Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Notable Greeks of Melbourne artefact Wednesday

Well, lest one think that because  we spoke earlier in the week about one South Melbourne Hellas president that we have some sort of perverse agenda against our current nightmarish regime, here is a short piece which spreads the love to a despotic and nightmarish regime of an earlier, more innocent time.

Some time last year I think it was, while sitting on the outside tables at the Limerick Arms because we didn't have a social club at the time, that frequent artefact provider to South of the Border known as The Agitator lent us this book called The Greeks of Melbourne (published 1996) that he'd found in an op shop somewhere. Maybe it was even the Sacred Heart Mission shop just down the road from the pub. Clarendon Street's good like that.

The book is by someone named Dominique Francois De Stoop (who according to their own bio on the back had a very colourful career) which is not a very Greek name no matter how you try and spin it, and is unusual on that front for the fact that it's not a Greek writing this book because it's usually our deal to spin crap about how great we are.

Rather than going back and identifying every Greek that has ever done anything in Melbourne, the book msotly seems focused on contemporary Greek identities from all walks of life, and my goodness there are a lot of obscure people in there who happened to hit the jackpot by timing their burst of mediocre prominence to co-exist with the compilation of this book. Which is not to cast aspersions on any single one of those lucky souls, because soon enough the same will happen to this South of the Border correspondent in an upcoming book, and we'll all be the poorer for the experience and entertainment this fleeting bit of non-fame will provide.

Yes it's a terrible scan, but wait until you see the next one.
So anyway, The Greeks of Melbourne would surely have something about Hellenism's contribution to sport in Melbourne during this time. And because it would have that contribution to sport, surely soccer would be in there. And because soccer would be in there, surely there would be something about South Melbourne Hellas, but what exactly?

Well as it turns out, yes there is a section on sporting Greeks, and yes there is something about soccer, and yes there is something about South Melbourne Hellas. But for whatever reason this is limited to a brief biographical sketch of the club's then president, George Vasilopoulos.

For the record, here are the other names included in the sport section. Carlton footballer Ang Christou; his team mate Anthony Koutoufides; tennis player; Mark Philippoussis; super marathon runner Yiannis Kouros; taekwondo champion Lydia Zykkas; and er, Arthur Euriniadis, CEO of Collingwood Warriors. That not one Greek soccer player is included is perhaps interesting - maybe there were none good enough, or considered high profile enough - and instead we get two administrators to represent local Greek soccer.

The relevant biographical segment begins by noting that Vasilopoulos was the manager of a local bank branch, which is an extraordinarily dull thing to note except when you recall that so many slurs directed at the management of ethnic soccer clubs from those who mocked our capabilities focused on the 'fact' that our clubs were run by fish 'n chip shop owners, milk bar proprietors, and greengrocers. First, as if there is anything wrong with those kinds of people running a club at any level; second, in our case it just wasn't true. Surely the more important thing would be that the people running the joint were not out of their depth, and not their origins? Besides which, soccer in Victoria and probably across the country is so much more dependent on the health and wellbeing of the construction industry than anything else.

You want to read this? Click on it in order make it bigger.
The section on Vasilopoulos continues to trundle along aimlessly, providing a prosaic recap of George's life before finally getting to his involvement at South Melbourne Hellas, and then after just one paragraph, quickly returns to talking about George's life independent of South Melbourne Hellas.

Oh, but what commentary on our club in that brief space allocated to it. Vasilopoulos claims that the club had 3,500 paying members and expected to have 10,000 members by the year 2000. I am amazed by these assertions on so many levels. There is of course the 3,500 claim, because popular legend has it that our record was 2,700 at some point in the early 2000s. Then you have the ambition to reach 10,000, which just seems out of this world.

But take note also of the expectation that the club's new facilities would be a key factor in attracting new members, and what may otherwise come across as merely an obscure oddball comment suddenly has a kind of relevance to our present situation. After all, has not Bill Papastergiadis of our A-League bid team made similar comments about our club currently having 6,500 members? Does the club not hope that the people who will come to use our futsal court will in time come to our games, and in turn become South supporters? Sometimes it seems as if time is neither a straight line nor a circle, but rather just us sitting on the same spot forever. I'm sure some notable physicist has proven that to be the case anyway.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Making people happy - Melbourne Knights 0 South Melbourne 2

Kristian Konstantinidis goes over the top of his Knights opponent.
Photo: Melbourne Knights.
In the match report for the last time these teams we played each other, I noted that it fit almost perfectly into Knights fans' ideas of how they always lose to us - that is, after dominating and creating a ton of chances, they concede some arsey goal and lose the game. Yesterday wasn't quite like that, but the second half had enough to make what was a middling game that much more enjoyable. Because while the three points are pleasant and useful, especially as we didn't play that well, the manner in which we won while not objectively pleasing on aesthetic, it was pleasing on the 'sick burn' front.

