Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Thanks to everyone for this year, and the ten years so far

I would like to take a moment, as I always do at this time of year, to thank those who have contributed to the blog or otherwise made my South Melbourne experience more enjoyable. Thanks to:

Pavlaki and Chris, especially for driving me around Wodonga and its surrounds during pre-season, as well as anyone who offered myself and Gains a lift anywhere.

Everyone who left a comment at some point, especially all those people who contributed their stories for 'fanatic of the week'.

T. Arvanitis whose contribution within this post got a hell of a response from the public. Savvas Tzionis for his piece on coming back to Hellas, his Allentown reworking, and especially his story of sneaking out for a durry with Roberto Carlos at that ridiculous night at the casino which apparently cost either the club or people connected to the event a lot of money, or so was the word that was going around then. Also Foti and Manny for their point/counter-point piece on the AAFC's Championship proposal.

Todd Giles for sharing his Newcastle vs South match programmes. I'm glad I could return the favour.

Teo Pellizzeri at FFV for renewal of my media pass. Coaches Chris Taylor and Chris Marshall for the occasional chat. Tony for the guided tour of the then still shell of a social club, and for taking that handbag off my hands - oh, and for enjoying the milk carton gag. The people working in the social club for their concern after I joined the broken seat club.

Assorted folk of #sokkahtwitter, especially those who re-tweeted and shared South of the Border materials. Dave for joining that club - I think Savvas and Gains are the only other two members - who had the fearlessness to go back and read this stuff from all the way in the beginning. It starts off bad, stays that way for a few years, then finally starts to become readable.

Cindy Nitsos and all photographers whose photos I used.

Joe Gorman for extending my fame a smidge.

Matthew Klugman for his help with the whole thesis business, and Ian Syson for finally admitting defeat with regards to sentence structure.

And Gains, of course. The Public Transport Faction keeps kicking on.

...and thank you all for ten years of supporting South of the Border
I've thanked a lot of people for various things over the years - dig yourselves through various articles across the past ten Decembers if you want to find them - so this is more of a general thank you to everyone.

Thank you to the people who have come on board late, bigger thanks to those who were here from the beginning, and biggest thanks to those who came here late and went back and read through it all.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed an article, a comment, advice, or shared this material with others.

Thank you to those who have over the past decade offered encouragement and support both private, but especially public, whether you were a public figure or a minor one.

Thank you to those who have understood, and those who have not understood but nevertheless tolerated my flights of whimsy.

I started the blog because I was frustrated at the level of discussion on smfcboard, and because I wanted to practice my writing. I like to think that since then, the quality of dialogue inside the club has improved, and that my writing has come on at least a little bit, and that it would be nice if the blog was responsible for at least part of any of that.

Whatever else this blog has or hasn't achieved over the past ten years, I am most proud of having encountered a selection of South fans who have told me that South of the Border helped them maintain a connection to South Melbourne Hellas, helped them re-connect with the club, or was an element in helping them make their first connection with the club.

Lastly, I said I was not going to thank anyone specifically, but I always do. Gains hates the publicity but his friendship on the terraces, on public transport, and his ability to pick mostly very good and very cheap restaurants is an essential part of this blog, even if the effects of that on the blog are not exactly visible. And of course, Ian Syson, who believes in all sorts of people and their ability to write meaningfully from the margins.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Snippets of news from far off places - Langwarrin 2 South Melbourne 3

I wasn't there, don't ask me for any details other than what already exists in the public domain - namely the scorers, Epifano, Lujic and triallist Amir Osmancevic. Maybe a friendly against Gully on Friday at Gully, check your local guides closer to the date.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Cobwebs - South Melbourne 3 Sunshine George Cross 0

So, here we go again, brushing away the cobwebs and assessing the decay accumulated in the couple of months spent away from the place.

I'm not going to say that the club's in chaos, but there was a dishevelled feel to the place. There are big holes in the futsal court wall above the goal nearest, but more noticeable was the vibe in the social club proper. Phil the social club's venue manager has resigned and until the club sorts out the venue manager situation - and more broadly, how the it runs the social club - regular service may be a bit more erratic.

