories together. Post-war, it's quite clear that many of the players for Moreland and Coburg aren't locals; they were Moreland and Coburg in name only, almost in the abstract, much as clubs like South Melbourne eventually came to represent almost nothing of South Melbourne the suburb once all the Greeks moved out of the local area. The same seems to be the case for Coburg and Moreland.

That Britishness is also a hindrance on the short term and long term successes of the various clubs involved in this story. In the short term, despite the pluck shown by Moreland into the late 1950s, the crowds and the cash just do not arrive as they do for other migrant clubs. That great, often unspoken question of why the British migrants - whose numbers exceeded those of every other ethnic group combined - didn't take up soccer as did their Continental equivalents doesn't get teased out more than just the merest hint. But even that small interrogation of the question makes it clear that the absence of broad British migrant interest in Australian soccer held Australian soccer back for decades; more broadly, because their absence made the game look more exotic than it should have done to mainstream Australia, and more narrowly, it prevented clubs like Moreland from becoming anything more than small time community clubs.

That interpretation, much as I think it needs to be made, downplays the importance of clubs like Moreland to their supporters and the communities that converged around them. The Moreland and Coburg rivalry gets a spell, as does the difficulty in coming to terms in merging in order to survive. The success the club gained from the merger - surviving and thriving where before there was seemingly terminal decline - while both opening up the club to the community and attempting to preserve what made the clubs tick is an example to many other clubs going through the same processes of renewal. In Moreland City, meaning has been created which incorporates both the old and the new.

[Naturally this is easier for clubs from ethnic groups which are already more closely culturally aligned to the mainstream. For the old 'wog' clubs, full of old men much further away from the mainstream, the ability to transfer control of their clubs to younger generations - many of which will be made up of junior parents with a more solipsist perspective, or with little concern for the history of the club they will soon take over; but that's another story]

The film is professionally produced, and comes up with clever solutions to certain problems, chief of which is the lack of archival footage and even artefacts, a common problem across the game in general. What Moreland does have compared to other clubs is high quality photos, and some old jerseys, which act as useful additions to the interviews and transition overlays. But there are also drawbacks. The film is clearly too long, with some of its digressions - especially the 1956 Olympics portion of the film - destroying the momentum of the film. Not that that material is unimportant, but it and the tribute to Frank Loughran could have been integrated into the film better.

There is clearly an attempt to squeeze as much as possible into this film, and thus what some people would consider as peripheral matters - pitch alignments, council relationships and aborted 1980s merger talks with Pascoe Vale and Sandringham - get into the discussion. That's OK with me, as I love that kind of information, but it doesn't necessarily make for the most chronologically or thematically coherent film. Nevertheless, there are moments in these matters which could have been tied more closely to the British migrant experience - I'm thinking specifically of a former migrant hostel building in Preston being transported to Campbell Reserve in the guise of club rooms.

But even if you have no interest in any of these historical and sociological questions, the film can still be enjoyed for what it does well - letting the subjects speak freely, and allowing them to get across what Moreland City means to them, and on that front succeeds handsomely. The filmmakers make the various interviewees come across as eloquent, dignified and relateable - the club has its own special qualities (in part because of its theoretical longevity), but it's also 'every club', fighting the same battles that Victorian soccer clubs have had to fight over decades.

I just wish there was more on Park Rangers to be honest, especially before they moved out to Kew.

Around the grounds
Stuck in a rut
Headed to the Socceroos-Japan fixture. Prior to this match your correspondent caught up with a child psychologist and a guy in a suit. That was OK. The game itself was an event spent with a party of four; then one bloke dropped out; another came in, then also dropped out; and then the spare ticket was taken up by of all things, a woman. How modern. The match itself was wearisome - an introverted Japan which after scoring the opening goal, preferred to sit back and wait to be gifted the ball back; and an Australian team that moved from side to side so much that it was like watching a game of Space Invaders, but with much less forward progress. The second half was better, although the penalty was a fortunate one - a player running towards the byline and away from goal on a tight angle probably doesn't need to be fouled. Plan A was eventually enacted, but that didn't work well either. A certain journo friend of mine is right - everyone's gotten too complacent. We just expect Australia to make it through to the World Cup now, and thus there is no tension, no sense of impending doom. Might it be better for Australian soccer to fail at some point to qualify, just to shake things up a bit?

Just remember that...
The ancient Greek oracle was probably high on fumes.


  1. No date for an AGM, lol. Here we go again. At what point will you guys actually hold you board accountable?

  2. How Aleague of you Paul :o)

    Attending a Socceroos (or has this now changed to Football-roos?) match with a Woman AND a guy in a suit.. all you needed in your little party is a 6 year old girl and you comply with all of the FFAs key demographic targets :o).