In terms of the lineup, Stefan Zinni was in for Jesse Daley, and Michael Eagar came back into the team after a two week absence replacing not Kristian Konstantinidis, but rather Luke Adams. Zinni would eventually get subbed off in the second half, while Konstantinidis did some good and less good things - the good being offering a real aerial threat from attacking set pieces, his high leap being a feature - but also perhaps choosing to dive in too often for my taste.

Assorted concerned citizens check to see if Knights' player Nikola Jurkovic
is OK. Photo: Melbourne Knights.
We started the game quite well, dominated the first half, and should have gone in to half time further ahead than the 1-0 scoreline. Still, Marcus Schroen's goal from 25-30 yards out was magnificent, especially because it got a deflection which added to the luck factor. Other than that, we weren't good enough in the final third against what has been a flimsy defensive line. Apart from a late flurry by Knights where they failed to take advantage of a Nikola Roganovic spill, the most notable thing to happen in the first half was a melee from a behind the scenes incident involving Schroen. That melee at least followed on from the melee during the under 20s game earlier on.

Tensions being so high, it was a credit to the South fans who took the banter of the flag waving Knights children and their calls of 'Hellas, up your arse' with such good grace. Luckily for us those fearsome future hooligans had vacated the area behind the southern goal, so we could move there for the second half and create a good effect for SMFC video, which is what it's all about these days.

The second half by us was not so good. We gave Knights far too much possession and territory, a lot of corners, and survived mostly thanks to a goal line clearance, the crossbar, and Knights' woeful finishing. As the match wore on however, I was not so concerned. As some of you may have observed, I've watched quite a few Knights games this season, and I became confident that they wouldn't score. On that point, someone noted that Jason Hicks is probably the only ex-player of ours in recent times who hasn't come back to haunt us, that must of course come with an asterisk because Hicks didn't actually play a game for us.

Cheer up CT! You're the manager of the winning team!
Photo: Melbourne Knights.
Watching through the goal net and the large black net, I probably had no idea how close Knights were actually getting to scoring. But even after the game's most controversial incident, I didn't think there would be cosmic justice directed Knights way. The incident in question was farcical even by Oz soccer officiating standards. A ball to the back post saw Lujic handle the ball in a contest, and Knights captain-coach Ben Surey assume that handball had been called - or that the ball had gone out, I'm not sure which - and catch the ball and get ready for a goal kick. The referee, having not called the Lujic handball, called a penalty for Surey's handling of the ball - which was still in the field of play - and then all sorts of confusion laughter and pleading broke loose.

Eventually the officials made the right decision and overturned the penalty, but who knows what their thought process was to get to that conclusion. After one more Knights chance, we eventually got our sealing goal. Good work by Brad Norton to take a throw in on the wing quickly when he might have chosen to slow play down, equally good work by the People's Champ to provide the option on the win catching the Knights' defense half asleep, and one decent cross to the back post later, Milos Lujic finishing it off with a header that snuck across the line at the opposite post.

All in all, a top night out despite the cold and the pretty small crowd, a Knights portion of which apparently started tearing into each other after the game, which is none of our business when I think about it. With Heidelberg's loss today, we've reclaimed top spot on goal difference from the Bergers. We're also equal on points with Bentleigh, but they have played an extra game compared to the top two.

Next game
Hume away on Saturday.

Gods and clods, and a bee in my bonnet
For the upcoming FFA Cup game against Edgeworth, one area I would've expected there to be unavoidable issues would've been access to the social club. I mean, the joint fits what, 300 people sitting and standing, which is perfectly acceptable for our bread and butter state league needs. But I didn't expect the club to shoot itself in the foot quite like this.

For you see, rather than opening up the social club early so that members and other people can arrive there early for a meal, the social club space has been set aside - from 5PM until 7PM - for a corporate event hosted by the club. While ordinary members and punters will be able to attend that function, it will set them back either $70 or $90 to do so.

This is especially galling for those like myself who have purchased a social club membership in part for the benefit of preferential access to the social club on busy days. The club is entitled to leverage off big match days in all sorts of ways. It should not aim to do so at the expense of ordinary members. If the club was worried about capacity, they could've taken reservations, with priority for social club members - after all, wasn't that the point of the social club membership?

