Monday, 30 January 2017

Indirectly toward Hellas - A new piece by Savvas Tzionis

This is another slightly rambling piece by frequent blog commentator Savvas Tzionis about the circuitous paths some people had in becoming South Melbourne Hellas fans. While many of our supporters had the fortune of being born into the club so to speak, others have endured more convoluted paths to become one of us. So here is Savvas' journey, with several digressions along the way.

My initial piece from a couple of years ago detailed my journey as a South supporter. What follows is akin to a movie prequel (like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). It tells of my journey as a child through the sporting landscape, where misconceptions often ruled (like thinking that 'black humour' was comedy performed by Black Americans!), towards my final destination as a South Melbourne Hellas supporter.

Starting with my earliest memory of soccer. It's 1974 and I am visiting a takeaway food outlet in Dandenong with my father and his younger cousins, as they decide whether or not to purchase this particular business. As I sit there bored, as all children must endure, I am staring at a poster on the wall of Manchester City vs West Ham. In a world of black and white television and print media, the claret and light blue colours were quite beguiling. I decided that Man City (they were the prominent team in the poster) is my English team. I also decided in that same year, when My Sporting Life was truly born, that I would support whoever was on top of the ladder in the VFA (Dandenong) and the State League (Prahran Slavia). My primary support, however, was for Carlton in the VFL and was instilled prior to 1974 through my father's influence.

My support for Dandenong lasted until both they and the VFA itself withered away after the 1970s. Man City managed to hold on to my affections until Charlie George slid across the turf after scoring for Derby County in 1975 (he sub-consciously looked Greek to me!). But by the end of the 1975/76 season, somehow I was lamenting the loss in the FA Cup final that my Man United suffered at the hands of Southampton. It then took me another five or so years to realise that the FA Cup was NOT the equivalent of a VFL premiership (misconceptions of youth!). And then started the hateful frustration seeing Liverpool dominate (I was always more a socialist than a Man U supporter) until the early 1990s.

The old Esther Park turnstile entrance. Photo. Les Street. For more
photos in this series of NSL Melbourne venues, visit this forum thread
My support for Prahran Slavia was just as short lived as Man City. On a particular Sunday I decided it was time to watch live State League soccer on commercial television (chortle, chortle!). The two teams were Melbourne and South Melbourne. I decided that...  Melbourne (!) was my team. (years later after they had in fact disbanded, I discovered they were known as Melbourne Hungaria, but I suspect commercial TV never stated this). Melbourne lost the match, and by the time my uncle decided to take me to Esther Park to watch his team Heidelberg play Mooroolbark in 1975 (my twitter discussion confirmed the year), I recall I was a South Melbourne Hellas supporter (I don't think I even knew what Hellas stood for. I knew about Ελλάδα and Greece! But I didn't equate Hellas and Ελλάδα! Although I knew that South Melbourne Hellas was a Greek team and that naturally, that is my team). Confused? Importantly, my uncle left Australia to return to Greece in 1976 so no more local soccer for me.

Whilst all this was happening I was reading a book that was given to me about soccer and learning a little about the rules, and some 'strange' facts that were revealed at the end, such as the fact that England didn't win every World Cup, and that some strangely named country called Uruguay had won two (more misconceptions of youth! What a New Dawner I was!).

At Middlefield Primary School (an ethnic microcosm of Australian society at that time) in the suburb of Blackburn North, Australian Rules was my first love, but somehow by Grade 5 (1976) and Grade 6 (1977) I was playing in our soccer team, rather than the Football team. We were coached by our disinterested Grade 6 Scottish teacher, Mrs Cannon, until the older brother-in-law of one of the players asked and was given permission to coach us. All of a sudden, from a motley bunch of kids who had no idea and who were getting beaten 6-0 by our local rivals (Blackburn North Primary school, our own personal Shelbyville!) we were winning 9-0 against other schools, and progressed to the semi-finals against, poetically, Blackburn North. Inspired by our coach (Johnny Laczko, who we were aware, was Hungarian) and led by our captain, Wayne McKenzie (our local version of Johnny Warren?), we made it all the way to a penalty shoot-out after holding them to a 0-0 score line. The dream ending was not to be as we only scored one goal! We were more disappointed for our coach, who was visibly upset, than for ourselves. I think part of that was that here was an 'adult' who treated us as equals, and not, as the saying goes, children that needed to be 'seen and not heard!

During that year of 1977, I also remember getting excited about the advent of Channel Ten showing German soccer (I had some idea that they were playing the best football at that time, through both their club and national teams). I stayed up and started watching the 10pm telecast between Mönchengladbach (Munching gladbag?!!) and some other team. But like Homer Simpson, when he was trying to watch baseball without alcohol, I was quickly bored by the interminable back passing and slow play. I switched off, and so did everyone else it appears. These weekly telecasts didn't last the year! The idiots at Ten didn't bother with editing the match (they made a similar mistake 10 years later with Wrestlemania II)! So it was back to focusing on the 'best soccer in the world', the English game where games on The Big Match only took 40 minutes and were always 'exciting'. And how could any of us not like the kindly host, Brian Moore (who reminded me of a nice version of Arthur from On the Buses). This was a supposedly tumultuous period ion Australian Soccer with the advent of the NSL, but I was oblivious to it. All my Fathers side of the family were migrants from the early 1950's and VFL devotees. I wonder if they looked down on soccer and its adherents amongst the recently arrived migrants from Greece? The attitude of my father wouldn't have been helped by my uncle getting into a fist fight at one particular game in 1976 at Middle Park, with another Greek over the fact that some of us kids were sitting on top of the outer wire mesh race, blocking the view of some spectators! I think we left the game before it even started! LOL Yep, once my uncle left these shores, there was no soccer outlet for me at this stage.

So by 1980, in my high school teen years, soccer had taken a back seat. Had the advent of the NSL actually lessened the appeal of the game to the local soccer following population? Or had my uncle's return to Greece removed an avenue to attending games? My father was interested in neither soccer nor, (don't scoff!) professional wrestling (I suspect it attracted a similar clientèle!). Of course my VFL team, Carlton, was in the middle of its most dominant era, which helped steal my focus. Yet at high school we would still play games of schoolyard soccer. However, when a student shouted 'Kosmina!' when scoring a goal, I assumed he was talking about some elegant Continental European player!

I really was detached from the local game, except for the one moment in 1981 when I attended two games in one day with my auntie's new husband (Footscray JUST vs South at Schintler Reserve, and Preston Makedonia (my first introduction to this group of people!) vs Heidelberg at a pulsating Olympic Park at night . But that was it until 1983 when, finally, I was becoming more interested in the NSL via SBS. I recall Preston were leading the table but that South, after having sacked Rale Rasic and signing Len McKendry, were charging up the ladder. With the pressure of HSC, I was always looking at a distraction, and having a bit more freedom at age 17, I attended, via public transport, two pivotal matches (South won both) against the all powerful Sydney City Hakoah and Marconi with my non Greek friends Tony Henshaw and Mick Collier (the same Mick Collier who attended the amazing Bulleen v Heidelberg game last season with me).

Together with the 1982 World Cup, which our Italian-born Economics teacher would force us to discuss, there were these brief moments when soccer would take a hold of my consciousness. But there always appeared to be a roadblock to taking it a step further. My father's lack of interest, my uncle's absence after 1976, the 'bad guys' (Italy and West Germany) playing off for  the 1982 World Cup at the expense of the 'good guys' (Brazil and France), the dominance of my VFL team, Carlton, school years, living in the 'burbs rather than inner suburbs. These road blocks would remove themselves as negating factors, coinciding with the freedom of being an adult and getting a licence in 1985. And a connection to South Melbourne and local soccer in general was finally able to flower.

