Sunday, 23 July 2017

Prelude to madness - Hume City 1 South Melbourne 2

Roganovic, Norton, Adams, Eagar, Foschini, Pavlou, Millar, Schroen, Daley, Epifano, Lujic.

That was the starting line-up against Hume last night; full-strength, taking no chances, and about as much of a dress rehearsal for Wednesday - and perhaps the rest of the season - as you could get. The only change I could see happening? Pavlou being dropped for Konstantinidis, with Foschini being moved back to defensive midfield, and Konstantinidis being put in at right-back. In ordinary situations - where the team is unaffected by injury, suspension or the need to rest players, this will be the usual starting eleven. Mala is now only a backup defensive player. Zinni is the impact player off the bench if the opposition is tiring. Minopoulos is the player most likely to be put into situations where one of Daley or Schroen are under-performing, the 'fixer' if you will.

If there was the temptation to rest certain players, than this game was probably not a good enough fit for that. Hume are stuttering but still have some good players, and were able to pinch an undeserved win against Heidelberg last week. The game was on a Saturday rather than a Sunday, and so the extra day to rest would've also convinced Taylor to put out the strongest team he could. After all, even with the FFA Cup being so important to the club, we're still right in the mix for top spot, which gives us the chance to play nationals and earn an FFA Cup spot for next year. Besides, at South Melbourne we want to win everything.

So with a full-strength team and Bentleigh having won earlier in the day (and Heidelberg winning today), expectations for this game were that nothing less than a win would be acceptable. The potential for a spectator-friendly game was ruled out from the start. A strong, cold, and relentless wind from the north made things difficult for all concerned. We had the benefit of that wind in the first half, and fortunately we were able to nearly make the most of it.

I say nearly, because it took a penalty about 25 minutes in to get us on the scoreboard despite having being camped in Hume's half for most of the first 45 minutes. At first glance it looked like a pretty stupid and unnecessary tackle by the Hume player. We were playing the ball in the box, carefully trying to find a gap, with no immediate or obvious danger. The replay suggests it was perhaps a bit soft, but I'd have given it. Regardless, if it was there the ref should give it, and if it wasn't, then that's just more fuel for those pushing the conspiracy that South gets looked after by the refs. Milos' penalty being hit straight up the middle did the job even if it didn't make me happy in the long run for its future predictability.

Hume keeper Michael Weier dives left as Milos Lujic's penalty shot goes straight up the middle. Bulent Yontem

The second goal summed up the game. A nothing moment when the Hume defender should've and normally would've cleared the danger, ended up with Lujic one-on-one with Hume keeper Weier, and this time I could not begrudge Milos' finish, a tidy one into the bottom corner. So 2-0 up at halftime, and while I would rather had been 3-0 up it was better than many of the alternatives.

Then we gifted one back to Hume early in the second half, with an over-hit Eagar pass meeting Pavlou hesitation, The feeling then was not so much the nerves that began, but rather the feeling that with that wind it should be near inevitable that we would concede another. Hume however didn't do that much with that wind advantage, and we still had our moments going the other way. Lujic was taken off for Minopoulos after an hour, who did the running and hustling stuff pretty well under the circumstances.

The officials plucked five minutes of additional time out of nowhere, and added two more probably for how slowly we made our late subs. Had anyone used this game as a measure of what the NPL is capable of, or as a form guide for our cup match on Wednesday, they'd have walked away disappointed. The history books, should they bother to remember this game, will note a result and not much more of importance.

Annual Broadmeadows trip whinge
It was fortunate that I had things to take care of earlier in the day, which meant that I couldn't get to the ground much earlier than 6:00. I say fortunate, because for reasons unknown to me, the under 20s game was played at 3:30 instead of a 4:30 or 5:00 kickoff. I don't understand that at all, but having not looked at the fixtures closely at least I lucked out in not getting there at 5:00.

There are many fine elements to this ground: the grandstand is comfortable for the crowds that will usually turn up; the dining facilities are of a good standard,;the surface is always good; and there's an electronic scoreboard that's big and clear (and which has a clock that counts up past 90:00). But how a facility was built in the plains of the outer northern suburbs without any meaningful windbreak I can't understand. Some more trees or even just a hedge, anything to lessen the impact of the wind coming through the ground unimpeded, would be most appreciated.

The lighting is also inadequate. The well lit areas are clear, but those areas at the margins of the ground, including the goal ends, are awful. I know my eyesight is pretty bad, and I will also apportion some of the blame to South for not wearing white and Nikola Roganovic for wearing black, but the action at the other end of the field became a dark and muddy blur.