There must be a very good reason why the club cannot host this function in the upstairs reception space, or as others have noted, in the President's Room itself where all these corporate big-shots and assorted one game wonders will end up anyway. I have not heard a good reason for this. If this is being done in the best interests of the club, isn't the club the membership? Are we that hard up for cash that the club feels it needs to effectively lock out members until as late as possible, unless they pay a supplementary fee?

Arguments that there's only a half hour difference to the amount of pre-game social club access people would usually get, and that an hour for the pleb supporter is enough, are outright nonsense. This is a midweek game, and much as it irks me to say this of the FFA Cup, it is a special occasion. People were looking forward to getting to the social club early on to spend more time there than they usually would, to buy more food and drink than they usually would, to be in the company of their fellow South fans for longer than they usually would.

Remarkably, without any prompting from South of the Border, several fans have sent emails to the club about this decision, and as long they are civil in their approach, I applaud the initiative. It probably won't change anything, but at least it lets the club know that there are people who aren't happy. I must admit I was appalled at one of the responses a fan received from president Leo Athanasakis, who asked the relevant fan 'where he got his information from?'. Well, it was from the information the club put out itself.

The most incomprehensible comment from the president (on Twitter) was that the social club doors would've otherwise opened only an hour and half before the game at the earliest. Is he implying that there would somehow not be enough interest from fans to turn up early, yet simultaneously enough interest that the club could charge a minimum $70 entry fee for early access? And furthermore, as one fellow pointed out to me during a discussion about this today, if this was a business networking opportunity thingamabob, why not have a cocktail party in the President's Room where people can actually move and you know, network?

I'm not one for taking up extreme and knee-jerk pro or anti board positions, but sometimes they need to cop a serious bake when they pull stunts like this. The good thing is that having not had a social club for seven years before this season, I'm well aware of what's on offer from the many quality restaurants and pubs on Clarendon Street and its surrounds. Those of you who are happy to stump up the cash for the club's function, have fun. Those who resent what's happened here can join the rest of us up the road somewhere, or you can sulk on the front steps.

Anyway, that's all I have to say on the matter. I've had my grumble.

Around the grounds
It's official - I am a distraction
Let's get the prosaic stuff out of the way. Essendon Royals (coached by Michael Curcija) have even lower credibility than the rump state that was late Byzantium. Altona East (coached by Alan Davidson) at least have access to a proper ground, even if they're lower on the table and looking likely for relegation after losing this fairly dud game 1-0. East also have better souvs, which shouldn't need to be said, but so does every club who doesn't put tasty cheese on them which congeals while the pre-made souvs wait in the bain marie. Here's where it gets a bit weird. Me and a few other blokes decided to watch the game from the behind the goals East was attacking in each half. Ormond Park is an open ground, with various combination of string and portable metal barriers spread out to act as a marker for where spectators should stand behind. First half, stood behind one of those barriers. Second half, stood behind one of those barriers. No problem. Until about 70 minutes in that is, when referee Harry Milas decided that our small group was a distraction to him. We were behind the arbitrary fence line, we weren't talking loudly or to the Royals goalkeeper, but yet we were told to move about ten metres to the right. It ruined a perfectly adequate afternoon of boredom.

Final thought
Rumour has it that a certain rotund lovable larrikin, having decided to go up to Sydney for the Arsenal tour, and having made a 'Wenger out' banner at some expense, ended up having nowhere to put this expensive banner at the game.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Pumpkin Seed Eater Origins artefact Wednesday

Way back in the mists of time, the NSL was still dead, but the A-League had not yet officially begun. In those days, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth, as well as trepidation - and anticipation - of what the A-League would bring.

Many people had chosen sides, while a lot of other people hedged their bets. In amid the clamouring, there were many op-eds. and roving reporters, and prognostications. Would it work? Would the tribes be united? 

In Melbourne, this situation was probably more heated than anywhere else; one can speculate in their own time why that might have been.

Forums (remember them?) old and new were filled with passionate arguments and open hostility. Many were willing to offend, and many more were willing to be offended.

Come to think of it, that seems a lot like the present, too.

One of the most contentious (relatively speaking) comments made during that time was often attributed to then Melbourne Victory majority (or was he outright? Doesn't matter.) owner Geoff Lord.

He was accused of calling the old soccer guard 'pumpkin seed eaters'. 

Of course, later on the phrase 'pumpkin seed eaters' would be taken up by a podcast of the same name, one which others enjoyed more than myself. 

Then, as the arguments for and against got stale, and as 'three years tops' became many more, the phrase slipped out of the Australian soccer lexicon. 

But what was the context for that statement? How did people come to hear of this utterance? That seemed to get lost in the wash somewhat.