Interestingly, when my family visited Greece in 1980, I was shocked to hear my uncle tell me that he didn't attend the local soccer in Patra. His reasons were vague but I had just assumed that, because soccer was so popular amongst Greeks in Melbourne, that in Greece itself it must be infinitely more popular. But years later I deduced why he didn't attend. Greece was not a first world country with money to spare on attending soccer matches. The local team was Παναχαϊκή. They played in a dilapidated stadium, and they were a struggling team. Add to this the fact that most Achaeans supported a major Athenian team, and you get a sense of how the A-League was able to draw supporters away from the older clubs. But here is the interesting postscript. My uncle did eventually become a regular attendee at Παναχαϊκή games about seven years ago. There is hope for our own South Melbourne!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Getting thoroughly sick of this - South Melbourne 0 Richmond 0

Another week, another friendly, another match with substandard finishing by South.

If Milos Lujic misses chances during the pre-season - and he should have done better with a chip over the keeper -  it doesn't bother me, because his record when it matters speaks for itself.

But everyone else, especially those cutting in wide from the left or right, come on! The lake is not the goal, the running track is not the goal, the temporary seats are not the goal, the emergency path next to the pool complex is not the goal, and the temporary goals behind the actual goals are, perhaps a little confusingly, also not the goals.

Bad finishing on our part was the main complaint I had from what was a fairly middling affair. Richmond offered very little going forward, which considering I'd read one report of them looking pretty decent so far in the pre-season, was a disappointment.

While we clearly weren't going at 100% out there, there were nice moments - we were able to get behind the often stacked Richmond defense much more easily than we did with Canberra Olympic the week before.

I think our corners have generally looked better this pre-season than I have seen for a long time, and as far as I can recall, there has been mostly a lack of short corners so far. Free kicks, well, that's another matter.

Depending on who we play against, how we decide to play, and who we put into the defensive slots, I am concerned that we may be a tad slow at times at the back, especially if the mids commit too far forward.

Should I put my neck on the line say the People's Champ is going to have a bit of a breakout season? Probably not, but if he can hit a few shots like his opening salvo onto the woodwork, it would be nice.

There was a moment where a fight almost broke out on the field after a slow motion wrestling take down of one of our players, but that was quickly sorted out by the referee.

It looked like there was another new player out there, until it was made known to me that it was new and already signed recruit Jesse Daley with a new haircut.

I think I'm well fed up with the pre-season now, and I'm just counting the days until we have something meaningful to play for and complain about. Speaking of which...

Next game
For the third year in a row we are in the Community Shield game, and like last year, we'll be playing against Bentleigh out at Kingston Heath. I don't know why the game has to be out there, and I especially don't understand why it has to be on a Thursday.

If it had to be held at Kingston Heath, why not on a Friday or Saturday? I know that people at South are not happy about this, especially those involved with the senior team, because it will leave them with a large break between the Shield game and our round 1 match against Bulleen, which will be on a Monday..

And then of course after that Bulleen game, we have a short turnaround to the round 2 fixture against Port away which is on a Friday. I know that our extended stay away from

For their part, Bentleigh only have an 8 day wait compared to our 11. Don't be surprised if South arranges another friendly in between the Shield and round 1 just to keep sharp.

Thursday's hardly an ideal time to get people out to a game either, especially for something that's not a local derby. All of this is more confusing because under the 12 month calendar released by FFV, the Community Shield game was meant to be played this week, not next.

Welcome to the 2017 rigmarole I suppose.

Lakeside gets dressed up for the palace ball
Much interest of course centred not on the players last night, but rather on the stadium, which has had temporary seating installed in preparation for an upcoming medium profile athletics meet.
It actually looked rather good, and one could envisage more seating being placed on the eastern side as well. I didn't do a count of the seats, but did notice one particular issue with the view of the eastern side from the lower levels of the southern grandstand - that the crossbar seemed to disappear from view, blending in with the top of the temporary seating. I fancy that problem would be a lesser issue if there were actual people sitting there, breaking up blur of horizontal lines.

Some people disregarded the menacing barrier of the tape barring entry to the temporary stand on the western terrace to check out the view from behind the goals
And from the western side at least, the view is not completely abominable. A question asked around the traps last night was whether there was even any point in removing the seating (one assumes) bolted directly into terracing. A fair point? Or a misguided, ignorant one?

Get a job (sha na na na, sha na na na na)
South is looking to hire a venue and restaurant manager. Is that because they're looking to open up a venue and restaurant? Stranger things have happened I suppose.

Crazy Gamblers (it's not necessarily a new thing, but still...)
Oh yes, we all like to have a laugh while playing spot the Dodgy Asian Betting guys (and gals) calling games for the betting companies. And from some of the very earliest days of this blog we've discussed the lengths people will go to bet on Australian matches of absolutely no consequences, but Twitter has added another dimension to this gambling fixation.

The 3x30 minute style friendlies that some coaches, especially Chris Taylor, prefer for pre-season hit-outs makes some members of the online gambling community very nervous and edgy. Not that I have a problem with that, because


Anyway, gambling, disturbing trend, think of the children (and aren't we all someone's children) blah, blah, blah, but seriously, can you guys just keep it (metaphorically) in your pants until the actual season starts?

A-League bid 'news' (not that any of that matters)
Most of you will have probably become aware that the Geelong bid has formally announced its existence, currently going under the name 'Victoria Patriots'. So that makes South, Tasmania and Geelong as three groups at the very least nominally in the hunt for the alleged two spots. If nothing else, that seems to put paid to the getting in by default option - if that option ever existed, of course.

Your (accredited) correspondent
Yes, your chief South of the Border correspondent has been given FFV media accreditation for 2017. Even better when the envelope is marked 'priority'. No lanyard though.

I'm sure they'll be released eventually...

Monday, 23 January 2017

Something resembling a complete overreaction - South Melbourne 1 Canberra Olympic 1

There is, as usual, the implied preemptive comment that this was just a friendly, and that the result whether positive or negative will have no bearing on the season. So we drew 1-1 in a match we would have expected to win, and in which we probably did enough to win.

And there is, also, of course the preemptive comment that these matches are ideal for ironing out the kinks and learning and growing. So there's that to fall back on, as well as the point that this weekend was as much about the players bonding as getting ready for round one. Apparently the initiation involved singing, which was as good enough reason to give it a miss as any.

With Kristian Konstantinidis on holidays, and Luke Adams' partner due to give birth, we were a bit short on centre back options over the weekend, and thus Carl Piergianni and Michael Eagar had to shoulder those duties across two matches in two days instead of getting some respite. With Brad Norton taking a break for this game, one usually reliable avenue towards goal was absent.

There were moments where many of the familiar problems of last year cropped up, the most obvious being what to do when the opposition decided to sit back. Thus we got to the point where the ball would be repeatedly played across the back line, maintaining possession until we got to halfway, and then... Eagar would be stuck for ideas on the halfway line, looking for someone to provide an option; or on other, fewer occasions, Piergianni would search for a long pass into space in the corners.

That meant that we had to rely more the speed and ingenuity of the wingers. On the right hand side Stefan Zinni struggled to get past opponents when he had the ball, but on the left Marcus Schroen seemed to continue from where he left off last year, causing lots of problems, and scoring a goal (which I had incorrectly attributed Lujic on Twitter) after some good work by Nick Epifano who dodged two very bad tackles before putting the cross into the middle.

(speaking of the People's Champ, he was right in the middle of the all in push and shove sequence that occurred during either first or second halves, but everything sorted itself out fairly quickly).

Too bad there weren't many others around to put away some of those crosses when Milos Lujic couldn't get to the ball cleanly. Matthew Millar and Andy Kecojevic could have done better with some of their opportunities.

Defensively we did give up some chances on the counter attack that were a product of how far we had pushed up the field leaving the slow centre backs stranded, but also due to Olympic eventually getting into the game. There were reports that this was their first hit-out for the pre-season, and they certainly looked unfit. So on that front it was disappointing that we didn't put some more goals away in this game before the toll of the heat and effects of the match the day before caught up with us.

