Monday, 30 May 2016

Laughable - Heidelberg United 5 South Melbourne 0

I went to four games this week, and somehow the South game was the most hideous and lopsided game of them all. Because of that, people are probably expecting some sort of fire and brimstone report, but the truth is, I'm still laughing from last night's antics. I mean, what else can you do when watch your team capitulate so badly, in a season where we've scored a six, a five, two fours and copped a six and a five - and only fourteen games into the 26 game home and away season? And somehow still find ourselves on top of the table, thanks to Bentleigh managing only a draw on the synthetic turf at Bulleen?

Besides which, pretty much every South supporter - whether they lean towards trying to find the positives at all costs or whether they're more the type that wants to drive the bus off the cliff at the first setback - knows our deficiencies this season. They include, among other things, an isolated and increasingly frustrated forward who like the rest of the team is currently struggling to score from open play. The delivery into the box was once again poor, and when the ball did fall loose in and around the box, more often than not there weren't enough South players in the vicinity to make the most of those chances.

For about half an hour or so, the game was evenly matched, with both sides attacking and looking somewhat dangerous. Even the Bergers' opening goal didn't immediately suggest that an avalanche was headed our way. But one could have perhaps looked at it another way - even as the early part of the game ebbed and flowed, we rarely if ever tested the Heidelberg keeper, whereas the home side had forced Roganovic into making some saves. Still, that doesn't quite excuse copping the second goal from another set piece, and coughing up the third goal soon afterwards. Kenny Athiu in particular was a nightmare for our defense, too big and too mobile, in stark contrast to what was happening at the other end.

That the difference between our best and our worst can be so far apart means that one has no idea which South side is going to turn up on any given day. For a side that has built a reputation these past few seasons on its resolute consistency - even as it has bored some of our fans to death - this is an interesting development which I don't think Chris Taylor will be too pleased with.

Quite a few people are calling for reinforcements during the transfer window, and that's understandable. My worry is however that another striker or better mids aren't going to be of much use if the formation and tactical approach largely stays the same. Not every problem can be solved with a cheque-book, even in this league. What I want to see is a Plan B, or a Plan C - maybe even just a plan where we perhaps play two up front and take some of the focus off Milos, and make the side less predictable. What was most disappointing last night is that it was unclear what the plan was once we came out of the sheds. Somehow we came out looking even more disheveled after the break than we had before it.

One thing I noticed recently was that in an interview (which damned if I can find the link to now), Chris Taylor claimed he didn't much focus on what the opposition did, as long his team did what it was told to do. George Katsakis on the other hand, after this match, noted the homework they'd done on us and the efforts put in on shutting down our mains strengths. How much one can take out of those kinds of comments in isolation I don't know - and there may be a certain degree of misdirection in there - but a personal annoyance of mine for some years now has been the apparent lack of interest in what other teams are doing.

And while we have addressed this issue apparently for this season with an 'opposition scout', it still falls short of the kind of legwork people like George Katsakis put in not just in scouting opponents, as well as players and teams from other comps, but also networking - the art of seeing and being seen. Anyway, that's a topic for another day, and besides which there was apparently a South crew at the Bergers' spit roast night last Thursday, so maybe we're getting better at these things anyway.

There was much stupidity and silliness at this game. Apparently a young South supporter had tried to use bolt cutters to try and enter the ground. Pretty stupid if true. There was also what appeared to be a flare lit on the grandstand side of the ground, along with some sort of commotion.  As the game degenerated into farce, Clarendon Corner at least tried to make light of the situation - which would have at least pleased those who get annoyed when South fans start abusing the team. There were dust storms created by stamping on the ground underneath the shed, which filtered up into the air. There was an attempt by a few people at running behind Heidelberg Harismidis and waving their arms along with him - a means of amusing oneself which ended after people realised pretty quickly that it was hard work keeping up with him.

There was also much jocular chanting, including '6-5 on aggregate', which could have so easily backfired if the Bergers had scored another one - and they could have easily done so. Small mercies and all that. Most hilarious of all was perhaps the penalty miss from the People's Champ - at 5-0 down it wouldn't have made much difference except for the record books, but having failed to score from two out of his last three penalty attempts, this is hardly another problem we need, when we have had such a good run with penalties and opposition red cards so far this season, a run which will surely have to end soon.

Next game / FFA Cup updates
Not much time to dwell on what happened yesterday though, as we play North Geelong in the FFA Cup on Wednesday night. This game has been moved from Elcho Park to Port Melbourne, as North Geelong couldn't meet the lighting requirements in order to host this game. Good news for public transport using folk and people who live nowhere near Lara. Bad news for people who like peripatetic adventures when it comes to Victorian soccer.

The winner of this game has been drawn to play away against Bentleigh in the next round. A poisoned chalice if ever I saw one.

Victory supporters banned by FFV - charges for Victory itself yet to be announced
Last week FFV held tribunal sessions for those charged with offenses related to the incidents at the South vs Victory match earlier this year. They have also published the results of those tribunal sessions on their website. For the six people who appeared at the tribunal, all plead guilty and all were given bans of various time frames. The other eleven did not appear at the tribunal, and received automatic five year bans - though if they choose to make an appearance within.

Several 'anomalies', for want of a better word, have already been noticed by several online commentators. First, in their tribunal sessions as individuals, the first six Victory supporters to visit the tribunal did not have their club associations attached to their tribunal notice. Perhaps due to some online criticisms made, this was later rectified when the entire list of 17 offenders was put up.

