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.


  1. Someone else on Twitter said the food was great!

    1. Apparently the plate offering in the social club was better - I'll keep that in mind for next time.

    2. You better hope they get promoted!

  2. Oh, and the crowd was so small that I could hear a North Geelong player tell a certain South player that "he was the worst player in their team"

    1. Wasn't a huge crowd, no. Certainly not the excitement from home or away fans for this game as in 2015. Their goal got a rousing celebration, and there were persistent calls for handball after an incident in the second half, but that was about it in terms of atmosphere.

    2. The highlights package missed the North Geelong shot headed off the line in 2nd half

  3. The issue with coaches being heard from the touchline provides a great reason why we need a Second Division with its thousands of untapped supporters attending and making enough noise to force the players to think for themselves.

    1. Either that or more games to be played in windy conditions so coach's instructions get lost in the wind.

    2. This winter has been windless, I repeat, windless!

  4. No mention of our camera man almost being taken out by the soccer ball.

    1. I'd forgotten about that, even after seeing something similar happen on a recent Football Chaos video.

    2. I was on the oppisite end had clear view. The passed just over his head and just under the cover of the scaffolding. 1 in a 1000...

    3. Has a stray ball ever hit a horse at that ground?

  5. Did you hear any of this at the Port v Pascoe Vale game?! Blimey!! Every swear word under he sun!!!

    1. Yes, I was very close to Vitale Ferrante.


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