Eagar gave away the penalty which led to Olympic's goal. My reaction was that it was a soft decision, in that while waiting for a free kick to be sent in to the penalty area, some jostling saw an Olympic player go down too easily. But other spectators with better eyesight were more willing to give the referee the benefit of the doubt. More power to those people.

Next game
Richmond at home on Friday evening, 7:00PM kickoff.

Unbiased South Melbourne player evaluations
While we were walking around a Wodonga shopping centre, a bloke working at a booth there saw our South gear and stopped us a for a bit of a chat. Turned out he was an ex-Southampton youth player playing in the local competition. Among his noteworthy comments were the fact that there were better players in Murray United's region, but that they could not offer up enough money to attract them away from their local clubs, who could afford to pay players more - as well as offering shorter commutes instead of fortnightly trips to Melbourne.

Our new friend reserved special praise for Leigh Minopoulos, and especially for youngster Josh Hodes, comparing him to a teammate he had back in England who is currently playing in the Championship. Nice praise for a 16 year old.

Arrivals and departures
Midfielder Gavin De Niese has been signed, and young forward Giordano Marafioti has been upgraded to the senior list. Meanwhile, it appears that Francesco Stella has been released from the club by mutual agreement, a strange ending to a strange summer signing if true. The club still has a visa slot up its sleeve, while the fate of Andy Kecojevic also remains in the balance at the of publication. Stephen Hatzikostas continues to be unsighted during this pre-season, and so one assumes that at some point the club will make an official announcement on that one way or another.

Meanwhile, at Lakeside Stadium...
Those wondering what the temporary seating at Lakeside being put in place for the upcoming athletics meet will look like, need wonder no more.
Those waiting for a definitive seat count can wait a bit longer though.

Just on that subject...
I am also informed that social club works are continuing. Something about a floor, polished concrete.

Peter Parthimos leaves the board
While exactly how it came to pass will probably remain in conjecture in perpetuity, the baseline fact is that long serving board member Peter Parthimos has resigned from the board, and inexplicably presented in the attendant article without his trademark glasses . Parthimos was treasurer for many years, and tended to be the quietest board member around, often times not even presenting the financial reports at AGMs, leaving that up to fellow accountant, president Leo Athansakis. Peter however was probably the board member that most fans had to deal with at South games, often working at the gate and performing membership duties. Always ready with a friendly greeting, one is left wondering which of the new board members will take up the slack on that front? Anyway, South of the Border thanks Peter Parthimos for his decade's worth of service on the South Melbourne Hellas board, and looks forward to him enjoying matches as a pleb spectator once more.

The Hume Dam. Photo: Paul Mavroudis
There doesn't seem to be very much to do in Wodonga. Being a country town, you're also supremely dependent on having a car (or maybe a bike, if you're that way inclined) to get anywhere 'fun'. The place seems to shut down at night (though the burrito place was open until 10PM on Saturday, which was handy), and so you're compelled to leave the town for sightseeing or adventuring purposes.

Unless, of course, hanging around vacant blocks and construction sites is something you're into. That, or stay at home and watch ads for tractors. Or go fishing.

The spartan bed arrangements were replicated in a haphazard and spartan
exhibit of the same. Photo: Paul Mavroudis
So we headed out to Bonegilla to see the former migrant camp. I took some photos, but apart from not being very good, like the remnants of the camp itself they miss an essential point of the experience that cannot be replicated - that of inhabitance. The remnant buildings and all those since taken down were all designed to be lived in and used by thousands of people at any given time.

So, while one can a sense of the place because of its bush environment, the tin sheds, and the spartan living conditions, one misses the essential human element to all this. This lack of present day habitation is made up for via installations, information boards, art set pieces, of varying degrees of quality.

For example - the rooms dedicated to the Greek and Dutch experiences respectively highlighted the inconsistencies. The Greek room was sparse, with few artefacts, instead relying mostly on the vox pops put up on the walls. The Dutch room by comparison had more stuff, adding a level of depth to the experience - it gave a sense of the people the artefacts belonged to.

The ocean of voices art installation. Paul Mavroudis
The most successful of these was an art set piece, a wall with several dozen speakers all playing stories by camp residents at the same time. To understand one of these voices at the expense of the others, one had to lean in to one of the speakers and pay close attention. In terms of a representative example of the Tower of Babel situation at the camp, it was probably as close as one could get.

The information boards were good, providing detailed but not overwhelming summaries of life in Bonegilla, along with vox pops from former residents. There is no reticence either to admitting that while the government wanted the migrants for their manpower if nothing else, that Anglo-Australians were as a whole resentful of the non-English speaking migrants.

This was in the Dutch exhibition - you can tell by the clogs!
Photo: Paul Mavroudis
In terms of the stories that you are able to get, a number of threads pop through. One is of course the food situation. Coming from a situation of rationing and scarcity, the staff and authorities expected the migrants to be grateful for the copious amounts of food provided, especially meat. Instead most of the migrants seemed to find the food awful, the mutton and lamb being too much, and the menu limited and predictable. The Italians eventually complained enough that they got some things changed. Children seemed to have a better time of it than their parents, which I can understand. Less emphasis seemed to be made on those arriving as single people, alone.

Not very much was made of the difference in environment, insofar as for those migrating from urban areas, the bush would have been alien in and of itself; and for those migrating from rural areas, the bush would have been unfamiliar because of the different trees, birds, noises etc. You also don't get much of a sense of the camp's prior status as army barracks, and later on an internment camp. The most pressing environmental aspect was its seeming utter remoteness. How far to the next town, the next city? How far to home?

The Bonegilla migrant camp soccer team. Photo: Paul Mavroudis
The strangest thing about the complex was for some reason there being two walls in one of the buildings with small, unambitious footy murals which looked liked they'd been painted at some point during the 1980s. It clashed completely with the rest of the environment and the point of those who had lived at the camp who had nothing to do with footy - the migrants' sporting interests tended towards sports like soccer and basketball.

There were other people visiting at the same time as us, but they all seemed to be elderly. Former residents of the camp come to reminisce? It'd be sad if the place became forgotten or under appreciated over time - though I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. Will there come a time when the descendants of Bonegilla migrants will reclaim or seek out this part of their heritage in the way their Anglo-Australian brethren have sought to do with convict and war service histories?

While travelling up to Wodonga on the train, I fell into conversation with a fellow passenger. It turned out he lived in the Bonegilla township, but most oddly to my ears he pronounced it 'Bone-gilla' as opposed to 'Bo-ne-gilla'. Something as simple as that is a neat demonstration of two very different experiences of Bonegilla, and by extension two different experiences of Australia.

Having said all of that, I'd recommend anyone driving through that area to make a detour, whether of immediate migrant descent or not. There are guided tours, but you can easily wander around the grounds at your own leisure. Not every building is open, but enough are so that you can get a sense of the place and its amenities, even though areas like the toilet and shower blocks are long gone. A couple of hours should be enough time to see most of it.

We also took a trip to the nearby Hume Dam, where we toyed with sunburn, and also saw a turtle. I also got to make this Twitter quip.

Thanks to...
Pavlaki and Chris for chauffeuring me around and keeping me company on Friday and Saturday.

Didier Drogba...
Good grief.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Uneventful - Murray United 0 South Melbourne 2

Took the noon train up from Melbourne to Wodonga. Unless you like field after field and paddock after paddock, it's not necessarily the most scenically diverse route, though you get a handle on how flammable the Australian countryside is. Oh, and you get to go through the Albion freight corridor, which is appreciated by moderate gunzels like myself.

Spent about half the trip up re-reading Miles Vertigan's Life Kills, a novel about a plane flight with an easily distracted terrorist, two airhead hostesses, one studly pilot, one co-pilot who lacks a torso, a bunch of z-list celebs, and the increasingly menacing in flight entertainment system. Stream of consciousness, almost no punctuation, deeply cynical and occasionally sympathetic towards humanity, but more steadfast in its desire to discuss a civilisation in terminal decline.