Several punters also noted the anomaly of some of those who were banned by the tribunal being given multiple but concurrent bans of differing length. This is because some of those involved were current players from other clubs, including two from Frankston Pines and one from a Northcote underage NPL team, as reported by MFootball's initial article on the matter. One of those found guilty also seems to be a qualified or at least aspiring referee, if the ban on their officiating games is anything to go by.

The online reaction to the initial tribunal sessions seemed to suggest that a lot of people were unaware that the FFV was going to also deal with Melbourne Victory's role as one of the participating clubs at a later date. Eventually this anger perhaps lead to FFV putting out a statement noting that charges would soon be laid against Melbourne Victory. On the face of things, this was good news for South, as the statement does not include any mention of South being charged with any breaches. Less encouraging was that FFV has mentioned they are still looking for more participants in the fight from both sides.

Until then, a Victorian soccer public hungry for justice, waits.

Around the grounds
In search of the right result
Trundled out to Somers Street for some FFA Cup action on Tuesday night and parked at the furthest extremes of the car park, where there's still some actual grass. Despite the extra metres I'd have to walk both to and from the ground, the decision may have helped save my vehicle from being struck by a REDACTED launched after the conclusion of the game. Still, even as REDACTED hung in the air as REDACTED are designed to do, it wasn't as pretty as the moon that night. Knights were the home team, taking on Croatian brothers or sisters (let's just say siblings) Dandenong City Chelsea Hajduk, but despite the visitors making a show of it, their defense was rubbish; they copped two goals in a minute midway through the half, and never looked like getting back in the game after that. It was 3-0 at halftime, and 3-1 at full time - an injury time goal scored by City which probably had some Singapore based gambler crying into his char kway teow for ruining his clean sheet spot bet. Almost nothing of note happened in the second half, apart from me riffing on Twitter about said boredom, and beginning the campaign to get South to make beanies with pompoms on them. Seeing as how my campaign to get hooped socks onto the uniform only took six years to come to fruition, one should be patient.

I remember nothing
Port vs Oaks at Port. Even this far from the finish line - smack bang on halfway - Port needed to win this in order to keep touch with the top six. In that sense, losing this match 4-1, with their one goal coming very, very late, was not a good outcome for the Sharks. Oh, but it all could have turned out so differently. The whole goal face to aim at, and yesterday's hero Adrian Zahra hit his early shot right at John Honos. Later, Oakleigh make hay out of Port's defensive lapse sunshine, and things just got worse from there, though Oakleigh's finishing was tidy. Not that Port's season is over by any means, but it looks like their focus might be on the FFA and/or Dockerty Cups now. Or maybe like 90% of the clubs in this competition, that's where it always was.

Things are grim for Altona East. One win, one draw and being knocked out by a lower league opponent was all they had to show so far in 2016. One of the locals noted to me that since they don't win at home, today was likely to be another bad day; I noted that East doesn't seem to be winning anything, it probably didn't matter where they played. Things got even worse when East found themselves 3-0 down at home within 20 minutes or so to a mediocre Westgate side. Somehow East managed to get themselves into the sheds only 3-2 down, which lead to the necessary tantrum from the Westgate brains trust at halftime. A side footed volley from probably 20 metres out just after the break, that swerved out of the reach of the Altona East goalkeeper and into the side of the net was wonderful to watch, and just about sealed the game. A junk time goal to each side late on proved the point that more goals ≠ more quality, no matter how much deluded soccer haters may think otherwise. 

Final thought
Only copped half as many as Nunawading did on the weekend, yet even they managed to score - from a free kick no less.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

South win 2016 Apertura title - Green Gully 0 South Melbourne 1

After walking around the HV McKay Gardens during the morning and having Afghan food for lunch, it was time to drive Chris Egan and Gains up to Green Gully Reserve in order to return to the scene of the crime as it were. And yes, while one did consider turning around and heading to the MCG because Collingwood were up by seven goals against Geelong at quarter time, we did end up making the turn onto Green Gully Road and into Gully's Chinese finger trap car park.

A couple of changes as well. No Luke Adams because of international duty, so Matthew Foschini was at centre back alongside Michael Eagar. Marcus Schroen made way for Iqi Jawadi's first start in many weeks, and Steven Hatzikostas also got a start. Were we a bit mosquito fleet in midfield with Mathew Theodore playing the attacking midfield role he's best suited to? Sure, but it actually seemed to work.

The difference, if anything, is that we seemed to press up on Green Gully in a way that we have not been doing to our opponents for... well, I'll let you guys decide how long. Most NPL defenses, with the probable exception of Bentleigh, can't play their way out of the back without hoofing it out or up the field, but even by those standards Gully's defense yesterday was all over the shop. They panicked even in rudimentary defensive situations, gifting us corners, throw ins and possession in dangerous positions on a regular basis.

