Thursday, 13 September 2018

NPLW (Minor) Premiers - Bulleen Lions 2 South Melbourne 3

 No idea if FFV chartered a chopper to fly the plate between Keilor and Bulleen.
 Photo: Paul Mavroudis.
Trundled out to the Veneto Club last Saturday to see the South Melbourne NPLW side take on Bulleen Lions in the final round of the home and away season. At stake was what I still call the minor premiership, casting me as a walking talking anachronism in that regard, because it's all about premier's plates nowadays. The situation was that South had to win the game in order to finish the regular season on top of the ladder - and with second placed Calder United playing Heidelberg and likely to win that game comfortably, anything other than a win would almost certainly consign the senior women to a second place finish.

After doing the requisite meet and greets with various movers and shakers, I parked myself in the grandstand up toward the southern end where we ended up shooting in the first half. The first forty minutes by us wasn't great. Erratic play, no cutting edge, nothing seeming to be working. Bulleen making the most of a bad defensive error to take the lead, and even though Bulleen are also finals bound, I know we are favourites in this game and it's been such a let down so far. The last five minutes of the half look a bit stronger, but still we were down, not up, and that's not where we wanted to be with Calder doing the business against the Bergers.

The second half started off better, We leveled! And then we conceded, from a blistering counter attack exposing a vacant left hand side. Then Lisa De Vanna came on, and while not the catalyst for everything that came afterwards, her appearance didn't hurt. By that time the pattern was already set anyway, with our girls pressing hard onto the Bulleen defense, who couldn't handle the pressure, struggling to play through the high South press. But there was always that risk of the counter attack, and it was one of those classic scenarios, the team leading but fading, their opponents raining shots and chances on their goal, all of it coming down to who would land the next decisive blow.

It was us! Then we took the lead, and good luck to Bulleen after having to chase the game. Full time whistle went, and time for celebrations! Everyone seemed happy, except for the security guard who didn't want people going on to the field after the game, and I guess he was doing his job and all, but in the context of things he was still being a bit of a killjoy. I slipped on my media pass and acted like an official journo person for my one token moment of any given calendar year

Now onto the finals, this Saturday at Lakeside against fourth placed Alamein, with a 4:30 kickoff  - there are also under 19 and under 16 curtain raisers involving South. For some reason the top two don't get the benefit of the double chance.
One wonder why you even have a finals series under such circumstances, really.

Leo Athanasakis announces retirement from South presidency and board
What is it about South Melbourne Hellas and Saturday morning bombshell announcements in 2018? First we sack Chris Taylor while some of us were still munching our corn flakes. Now we get this big announcement while watching Saturday morning cartoons in our pyjamas.

So what to make of it? Was he pushed or did he leave of his own volition? Theories will abound, but I'm going to go with exiting unwillingly, due to pressure from within the board, but that's on the increasingly few mumblings I'm privy to. There had been murmurings about such a thing happening or at least needing to happen for at least a couple of years, but since nothing happened, it was all idle talk. But now one way or another, it has happened, or rather will happen - Leo is staying on until the next AGM which the club claims will be held this December.

From what I gather, Leo joined the board sometime in the late NSL era, and became president at probably the club's lowest ebb at the end of 2007, unless you think the club;s lowest is right now, a not entirely unjustifiable position to take. Back then we'd gone through three presidents in more or less three years. The naive idea of the VPL being a way to get some crowds to watch the old derbies and such didn't last long. The even more naive hope that winning championships would be the key to bringing back crowds, or proving who knows what else, didn't materialise. Lakeside as a venue was in an increasingly dilapidated state, and the lease was running out. The club's playing arms - seniors, juniors, women - were in three different pieces.

Anyone coming into fix that situation was on a hiding to nothing. Leo's listed what he believes his achievements are on the club website, and on the face of it, its pretty impressive. People have and will continue to question that legacy, but that's only fair and natural. When you're in charge for eleven years, you get enemies, people get cynical, but you also get things wrong enough times that that's what people will remember.

The expectation seems to be that Nick Maikoussis will take over the presidency, and some will be satisfied by that, while others are baying for more blood. I could go through a huge list of the things that annoyed me about board actions under Leo that have pissed me off, but I'm too tired to fight right now. One can't help but feel that the old me, that is the younger me, would have raged harder on here, done a presidential retirement spectacular. These days I'm amazed the club actually still exists.

Farewell Tony Margaritis the board member, welcome back Tony Margaritis the ordinary supporter
More board resignations than you can poke a stick at. Also, who are all these people poking sticks at things? Anyway, word on the street is that after ten years Tony Margaritis will be stepping down from the board. What can you say about Tony's time on the board? Whenever there was something that needed to be fixed, Tony was always there to do it, or at least organise someone suitable to do it. He was responsible for our merchandise, and worked the merch booth for years. His work on the social club was immense, giving up huge amounts of his own time and labour to complete the job. At a club known for its longstanding tradition of having its board full of suits, Tony provided a necessary dash of blue collar.

Most importantly, Tony has looked after me in so many ways that I know of, and probably in countless ways that I don't. He even bought a handbag off me one year, and even though all of that money ended up back in the club, I appreciated the gesture. I haven't always returned that favour in kind, which is partly because of the nature of writing South of the Border, but mostly because of inexcusable character failings on my part. But even if it's selfish of me to do so, I think it's better to choose to remember the better times, of which there were many and hopefully more than enough to redeem those times when I screwed up.