The answer lies, at least partly, in this week's artefact. In the Wednesday July 13th 2005 edition of Goal Weekly (remember print journalism, kiddies?), in Eddie Krncevic's 'Krncevic's Korner' segment - why did I think it was Krncevic's Krunchlines? - where Eddie opines on said incident.

Right off the bat, Krncevic makes it clear he didn't hear the comments made himself, nor does he name the person involved. And while Krncevic is concerned at the offence caused, he doesn't see it as a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination, only more of a misstep that should not be repeated if Victory and the A-League were to succeed in Melbourne.

Of course, as with many of these kinds of 'outrages', though they were heartfelt by many of those who were listening at the time, the fact of the matter was that most weren't - just as today most Australian soccer followers or participants have no idea of the debates being had on Twitter and the remaining forums and blogs.

Besides which, as was noted by a member of the Victory forum at the time, even one of the blokes who sold pumpkin seeds at Lakeside ended up outside Victory games anyway.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Warriors, come out to play! North Geelong 1 South Melbourne 5

They tried to make me move from my spot, and failed miserably.
Gains and my ride to the ground underestimated how long it would take him to get to my place. No matter - all the more time while waiting for him to talk about the Russian literature on my shelf both read (Gogol, Nabokov, Tolstoy) and unread (Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn), and the prosaic, surface level differences between Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World.  Once on our way, the inbuilt satellite navigation system thought that Lara was too vague of a suggested destination, but we figured it out eventually. I traded stories with the driver about visits to various prisons and courts of the land - a far cry from having aircraft swoop in front of you while sitting in the president's car, but that's no slight on the amenities provided on the day.

Despite needing to make a u-turn along the way, we got to the ground early enough to enjoy lunch (delicious but slightly undersized raznjici roll, overpriced and poor excuse for a cheese burek) and the second half of the under 20s game. Unlike the senior match, which was second place and against second last, this was first (them) vs second (us), and good on the boys for rallying from behind to win 4-2 and take top spot with a game in hand. More importantly, the style of football played by our boys was so good that the opposition coach - a rather excitable fellow, if we're being honest - was moved to praise them as the best team in the league, and the best ball playing team in the competition to boot.
We watched the referees warm up, marveled at them having to ask which of our staff was the South Melbourne coach, and then waited to see which side we'd be kicking to in the first half.  Having picked our viewing spot and in no way apologising for it, not even now, the senior game was about to start and I felt unusually confident that we'd get through pretty easily - probably because I've been reading too many Ante Jukic reports about how ordinary North Geelong have played this season, and especially in recent weeks. The inclusion of Marcus Schroen for Leigh Minopoulos didn't phase me - I figured it was all part of the rotation policy, and that Schroen's more physical style might suit the dodgy surface a bit better.

One of the great attractions of visiting Elcho Park is finding
 yourself in the presence of this homage to the wonderfully
cult classic 1979 film 'The Warriors'. Photo: Gains.
Even Michael Eagar's absence due to illness - meaning another start for Kristian Konstantinidis - didn't bother me, and while I was annoyed at falling behind early on, I wasn't as crestfallen as I'd usually be in the circumstances. And soon enough Schroen put the People's Champ through one-on-one with the keeper, and we were back on level terms. Not too long after that, Konstantinidis was left all alone at the back of the six yard box from a corner, and his header led to a goalmouth scramble finished off by Schroen. At this early stage, the surface didn't seem to be bothering us too much, and we were playing quite well along the ground for the most part, much more than I thought we'd do. It would have been nice to have had a bigger lead at the break, because strange things can always happen, and North looked more lively and dangerous than I'd expected them to.

But Schroen's second goal early in the second half more or less put paid to this contest, and even though North kept coming, the gulf in class was too great. Schroen got his hat-trick, allowing Milos Lujic to be subbed off early for Stefan Zinni, as well as giving Tim Mala and Bhardi Hysolli some game time. Depth is just one of the differences between the haves and have-nots of this league, and we're fortunate to have some. The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly Matthew Foschini getting forward and scoring our fifth goal of the afternoon, and just as notably his first for the club in his nearly sixty match stint - which he celebrated with gusto. He then somehow sent a header from inside the six yard box over the bar.

I think everyone felt we could've, and perhaps should've come out of this game with an extra goal or two, but we also came close to conceding on a couple of occasions, so the four goal win is not a letdown by any stretch of the imagination. With regards the race for top spot, the Bergers managed to edge past the Knights 1-0 this afternoon, so we're still three points behind - but at least we made up some of the goal difference we gave up last week. We're now on +21 to Heidelberg's +23.