Yes there was a noticeable breeze heading towards the car park end goal to which we were heading in the first half, but that doesn't explain some of the poor decision making by Gully. One of these poor decisions eventually lead to our goal, with us being given a penalty after a rather clumsy attempt by a Gully defender to prevent Amadu Koroma from playing the ball in the 18 yard box. Despite having a penalty saved last week against Pascoe Vale, the People's Champ once again took responsibility for the spot kick duties, eventually scoring from a stutter-y if not quite stuttering approach, but that's just one of those things open to interpretation.
and in case you're wondering why the 'Folau' reference, no, old mate Israel hasn't decided to take up soccer - here's the correction from John Patitsas soon afterwards.
So was the People's Champ's penalty stride one continuous motion? Probably just, but you know what they say about being technically correct. What was quite daft was Green Gully keeper Dowisha running up to referee Shaun Evans to complain, as if Evans was going to change his mind because he asked him to. I admit there was a point there where after the penalty was converted and Dowisha and his teammates made their pleas for re-consideration, that time seemed to stand still, but the goal stood and Dowisha got a yellow card for his trouble.

The goal was no less than we deserved on the balance of play, and the greatest disappointment was that we couldn't add to that goal. Crosses kept missing, corners again were dire, and our free kicks lacked venom, albeit at least for once they tended to be on target. Oh, how good would it have been had Mathew Theodore's first half shot crashed in off the cross bar instead of out?

Defensively, bolstered by a hungry and tenacious midfield, we looked strong, albeit there were a couple of moments - as much due to the wicked spin of the match balls, which also caught out some Gully defenders at times - where we needed to rely on Nikola Roganovic's reflexes. Mostly that was at the end, thank goodness, where he did what he had to do.

After so many years of struggling to win at this ground, to make it four wins here in four years says a lot about how much we've improved as a team during that time, and how much perhaps Gully has if not stalled, than at least retreated from its one time ruthlessness of the Dobson years.

Instead of being butchered to death (apart from a couple of dubious late tackles) and struggling to play against the masters of grinding out a result, we had to withstand mostly silly and pointless fouling and at best only had to endure a late flurry of action which, while it could have resulted in an equaliser, did not. We were in control for eighty of the ninety minutes, and even that ten minute period at the end where Gully started throwing the kitchen sink at us doesn't diminish that fact.

That doesn't mean we played anywhere near to our potential, and we still look vulnerable from a number of ailments. First and foremost is our dependence on Milos Lujic as the lone man up front, which relies a lot on the wide players getting into the box to take some of the heat - and the markers - off Milos. At least yesterday Milos came up closer to the midfield to collect some balls, meaning that space was created behind him.

The second problem isn't far removed from the first one - what if Milos goes down with a long term injury? There is no other player in our squad with the same blend of physique and skill ready to slot into that role - it's arguable that apart from Leigh Minopoulos, a very different kind of forward, we don't even have any strikers full stop. The transfer window opens up soon, but should a striker even be signed by us, it would probably necessitate a change in the game plan, something which has not necessarily been at the top of our to do list these past few seasons.

We still have a problem with defending diagonal balls, which Gully only really seemed to take notice of late in the game, and which Koroma - who seemed to be the main defender being targeted - did well enough in defending most of the time. It was actually strange to see so little of the play on the concourse side of the ground in the second half, where there would have been more shelter to use against the wind.

Still, these are problems you'd admittedly rather have while being top of the table, and not in places other than that. Nevertheless there will come a point where people will see that period of struggle between the 2006 championship and the Chris Taylor helmed resurgence as irrelevant to what happens now. And that would be fair enough. Not that we have done poorly, but the measure of success which many fans will have used to score this side - which once would have been limited to 'oh my goodness, we no longer completely suck!' - will change.

Next game
Heidelberg away.

...and justice for all
Since Jason Newsted is still waiting for justice, than perhaps we can wait a little longer for the tribunal date for the Victory incident. But not too much longer surely.

Does anyone actually care? - social media edition
As a Twitter fiend - attempts to wean myself off the medium have been only moderately successful at best - I am interested in following the conversation that centres on the NPL Victoria on that platform. Now, being a not very popular league, there isn't much interest overall on Twitter. That's to be expected, and not something we should get alarmed at.

And despite Twitter's potential, the medium itself is retreating into re-tweets of news and information instead of original content (as is happening with other social media platforms, including Facebook). Aside from that problem, even when a popular event (such as an AFL match) starts trending, the kind of talk that takes place resembles something more akin to people yelling into the breeze than actually talking with one another.

If Twitter is to become just another shorthand news source, that's not so much of a problem (except for Twitter itself, perhaps), but the lack of engagement from ordinary NPL punters is interesting, especially when FFV has (quite rightly) put more emphasis on NPL Victoria clubs' use of social media. Now obviously quite a few won't have Twitter at all, but most people have Facebook accounts these days, yet for the most part the engagement levels seem about the same, taking into account a lot more people use Facebook than Twitter.

While Twitter is my main focus in this aimless thinking out loud piece, the lack of engagement on Facebook for many teams - where more of their support, both actual and latent, resides - is also worth noting. A few weeks ago, after we had defeated Bentleigh in that very exciting match, Bentleigh Greens had posted a video of an exasperated Johnny A blaming the length of the grass as part of the reason his team didn't win. Myself and a couple of other South fans decided to post on their Facebook page making note of last year's painted grass fiasco, comments which were deleted by the Bentleigh Facebook admin.

That we could just re-post the same critique on Twitter without them being able to do anything about it was not really the issue. More interesting was that on that and so many other Bentleigh posts, there were no comments. Yes, they're not the best supported club out there, but it's not so much different for South Melbourne Facebook posts, especially considering the vast amount of (real or bought or whatever) 'likes' we have compared to other teams.