And lest one thing that reading was all I did, I also struck up a conversation with some of my fellow passengers, about books of course. Yes, my main conversation buddy was mostly interested in popular fiction, but I managed to recommend some Australian literature he may enjoy: Kenneth Cook's Wake In Fright, Anson Cameron's The Last Pulse, and Barbara Baynton's short stories. He reminded me to take a gander at that Peter Fitzsimons Batavia book.

Arrived in Wodonga just before four in the afternoon, and with a couple of other South buddies staying at the same motel discussed the dive qualities of this motel, but I have to say at least the wifi is good, and if you have an appreciation for 1970s tiling, this place is not so bad. Wodonga seems to shut down after 5:00PM on a Friday, and driving around it can make it seem like a bit of a ghost town. I think we crossed over to the New South Wales side of the border at one point, but our stay there didn't last very long.

We eventually killed enough time doing other things so that we rocked up to Murray United's La Trobe University base of operations, a spartan but neat facility of about three or four grounds shared with local league side Wodonga Diamonds. There are some metal benches adjacent to the basic pavilion, but otherwise no elevation around the rest of the perimeter. Food was humble fare, being snags and burgers on white bread, but no complaints from me on that front apart from the Valkanis canteen like waiting time.

The surface was adjudged to be a bit spongy, but it looked green and will be better than a lot of places we end up playing at this year, especially once the season gets into winter. It was deceptively windy as well, and then the temperature dropped a bit as well. But again, nothing our squad won't have to deal with on a weekly basis when the season proper comes around.

Two games in two days means that we have to nurse the squad through a tight fixture window. This was also our first 45 minute halves match of the 2017 pre-season, but I think we handled it well. Indeed, I think we looked fitter than Murray United, even though their season starts earlier than ours. But then again, I think given the resources and the likely robust fight for spots at our disposal, this should be the case regardless

We dominated the fixture, even with a makeshift/unfamiliar forward line, with Milo Lujic, just back from a short holiday, playing only towards the end of the game. No Milos does mean at least learning to play a different way, a bit more mobile and flexible perhaps. The only letdown overall was not having put away a few more chances - though hitting the woodwork twice also conspired to deny us a bigger goal tally. Keep an eye out for Carl 'Pidge' Piergianni to be a constant aerial threat from set pieces this year - provided we can supply the necessary delivery, of course.

Gavin De Niese gave us the lead during the first half, I think some kind of curling shot or cross eluding everyone and finding its way into the back of the net. He'll be a useful pickup should we follow through and make the signing. Leigh Minopoulos sealed the result in the generally less interesting and more frustrating second half, finishing off a nice sequence of play with an outside of the foot flick finish from a tight angle.

Murray United gave it a go, but only seemed to trouble us in any meaningful way towards the end, and even then, not too much - the corner count was heavily lopsided in our favour, if that counts for anything. I don't think they'll be one of the favourites for promotion to NPL, but the overall package they provide to the NPL project is worthwhile and worth persisting with. They could do with some better lighting for night games though. The crowd was decent enough, a couple of hundred people, maybe a little more. Not too many South fans, though some may make the trip up today. This kind of thing is really more for the players though.

After the game we drove around looking for some place to eat at, found a mediocre pizza joint, and then ended up back at the motel drinking Seagram's gin and tonics for those who could tolerate tonic water while watching the closing stages of a BBL fixture, and then channel surfing through the local television offerings which for some reason didn't have any of the SBS channels working.
Today at the same venue, in an earlier time slot and in expected to be warmer conditions, we'll be playing Canberra Olympic, who everyone seems to expect to be a tougher opponent. Until that moment, we'll have to find something to do to kill time. I have some ideas.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Trademark changes of heart - Pascoe Vale 2 South Melbourne 6

I said I wasn't going to Wodonga for South's friendlies against Murray United
and Canberra Olympic, but I've had one of my trademark changes of heart,
and I plan to be present for both matches. Yes, I am taking the train up there.
A rainbow lorikeet with a broken wing fell out of a tree and onto the field. It was ushered away from the playing arena by a diligent South fan, and the lorikeet managed to climb up a tree and toward relative safety.

There was a minute's silence observed before the kickoff, but I was not sure who it was for.

Another 3x30 minute match, but unusually for a pre-season hit-out there was a full set of officials.

Overall a much more fluent demonstration of football than we've seen throughout the pre-season so far - or maybe our tidy finishing created the illusion of fluency?

One might be concerned with the way we conceded two quick goals to trail 2-1, but we also spurned chances and saw players sometimes attempt to do things on the lower percentage side of things, which you can do in pre-season but probably wouldn't like to do during the real stuff.

On the way back, one train connection worked better than another. So it goes.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Home goal! South Melbourne 1 Hume City 0

Since it appears that people are going up to Wodonga in order to have fun,
and since I am, in this case, staunchly anti-fun - if you catch my drift -
I'll be giving that trip a miss. I might go and watch the Aces instead,
or watch the restoration of Woody Allen's Manhattan at ACMI.
A Matthew Millar goal was the nominal difference in this game of three by thirty minute periods - you're welcome Dodgy Asian Betting people. It was, as pre-season so often is, a bit hard on the eye, but not as bad as you can get in these kinds of things.

There was a decent turnout last night, and even a bit of passion for pre-season - the referee being made aware by South fans that they did not agree with what looked like an obvious push in the back by a Hume player.

We looked OK I guess, though who can know for sure? My excuse this time for not knowing what was going on was the two teams conspiring to wear closely matching strips - a navy blue affair for South, a black backed affair for Hume.

No Milos Lujic who is in Bali or something - hopefully he didn't fly with Tiger - but otherwise there was a fair diversity of players used, including new and prospective ones. While our finishing let us down, it was nice to have those chances available.

Reassuringly, our set pieces are still rubbish.

I mention that last fact just in case someone, whether of any particular importance or not, wants to know what's wrong with the team, based in some part on what I remember annoying me the most, or rather perhaps the last thing I remember annoying me.

Next game
Saturday morning (11:00AM) at Hosken Reserve against Pascoe Vale.

Charity Shield news
It will be at Kingston Heath again. Now as for the date, well, the brochure says Thursday February 2nd, but the website says Friday February 2nd. I'm sure they'll sort it out soon enough.

Community TV news
Word on the street seems to be that SMFC TV will no longer be the pay television distributed Aurora community television service. We'll wait for something more solid before writing the eulogy.

Arrivals and departures
Luke Adams has signed up for 2017, as has Leigh Minopoulos. Meanwhile the mystery UK centre back has been settled, with one Carl Piergianni making his pre-season adebut and subsequently being signed, He is most recently of Boston United, which has already made all two of our Boston United fans very happy. Though if it turns out like the last Boston United player we had - Tom Matthews - it may still end up in tears yet.

From the remainder of the 2016 squad, still up in the air (at least nominally) are the fates of Andy Kecojevic and maybe Stephen Hatzikostas as well considering that during the pre-season he has once again been riding his motorcycle trying to catch the sunset or search for the Lost City of Gold or something

As for the rumours of whatever it is Andy Brennan is going to do now that he's been released by Newcastle Jets, I don't have any information on that.

As per last time, the following players are known to be contracted for next season.

    Players who have left

    Sunday, 8 January 2017

    Meandering thoughts on the 2017 Victorian soccer media landscape

    FFV has been circulating within certain circles its 2017 media strategy video. That it has released this publicly means there is the chance for the general public to make comment on FFV's media strategy, and that includes members of the independent and most fringe media such as South of the Border.

    I'm not going to recount everything mentioned in the video (which is indexed, so you can easily skip ahead to more interesting segments), but rather I'd like to present some scatter-shot thoughts about the Victorian soccer media landscape as it appears in 2017.