At least the club is now able to leverage home pre-season games to a degree by having a social club, and last night it was even able to draw in some people from the fun-run that was taking place outside. Things could always be worse on this front. Nevertheless, much as I like (new board member) Skip Fulton - after all, he got his South Melbourne start right here at South of the Border - do I really want him to be the one serving me drinks? On special occasions - like Friday's Christmas party - sure, why not, but otherwise they've got to sort out the social club situation quickly.

As for the match itself, it would've been churlish to expect anything resembling quality, whatever that means, and Chris Taylor wasn't even there. It was the first scratch match after the end of the off-season, after just a week and half or so of commencing pre-season training, and at a temperature of 35 degrees or more, the players were drenched in sweat within minutes. Thank you to Brad Norton for coming over to the supporters after each 35 minute half and sharing some of his sweat with us.

Still, there were a few surprises on field. As rumoured, Iqi Jawadi was back having a go, which is interesting after the way he left. Also back for another attempt at cracking the South senior team list was former youth player Anthony Giannopoulos. No sign of Andy Kecojevic, but one of Matthew Millar's seven brothers played the early part of the game before copping a knock. Youth striker Giuseppe Marafioti played for a bit, and occasional triallist and most recently of Kingston City midfielder/forward Velibor Mitrovic was also having a kick.

Marcus Schroen was present, and at least one person has suggested that Mitrovic would make a sensible like-for-like replacement for the injured Schroen. English recruit Sam Smith was absent - he's apparently sorting out some of his affairs back in the UK. Nick Epifano was there, after strong word that he had decided to leave the club. Maybe he changed his mind, maybe no one else wanted him. No worthwhile news on whether Andy Brennan will be re-joining us as part of the Bentleigh off-season exodus.

The next friendly is against Langwarrin on Sunday, at Langwarrin, kickoff 2:30PM. A fairly traditional fixture now because of Chris Taylor's proximity to all things Mornington Peninsula, even if he apparently won't be there himself. Neither will I for that matter, because it's in the middle of public transport nowhere. Still awaiting notice of a kickoff time for that one.

Also hearing word of a match before Christmas against Green Gully, details to be confirmed on that one as well. I did ask around to see what plans if any there were for a pre-season weekend away, in the vein of the club's trips to Adelaide, Sydney, and Albury-Wodonga in recent years, but there was no news on that front. If they do something, hopefully it's something that accessible by train.

There's impatience from some quarters about the fixtures being released - I think the FFV will be making an announcement on that soon.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Friendly tomorrow vs Sunshine George Cross

Well, turns out the rumours of minimal activity before the Christmas/New Year period have turned out to be a little bit premature. The senior squad started its pre-season training programme last week, and now there'll be a pre-season friendly/scratch match tomorrow against George Cross at Lakeside, kickoff at 7:45pm. See you all there.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

2018 memberships now out

How about this for a surprising turn of events? The new year isn't here, we haven't even had the AGM (well, actually that's not so strange...), and yet somehow the South Melbourne 2018 memberships are already available for purchase. It's a very streamlined affair, with two or three things worth noting.

First, the pricing scheme is basically the same as it was for 2017. Second and related to point one, this time there can be no confusion about what is and isn't included - a confusion which in any case only really existed in the disingenuous mind of president Leo Athanasakis. So, now only home controlled league matches (no finals) and FFA Cup games up until the round of 32

Third, unless you're buying a new membership or perhaps changing membership categories, you should keep your current membership card. Now, if you did throw it out, I don't know what you should do, but I'm sure the club will have a plan for that.