People may read the social media updates, occasionally click on 'like', but beyond that there's not much engagement unless there's controversy. It's not much different for South games on Twitter. It's usually me, SMFCMike and... that's about it. And I've taken my foot off the Twitter pedal this year for South games this year so I can focus more attention on the game and the real world banter. But even in other games, there's quite a lack of Twitter discussion for most NPL Victoria games, with the exception of the news sources and the global gambling 'community'.

I suppose it's easier to become engaged on social media when you're a neutral, or if you're watching a game on television - and while you're seated, if you happen to be in a stadium. It's easier to also to feel the need to post something if you think someone else cares, and with a niche product like the NPL, that kind of motivation is often hard to find.

A fellow blogger newer to the blogging game asked me recently how many hits I was getting - a reasonable question. My response was about 400-600 hits for match reports, a lot less for artefact segments. If a game has had a measure of controversy, those posts tend to get a lot more traction. It's little surprise that the antics of the People's Champ at last year's game at Green Gully fits into the category of well visited match report posts.

Only three of my top ten posts hit-wise are from match reports, and that's fair enough - they're not my main forte skill-wise, and most South people still interested in South tend to be at the games most weeks. Editorial pieces or posts where I'm covering off-field sagas often get a lot more interest, because I'm one of the few covering them in a public forum, especially when it comes to issues directly affecting South.

But it's very difficult to gain traction - the narrow focus, the league we're in, all of these things makes getting and maintaining a large audience difficult. Not that I have an issue with that personally, but it's an example of how hard it is to get an audience for media based around a second tier competition in Australia. At least I write on a club with some supporters, and with a residual level of interest in Australian soccer circles. For lesser supported clubs with no great history or even tendency towards controversy, there's not much chance of developing an audience from such meager ingredients.

While I don't disagree that trying to use Twitter or Facebook is a good thing for clubs - few do it well enough, though they are getting better - I'm interested in knowing what the FFV hopes the clubs can achieve in the long run. An event such as South vs Knights (or similar) FFA Cup match will get some traction because of the fixture's 'event' status, but the same fixture as a league game will only get smidgen of the same attention.

For my part, even if my hit numbers stay small, the number of comments has increased a fair bit, and that indicates a steady level of engagement. Maybe there is sort of community built around this site (or even the now outdated idea of a 'forum') that needs to be looked at by FFV and various NPL clubs, and that merely spewing out a stream of news bites isn't enough to engage people, let alone keep them engaged.

Or maybe we should just be prepared to all ride the controversy relevance roller-coaster.

Around the grounds (NPL hurrah!)
I didn't manage to get to any other games this week.

Final thought
Who cares if this is recycled from last year's game?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Volunteer artefact Wednesday - SMSC Supporters group leaflet

A short and sharp piece for this segment this week.

Nestled in one of the South Melbourne match programmes I'd uploaded recently was this leaflet produced by the South Melbourne Supporters Group, calling for volunteers to help out with all the things that they were already doing for the club, as well as all the things they'd like to be able to do, if only they had more people...

As we've seen before, the South Melbourne Supporters Group and its members weren't afraid of printing materials which would run counter to the hegemonic narrative provided by the board, whether in the official club match day programmes they helped put together, its own one-off publication The Maverick - which we now have a full version of - as well as commentary in Studs Up

But as much as the group had political aims, and were contributors to the discourse on how the club should be run, this leaflet shows that they weren't limited to mere talk - they were also an important part of the running of the club, even if they weren't always shown the appreciation they were due. One hopes that our presently large legion of volunteers are treated better these days.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Frustration - South Melbourne 0 Pascoe Vale 1

Even if I had said that according to the laws of probabilities we were due for a loss, and it doesn't negate the fact that losing still sucks, no matter how mcuh you psychologically prepare for it. Losses being comparatively rare nowadays compared to some of our worst periods during the post-NSL era doesn't make things any easier; on the contrary, it stings even more.

Are there good times to lose? Probably not, but there are better times to lose than any others, and most would take a loss here if it meant that mistakes were learned from for the important games coming up. Are there good ways to lose? Again, probably not, but one would probably prefer a side to go down fighting, against adversity or through sheer bad luck than have to put up with such a mediocre attempt to achieve what was expected of you when the situation was so much in our favour.

We had it all laid out for us. The indirect free kick for a back pass (which I maintain was a good call though I'm willing to allow for a different interpretation); the red card, which saw Pascoe Vale play with ten men for 70 minutes; and the penalty which had we scored would have likely seen us take all the points.

Instead the People's Champ run of penalty scores came to an end, and we spent the game reminiscing about how great the Palm Beach game was, sending in poor cross after poor cross, wasting corner after corner, and refusing to adjust tactically - especially not seeking to support the tightly marked Milos Lujic.

Even after that, there was the Pascoe Vale keeper dropping even innocuous efforts on goal, and yet we were seldom there to make the most of those opportunities. Indeed the longer the game went on, the less likely we looked like scoring.

Credit to Pascoe Vale, who played for a win even with only ten men, who looked more dangerous than we did and not just because they were counter attacking, but because their shots had some sort of venom and purpose to them. They also managed the clock brilliantly, using up as much time as the referee would allow.

For South only Nikola Roganovic in goal could be said to have had a good game, even if he didn't probably know much about how he made some of those saves. Every other outfielder, even those who came off the bench, generally failed to make an impact on the game. Whether it was just one of those days or the sign of a deeper malaise we'll see in the next month or so.