    To start with - if there has been one area in which FFV media efforts have struggled over the years, it has been in continuity. Limiting that concept of continuity to merely a lack of continuity of strategy is insufficient - the lack of continuity within the ranks of the media and communications departments has meant that even good initiatives have always been on the verge of imminent collapse because of personnel changes at FFV.

    That's both understandable and unavoidable to an extent within an entity such as FFV. As a state organisation, whose constituencies are based mostly around participation rather than spectatorship - and with limited financial resources allocated to promoting its spectator tangent - there's really only so much that can be done.

    Those limited resources in terms of funds and staffing at FFV are true for whomever is the media coordinator. Being second tier also means that its often seen as a stepping stone rather than an end in itself, which is understandable for young and passionate soccer people looking to get their foot in the door in the sports media industry.

    Having said that, the attitude towards Victorian soccer and its media arms from those in FFV's media roles is as important as anything else in terms of what success may come on the media front. Do those in the role love and/or understand the game as it exists in Victoria? Do they understand the passion of those who love the game and seek to cover it in the media?

    As an example of previous efforts I would consider below par: it took me three years before I had the courage and self-esteem to apply for an FFV media pass for my work on South of the Border. When I got given that media pass, I was over the moon, because even though this was and still is mainly a hobby and chance for me to muck around, it was validation that my work added something of value to Victorian soccer's media landscape.

    That media pass access continued for a bit, until another media person came in and decided that what South of the Border did wasn't important or worthwhile enough to get a media pass. When I asked why, just to get my head around what they were looking for (with a trace of self-entitlement, I must admit), I was told that while my blog was entertaining it was not necessary for me to have a media pass.

    The next year, my application was rejected again, because FFV's media reps said that if they gave every blog a media pass, they would have to give every blog a media pass, ie, thousands of them. Which was nonsense from even the practical sense that it was only me blogging week in, week out, let alone from the devaluing of the fringe parts of new media. But more importantly, it was evidence that those in FFV's media department had no sense of what was going on in the media landscape here.

    When Alen Delic came in, things changed for the better, and while it was sad for Victorian soccer that he moved on quickly up to FFA, at least you can say soccer didn't lose him, and that we ended up training and promoting someone from within the game's own ranks. Now with Teo Pellizzeri still being FFV's main media person from 2016 to 2017, one can be confident that a continuity of attitude will also remain.

    That doesn't mean that FFV, Teo and his offsiders have to like or endorse everything the Victorian soccer media does, but what was most reassuring is this group seems to get that we are all pulling in the same direction. When I picked up my media pass last year outside Kingston Heath before the Charity Shield, Teo was there to hand it to me, and he even knew my name! It's a long way from certain other experiences of older attitudes, where FFV's media people saw pretty much any media outside of the FFV bubble as inherently hostile.

    So seeing as how at present we have an engaged FFV media group, as well as one with some continuity of personnel and attitude, we should move on to discuss some of the specifics the video has brought up.

    In 2017 FFV will be looking to once again change its website (continuity be damned), this time with the goal of making it more tablet and especially mobile friendly, as people move away from desktop browsing, but also to make the website more about resources than news. Pellizzeri explains that this is down to how people engage with FFV's media avenues. So while there are very strong social media metrics - which is more news oriented - when it comes to the website itself, people tend to use that for resources - fixtures, documentation, regulations, etc.

    Within that revelation will be a bit of a blow to those of us who value such things as match reports, previews and news associated with the NPL especially, but the reality is that these things do not drive hits to FFV's website, much like artefact pieces do little to drive interest here. (for the record, what you people like on South of the Border the most tends to fall into what one would broadly call 'controversy'.)

    Now a blog like this or others like it don't need to worry about metrics, because metrics aren't our game. But FFV clearly needs to listen to its audience, and as much as someone like me will go through things like previews and match reports, it's not so important to most of the people who use FFV's media outlets. (more on what we lose on that front later though).

    Regarding the NPL itself, in the video FFV/Teo are at pains to emphasise the need to present a quality or premium product. In using the pejorative term 'park soccer', a challenge is set out to the NPL clubs as well as FFV itself: we can't expect others to take us and our premier competition seriously, if we ourselves do not take it seriously.

    (Though of course, one can easily point to clubs such as Nunawading, who in their own quest to do whatever it is they are doing, devalue the competition, albeit at a level of lower consequence than if they were in NPL 1.)

    In that sense, the framing of the competition as a package and an idea, and not just 26 rounds with 7 fixtures a week is worth noting. Being in the NPL means, whether licensees like it or not, being part of something bigger than themselves - after the A-League, they're the next step in promoting soccer as a whole in Victoria.

    Now we all know the difficulties of trying to overcome our deficiencies, many of them inherited from previous generations and soccer's place as a marginalised sport in this state. First among these factors is that some (many) venues aren't up to scratch. That's improving, but it will never get to the point we need or want it to be.

    We're also at the disadvantage, as noted repeatedly here, of being second tier, where spectator interest is very difficult to generate, competing as we are against so many other sports, but also against the limited amounts of leisure time available at people's disposal.

    But that doesn't mean clubs should go half-arsed in their bid to be more professional. Yes, FFV is responsible for promoting the product, but so are the clubs. If clubs take a half-arsed approach to match day presentation, they harm the competition as a whole, not just themselves.

    And that goes as much for the way the clubs present themselves to the wider public as anything else - and what's more, this is an area where clubs have some level of agency in the matter. Do they perform their media duties/requirements with the genuine sense that it's a worthwhile enterprise? Or do they do the bare minimum, because it's just another box to tick?

    Mark Boric noted in his own summary of this matter that the NPL structure threatens the validity and ability of NPL clubs to get volunteers, and that's true enough. It has become more difficult to establish a club culture at the higher levels of Victorian soccer, as opposed to one where people outside of the senior wing of a club feel like they're only paying to use the resources of an NPL club for their own child's benefit, and the rest of the club be damned.

    That kind of attitude obviously hurts the volunteer tradition, and with NPL clubs now being asked to have social media, and camera people, and all the rest of the media stuff, we end up in the situation where NPL clubs are just about obliged to pay for the services of people to run their media operations.

    And while that's sad on one front, there's a part of me which says, why shouldn't they hire someone to do these things? If these clubs can afford to be in the NPL, and pay the still large salaries of their squads (vis a vis the economic value they bring to the club and competition through the gate), they can afford to hire someone to film and edit video, maybe run and update a basic website and social media service.

    We can collectively choose to be run of the mill, and complain about everyone else ignoring us as a competition and as a sport - but the reality is that opportunities to get into the mainstream press are diminishing, as the mainstream press, especially print, has itself been backed into a corner. Relying even on suburban papers is a notion driven by nostalgia. I can't remember the last time I received a local paper, either here in Sunshine or where my folks have their shop in Altona North.

    (and I maintain also that community television is also a looming dead end, in the first place because Channel 31 is on its last legs, and in the second because the pay television model where the Aurora channel exists is also on borrowed time in my honest opinion)

    So what we do on the media front, we have to do better and, as importantly, with a measure of sincerity. Standards have to be raised every year. That has been happening of its own accord from some clubs, either from the noble sense of improving oneself for the simple sake of it, or from the less outwardly noble (but still emotionally effective) notion of jealousy - if 'that/rival' club is doing that kind of media, why aren't we, or why can't we?

    And on that front, I am glad to see FFV setting out higher standards for the filming of games. Better cameras, better positioning, better camera work. Actually following the play, and not being zoomed out a mile away. And no stupid doof doof music, with the emphasis instead being on the ambient crowd noise (though that can present its own problems).