From a personal point of view, pedestrian access to the venue remains appalling. One can cross the road from directly across the entrance to the car park, but that's a death-trap with cars coming past quickly and unsighted from both directions. There is a paved path next to the bus stop on the south side of Barry Road, but it stops well before the entrance to the car park, where the safest place to walk is in the gutter. Who designs these places?

Next game and match day details
Our next game is our FFA Cup round of 32 match at home against Edgeworth Eagles.

South Melbourne members and season ticket holders receive free entry as part of their membership.

For walk-up punters, the price for an adult ticket is $15, concession $10, under 16 free. Ticket sales and entry for non-members will be via Gate 2.

There is no online pre-purchase option for this game.

If you are not attending the business coterie function in the social club, you will have to wait until 7PM to enter the venue. To that end, I'll be having dinner and a drink at the Limerick instead.

For those unable or unwilling to attend, the game has been selected for broadcast by Fox Sports. There will be no streaming available outside of Foxtel's services - at least when it comes to legal ones.

Click and hate and click and hate and click
As FFA Cup times rolls around, so do the articles on South's ambitions.
I noted to our friend Les that the secret lies mostly in hatred - sure, every South fan with internet access will click on the link, but let's be clearheaded for a moment here: there aren't that many of us. It's those who despise us who really push things along.

There's a strong argument to be made that it's as much the idea of us than the reality that these people hate. It's an argument which is implied by earlier posts of mine on this issue, but also by the comments some people leave on these pieces. These are comments so exaggerated in their vilification of us that one can only sit back and laugh, The best are those comments which allege South fans going deliberately out of their way to make supposed curious newcomers feel uncomfortable. I mean, who has the time?

But the specifics of that hatred are neither here nor there in the great scheme of things. The point is that the hatred exists, and there are people who can make mileage out of it. Matt Windley of the Herald Sun has done well on this front in recent times, and good luck to him. There's another article by Windley on us that's come out in recent days, but even I have to admit this one starts off with an unexpected bang by starting off with Bill Papastergiadis relating a meeting he had with Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

So much of what we have done over the past decade is play down our Greekness, not out of shame (as some South fans would have it), but out of knowing that it's not what a lot of people involved with Australian soccer want to hear. And besides which, there are all sorts of other arguments that could and should be made about what South Melbourne can offer Australian soccer as it is now. But the point is that even if it wasn't meant to come across as apologetic or timid, it often came across as if we were avoiding the elephant in the room. When conversations turned that way, the responses came across as weak. But Papastergiadis' front foot approach here, and Windley's putting it at the front of the article, offers a change in approach:
“Everyone has a history and ours is a proud one,” Papastergiadis said. 
“But what defines us is that we've continued to refine and develop our future rather than relying on our history."
Put so simply, so succinctly, it encapsulates what I and others at the club have been saying for ages now. Don't write off the past, don't overemphasise it, just acknowledge it, with something like AA Phillips' 'relaxed erectness of carriage'. A comment like Bill's above shows that we are comfortable with who we were, who we are, and who we hope to be.

As to whether internet hatred is enough to run a sustainable A-League team... well, I think you know where I stand on that question. Hatred is useful but what is more important is love. Do people love us enough that should we come back into the national spotlight in some fashion. that they will support us at games in good times and bad?

To get back to the point we started on. Les, if you want to get the kind of publicity that South gets, it's difficult, but not impossible. You need to network. You need to wine and dine. You need to learn how to whisper sweet nothings into people's ears. But you also need to be hated. You then need to look at what South has achieved under this manifesto, and ask yourself, is it worth it?

South, too, needs to ask itself at some point if whether being hated is enough - there is after all a more important question that needs to be asked: 'is there enough goodwill, and is there enough love out there to draw people towards us?' Not that any of that matters of course.

I'm not an expert, so please don't hurt me
I don't really like talking about second divisions or promotion and relegation, because as you're all no doubt well aware, I consider them at present to be pie in the sky ideas.

That's not an expert opinion, nor is it an opinion based mostly on my self-loathing and loss of hope. In part it's based around the fact that there has been nothing concrete done about this for a ten year period apart from mostly self-pitying waffle, and I like to think it's understandable, perhaps even forgiveable if I mostly ignore the whole thing, come up for air every six months or so to give the whole scene a bit of a half-arsed bake, and then go back to ignoring it again while writing my usual piffle about other nonsense.

Certainly that approach to this topic makes me happy, but others apparently don't agree that it's particularly helpful, which misses the point somewhat; the point being that if all the dreamers of dreams on this front actually got together, put some effort beyond mere plans scribbled on the back of metaphorical napkins, there'd be less justification in me being grumpy. Though as we've all no doubt established by now, I'd be grumpy regardless of the situation. There's some interesting background to that, but that's not for this blog.