Next week
Green Gully away on Saturday, to complete the first half of the home and away season.

Stretched at the back 
Defender Luke Adams has been called up into the New Zealand squad for the upcoming OFC Nations Cup, which spans from late May until mid-June. One assumes he will be present at a pre-tournament camp before that, which could see him miss as many as three or four weeks. With Kristian Konstantinidis suffering from some sort of injury, it will be interesting to see how the side gets re-shuffled - especially in that crowded part of the schedule where we have cup matches to play as well.

Nick Maikoussis farewelling the NPL, as South prepares to enter A-League
Willing and able (so long Stinktown!)
South Melbourne director Nick Maikoussis was a guest on the Mark van Aken hosted Daily Football podcast, making the case for South 's ambitions to the enter the A-League. Now before anybody gets upset (just wait a second, you'll get your chance), this was not as I understand it a South initiated burst of attention seeking, but rather part of a weekly series where this podcast looks at those who may be interested in putting their hand up for A-League licences should the opportunity to apply for them ever come up again.

For those who listened in (not me), the things that stood out from this discussion were the claim we would get an average crowd of 12,000(!), calling ourselves a franchise (which lead to the chant on Friday 'we're just another franchise'), and describing the NPL as a lifeless competition - which while certainly arguable, is interesting to hear from a director of the club who has to sell the league and our club's role in it to sponsors and such. Still, credit to Maikoussis for taking off some of the PR filters I suppose.

Anger is a gift (but keep the receipt just in case)
So the one-time capo of the one-time leading Melbourne Victory terrace group Blue and White Brigade - one Adam 'Tunna' Tennenini - earned the ire of South fans and assorted well-wishers (and he'll note that not all of them were Greek) on Friday by unleashing a pretty full on tirade on Facebook in response to the latest bout of discussion on South's A-League ambitions.

(And before we continue, I'd like to say that I understand where he's coming from even if I disagree with his reasoning, but he's really going about this the wrong way by giving into base emotion, instead of attempting to rise above it all)

The tirade - displayed here - was eventually deleted, but the internet being what it is, there was little chance that the screen-grab was going to disappear into the aether (update/correction - it has come to my attention that the post was made on Tennenini's 'private' Facebook, and that the post still exists there - nevertheless, the point that once something has been published on the net, it never really dies, still stands - something which we should all keep in mind. Tennenini has also claimed since that it was a private joke intended to wind up some of his Greek mates, a claim which had begun circulating several days ago, but one which people are rightly skeptical of, including myself.)

Now unlike some others who displayed genuine outrage, faux outrage, fauxrage and 'I can't believe it's not outrage!', I was neither surprised nor disappointed by Tennenini's comments, as they are in line with his beliefs on these matters stretching back a number of years - though I've always wondered if there's been some sort of personal slight he's suffered at the hands of South to come up with nonsense about us being an unrepentant mono-ethnic club hiding in plain sight, with only people like him being able to see the 'lizard people' interior beneath our human skin.

Because of that, I decided instead to provide a series of increasingly monotonous and unfunny tweets on the matter while killing time on the train on the way to a hipster burger joint on Clarendon Street.
Your correspondent did (eventually) manage to note the irony of Tennenini actually having participated in the self-evidently mono-ethnic Hellenic Cup for Essendon United back in 2010, including having played against that The Great Satan of Australian Soccer. Seems like his principles have their limits, or perhaps he reasoned that being a team-player was more important that night.

Still, in amid the mostly pointless mud-slinging of both sides, it was well spotted (by SMFCMike) that Tennenini is a currently serving referee, even having recently refereed NPL under 18s matches; meaning that Tennenini could be in contention to officiate games involving clubs that he believes, if we are to take the relevant post as reflecting his most honest opinion, shouldn't exist in Australian soccer.

While one would be very reticent to allege these views would ever find their way into being enacted into his refereeing duties - and having marshaled at matches Tennenini has played in at the Corporate Games several years ago, his teams were among the best behaved and organised - it's still an astounding thing to say for a referee, especially one with the profile he has gained over the past decade.

Many of the protestations fell into the usual tropes of bitter vs new dawn, although some were more sensible and flavoured with the personal touch of those involved with South who are not Greek, and at least got closer to the heart of the matter (even if indirectly); that just because some people have an idea that clubs like South still act like they're in 1959, the reality is far from that; and besides which, shouldn't clubs be allowed to change and evolved over time anyway? (and isn't that inevitable?)
Though Umberto Eco notes in his essay on 'inventing the enemy' that these ways of understanding are ‘the prerogative of poets, saints or traitors’.

To be honest, rather than the broad thrust of Tennenini's argument, I'm most interested in just one of his remarks - that on his being willing to abandon the A-League should 'Hellas or any mono-ethnic club' return to the A-League, with the further assertion that many others would also do the same.

This is an argument which I have not seen made, and certainly not so vociferously, for a long time - and even back then it was my perception that it was never that widespread even in its heyday of the earliest years of the A-League. What's strangest about making such a boast is that in all likelihood there will never be a time where we will be able test this theory out in a practical sense. (those of you who think South's entry to the A-League is as good as imminent or inevitable can just skip along a few paragraphs).