    It is obviously difficult for some clubs, because their grounds are not ideal for filming, but complaints about who is going to pay for it miss the point. As I've noted earlier, if you want to act like boondocks clubs, go to the boondocks leagues. And as Pellizzeri noted in his video, what is being asked of as a minimum of NPL clubs in terms of their filming obligations still falls well short of what some NPL clubs are doing - thus we have the problem of sometimes significantly varying degrees of effort and quality. The fact that FFV is willing to provide advice and basic training means that there is one less excuse for clubs.

    None of this will be a panacea to poor crowds, especially deep in winter, but sometimes you've got to play the long game and set yourself up for the day when the opportunity actually arises. Thus FFV is putting the emphasis on 'big events' and opportunities to create high impact interest. That means live video streaming certain FFA Cup qualifiers, and important finals. It doesn't mean live video streaming an NPL match every week, which while noble in intent, does little more than provide a service to overseas gamblers. Tuning in to a weekly video stream has never been a phenomenon that's proven popular for Victorian soccer, nor does it really encourage people to go to games.

    And in the end, consistently entertaining and high quality footage will probably do more to engage audiences than some of the alternatives. For example, some people want a full fledged 25 minute programme ala the NSW premier league, but that's not generally how people watch videos online. You've really got to go full Big Bash League when putting video packages online - in our case, its got to be wall to wall goals and incident - and if people want to see all the bad moments where players sky one over the bar and into Albert Lake, they can come to a game and see it for themselves.

    So what one hopes to see come out of this is for starters, better quality footage, from every NPL club, every week. We need to see the media duties asked of clubs, even in their limited form, approached with sincerity rather than grudging obligation, And on the media front, an acknowledgment from FFV and its NPL clubs, that the independent soccer media which exists in this state wants nothing more than to pull in the same direction as everyone one else - and that is the benefit of the game as a whole.

    At the same time however
    Some of the tone of FFV's recent engagements on social media have been, shall we say, leaning a bit more towards the 'banter' side of the ledger. That's all well and good when everyone's having a laugh, but i can quickly come undone when someone stops laughing. Tα πολλά γέλια τελειώνουν στα κλάματα, as they say in the old country.

    You can also see Teo Pellizzeri's call to arms for FFV media types on the Corner Flag.

    Rise and fall of MFootball
    It looks like MFootball is on the brink of folding. Even though my preference was always for Corner Flag's style and content, that's still sad news because there's few enough media outlets covering Victorian soccer as it is. MFootball tried its hand at radio and video broadcasting in 2016, adding a much appreciated point of difference to its nominal competitors, but that's expensive stuff. They're trying to get a kickstarter fund going, but at a target of $55,000, it seems to my mind too ambitious - especially when most people are happy just to get stuff for free these days.

    It will be interesting to see how FFV seeks to work with independent media outlets. In the past, when a new media person came into FFV and decided that the token donation that FFV made to Goal Weekly was in vain - 'because all they do is hammer us' - that essentially ended Goal Weekly's ability to run during the winter season (though blame must also be apportioned to the clubs themselves, few enough of whom bothered to assist).

    What we lost when Goal Weekly retreated to summer was not only an independent news outlet dedicated to the game, but also a paper of record so far as Victorian soccer is concerned. We still haven't figured out as a soccer community how we're going preserve all those things that are now online, and only online. FFV record keeping in terms of even the most basic statistics is atrocious (and again, some of the blame must go to the clubs, who show little interest in performing their allocated task of providing team lists and other info).

    We also don't want a situation where only FFV or the clubs themselves provide news and information about Victorian soccer. Losing MFootball means losing another centralised and legit seeming avenue for ambitious soccer writers to get a start in this state. I think here also of the combination of amateurs, veterans and budding professionals we lost when the Goal Weekly print edition stopped. Victorian soccer has been historically resilient at creating its own independent media - if one group fails, something usually comes up to replace it - but at what point does that well of entrepreneurship dry up?

    Questions of history
    One thing that often gets sidelined in discussions of media and promotion are questions to do with history, Dealing with history in this case means contending with the twin problems of accuracy and preservation.

    Accuracy has been a persistent problem. FFV expects clubs to do a lot of the legwork on this, and yet we find that beyond recording scores, we get little more information. I know I've made the comparison with local cricket before, and it's not an entirely fair one to make - after all, cricket's scoring proclivities are tied to that game's ability to attract a certain kind of anorak, as well as being a game whose pace is suited to the task of collecting statistics.

    But for soccer, why is it so hard to input the starting lineups of both sides, and the scorers with minute scored? Substitutes? Red and yellow cards? You'd think in this modern age of computers and such, it should be easy and quick enough to do so. A junior cricketer in this state can trace his playing statistics across the age groups, across clubs, across representative tournaments. Meanwhile in Victorian soccer, we get bogged down in arcane arguments about where players played their junior football at, in order to be able to claim the point bonuses for a player points system that ends up with myriad errors anyway.

    Preservation is a harder beast to deal with. As much as the web has allowed us easier (and cheaper) access to information, the drawbacks in terms of durability are often ignored. While it was a sad day when Goal Weekly ceased publishing its print edition, at least its archive of print editions have survived, and they could conceivably in future be sent to the State Library of Victoria or the Melbourne Cricket Club Library, for perusal by future generations.

    If MFootball is seemingly on its last legs, how will its repository of photos and stories survive? It's a problem also shared by FFV. After myriad website changes and switches between different fixture and results packages (often out of FFV's control, because they are compelled to buy into national systems), the proper treatment of archival material tends to be the first thing that gets thrown on the scrapheap.

    It then falls down to groups like OzFootball and its volunteers, which do as good a job as they can, but they work with antiquated technology (html) with which it is nightmarish to compile data, let alone update it - and forget about easy-ish cross-referencing ala Wikipedia.

    It's a problem that's going to persist, because for many clubs, history is the last thing they think to invest in, relying instead on oral histories. FFV itself is hardly in a better position to make a difference here, unfortunately.

    On the blogging front
    Of course South of the Border keeps doing it what it does, but West of the Quarry seems to have variously re-booted and stalled - even its Twitter feed of late seems to be more interested in South Melbourne than Knights news. Related to that however is the argument that blogging is now long past its heyday, and looking around the traps, that certainly seems to be the case.

    With the onset of the A-League and the associated 'boom' in interest in Australian soccer, there was a burst of activity of people creating blogs. Not many lasted very long, because that's the nature of blogging, but there were others that did manage to stick it out for a bit but which have also fallen by the wayside.

    Then I suppose people moved into writing for The Roar website, or trying to come up with more legit looking websites with their own domain names. But even there, one wonders if there are more people writing for websites or forums (what's left of those) or social media than people actually interesting in reading.

    Even if they only exist to serve the interests of a very niche audience, the existence - and persistence - of supporter blogs and forums is indicative of the health of the competition they cover, in the sense that if the most die hard fans don't care to write and read about their clubs and the competition they compete in, what hope for getting anybody new on board to do so?

    Football Chaos and the lower leagues
    Outside of the NPL, there are some clubs and different groups attempting to maintain a Youtube presence, either by doing it themselves or using the services by private videographers such as NMS Media. Of course the lower down you go the more niche this gets, as I think everyone involved with Victorian soccer media is well aware of by now.

    And yet the best of the Victorian lower league action - indeed, of any grassroots soccer in Australia - of course continues to come from Steven Gray and Football Chaos. Covering games off his own bat where others fear to tread - including non-NPL women's games, non-FFV sanctioned tournaments, as well as the odd regional game - the interest levels are still niche, but the quality of Football Chaos' work has rightly earned it its own cult audience.

    I've lost track of how many games I've watched courtesy of Football Chaos. Since Football Chaos is not the kind of organisation to go out there soliciting funds, often times it feels like you're sponging off someone's tireless efforts, but if you did want to donate something visit their PayPal page.

    Saturday, 7 January 2017

    Hot Hot Heat - South Melbourne 5 North Geelong 1

    Walking out of the house this morning and wondering why I was even bothering going out in the ridiculous heat, I could feel my left eye begin to get irritated, knowing that its light sensitivity was going to play havoc with whatever limited enjoyment I would get from watching whatever it was I intended to go watch.

