Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Soccer is back for 2018, that's right, it doesn't exist outside our club, everything else is an inferior imitation, accept no substitutes

What did you do over the summer break? I went to the movies, read some books, watched some cricket, went to the baseball, submitted a thesis, went to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, got some fillings done, visited the supermarket, played some video games, and did my usual op-shopping. I even took one of my brothers to a museum. And sure, I went to a few South pre-season friendlies as well, but not as many as I usually would, partly because the scheduling and openness of some of those games didn't work out well for me. But that's OK - there is life outside South Melbourne, as people have told me on occasion down the years.

But the soccer season is upon us once more, and thus life becomes all about South Melbourne Hellas for the next few months, for some of us more than others. Good on you if you can keep your passion in check, releasing it at the appropriate moment during the weekend. Some of us however are beyond redemption, spending every waking hour attached to Twitter or the forums looking for any bit of news or something to take offence to.

The South Melbourne men's season will be dominated by one thing - the after-shocks following the Chris Taylor sacking. Everything is going to exist in its shadow. Off the field, who knows what's going to occur? Will the social club begin to hit its stride? What about the futsal court? Will anyone else step up to organise a rival ticket? Will anyone tell us something tangible about our A-League bid, or will we have to read about it in the press?

Our champion WNPL side is also back in action this week, though like the men's team they'll be away for a good portion of the first part of the year. I do intend to try and make it to more of their games this season. I wish that more of their opponents weren't in monstrously inaccessible locales.

We'll always have those satay chicken skewers at the South Melbourne Christmas party
Apparently off-season signing Darby Dexter has signed over at Hume City. When I say apparently, I mean I read it on this blog in the comments somewhere, not that the club put that info out. Now the question is, who do you trust more? The club's deeply dishonest and manipulative media service, or some anonymous contributor posting to a poorly moderated blog? That's what I thought.

No 'new' teams this year
In the league at least, all our opponents, including the promoted pair of Northcote and Dandenong Thunder, will be familiar to us. The only notable difference will be some of the match days and kickoff times may be a little different to what we're used to.

Oh, and at some point we'll know where Avondale are going to be playing home games this season; they say Reggio Calabria Club, but that's going to need a lot of work, so they'll probably end up at Paisley Park or something. Barring an FFA Cup match up, that won't be a problem for South fans to deal with until very late in the home and away season.

I don't know what the condition of the various surfaces will be like, if lighting has been improved, or whether we'll ever be allowed on the outer side of Port Melbourne ever again, but that's par for the course - most venue changes tend to be more subtle than revolutionary, and as summer becomes autumn and autumn becomes winter, and the grounds get a ton of usage under their belts, things get that little bit more unplayable regardless of how well things started.

Perhaps the most notable change in venue status - aside from wherever Avondale end up - is at the Veneto Club, which has a new synthetic pitch.
Lucky us, we're the first visiting side to try it out.

Who are the teams to beat?
Got me stumped. Despite everything that's happened, we should be competitive - it's still a good squad, although depth in certain areas will always be an issue.

It's probably now or never for Green Gully and Arthur Papas. Avondale has gone off the deep end with its player signings. The Bergers look about the same as last year, albeit with probably no King Kenny for a good chunk of the year. Have heard stuff all about what Oakleigh's done during the off-season. Bentleigh have had a huge turnover in players, and Hume is going for the daring/stupid approach of hiring a captain-coach.

At the bottom end, everyone seems to be saying Northcote, Port and Bulleen are going to be thrashing it out to avoid relegation, with little mention of Kingston being in that mix, but how do you know for sure? What I think we can say for near certain is that overall this season's competition will be stronger if for no other reason then the fact that we've disposed of two very poor teams in North Geelong and St Albans, and replaced them with at least one much more credible contender in Dandenong Thunder. The team that finished third last in 2017, Melbourne Knights, also looks like it's snapped out of its malaise. As for Pascoe Vale, it looks like they've stalled a bit, but all it takes is a good start and early points on the board to overturn expectations.

But really, all this is background noise to the only thing which matters, which is the FFA Cup. Because the Bergers won the national NPL playoffs last year, Victoria gets an extra FFA Cup spot in 2018, though I'm not sure how FFV will go about sorting out qualification in the event that Heidelberg also make it to the final four/Dockerty Cup stage.

It's a Greek, Greek, Greek, Greek World
To bring it back for a moment to the composition of the league, which is now seven Greek teams out of fourteen competitors. Half! We have the president, we have connections, and we've been dominating on-field as well.