Through various practical machinations and ideological mutterings, it has been made fairly clear by FFA that South Melbourne is not destined to ever be an A-League team. Because of this near irrefutable fact - prove me wrong, uncaring universe - bleatings like Tennenini's promising to abandon the A-League and Australian soccer are at best postured idle threats, and at worst postured caricatures of forum discussions from 2005. One could of course be tempted to wade in and take down each argument one by one, but the arguments have so little relevance to the way most people go about following and talking about Australian soccer that they come across as quaint.

It does say something though for the insecurity which still persists among some followers of the A-League, that even eleven years down the track and with all that's passed, there are people who still think it's worthwhile to get angry at this stuff! Still, it would be interesting to find out how widespread this point of view is - and how willing those who hold this belief would be willing to act upon it. Indeed I noted, only half-joking that,
Though the internet's own 'jgrb' did make the salient point that,
Now the question then becomes how would one go about enacting this experiment? Suggestions are most welcome, as the best that I could come up with was an idea so ludicrous you'd need another set of A-League franchise owners as well as another Australian soccer TV deal to make it happen.

As to the consequences, well, one could only hypothesise as to how these things may turn out. My preference would be for someone much more more talented than me to write some speculative fiction on the matter; I'd do it, but I'd be too torn between writing something vaguely plausible, and something that would see Australian soccer suffer the same fate as the Montsou mine after Emile Zola's anarchist Souvarine blows it up because he thinks that only by starting from scratch (and by that I mean really starting from scratch, not the comparative half-asred A-League re-boot) can we have any chance of setting up a proper and just society.

Don't mind me, I've just been reading some work by that nihilist romantic Chuck Pahlaniuk.

The eternal battle for street cred (let's not end up back at Kappa snap pants)
Old chum Chris Egan wrote a piece on last week's ROY HAY'S ORIGINAL MELBOURNE DERBY, which sent the blood flowing to the groinal area of Knights fans and upset some South people. But what was the main point of discontent? Egan's description of South fans being middle class by virtue of being snappier dressers. Some people thought that broadly speaking we were just as scungy as Knights fans. Not that I want to start a bad fashion arms race or anything.

Attention Lou Z! (re: match programmes)
You sent me an email a couple of weeks back about lending me some match programmes for the purposes of scanning. Unfortunately, when I tried to reply, I got a 'postmaster fail' message. If you could either send me the same email from a different email address, or come see me at a game, I'm sure we could arrange something. Cheers.

Moreland vs Hakoah, Dockerty Cup, 1956 (a historical digression)
I went to ACMI on Wednesday to see a short archival film, called 'Australian Notebook No. 3'. The first part of this newsreel (which had no sound, even on the original film), contained a demonstration of fly fishing; the second part contained a segment on a pilot returning to Essendon Airport having flown non-stop from Fiji; and the third part contained footage of a soccer match.

The soccer match was between Moreland and Hakoah, playing in the semi-finals of the 1956 Dockerty Cup. The game finished 1-1, with Hakoah winning the replay. The footage of the soccer match, which went for about two minutes, showed the two teams entering the stadium, with action mostly from one end (mostly scrappy play and lofted balls) and some crowd shots. The footage was of surprisingly good quality - it had been digitised from degraded 16mm stock, but there are also other better copies from which one could get even better quality conversion.

Unfortunately getting the film out to the wider public, especially online, is very unlikely. While anyone can access the film at ACMI's Mediatheque facility, the copyright of the film is such that there's very little chance of it being put online on either ACMI's or the National Film and Sound Archive's online channels. In copyright terms, the film is classified as an 'orphan' - there are no details about how the film was sourced, let alone which company could possibly be classed as owning the rights to the film.

The best we could probably hope for is to get a limited licence on behalf of the FFV Historical Committee (of which I am a member), which would allow us to use the film for private use. Nevertheless it was a delight to see the film, especially because the game was played at the Showgrounds, and I can't imagine there'd be much footage from soccer matches played there; there is also the novelty of seeing Victorian soccer of that era on film in any capacity.

Final thought
I lost my USB key - here's hoping that someone has handed it in to my university's lost and found, because it has most of my work on it. :(

First update - I think I remember now where I saw it last.

Second update - found with the help of an Adelaide City supporting security guard.

Several people noted on Friday night that Kosta and Blue Thunder security were no longer in charge of security at Lakeside. While some folks noted that perhaps our poor performance was due to some sort of curse was placed on the club by Kosta, it's only on this Sunday morning that this writer remembers that Kosta was a former Pascoe Vale player...

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Another week, another win - Melbourne Knights 2 South Melbourne 5

When both common sense and statistics tell you that, because you've been playing mediocre football yet still harvesting points at an alarming rate, you're therefore due for a loss, copping a goal in the opening minutes of a match actually has a reassuring effect. You get yourself into the head space of 'here we go, this is the loss we had (or will have) to have', and we will all be the better for it - either because the team will make the necessary corrections to bounce back the following or flail into a downward spiral of genuine mediocrity, which at least erases hope and provides a safe and familiar feeling of turgid self-loathing.

Instead we managed to score two quick goals to take the lead, were reminded that the game was in the balance and - worst of all - that from this position we would expect to win. And so when Knights equalised, it threw all assumptions into the air, because here we had two wonky defenses and about 70 minutes or whatever it was to go in the match. Though one suspected that eventually the scoring would stop, one also felt that it wouldn't be down to any improvement in either side's defensive efforts, but rather profligate finishing from the forwards.