    But some people have it worse, in this case by actually being asked to go and play in that heat even if only for three bursts of thirty minutes apiece. Once more we fielded a strong lineup - the way the depth of the squad is looking, our second or less preferred XI would probably be none too shabby in its own right - and looked pretty good, at least from what I could make out from the occasional glances into the ultra brightness that I was able to make without wincing.

    Anyway, from what people tell me, Luke Adams was apparently out there, and triallist Gavin De Niese managed to get on the field as well - thus far he's only been seen warming up on his way back from injury. It looks like there will be a couple of friendlies during the upcoming week, one on Wednesday and another on Saturday, so keep an eye out for those. There's also a trip to Wodonga coming up as well. Undecided about heading up for that one myself just yet.

    There was also the matter of this fixture doubling up as a chance for people to donate to the fund to assist former NSL player David Cervinski, who is batting stage four melanoma. The crowd as you'd expect wans't huge, but their generosity was, and I thank them for that. I'm sure the club will put out a number for the total raised once they tally up what the players from both sides and South's directors chipped in as well.

    Thursday, 5 January 2017

    First friendly for 2017 this Saturday

    This Saturday we're playing our first friendly for 2017, up against North Geelong at Lakeside. Kickoff is at 11:30. There will also be some fundraising via gold coin donation at the gate for David Cervinksi, who is battling stage four melanoma.

    Arrivals and departures
    We've re-signed Marcus Schroen, Michael Eagar and Tim Mala for 2017. We've also secured our goalkeeping stocks, with Nikola Roganovic and Zaim Zeneli also recommitting for 2017.

    From the remainder of the 2016 squad, still up in the air (at least nominally) are the fates of Luke Adams, Andy Kecojevic and Leigh Minopoulos - maybe Stephen Hatzikostas as well considering that during the pre-season he has once again been riding his motorcycle chasing the horizon.

    As per last time, the following players are known to be contracted for next season.
      Mathew Theodore has retired, or gone off on sabbatical. Oh, and we've added the departure of Manolo for the sake of completeness, even though he left during the 2016 season. Players who have officially left the club so far:

      Sunday, 1 January 2017

      December 2016 digest

      Social club news (and more musings on capacities)
      There have been no official updates on the status of the build itself that I'm aware of, nor have I been made privy to unofficial murmurings that I can both recall and that are also worth repeating here. However one of our readers has made us aware of (publicly available) documents on the liquor licence for both the social club and the stadium as a whole.

      One of the first and most obvious changes is that there will now be two separate liquor licences, As the stadium and the social club are now under separate licences, you will not be able to take liquor from the social club out into the stadium area, though patrons will be able to, as our correspondent noted, take alcohol off the premises, ie 'buy a slab to rake home'. I suppose this will also mean you will be able to be served alcohol in a glass inside the social club as well. The social club's liquor licence hours are:
      • Sunday: Between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.
      • Good Friday & Anzac Day: Between 12 noon and 11 p.m.
      • Monday To Friday: Between 7 a.m. and 1 a.m.
      • Saturday: Between 7 a.m. and 12 midnight.
      Which I assume is the same as it ever was, and that as it was back then, so too will a limited amount of extended trading hour applications be available to the club. No capacity is listed on the social club's licence. In terms of who can be served and under what conditions, the 'licence is a full club licence' which 'authorises the licensee to supply liquor on the licensed premises'
      • to a member of the club for consumption on or off the licensed premises; and
      • to an authorised gaming visitor or guest of a member for consumption on the licensed premises.
      Which seems to suggest to me something like the Celtic Club in the city, where visitors or guests of members will have to sign in upon entering the social club, which seems consistent with what I've been told in the past. As an aside, I wonder how much it has cost the club to renew and maintain its liquor licence during the time that there has been no active or usable social per se, assuming that the club was in fact renewing and maintaining its liquor licence over that time.

      For the stadium liquor licence, the interesting part is where there is specification of the stadium's capacity. The 'internal area' (which I assume refers to either the corporate or the function space) capacity is listed at 220 patrons, while the  'external area' capacity is listed at 7,400 patrons, for an overall maximum of 7,620 patrons. When this total is put together with South of the Border's count of the grandstand seating - which you up'll recall was 5338 - it leaves about 2,300 as the standing room capacity as calculated by the government.

      Whether theoretically you could squeeze many more into the standing room areas is another matter entirely, but it's nice to have what appears to be a legit figure from the government itself about Lakeside Stadium's official current capacity.

      2017 Fixtures released
      And they are, interesting. Almost certainly because of the delay to the social club's refit, we've pulled a bit of a Ballarat Red Devils 2014 move and are playing our first seven games away. Apart from that, some things to note.
      • Almost all our home games at this stage are scheduled for Sundays at 4:00. How civilised. The exceptions to that rule are an Easter Monday game against Melbourne Knights, and our final round game with the simultaneous 3:00PM kickoffs.
      • We have an extra Monday night away fixture, with Kingston continuing to play home games on Mondays. Another chance to reiterate how stupid Monday night games are. 
      • Avondale will continue playing their home games at Knights Stadium.
      • A few teams are experimenting with different days and time-slots. The Bergers and Gully probably the most notable of these with their Saturday evening/night time-slots.
      But things could change! Let me know if they do.

      Public transport guide updated
      I have updated my public transport guide. Unfortunately for the public transport brigade, we've lost some of the easier grounds to visit, and ended up with some of the worst. No matter, we press on. I've changed the format slightly, getting rid of the bullet points (for the most part), adding some basic map images for each entry, and noting the existence (or otherwise) of PSOs at various train stations. As usual, please send in any corrections or suggestions.

      Vale Dave Maclaren
      As noted on Mark Boric's blog (which also has some good links), former South Melbourne Hellas coach Dave Maclaren passed away during December. A goalkeeper as a player, Maclaren coached South in 1978 after coming down from Sydney (with the side finishing third, two games behind champions West Adelaide), as well as the early part of the disastrous 1979 season, where the club finished last for the first and hitherto only time in its history. Maclaren's coaching stint at South was relatively short, but his connection to South continued in the form of his son Bruce (who was the goalkeeper in the championship year of 1991), and grandson Fraser, who played a handful of games for South in 2015.

      Even FFV's NPL Victoria Facebook page is getting on board the 'People's
      Champ' gimmick. Indeed, the change in tone and frequency of that
      Facebook page talking about South has not gone unnoticed by both
      South fans and opposition persons. I'm sure the majority of South people
       are loving it, though some, like myself, are wary of it causing a backlash
       or coming across as FFV playing favourites. I guess the theory is to be
      loved or hated is better than to not be thought of at all. Though to be fair,
      FFV probably just enjoy getting the kind  of social media metrics and
      interactions that South is getting, even if some of that is anecdotal.
      More on FFV's overall NPL media strategy in a post coming in early 2017.
      Arrivals and departures
      Some new signings have finally been announced, including several Brisbanites in the form of Jesse Daley, Luke Pavlou and Ajdin Fetahagic - the last of whom did his ACL during a training session. We've also upgraded youth player Joshua Hodes to the senior list, and welcomed back winger Stefan Zinni from his ultimately unsuccessful Melbourne Heart stint. That's a lot of youth right there. 

      In addition to that, we've signed Bentleigh midfielder/utility Liam McCormick, and surprised a few people, your correspondent included, by signing former South player Francesco Stella. The People's Champ and Kristian Konstantindis have signed for 2017. while Matthew Foschini has signed two more seasons.

      There is talk that there are still a couple of players to be signed, as well decisions needing to be made on the fates of several fringe players.