Update 11/12/17
Purchase my membership this afternoon, and got this email.
If you are an existing 2017 SMFC Member, you will be able to use your existing card with all your entitlements being updated based on the level of membership that you have selected.
Also, it looks like the club has ditched the membership portal that they had been using the past few seasons.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Book review, sorta - Walk Alone: The Craig Johnston Story, by Craig Johnston and Neil Jameson

I'll be clear on this. I skimmed/speed read through much of this some time in late 2016, so don't treat this review as some sort of gospel truth. I was mostly interested in particular aspects of this as it relates to one of the chapters in my thesis. But even from a cursory reading, this book is interesting, at least up to a certain point. And then not so very much, at least to me.

The least interesting parts to be honest are when Johnston is at Liverpool. As a long-ago lapsed Liverpool supporter (it's a long story, not very interesting, even as that experience explains some things about me), I really couldn't care less about the trudging through the seasons, the reminiscences of games and incidents, with the exception of Johnston's experience of Heysel.

What I found most interesting then were the things outside Johnston's time at Liverpool, beginning with his Newcastle upbringing.  If Newcastle (and its southern counterpart in the Illawarra) are often thought to be among the holy cradles of Australian soccer, then what is often seemingly left out of those hagiographic discussions is the ethnic quality of the game there.

And in this case one is not talking about those we usually consider as 'ethnic' in Australia, but rather that invisible ethnicity in the form of the British migrant. It may be true that I will overstate the case for the invisibility of the British soccer character as it applies to the Hunter and Illawarra regions, but I think there's also some validity to the notion that the soccer in these areas is considered far more 'Australian' than the post-war 'ethnic' boom period scene; that Britishness and Australian-ness become conflated ideas.

For his part, Johnston is forthright not only about the British upbringing he had personally, but also about the British character of Newcastle soccer. This is amplified for him by his family history and personal experience. One of Johnston's grandfathers was from Edinburgh; his father, like other young soccer players in the region, went to Britain and tried to become a professional footballer, but failed. Johnston also ties that sense of Newcastle soccer's British qualities to the fact that the aforementioned British character was also bound to a British working class character.

Indeed, through establishing the book's narrative in this way, Johnston is at pains to emphasise his own sense of Britishness, one bound up with the game as his forbears knew it and as he himself experienced it in the Hunter Valley. In that sense there is a pervasive sense of Anglophilia in this book, at least it relates to soccer, It is why there is a skewed and narrow sense of what Australian soccer is to Johnston, one that takes little account of the changes that occurred outside out of the 'heartland' soccer areas like Newcastle, and which transformed the character of the game.

By the time Johnston's career has taken off, he is in England full-time (except for that brief stint for Newcastle KB in the NSL), and thus has very little to say about Australian soccer as a whole. Australian soccer then for Johnston is an experience largely left behind once he succeeds in securing a contract at Middlesbrough.

But Johnston is also keen to emphasise the Australian qualities of his upbringing, especially that of a rural/regional lifestyle, full of activities other than soccer, including skateboarding (he even takes his skateboard to England) and surfing. And yes, Johnston does come to that bit about 'surfing for England', and his explanation has much legitimacy to it, or at least more nuance than the vitriolic response that his offhand comment has seen him endure over the years.

Johnston is a good student, but restless. That restlessness is channeled into his football via a manic commitment to fitness, and relentless pursuit of improving his technique by himself in England. One of the harsh lessons that Johnston learns early on is that in the cold and lonely existence of the wannabe professional footballer, there are few friends, and that it is truly dog-eat-dog. Whatever else one might think of Johnston, one can't fault his determination to overcome his initial failure and his technical limitations as a footballer, and succeed regardless.

(In that sense there are parallels between Johnston's attitude and view of himself as a footballer with Paul Wade, the ironically British born player who came to define and be defined by his utter commitment to Australian soccer).

And then Johnston goes to Liverpool, and apart from the usual tribulations of injury, media, managerial and playing intrigues, Johnston seems to be having a great time (yes, there is an account of how the 'Anfield Rap' came about), living the dream playing for one of the most famous clubs in the world, and one at the peak of its power. So I breezed through those parts, remembering little of them, until the point where Johnston's sister falls ill and he retires from the game in order to help care for her.