As it was, both sides frittered away opportunities, but we got on top as the first half wore on, and probably should have gone into half time further ahead than merely 3-2. The turning point of the match, such as one could be plucked out of such a messy affair, was Knights having a man sent off for a foul denying the People's Champ a clear goalscoring opportunity. The red card itself seems not to be in question, and having awarded the foul anyway the referee could do nothing other than send off the relevant Knights player.

The main point of contention then was whether the People's Champ was offside in the immediate moment before he received the pass which lead to the red card. Such concern is understandable because the amount of open space in front of him was huge, but the photographic evidence suggests that he'd done well to remain in his own half before Marcus Schroen passed the ball to him.

Marcus Schroen passes the ball to Nick Epifano, still in his own half and miles in the clear. Note also the 'Hate Hellas' banner located in front of MCF. Cute. Photo: SMFC TV screen shot that I got off smfcboard.

There was some mention of those sitting in the grandstand that one Knights fan in the vicinity was particularly irate with the decision, accusing MFootball (who were doing the internet radio broadcast) of being Greek radio, while the broadcast was infected by expletive laden rants from the crowd. Ah, the perils of sitting among the hoi polloi.

Still, while it was good to get the man advantage, I would have preferred the People's Champ to score the goal - in the end his poor touch after getting the ball tangled in his feet probably gave the Knights defender a sort of false hope that he could get to the ball, or at least put the People's Champ off his shot.

After that Knights of course tried their best to get back on level terms, and even had a goal ruled out for offside, a call which some Knights fans weren't particularly happy with, especially when paired up with the perceived Epifano offside in the lead up to the red card.
Cue relief from our end, but also the return of the weekly paranoia that we can't finish off teams, even (and perhaps especially) those who are down to ten men. But we managed to withstand the Knights' forays forward and EVEN MANAGED TO SCORE FROM A CORNER, eventually running over the top of a tiring Knights side as substitute Chris Irwin's pace was used to exploit the situation.

As the lead was extended to three goals, and the tension among the South fans on Quarry Hill lifted, one could laugh at the 'Ma-ke-do-ni-a' chant which came from the direction of MCF. It was that kind of night - too many goals if we're being honest with ourselves, but at least most of them were from us. That, and by the time this post got published, we were five points clear at the top of the table thanks to the Bergers managing to snare a late equaliser against Bentleigh.

There was no Kristian Konstantinidis, and yet also no Tim Mala to replace him at right back. The former's absence will be put down to injury no doubt, but the latter's? One suspects doubts over his form, or perhaps an attempt at horses for courses? Amadu Koroma played at right back, and to be blunt, was all at sea for much of the first half defensively. Having said that, Koroma did improve on that front as the game wore on, and also provided the kind of overlapping attacking option that Mala struggles to offer. With such a deep squad, and the transfer window opening up at the end of the month, some tough decisions are going to need to be made.

Next game
Back at home on Friday night, against the sputtering Pascoe Vale. I'll be relieved that I won't be at Somers Street for the fourth week in a row, even though I so wanted to see the co-tenant derby there.

FFA Cup news
We have been drawn away to North Geelong, with no date or venue finalised yet. Now, Elcho Park's lights are not up to scratch for night games of this calibre, though it seems like North Geelong will try their best to find a solution. We could end up at Somers Street, though Knights and St Albans likely to be hosting games there will make that difficult unless the fixtures are staggered. Longest shot is that somehow we end up hosting the game at Lakeside.

Lovely, just lovely
Partly because one wanted to wait for the car park to empty a bit first, one ended up in fine conversation after the game with several Knights fans, a Glory fan, and whatever other onlookers were in the vicinity at the time. It was very civilised and pleasant.

Magic's greatest secrets revealed
What one sees from the audience...
... isn't the same as what you see from behind the stage!
Frustrations of incrementalism
FFV has released a statement on the progress of the investigation into the incident at Lakeside during the South vs Victory Youth match.
FFV has received a number of enquiries from the football community regarding alleged incidents at the above fixture. 
FFV can confirm that it is investigating reports of misconduct at this fixture. Due to the nature and volume of material to review the investigation of this fixture is taking longer than usual.  
We appreciate and understand that the football community has considerable interest in this matter and is keen to see it resolved. However what is of primary importance is that all relevant information is investigated and assessed, and that the matter is dealt with in accordance with our documented GDT processes. 
FFV treats all allegations of misconduct of this nature seriously. However it is important that our investigation and GDT processes are not compromised in the interests of expediency.  FFV will not be making any further comment on this matter until it is resolved.
All reasonable, even if it's not quite what people want to hear. Measure twice, cut once and all that. Some people however did make note of the timing of the release of this memo, as it had a bit of a whiff of the old Friday dump about it.

Around the grounds
I decided (as a Collingwood supporter, foolishly, of course) to go to the footy yesterday instead of finding a soccer match to attend. Thankfully 'Agent 189' sent us this report from the Melbourne Victory Youth vs Melbourne Knights game from last week to fill up this segment. 

Police and security keep an eye on the Melbourne Victory supporters,
who were watching this game as a group from outside the
venue after some of their number were denied entry to Epping Stadium.
Unprecedented Security
An unprecedented level of security greeted football fans at Epping Stadium on the weekend for the round 10 NPL Victoria fixture between Melbourne Victory and the Melbourne Knights.