It's not that I hate the idea of a second division or promotion and relegation; it's just that I have serious doubts about either of them working. I don't believe there are the funds, or the prospect of substantial and continuing customer support. I believe that the concepts are largely anathema to Australian sporting culture at the top level. I don't agree that we should have them simply because nearly everyone else does. Yes I do agree that there are potential benefits in condensing the second tier talent pool into something more meaningful, and that a merit based system which includes up and down is more desirable than what we have now. But I also put forward the notion that a principle is not the same thing as a plan.

But the most important reason I don't think it will happen is because it undermines the very idea of the A-League. The A-League was designed to be self-contained, and to be like the other major sports in Australia. It's a cartel league, but sporting leagues in many places are cartel leagues for good reason - it's about creating a situation of mutual interest, almost a sense of commonwealth. That doesn't imply that the intentions are always pure - members of the cartel can and are motivated by selfishness - but when a cartel works roughly as it should, no individual team's interests are set above the others by such a magnitude as to destroy those at the bottom end.

That ideology has always bothered some people - especially when the cartel's interest is misleadingly or undeservedly put forward as equivalent to the whole of the game's interest - but the proof is in the relative pudding. The A-League, for all its faults, for all its stuttering, is the most stable national soccer competition that has ever existed in this country. It has also been embraced by the media, by broadcasters, by sponsors, and by patrons in a way that the past competition was not. I'm not arguing that the A-League is perfect, or that the cultural assumptions it makes about Australian society are not distasteful to me; but for the time being the competition is working, and has been relatively successful against the benchmarks both those within the game and outside of it have set for it - give or take a TV deal that didn't manage to reach the heights some people misguidedly hoped for.

So to my mind then a second division and promotion/relegation completely undermine the ideology that underpins the A-League, and of course the cartel would be against it. Be that as it may, I reiterate that I'm no expert on this issue. That's not of out some flimsy sense of self-preservation. It's just that I don't have the relevant data, information, research, call it what you will, to go beyond casual assumptions. My feeling however is that, except as concerns their own estimated capabilities of how they could function in such an environment, most of the interested parties don't have that data, information, or research either. And that to me is a big problem.

That some would hide behind notions of intellectual property also troubles me. Doubtless that's because apart from a lack of trust in other groups - that lack of truly believing in a common interest - some would also be happy to unleash a more dog-eat-dog model of competition upon Australian soccer. My concern then is that if proper vetting isn't done to ensure that a second tier league (with or without promotion/relegation) as a whole would be sustainable as opposed to individual licensees being sustainable, then the whole thing could collapse in a heap very quickly, and the consequences for such would be much worse than a little bit of embarrassment at having tried and failed.

And yes, there are very good points to be made about this same kind of distrust being at the core of the current FFA/A-League licence holder wrangle. Each side of that debate is attempting to claim the moral high ground, putting forward that in one way or another they have the game's best interests at heart. Instead things have gotten so bad that those masters of ethical practice FIFA have been brought into to sort stuff out. Anyway, that's where a lot of my less than informed reticence to discuss this particular matter comes from.

Like other issues that come up in Australian soccer these days, #prorelforaus is one that's embedded within the ultra-niche #sokkahtwitter culture; yet it's also managed to get more traction than #EraseNCIP ever could in all sorts of media circles. Even Elias Donoudis of Neos Kosmos chipped in with his opinion, urging people to get on with it sooner rather than later, adding in the slightly pithy piece of folk wisdom:
όποιος δεν θέλη να ζύμωση, 40 μέρες θα κοσκινιζει
('whoever doesn't want to knead, will spend 40 days sifting', with the 'whoever' replacing the less PC 'νοικοκυρά/housewife')
And while I'm a sucker for peasant sayings, each piece of folk wisdom also has its counterpoint saying. Anyway, in tune with those who want something to happen and for it to happen quickly, the Association of Australian Football Clubs has met recently and nutted out a few things, which is a good thing! It's not the be-all and end-all, because goodness knows a gabfest without any subsequent action is pointless. I've seen those kinds of things happen so often in all sorts of different spheres. But on the matter of the second division and such, they had this to say in a press release:
We intend to talk with all stakeholders, as well as complete some financial modelling from independent experts, ahead of publishing a report on the preferred model by the end of October.
October! Of this year! That seems like an awfully short turnaround time for an organisation that hasn't been around for all that long, but for those who know how to evaluate such things, it would be interesting to put this eventual model up against the sketchy modelling put up by the PFA, who have come out strongly against what they consider a cut-price semi-pro set up. I can see their point of view on this, from both their own self-interest and from a wider operations point of view. From their own point of view, a fully professional second tier means more PFA members. More full time professionals who are members of the PFA also means that their bargaining hand improves. There's also the hard-fought player welfare angle they've got in mind, but also the influence they've had as a collective in shaping the direction Australian soccer has taken.