Yes, it's true: Joe Gorman, South of the Border's 4th or 5th biggest fan, has
a book coming out about Australian soccer, the NSL, multiculturalism,
 and why promotion/relegation in Australian soccer will probably never
 happen. It's also got curmudgeons, and is out on July 31st via UQP.
Next game
Away to Melbourne Knights on Friday; or in other words, just an average Friday night out for me in 2017. The Knights are still in relegation playoff danger, but it's a 'derby' and they've seemingly turned a bit of a corner the last couple of weeks. The squad rotation and horses for courses approaches used in recent weeks might be in for an interesting time - one would expect Eagar to come back into the side, but Schroen's hat-trick - even if two of those goals were from a couple of yards out against lowly opposition - do in theory at least provide somewhat of a selection headache.

Upcoming fixture news
It's some time away yet, but our round 24 match away to Pascoe Vale has been moved from Friday July 28th to Saturday July 29th. The kick off times have also been adjusted, with the seniors kicking off at 7:00PM, and the under 20s at 5:00PM. These changes have been made to better accommodate our FFA Cup match against Edgeworth Eagles.

So they added a marketing person, how cute
After laying dormant during the the bulk of the last three and a bit months - coincidentally the best three and a half months of our season - South's A-League bid machine is kicking back into gear. While one could get upset, this was to be expected - after all, we're approaching an FFA Cup national stage date, and so you've got to make hay while the sun shines.

Before we move on, I am aware that by using that metaphor for this situation, I'm ignoring the advice of George Orwell in his famous essay 'Politics and the English language' to come up with new metaphors which are relevant to the age we live in. There's obviously a property developer adaptation to 'making hay while the sun shines' that would fit in beautifully, but since I'm lousy with metaphors at the best of times, I'm going to leave it up you, dear readers, to suggest it in the comments section. I can't do all the work around here.

Anyway, the gist of the article is that the extant A-League bid advisory committee will become the inaugural board of a South Melbourne bid in the event that it is granted an A-League licence. That means that the current A-League bid advisory committee made up of:
  • lawyer Bill Papastergiadis (current South Melbourne Hellas board member)
  • property developer Gabrielle Giuliano (also a current South Melbourne Hellas board member)
  • property developer Louisa Chen (South Melbourne's current major sponsor)
  • and consultant Andrew Thompson (former federal sports minister)
  • 'marketing expert' Michael McEwan (recently added to the bid team)
will move on unelected by the South Melbourne Hellas membership to become the operators of the South Melbourne A-League franchise, in the event that South Melbourne is given the green light by FFA - or whoever FIFA puts in charge of running the game here. Amid the vague fluffiness of the piece and lines like "History is something to be proud of” and “South Melbourne is all about what’s ahead", details like:
  • who is going to pay for this?
  • what will be South Melbourne Hellas' stake in this?
  • who or what is going to run this, and do we - South Melbourne Hellas members - get to have any say in the matter?
remain for the vast majority of us very much up in the air. Because while some (maybe even most - I've not done a survey) current South Melbourne Hellas fans will be happy to have an A-League presence dependent on a privately funded model which leverages our name, history and remnant cultural cachet, others will not.

The bid team remain deliberately vague on these and other issues - understandably so within the context of not showing all your cards just yet. Suffice to say though, that for those who had hoped that a wholly or even majority owned South Melbourne A-League franchise was possible, this seems to put another dent in those aspirations. Those people will have to either try to find a way of doubling down on the promotion/relegation and second divisions angles, or do some rationalising along Port Power/Port Adelaide Magpies lines.

Looking further ahead, it will be interesting to see if members of this bid/possible future South Melbourne affiliated A-League team board other than Papastergiadis and Giuliano will turn up to the AGM to answer questions from the membership - that's if those other members of the bid are members of the club I suppose. The best thing about all this is A-League expansion could be pushed back until 2019/20 - so we could be dealing with this stuff for even longer. Not that any of that matters.

Intermittent poetry corner (vale Fay Zwicky)
The Australian poet Fay Zwicky died the other week, which bears no relevance to South Melbourne whatsoever. But permit me, dear reader, to bumble along in digression as I am sometimes prone to doing on South of the Border, in writing about a particular poem of Zwicky's.

Before there was the Heavy Sleeper's guide to the 2014 World Cup on Shoot Farken, there was Fay Zwicky's poem 'World Cup Spell'. I can't say I'm much of a poetry buff - ask Ian Syson, he reckons I kill just about any poem I read out loud - but I know what I like when it comes to poetry, and I like this one.