It's a little irritating then that the book stops at the end of Johnston's playing career, so we don't get to learn about what happens next - which for Johnston includes a continuation of his pursuit of photography, a run-in with bankruptcy, and his invention of Adidas' Predator boot. But it's a well produced (plenty of photos, excellent page design) and well written book, full of Johnston's personality, and worth picking up if one come across it. I read it in bursts at the State Library, a nice hardcover thing, though I assume there's a paperback version somewhere out there

Monday, 4 December 2017


All the way back in the blog's earliest days, when part of the ethos was to have new content uploaded every day - how quaint! - I posted this South Melbourne Hellas oriented reworking of an AC/DC lyric by then new but now old friend Conya. It seems blog favourite Savvas Tzionis has decided to do something similar with Billy Joel's 'Allentown', broadening his scope to match up the plight of the working class Pennsylvanians with that of those stuck in NPL Hell. It has a taste of the 'seven days of bitterness' about it.

Well we’re living in the NPL
And the football clubs are stuck in this hell
Out in Mooroolbark they’re killing time
Third string imports
Will they survive?
Well our fathers came out of after the war
Spent their weekends at Olympic Park
Took their kids out to the NSL
Left them to watch
But where was the zeal?
Now we’re living in the NPL

But the restlessness was handed down
And its getting very hard to play

Well we’re waiting in the NPL
For the A-League we never found
For the promises our leader’s gave
If we worked hard
But we didn't behave
So the premierships hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No we never learnt what was real
Mainstream Appeal
Lowy Westfield
And we’re waiting in the NPL

But they've ruined all the national teams
And the old fans they just crawled away
Every team had a pretty good shot
To get as far as their ability got
But something happened on the way to that place
They threw the wogs out and they kicked in our face

Well we’re playing in the  NPL
And its hard to keep a good team down
But we won’t be going up today

And its getting very hard to play
Cause we’re stuck here in the NPL

Friday, 1 December 2017

November 2017 Digest

I hope you'll all forgive the very slow pace of the blog during the off-season. Even though there's so much I could talk about, being at the pointy end of the thesis project means that by the end of the day I'm pretty burnt out from staring at screens and trying to write. And where usually this would be my space for chilling out, for the first time in ten years I just don't have the mental space for it. One way or another it'll be over in the next two or three weeks, so keep patient and things will be back to normal soon enough.

Or you could submit something of your own to keep things ticking over...

AGM news
No date set yet. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

2018 season schedule...

Starting in the last week of February, which is a week or two later than what happened for the 2017 season. 

In the meantime, if like me you're waiting for pre-season friendlies to start to alleviate your boredom, don't expect anything this side of Christmas. My sources tell me that the team might reconvene for some training sessions before 2017 is out, but there almost certainly won't be any scratch matches held until January.

On the same token
Some of our current (and maybe current) players have been sighted participating in Knox City's longstanding All Nations Cup tournament. Nick Epifano is playing for Italy, while Andy Kecojevic is playing for Serbia. Milos Lujic, who has played for Serbia at this tournament in the past, also looks like he fronted up again this year.

Hashtag news
Sony will no longer sponsor the NPL concept. It's farewell to #ps4nplvic, and hello to... well, no one knows yet.

Arrivals and departures
Still pretty quiet on this front, but things are picking up ever so slowly. The big news was the signing of English striker Sam Smith from Gold Coast City. We had been keen on him, then it looked like he'd re-signed for Gold Coast, but it seems the mess Gold Coast is in off the field has titled things back our way. Nick Epifano has signed on for 2018, while s
kipper Brad Norton has signed on for another two years.

Some 'outs' have also cropped up. Reserve goalkeeper Zaim Zeneli has left South, joining North Sunshine Eagles in State League 1, while Stefan Zinni has signed with Avondale.

For whatever it's worth, the following players are assumed to be contracted for next season.

  • Stefan Zinni (Avondale)
  • Zaim Zeneli (North Sunshine Eagles)