South Melbourne chairman Nick Galatas in the thick of
 things at the AAFC meeting held recently. 
There's also of course the self-interest of the clubs, some of whom are no doubt interested in seeing the game progress out of the goodness of their own hearts, but the driving force for change comes mostly from another place. It's one of the reasons Crawford recommended eliminating the power of the clubs, as he had done with the VFL before. Keeping this in mind, many modern people fronting these clubs will be diplomatic and careful with their public words, but for some the thoughts of what is best for clubs is best for all is not that far from the surface - and lest one think I'm targeting only the dispossessed here, the A-League teams are no different when it comes to the manoeuvring they are trying to do to get on the FFA board.

There's always going to be argle-bargle on this but the issue is also tied up in the FFA's need to expand its voting structures. The AAFC want to get on the FFA board, as do the PFA, and of course the A-League licence holders. Being already represented by the states, it's difficult to see from my non-expert and very much outsider position how the AAFC could possibly get onto the FFA board. The A-League franchises, which generate most of the FFA's revenue because of the A-League broadcast rights will get some representation, and I don't see how the conceptual architects of so much that has happened in Australian soccer in recent years - the PFA - are going to be left stranded. That means that one way or another, the voting franchise will be made up of state votes that need to look after more than the interests of their NPL sides, and the A-League and PFA whose interests at this point in time lie in maintaining and refining the status quo.

For the South watchers though, there was also this:
The Board also welcomed the appointment of Nick Galatas of GPZ Legal as Legal and Regulatory Advisor to the Board, on the same voluntary basis as the AAFC Board.
which means that we're well involved in the goings on in this area, while still beating the South for A-League drum. It's nice to have something slightly different to occupy our time.

Then again...
If one doesn't care for my lacklustre enthusiasm for this topic, I'm always on the lookout for people to do guest pieces. South of the Border was never intended to be solely made up of my miserableness.

Final thought
There's a certain old foe which wears red, white and blue that's doing it a bit tough at the moment. Now I'm advocating sympathy, because goodness knows they'd be quick to dish it out if the positions were reversed. But it's always best to be careful what you mock, lest you become it. Greeks invented hubris, don't forget.

13 comments:

  1. Greeks also invented pathos, ethos and logos. I wonder how much of each is the basis of their A-League bid?

    ReplyDelete
  2. "The good thing about the A League is that even if South are let back in, they are only ONE team from the past. Whilst the NSL had proto-type A League teams, they were generally outnumbered (even if by the end of the NSL that was more a feeling than a fact). South would be the team that is outnumbered." btw .... maybe, to distinguish ourselves from the past we could call ourselves New South! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm taking the risk of commenting before I finish reading.

    A second division will not undermine the A-League if it is played in winter and has promotion and relegation down to the State Leagues but not up to the A-League.

    This is my preferred model that will:
    - Sustain the aspirations of all grassroots clubs
    - Increase investment and participation in the game
    - Improve pathways for players and coaches
    - Provide a trial environment for potential A-League clubs

    A national second division will light up Australian football in a way we've never seen before.

    Manny

    ReplyDelete
  4. As for managing self interests of clubs and groups, where there is a will there is a way. Although you may be able to control the effects of self interest this is only temporary, you can never eliminate self interest. It lurks in the background, waiting for an opportunity to act.

    Take South Melbourne - self interest: National Domination.
    They were taken out of the National League with no formal mechanism for going up. They were starved of revenue for some fridge magnets and left to the brink of dissolution. 13 years later the club's pushing for National spotlight and might help form a new national league if they can't make the A-League.

    Look at the A-League clubs - self interest: Money
    They signed up to restrictive license agreements. They were reliant on the FFA for merchandise income, IP, marketing, broadcast revenue, finals tickets revenue... and now? They're in the process of taking the FFA to the cleaners and operating independently.

    Even in the AFL. Look at Fitzroy - self interest: survival.
    Robbed of their club and identity, moved to Brisbane, they were promised interstate games shown on TV to stay engaged with the AFL. Sure many have moved on but what has happened since? They started a new club and play in the VAFA.