  • 2013 - Grand final winner, Northcote, runner up Bentleigh, preliminary final South Melbourne
  • 2014 - (no finals), 1st South, 2nd Oakleigh, 3rd Heidelberg, 4th Bentleigh
  • 2015 - Grand final winner Bentleigh, runner up South (minor premier), 3rd place Heidelberg. South and Oakleigh also in the Dockerty Cup final
  • 2016 - Grand final winner South, runner up Oakleigh, losing semi-finalists Heidelberg and Bentleigh. Bentleigh won the Dockerty Cup final.
  • 2017 - South, Heidelberg and Bentleigh top three, and Bentleigh and Bergers in the Dockerty Cup final.
My dad, oblivious to most things which have happened in Australian soccer since the mid-1990s, asked me when the Hellenic Cup was on this year. The correct answer is of course that it hasn't been held for several years, but the even more correct answer is: do we even need one? Why bother sourcing sponsors and ruining grounds when we have taken over the league itself? All we need now is for all seven Greek clubs to survive, and for Brunswick or Box Hill to come up, and then we can launch proceedings to secede from Victorian soccer.

Assorted social media stuff
The media interest in the lead up to this season has been very subdued, to the point of being invisible  That goes for the clubs as much as it does for FFV and even the Corner Flag site. What has caused this I don't know, but there appears to be a general torpor around promotion of the league. Now regular readers will know that I'm as fond of an existential languor as anyone - indeed, I've inadvertently based my life's philosophy upon it - but you can't help feel it's not exactly what we should be aiming for.

Anyway, some people out there maybe want to keep in touch with league happenings outside the weekend, or wish to enhance their local soccer experience by the use of social media.

For those playing along on Twitter, this year there is no major sponsor for the competition, and thus the #PS4NPLVIC hashtag is dead. For the time being, we've been instructed to use #NPLVIC. There may be a naming rights sponsor signed up eventually, which would see the hashtag change again.

Though the state leagues starting date is still a month away, if you happen to be at a state league game, following the @ffv365 account is the best way to keep up to date with live scores from the state leagues, though the account can be a bit erratic in how promptly it retweets scores. If you happen to be a Twitter user at a state league game, and you wish to note a goal in a tweet to get retweeted by the FFV account, use @FFV365 not #FFV365.

Of course, the best way to keep up to date with NPL and NPL2 scores as they happen is the Futbol24 app. Berate the gamblers as I do, their interest in our leagues seems to surpass that of most organisations. If you find the FFV sites a bit of a mess to use for scores and ladders, the UK soccer pools site Soccer Aust has a crummy, ancient look, but excellent usability.

FFV will once again be broadcasting games on internet radio via the Mixlr app, with games also streamed at mixlr.com/ffvradio/. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but the commentary teams are good, and sometimes there's even a bit of audience interactivity.

As for the Facebook and Instagram people, I couldn't care less about those mediums, so you're on your own there. A lot of clubs seem to prefer Facebook for news and score updates, but I've made my choice of preferred social media tools, and I stick by that decision.

Contribute to South of the Border
As always, the opportunity is there for readers to contribute to South of the Border, in whatever way you can think of that won't get me sued, or which doesn't come across as a sovereign citizen style rant against FFA or whatever - that's what Twitter is for. Ongoing or one-off contributions welcome.


  1. The NPL circus is back in town again for the next 6 months.

    Who will be the main attraction? Which act will capture our imaginations? Who will walk away with the chocolates at the end of the season.

    All to be revealed in the coming months.

  2. If you look at the list of player departures on South's home page of its website, it lists Dexter as being released.

  3. Box Hill has a Greek club?!! Where was this club when I was growing up there?!! LOL

    1. The Box Hill men melted into the various Juventus mergers. The women and juniors continued separately, eventually merging with Southern Suburbs Pythagoras, reestablishing men's football at Box Hill.

    2. I had to go back to the flow chart to get an understanding.

      So it appears to have all settled down as of 2012.

      Although I can just imagine Avondale (who ironically are NOT on the chart) somehow getting themselves into some sort of merger/fold/expand situation. :)

  4. The team profile is up on the SMFC website and a squad of 21 is listed?

    Hysolli not listed and Schroen is in the squad (anyone know how his injury is looking?)

    Looks like we have a bit of attacking intent and backline (if the golden Greek is NOT a dud) seems pretty well covered with subs for each position. I haven't made it to any of the practice matches this year, any ideas what a first team lineup might look like?

    Can't wait for the season to finally start

    1. If I was to take a stab at a starting eleven, assuming fitness etc...

      GK: Bray
      DEF: Foschini - Konstantinidis - Intzidis - Norton
      MID: Brennan - Millar - Pavlou - Minatel - Epifano
      FWD: Lujic

      Only difference I can see would be Jawadi for Pavlou.

    2. Looks great on paper.

      Any chance Minatel plays higher up the park or are we gonna have a lone striker again all season?

      Also, and I know this is the old crusty old bastard in me coming out, WTF is with all the squad numbers >27? Minops is allowed cos he's a levendi... AND we still don't have a #10 - Did we retire the number after Bootsi got arrested? hahahahahha

    3. Minops again on the bench. He does appear to have the build of someone more suited to come on and exploit tiring defences, so if his full time job is (apparently?) time consuming, then I can see why staying at South Melbourne makes sense.

  5. The Assistant and Team manager. Are they new to South Melbourne?

    1. Team manager Kris has been with the club for several years, volunteering, and was also team manager of the u20s last season (maybe even longer, I'm not sure). Arguably the best replacement for Frank. The guy bleeds for the club.


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