The Homeric epithets are used playfully, rather than in Homer's purpose's of repetition and fitting into his rhyming and mnemonic scheme - and why not? This is a short poem about a peculiar kind of solitude experienced within a shared global moment, not an epic being transmitted down the years by bards to a largely illiterate people relying on oral traditions.

The 'hollow anglo saxon silence' is a my favourite line, though it must be looked at in very specific terms - 'anglo-saxon' here meaning Australia, not England. It's a lament and a snapshot of the cultural obliviousness (more likely, and less judgemental) or perhaps even wilful ignorance (less likely, and more judgemental) of mainstream Australian culture. That's my take on it anyway, and the angle I find most relevant to my thesis work - that, and the poem's combination of sport and art, which are uneasy bedfellows at the best of times in our culture.

Some might latch on to the blend word 'mediababble', and doubtless there's scope to wring out meaning from those five syllables, too. But that's for others to do; not 'the great curmudgeon, exploring his own misery'. As far as neo-Homeric epithet in-jokes go, that's a pearler.

Around the grounds
Life in the Forbidden Zone
Trekked out to Port Melbourne on Friday night for Port vs Pascoe Vale, a game of some importance to the finals race - Port trying to close the gap with a late run, Paco trying to consolidate their place in the six and put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack. I used my media pass to sit on the otherwise forbidden outer side, next to the Dodgy Asian Betting guy. A game can be both mediocre and entertaining at the same time. There were some crude tackles early on, but credit to the referee for pulling out the yellows when the received wisdom (which I loathe) is to let everyone have two or three cracks at each other first before punishment is due. I'm sure I've complained about this before in here, but I've never understood the tendency for leniency on the basis of 'it's still early in the game' - haven't most of these players been playing for a minimum of ten years already? Surely that's enough time to learn that a studs up challenge is of equal wrongness in both the 5th minute and the 95th minute? Oh, 'but it will ruin the game if you send someone off early'. Maybe the relevant player shouldn't be such a dropkick so early in the game then?

Anyway, as ordinary as this game was, Port had the lead early and were the better of the two sides a by a slim margin  Then one of their players got a second yellow card on the half hour mark, and Port didn't get close to scoring for the rest of the game. Pascoe Vale scored three times in the second half, which apart from earning them three points also helped calm down Pascoe Vale coach Vitale Ferrante, who had spent most of the game up to that point abusing his players. And while I don't agree with his conduct (while acknowledging that it had its own comedic qualities), somewhere in there was buried an interesting point - at what stage are senior soccer players in Australia expected to have the ability to organise themselves on the field? In a packed and noisy stadium, the coach's instructions struggle to be heard even at short distances; meanwhile at a suburban ground with at most 100 onlookers, a coach with a big voice is able to effectively yell and direct every single one of his players in real time. In Australia the difference between the two playing experiences are literally one step removed. So when do Australian players learn how to sort themselves out on a field independent of constant reinforcement from a coach? Isn't it a bit late by the time they turn fully professional?

Final thought
Thanks to Foti for giving myself and Gains a lift to and from the ground.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Coming up short - South Melbourne 1 Green Gully 2

Luke Adams puts in a cross during injury time. Photo: Cindy Nitsos. 
It's a good thing we've hit the month leading up the FFA Cup proper, and people have stopped caring about our league form. If the loss to Bentleigh in the Dockerty Cup semi final didn't freak out anybody, and a scratchy win against Oakleigh was overshadowed by the antics of Dr Aki, then yesterday was just plain old disappointing. And while some have sought to make claims for being unlucky, or counting it as a sort of blessing for shaking us out of our complacency - a necessary wake up call coming into the squeaky bum time of the season - I would've preferred we got the points and deal with the complacency in a different way.

And to think that we started this game off so well, with our most blistering counter-attack goal since forever. It looked like a fully fledged credible professional goal. Not some fluke long bomb, not a goal mouth scramble, not some dire defensive error, but a ridgy-didge team goal executed with flair and polish. Then we sat back, or least gave Gully too much room to waltz around the middle of the park. I'm not sure if it was an instruction, or something instinctive in the players as a whole, but it has happened on a few occasions this season where we've given the opposition to show initiative for reasons I'm not able to understand - neither do I exactly know who to blame.

I speculate that there was some instruction to sit back from Chris Taylor, because Leigh Minopoulos was sitting quite deep and playing pretty close to Matthew Foschini. Leigh's a good player, but he's not necessarily a defensive or grunt style player, so it seemed odd to me that he'd be so far back. I said to a mate I reckon he'd be subbed for Stefan Zinni, and lo and behold, that's almost what happened in the second half - though instead of Zinni, it was David Barca Moreno who replaced Leigh. But more on that later.