    Self-interest is a fuel controlled only by those who possess it. External factors can direct it and pressure it but only those who possess it can change it. The FFA's role should not be to change/dismiss/contain self interest, it should be to identify it and set up structure that align it with the game's greater good.

    Manny

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good points which I broadly agree with. The 'game's greater good however' however is the elusive bit, and not just because it's a contested term between the various parties.

      Although re:Fitzroy, that is actually a direct continuation of the Fitzroy Football Club. Fitzroy actually managed to get out of debt and survive, and existed for a time as football club without a team before taking over the Uni Reds.

      Delete
    2. That's where leadership and vision are necessary. It may never be universally accepted and may very well be eternally be challenged.

      The crux of many problems in Australian football at the moment lie in leadership's inability to sell their vision for whatever reason.

      Curious, what would your vision for OzSokkah be?

      Manny

      Delete
    3. My vision for OzSokkah... that's a good question. Ever see that episode of Daria where she's challenged to see the world not as it is (as she usually does), but instead how it might be? That's part of my problem here, because I don't like to indulge in speculative fiction.

      In some olden time, my naive hope was that Australian society would mature enough to move beyond a white centre, and that its idea of itself would be truly pluralist; to that end, I'd hoped that soccer would be a pioneering aspect of that of cultural shift. It's pretty clear that's not going to happen. In such a model, issues of culture precede structure, but that's an argument for a later date. (hopefully in an article before the end of the year)

      If I was to be facetious in my answer, I would say we should abolish the national tier entirely, revert only to state comps, and have an end of year playoff between the different feds to decide a national champion. But like I said, that's if I were to be facetious.

      More realistically and conservatively, expansion is probably the best course of action. But where, when and how, I don't know. Neither do those in charge of the situation seem to know. More problematic, they don't even seem to think it's feasible.

      Thus there is among some a perception of stagnation, covering entertainment, opportunity, and player development. How much of that is merely perception and not reality depends on who you ask. I'm not sure I'm able to answer how much of that perception is even based on a set of mutually agreed upon benchmarks. But the vacuum of leadership you've identified means that someone will in that void, and that has been the case with everything going on now.

      You now have a situation where the FFA and the A-League seem to be much more pessimistic about the future than those outside of that level, who seem to be much more optimistic. That's a strange turn of events considering the last decade of Australian soccer.

      To get back to your original query, if I were to find some ideal middle ground for our circumstances, it would be a standalone second division without forced promotion and relegation; that division would be played in summer; it would be based largely on teams from Brisbane down to Melbourne; teams that were able to build themselves up within that league would be the first candidates considered for an expanded A-League. How one would select teams to participate and then grade their performance for remaining in the competition, I haven't the foggiest. if it's anything like the farce the NPL was turned into, it'd be near pointless to try.

      Delete
  5. Kimon Trimboli24 July 2017 at 16:43

    Contrite argument I know, but you are comparing a members owned "club"- whose sole reason for existing SHOULD be national domination with a PTY LTD business entity who, while they claim to be all about improving the game in Australia, is by its very nature a profit/loss driven machine.

    I don't blame the A-League club owners for not wanting a second division or P/R unless it is populated by franchises of their own creation/control. You cant hate a shark for nibbling on surfers legs in the ocean, by its very nature it is what it is :o)

    A business needs to make money for its stakeholders/owners and the needs of the clients (A league supporters) are not the only factor in the equation. A members/community/federation/ethnic (insert your own preferred label here) club should exist in order to provide joy to its members at the expense of all else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One issue here is that when we compare member owned clubs vs privately owned ones, we create a false dichotomy. Many people who insist on the nobility of supporting a member owned cub in Oz also support privately owned clubs overseas. Both are able to create both positive and negative outcomes for the game. The issue then becomes how does a body like the FFA or FFV - who are ultimately responsible for the game - go about controlling or redirecting club self-interest towards the common good? Especially when the A-League teams use the quasi-moral argument about how they generate most of FFA's money while taking on the biggest risks?

      Delete
  6. "There's a strong argument to be made that it's as much the idea of us than the reality that these people hate." .... "there aren't that many of us."

    In other words, they are shouting at clouds?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pretty much. It's like a 'two minutes hate' thing.

      Delete
  7. 'relaxed erectness of carriage'." .... I personally reached that about 10 years ago I think. But I was not made full until returned to South. LOL

    ReplyDelete

While I like people commenting on the blog, it would be useful if different posters could at least leave some sort of nickname to make it easier to sort through all the different 'anonymous' posters. If your post doesn't get approved straight away, it's probably because I haven't seen it yet. Lastly, just because I approve a comment for publication does not mean that I endorse its content.