      As per last time, the following players are known to be contracted for next season.
        Mathew Theodore has retired, or gone off on sabbatical. Oh, and we've added the departure of Manolo for the sake of completeness, even though he left during the 2016 season. Players who have officially left the club so far:

        A-League expansion ephemera/continuing chronicle of self-regard
        Scheduled for the 2018/19 A-League season, which makes irrelevant (probably) our claim that we could be ready for season 2017/18 - unless it's part of the FFA conspiracy to keep us down by allowing time for other bids to sprout. Some have contended that that time line makes it harder for a South bid. I think if the bid is good enough it will get in on its own merits regardless of the time frame. And would you really want to get in based only having rushed the process? Don't answer that question.

        The actual existence of other bids aside from our own and the Tasmania bid remains a sketchy proposition at best - but then again, so do the nuts and bolts details of those two bids as well, so it all evens itself out in the end.

        One of the things we at South of the Border have been concerned interested in finding out is how Lakeside would be changed in order to create more seating capacity, at least on a temporary basis. To that end, the upcoming Usain Bolt athletics event in early February will go some way towards answering that question, at least in terms of providing a practical example of what can be achieved at Lakeside on that front.

        Below is the seating map for that event. Note that apart from the yellow fixed stands we already know and love, there are western and eastern grandstands where the terraces are - which will be news to the terraces that already live there, I'm sure.

        One suspects then that there will temporary grandstands installed, with what right now to me is an indeterminate/unknown number of seats. The general admission seating costs about $45 for the 'western' stand, and about $35 for the 'eastern' stand, and for the east it appears to be 'first in, best dressed', because you may end up in the standing room area at the back. Reserved seating costs a whopping $70, and all those prices don't include the booking fee if you purchase tickets online. All of which makes one think twice about attending this event for the primary purpose of investigating the grandstands.

        There's also been a TV deal settled - or at least the major component thereof in the form of the pay television aspect, with the free to air bit yet to come. The deal will end up being a big increase on what FFA had, but not as much as FFA wanted. More problematic for them was there was no one clamouring for the majority rights other than Fox Sports. As it relates to us though, it's all neither here nor there as far as I can tell. Maybe behind the scenes the networks are saying we need another team in Melbourne, but I'm not behind the scenes to know that.

        In the post AGM round up we warned you that the club would continue on its path of most salacious self-aggrandisement, and even though news has dried up a little - I suppose people had to take some time off to see their familiies and such - it reached new heights when it was suggested that Roberto Carlos would be coach of 'our' A-League side. All of which was news to Roberto Carlos himself.
        Others were more willing to play South's game and at least pretend that this was all legit, but they still duly noted: why choose Roberto Carlos in the first place, an excellent free kick taker but thus far incredibly mediocre manager? But it's the hype that matters, you see. The mostly mock concern over Chris Taylor's feelings on the matter was laid on a bit thick to be honest.

        One trend which has emerged in recent times, at least on a secluded corner of the internet, is South fans being split along the lines of either being wholly for the whatever it takes approach to getting this A-League bid up and going, saying whatever needs to be said no matter how outrageous; to more Negative Nancy types who think this whole is a joke. The latter being in the minority, they've copped their fair share of heat for pointing out some of the absolute nonsense being peddled by people associated with 'our' bid.

        As you may have guessed, your correspondent tends to fall into the latter category on this matter. That's not to say that I approve of the tone of some of the negativity, because it can and has become as predictably knee-jerk and pedestrian in its instinctive reflexivity as those who are all the way with whatever the hell it is some people are trying to do.

        But because I share some or even many of their broader concerns on this matter, I like to think there is a way of putting forward that case that doesn't simply play out as an attempt (whether deliberate or not) to try and seem cooler than everyone else by the taking up of a minority position.

        And I say this because there are many things with the presentation of this South bid which have reached beyond mere old fashioned Hellas arrogance, and which have ended up instead increasingly further away from anything resembling reality (provided of course that we exist in the 50% possibility that we're not in a simulacrum).

        That being the case, we should as South fans be allowed to fairly criticise those kinds of claims, without fear of being labeled as recalcitrants or other such erms. While remembering the necessary caveat that not that of any of that matters, if we are to believe that this stuff does matter, we have a right to be concerned with the club's image and the way it is portrayed in the public.

        But back to the issue at hand. Further complicating matters is the announcement of real estate development firm Luvarc as our major sponsor for next season. When we say complicated, this is because Luvarc is associated with Louisa Chen, who at one point - that point being the bid's initial soft-launch - was seemingly being touted as an investor. Then at the AGM they said there were no investors. After that, well it's been hard to keep track of which story to take seriously, or where these stories may all fit in the time-line. Historians looking back at this era are going to have a lot of problems, though since we're not going to make it into the A-League, it probably won't matter so much.

        On a side note, I am absolutely fascinated by what seems like the increasingly deliberate tactic of not putting up anything about the A-League bid on the website. Are you intrigued by all the South Melbourne A-League bid hoopla and want to find out more? Well visit our website and learn about... all the players we've signed for next season. Facebook and Twitter seem to be taking up all the slack on that, letting people comment and I assume having their comments deleted as the case may be. It's almost like leaving as little a formal digital paper trail as possible at home base, instead preferring to dirty up the social media frontier - basically anywhere the interest can be made to seem like it is being driven by individuals and groups outside of South Melbourne Hellas.

        But we've talked at length about these things before...

        We came out of that pretty well
        Oh, and those worried that by losing the Melbourne City/South Melbourne Toyota sponsorship we'd lose the van, have no fear! Team manager Frank Piccione will get to keep driving around our de facto social club regardless.

        Another one from the 'why did nobody tell me?' files
        Did you know that midfielder Stephen Hatzikostas made a film of some kind, or that he was a painter? Or that he had an exhibition of both these sides of his artistic self during (I'm guessing) September this year? Even though I'm not particularly artistic myself, and clearly prefer the literary arts to the visual, I am disappointed that those who know me well enough at South Melbourne did not think to tell me that Mr. Hatzikostas was presenting work in a gallery space, knowing that I don't mind visiting galleries, nor considering that I would be interested even at the base level of 'holy crap, here's a South Melbourne player doing something different'. There's so much other crap on the website and social media from our end, why not even a cursory mention of this? (unless that's the way Stevie Hatz wanted it?) I mean, there might also be a valid critique to be made asking whether we really need another film about riding a motorbike through America, but that's for the potential audience to decide, surely? Couldn't they at least make up their own minds in the fading but still warm afterglow of the grand final victory, whether Stevie Hatz's late arrival to pre-season preparation because he was busy riding across the United States while making this movie was all worth it?

        Anyway, here's a half related and true story. Back in, oh, about 2009 I think, I was in a documentary making class as part of my undergrad professional writing course, and I was teamed up with a bloke who wanted to make a doco (25 minutes or so in length) about what it was like to be a motorcyclist in Melbourne, or some such topic. He ended up doing most of the work, because he had the proper knowhow and technology at home to edit the footage (and Vic Uni was very slack in teaching us anything to do with that), though I did provide as much as technical and editorial assistance as I could, as well as moral support when something electrical blew up and he had to work from a much older save file. I would have done more work on the film had I been able to ride along the back of my mate's Triumph while holding a video camera - unfortunately when I tried putting on the motorcycle helmet I got claustrophobic within about three seconds, and in the end some German/Austrian exchange student who was not a part of our team (or even part of that subject) ended up doing the ride along filming. Apart from ongoing residual guilt about having earned an HD for something I didn't really do enough on, everything worked out OK in the end, and there was no resentment from my partner. I even made use of the experience, by using the experience of walking between the St Albans campus and my mate's place off Main Road West to ponder how easy it would be to dump a body in the wetlands that act as an impromptu nature reserve near the campus, and I included as a section in the only piece of literary fiction I've had published.

        Anyway, we find probably the one person at South Melbourne Hellas whose artistic pursuits aren't limited to strictly consumer exploitation oriented graphical and web design, and nobody deems this even remotely important.