The absence of Michael Eagar due to suspension didn't help matters - his reading of the play both at centre back and on his forays to defensive mid to clean up attacks has been a big part of our turnaround in form. Kristian Konstantinidis, finally back after his long suspension, filled in for Eagar, but it didn't quite feel the same. This is understandable, because Konstantinidis has been out of the game for ages. Still, it was a general issue across the park. Gully's first goal from a corner was the tip of the iceberg - we'd been struggling to clear our lines, and it was only right that they'd pull the goal back from a goal mouth scramble.

That's not to say that we'd given up attacking, and we had our fair share of moments in the first half, but our execution let us down. But the sloppy play cost us at the other end of the ground as well, when Jesse Daley's misplaced pass in midfield, and Jonathan Bounas being allowed to ungracefully stroll through midfield by Daley and Luke Pavlou and launch a bomb. So, 2-1 down at half time, and in the second half more casual defending gifted Gully the chance to extend their lead.

But credit to the South boys, they had by far the better of the second half. A pity that our crosses were dealt with too easily most of the time, and that luck wasn't on our side. But you also make your own luck, and Daley being carded in the box for a dive, and then Millar (the latter at least probably a slip than simulation, but he was certainly claiming the foul).

Nick Epifano shot high from the edge of the area when he should've at least hit the target. Barca Moreno, who did little of note during his stint, missed an open header in injury time - a sharp chance, yes, but one he should score. And Milos Lujic thought he'd be smart and put his penalty shot (earned by a Zinni run) straight down the middle, again, but Lewis Spine didn't fall for it. The short corner played at the death was the stuff of a million South Melbourne short corner nightmares.

The loss is a setback, because having worked so hard to work our way to a share of top spot, we've fallen behind both in terms of points (three behind Heidelberg) and lost a good chunk of goal difference because of the Bergers' solid 4-0 win at North Geelong. Seeing as we have Avondale, Bentleigh, Hume and Pascoe Vale to play - as well as the desperate Knights and Kingston, our aim of finishing top, while not gone by a long short, is now that much harder because of this loss. The saving grace may be

Next game
North Geelong away, in the first of four consecutive away matches. I'm looking forward to this one, except for the getting there and back part.

Social club still ironing out the kinks
There was more refinement in the social club menu, though nothing earth shattering. There was pastitsio on the specials board, and I saw South of the Border favourite Savvas Tzionis trying to make headway into what was a frankly ludicrously huge piece.

It was also the first home game in quite some time with the under 20s playing in the curtain raiser. That meant that at least nominally, membership cards should have been scanned and tickets sold right from the start of the day. When having the women's team play the curtain raiser, FFV rules stipulate that club cannot charge for entry before half time of those games - this is because you're not allowed to charge entry for WNPL games.

But on Sunday, there was talk that entry to the venue was not necessarily effectively enforced. While I had my membership scanned, I didn't notice any security early on making sure people entering did the same or at least buy a ticket. To be fair, I think most people turning up did the right thing - and the security/bag check area outside the door leading to the arena was manned, as usual and asking for proof of membership or tickets.

But it seems like both an inefficient and error prone process. I hope it gets sorted out soon.

So it's come to this, again - FFA Cup draw news
The short version is that we've been drawn at home against Edgeworth Eagles for the FFA Cup round of 32. Our match has been scheduled for Wednesday July 26th - the game will also be broadcast on Fox Sports.

The long version is of course much sadder than the short version, because this is what we live for now.

The club put up the notice that they would open up the social club for lunch while the draw was streamed, and yea verily they turned up in their, well, not too bad numbers all things considered. Of those expected to 'represent' in some sense, there were club employees, some board members, Brad Norton and Michael Eagar. As for the fans, it was made of the self-employed, the non-employed, and those within rock throwing distance of Lakeside - all waiting to see who'd we get put up against in this tournament which I loathe with, if not quite every fibre of my being, then at least those bits that I can spare.