Similar to events a week prior at Lakeside Stadium, special security protocols were again put in place, which delivered the highest presence of security and police at any match in the history of the National Premier Leagues Victoria.

Separate entrances and the segregation of supporters were in place at Epping Stadium, with the Knights to occupy the western end of the venue, while Melbourne Victory supporters were to the east. The security presence was significant and noticeably more visible than previous Melbourne Victory home games at Epping Stadium. It comprised approximately 15 security guards and the same number of representatives from Victoria Police.

A Victoria Police 'brawler van' deployed at Epping Stadium.
The police contingent was supported by multiple vehicles, including the ‘brawler van’, which is deployed to major sporting events and is specifically designed to detain and transport up to 16 persons.

Prior to the match commencing, Melbourne Victory Supporter marshals denied entry to a number of Victory supporters. This led to all of their active supporters not entering the ground and positioning themselves on the southern side of the ground, remaining outside the venue in a public access area. A contingent of at least 10 security guards and Victoria Police were in close proximity to monitor things from inside and outside the perimeter fence.

Victoria Police also monitored the behaviour of the Melbourne Knights MCF active supporter group, however by the 20 minute mark of the match, they had been redeployed elsewhere around the stadium.

A Victory supporter makes the offensive 'three finger' gesture
from outside the fence at Epping Stadium
Both the Knights and Victory fans were in full voice supporting their teams on the pitch. It didn't take long however for the vocals to deteroiate with Victory fans commencing chants of an ethnic nature specifically targeting the Croatian heritage of the Melbourne Knights club. This was combined with multiple instances of Victory fans displaying the 'Serb Salute' or three-finger salute - a hand-gesture many Croatians find particularly offensive.

Melbourne Victory supporter giving the three-finger salute at the match against Melbourne Knights
The greatest roar from the MCF and the remainder of the crowd came in the final minute of regulation play when Knights striker Jason Hicks found space inside the six yard box to edge his shot past Victory keeper Lucas Spinella and into the net. The 1-2 win would lift the Knights to seventh on the ladder, whilst the Victory suffered their sixth straight loss leaving them in 12th.

After the match, events took an unsavoury turn as multiple reports indicate rocks and or other objects, including lit flares, were being thrown at Knights supporters in vehicles as they made their way from the car park and along Harvest Home Road.

Victoria Police have confirmed there was a conflict outside the venue after the match, though there have been no reports to police of individuals being assaulted. Whilst a number of individuals were spoken to, no arrests were made.

It’s been a tumultuous two weeks for Victorian football and Melbourne Victory FC. A pitch invasion at Lakeside Stadium last week prompted a significant security response for the Knights match at Epping which protected the integrity of the match inside the stadium and the safety of fans in attendance.

However the actions of a small group of supporters, particularly outside the venue after the match, has once again turned the spotlight back on the club. The events of this weekend certainly bring in to focus the extent to which Melbourne Victory and poses the challenge more broadly for all clubs around how they can control events that occur after the match and outside the venue. It’s an important consideration given the significant security and police presence and the clubs refusal to allow these supporters into the stadium.

While for the most part the incidents are kept to a minimum, as seen in the A-League Grand Final – where flares and destroyed seats were alleged to have been by “fringe supporters” and not a “co-ordinated” action that left the club at risk of a three-point deduction – the risk of a rogue element within the game exists at any level.

Final thought
I was going to focus on responding to a petty comment made by an individual on Twitter regarding the South vs Victory affair, but instead I'll make note of the good laughs had all round during FFV's broadcast of the Heidelberg vs Bentleigh game - which involved friendly banter and a couple of plugs for South of the Border (I had been tweeting in answers to certain questions raised by the commentary team), as well as Mark Boric's blog being referred to, but definitely not being named. Looks like I'm going to have to work on my notoriety a bit.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Pioneer South women artefact Wednesday - South Melbourne Hellas Women's team photo

Now that the women are officially back reunited with the greater body of the club, it seems like a good time to publish this week's artefact. Last year the club received some correspondence from Katrina Theophanous, a former women's team player then known as Kitty Athanasiadis, who provided a photo of one of the club's original female teams, along with the following explanation:

"In this photo are my two younger sisters Poppy and Gina. Poppy has a scarf on, she played for the state team. I am front row Katrina Theophanous far left with the t shirt inside."

Now living in America, Katrina promised to get in touch with the club in February while in Australia to provide more photos, but I'm not sure that ever came to pass - here's hoping that it did, or if not, then I at least hope efforts are being made to keep in touch with her...

The original South Melbourne Womens team played its first known season in 1978, winning promotion and gradually becoming one of the stronger teams in the women's comps, behind the all conquering Greensborough side of that era. South Womens' best ever league finishes were second in 1980 and 1981, as well as making the cup final in 1980, which they lost to Greensborough 4-2. The women's wing of the club appears to have dissolved after the end of the 1982 season, as the South Melbourne Hellas name does not appear in the available records after that season. What happened to that part of the club, as well as the players, is not known to me, but it would be great to find out. At some point (the exact details of which are lost on a now long depart SMWFC website), South Melbourne Hellas took over Greensborough, reintroducing women's soccer back to South Melbourne. As for the twists and turns since then, they are for another time.

And of course anyone that can fill in some details as to the who all the people are in this photo, we'd be much obliged.