    Interesting to hear of Gridiron at Lakeside and looking forward to having a social club again. Keep us posted on the transfer movements at the club and any news - I for one look forward to your updates.

    My turn for a bit of a rant/constructive criticism.

    Watching the AFL Grand final last month I feel like SMFC missed an obvious opportunity to engage with our local community and even take an extra step further in building a bridge with the mainstream AFL mad public.

    While a big deal was made about the thousands of Footscray supporters gathered at Whitten Oval to watch their team in the GF we COULD have reached out to the South Melbourne AFL football supporters and invited them to gather at their old traditional stomping grounds to watch the match and enjoy a bit of "ethnic" hospitality.

    The cost of opening the grounds and showing the game on the big screen would have been negligible when compared to the good will this may have generated. Could have charged them $5 -$10 for the privilege and Im sure we could have made a killing in Food/Drink sales. Not to mention the free publicity and the obvious historical tie in - South Melbourne Football lives on in 2016, our heritage FFA red and white strip, same ground etc etc...

    At the very least this would have been a cheap effective way to garner a little respect for little old Hellas in the media and maybe even make a few new friends along the way once these older AFL supporters realized that those "Old soccer wogs" aren't that bad.

    Sometimes I wish we as a club were a little more open to the outside world - Raffling off trips to Greece and selling loukoumades doesn't make us stand out from all the other NPL riff-raff

    1. and where exactly was this hospitality to the Swans going to happen? Goes to show you haven't been to lakeside in over 6+ years!

    2. Anyway, was just thinking out loud ... from what I saw of the Footscray supporters everyone was out on the pitch watching the game on a big screen. Would it have been too hard for the club to do something similar? Even a couple of thousand sitting in the stands watching on the scoreboard would have been alright. There is a canteen and even a food truck for souvas if needed right? The lack of a social club doesn't have to be an excuse.

      My reasoning behind the comment was that all of Melbourne was buzzing over the feel good story of the Footscray "supporters first" policy and how they looked after the die hards who couldn't get GF tickets .. we could have done the same for the Swans. - Do you not think this would have been worth while?

      BTW you know what they say about assumptions right?

      Didn't actually miss any home games this year (got full value on membership).. and 8-9 away games BTW - so not sure why the personal attack on my attendance?

    3. We'd actually have to have control of our own ground to be able to do anything near that. Sad.

    4. "Sometimes I wish we as a club were a little more open to the outside world - Raffling off trips to Greece and selling loukoumades doesn't make us stand out from all the other NPL riff-raff"

      What a world we live in, someone who actually thinks South is too ethnic. A-League franchises are more outwardly ethnic than South ffs.

    5. My understanding of the raffle was two tickets to anywhere in Europe, the only thing ethnic about that was the carrier, Air Serbia in conjunction with Etihad. Ethnic carriers... shame on South collaborating with the Serbs and the Arabs. Maybe the souv stand should be booted out as well because it's Greek fare, we should stick to Chico rolls. Stupid.

    6. Travelling by Air Serbia would be like that scene out of police academy with lasarde and proctor.

    7. Never actually said anything about ethnics or Hellas being too ethnic ....... Im quite comfortable in my heritage thanks and certainly dont feel the need to have to explain it to some barbarian jingoist.

      My dream is to be able to follow the team I love in the highest level of soccer competition in this country, run in a professional manner and continuing into the future for many generations to come, something that would make the founding fathers very proud, Im sure.

      Im just upset I didnt win the raffle, I was already dreaming of lying on the beach in the Aegean sun with a fraps in hand :o)

    8. "Never actually said anything about ethnics or Hellas being too ethnic "

      Yeah you did, its exactly what you said.

  3. What about the 'North Terrace' of Mcvictory getting shut down Paul? Just another group of franchise criminals. I like you am also bored on the weekend without heading down to South.

    1. I'm just enjoying the NT theatrics from afar.

      More immediately curious is Harry Stamoulis' and Robert Belteky's Tasmanian A-League bid. You think you've seen everything in Australian soccer...

  4. Great to see progress on the construction of the Social Club. It is one of the main things that I am looking forward to next season. Having a meal, chatting with a player over a beer, or just somewhere to call home and spend hang with friends dissecting the match.

    I am a bit disappointed that an AGM date has not been set, but surely we could hold it this calendar year?

    I am the opposite Paul. I'm actually enjoying the break. Before we know it, we'll be spending our weekends around the NPL grounds again.

  5. Harry Stamoulis Grandson / Nephew plays at South

    1. You mean his son? He did have a son (Spiro) playing in the under 20s at South recently, until he went to Spain as part of that, I assume, Genova arrangement. Unless this is referring to another kid?

  6. Looks like BLK has gone into administration.


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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.

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