Having flown up a number of coaches up to Sydney for the draw, it made sense that the whole thing would be dragged out for as long as it took, but you've got to pity those who took the day off work to do so and then ended up not being interviewed. Aside from having to do deal with Fox stretching the draw out, the lowlight was having to endure the drone of Kenny Lowe's voice. Call me juvenile, but the highlight of the broadcast for me was host Tara Ruhston being caught off-guard when an ad break finished early with the camera, catching her fixing something on her teeth. I don't know why I'm so easily amused when things go even momentarily and minutely wrong on TV.
In the social club there was an unofficial and not very strictly enforced social media embargo placed upon attendees, as the stream was of course on slight but noticeable delay compared to the television feed - you know, to keep the suspense within the social club space itself at a maximum. To be fair, it kinda worked. As numbers were plucked out of the bowl, there seemed to be the inevitable feeling that we'd draw Victory or Palm Beach Sharks Gold Coast City or one of the Victorian teams - though no one seemed to understand that the numbers had no intrinsic value in themselves, and that they were merely representative symbols - having no. 29 picked out is no different to having 156 picked - because no ball had an inherent numerical value,

Then Hume were drawn at home to Bentleigh, and everyone had a big laugh, though on reflection I'm not sure it was actually that funny. I suppose once we get bundled out at the first go again, we can take solace that one of those two will be joining us. And then out came whatever the number was for Edgeworth Eagles, pleasing some people up to a point, but otherwise seemingly leaving no faction happy. Those positively gagging for an A-League tie were left particularly disappointed. I suppose for some it's a missed chance to promote Lakeside as an A-League venue - I mean, in the event that we're still actively striving for that. For others, not going on an away trip was the bigger issue, and I can sympathise - although unlike those hoping for a tropical or exotic escapade - like - Darwin - I was hoping for Hobart or Canberra.

As for possible non-A League home games, Edgeworth aren't exactly anyone's first choice - I think some people would've preferred an old NSL rival. While I'm sure they'll bring down however many numbers that they can, Edgeworth aren't exactly a draw card team. Neither are they an obvious easy beat - after all, they did knock out Bentleigh last year in the national NPL playoffs. In a sense, given the unlikelihood of a big crowd turning up - prove me wrong, bandwagon brigade! - there's not much to gain here for South except progression to the next round. Which, when I think about it, is actually kind of quaint - the event is taking place almost for its own sake. Maybe I've finally found the way I can get on board this farce of a tournament.

Others might be able to make do with spurious nostalgia.
But those people who wanted something where we'd clean up thanks to a big pay day - especially one particular mover and shaker who insisted the draw had been rigged beforehand to put us up against Victory - have been left disappointed. To which I say, suffer in your jocks chin up kiddo, maybe next time. Be like me and remember that of course there's also the usual fact that we have so much to lose - a disappointing crowd and/or a another loss would add to that multi--faceted on the back.

Congratulations to...
South Melbourne WNPL goalscoring machine Melina Ayres, who has been selected for the Young Matildas squad to play a series of preparation matches against Canada and the USA in Canberra, in preparation for the  AFC U19 Women’s Championships. Of course, Ayres having been picked for the Young Matildas before this selection and before she came to South, so it's not like we can take all the credit, but it's a nice thing nevertheless. Someone else is going to have step into the goal scoring breach in her place though, which will be tough as our lead at the top of WNPL ladder is back doiwn to one point after a 3-3 draw away to Geelong in Torquay.

Around the grounds
Yes, we also sell socks at our pro-shop on match days. 
Yes I ended up at a freezing and half blackout affected Somers Street on Friday night for Knights vs Avondale. Watching Knights lose has gotten a bit dull, so I was here to see Avondale as much as anything. Good old Avondale, the team going 1.2222222222222222 goals a game and yet not far off top spot with a couple of games in hand. They led this game early thanks to a penalty, but for those hoping for a Knights collapse, it didn't come. The home side pulled a goal back before the break, and while the game justly ended in a draw, the Knights were the unluckier of the two sides not to pick up all three points. Those who had written Knights off entirely for this season have probably jumped the gun a bit, and one expects a tough encounter for South in two weeks time.

Saturday afternoon was probably the last Paisley Park derby for some time. Altona East were coming off a rare win the week before, but still in second last and in the firing line for relegation to State League 2. Altona Magic have streaked this league, as everyone has expected them to, and promotion to NPL 2 is only a matter of time. It's not unreasonable however to suggest that Magic have overdone the spend this season in pursuit of that aim. Players the calibre of Amadu Koroma, Marinos Gasparis, Joey Franjic, Jason Hayne, and James McGarry make it so much easier. These are all players who should be either in NPL or at worst playing for clubs pushing for promotion in NPL 2. East set up defensively as you'd expect, did well to limit Magic to not much for 44 minutes, then copped a long range effort which hit the crossbar twice and which may or may not have gone in. The out of position linesman gave his assent, and East were stuffed from then on. Two more goals to Magic saw them win this in a saunter. It was actually pretty dull.

Final thought
Credit to the People's Champ for showing some maturity in getting Jesse Daley away from the referee and the Gully players after Daley was booked for diving. Minus credit for the cheap shot the People's Champ gave to a Gully opponent in midfield when he thought the referee wasn't looking.