Maybe there aren't, but this isn't about me, it's about Tony's contribution to the club in an official capacity over the past decade, and unofficially for years before that. So here's to Tony's retirement from the board, and his return to the plebeian existence of the mug punter.

A few brief comments on FFA announcing a review into their National Club Identity Policy
There was intermittent discussion a week or two ago about FFA announcing a review into its National Club Identity Policy, and all of a sudden I found myself back in 2014, sitting in a theatre somewhere in Jeff's Shed or the Melbourne Convention Centre - and based on that stunning lack of suitable recollection, good luck to any future Heinrich Schliemann types looking for the site of such a momentous occasion three thousand years or so from now.

I remember sitting through so much nonsense, my cynicism unleashed to the fullest for no good purpose, waiting for the chance to get my hands on the microphone being passed around for audience Q&A. I did get that microphone, and I then made a bit of an idiot of myself (in the manner of my outrage if not quite in the complaint's content) by questioning the FFA panellists on the National Club Identity Policy. The rest is history, so to speak. People agreed, people disagreed, nothing changed. Was there even any minor valour in taking a small stand? Could it be that one small voice doesn't count in the room?

Anyway, I think most of what I've written and said over the years about the FFA's introduction of the NCIP over the years remains valid, though as with other issues I have mellowed over the years. That's right, I used to be cool, now I'm just old. It happens. I still despise any restrictions on what ethnic paraphernalia an Australian soccer club can use to identify itself with, but more so I despise the culture which created the possibility for this kind of ideology to take hold. Most of that resentment is directed at mainstream Australian society, with a small bit leftover for specific members of the ethnic soccer fraternity, who over the years weren't able to be mature or disciplined enough about such matters, and gave everyone who hated them every excuse in the book to try and ban this stuff.

Historically, those prohibitions were applied differently across state lines and across different football governing bodies. They were rules applied to some clubs and not others for reasons that were sometimes obvious, and just as often not. In some ways, you can see why FFA wanted to implement a policy that would standardise and supersede the contradictory and piecemeal regulations, even if I doubt that anyone really thought it was necessary.

Then the FFA Cup arrived, and there was all this good feeling around bringing the old and the new together, and for some reason FFA decided this was a good time to introduce their policy. They can claim all they like that some obscure and never-to-be-named Western Australian soccer official asked for it, but the timing of the announcement of the FFA Cup and the introduction of the NCIP were just too close together.

And yet still nothing was definitively resolved. Melbourne Croatia tried a sort of punk manoeuvre with that chief sponsor on their jersey, and I think when we're all old and grey it'll still be stuck in the Human Rights Commission inbox. Gwelup was sometimes Croatia, and sometimes not. Hakoah always got be Hakoah for some reason. Journos old and new called us Hellas, Hellas fans chanted Hellas, but we were not allowed to display Hellas. This year the historically least likely Victorian Italian club to ever be half relevant was forced to black out an Italian tricolour on the back of the shirts, while the same basic pattern in their logo was fine. Little Charlestown Azzurri tried making waves.

Even FFV came out and said the NCIP was a junk policy, though did they mention what existed in their own state before the NCIP came in? If they did, I must've missed that. And that perhaps that many of the big players involved in FFV and all sorts of other similar places now would've argued for de-ethnicising policies back then to be trendy, or out of necessity?

Look, who knows what lies in human hearts at any given moment, and it's quite possible that decisions made at one time are just as right as rescinding those same decisions twenty years down the track when most people are no longer really sure how we got here. What we can say is that FFA's self-proclaimed search for procedural consistency has been a demonstrable failure, though since failure has seldom been something alien to Australian soccer, is that really such a thing to be worried about? It failed on two fronts.

First, consistency - as noted, the application of the policy, in part because of the tacking on of a non-retrospective clause, meant that all sorts of anomalies worked their way through into the public eye, most of which were handled badly, because since when do handle matters of ethnicity well in Australia? Exactly. Second, demand, or rather the lack of it. No one actually wanted this. Of all the things that were happening in Australian soccer at the time the policy was brought in, this would've seen so low down the list of priorities of anybody remotely sane. But then FFA made it an issue, and it's burbled away when really it should not have existed. Most ethnic soccer clubs had accepted their fate of being publicly neutered of any visible intellectual property oriented signs of difference, and powerless because of irrelevance, had chosen to stew in a bath of their own impotent resentment.

But here we are anyway, where things are being "reconsidered", whatever that means. Some people have asked here, if the policy and its affiliates were abandoned, would South fans want South to go back to being Hellas, or would they prefer to be SMFC? And it's a question which would be applied across quite a few clubs. I would say, really, it's up to the supporters of each club to decide for themselves. And it would be their decision. Would I go back to South Melbourne Hellas? Sure, but not for the reasons some might think of. I'm no nationalist, but I respect the club's heritage. Also it's a really beautiful name, one that has poetic quality that SMFC just doesn't, But would I be upset if the club didn't go back of it had the chance? No.

What I would love to see in the event that the policy is rescinded is choice, and maybe the acknowledgement that many clubs have more than one identity. One from the past, one from the present. Maybe some days, like om special occasions they want to remind themselves and others of their origins, and for the rest of the time they're happy to exist in a less-confronting public relations manner. Is Australian soccer mature enough for that kind of reasonableness? History says no, but if we've learned nothing else, it's that stranger things have happened.

Nothing in particular
I stopped listening to 3XY ages ago. I quit most forums except the South forum and, and even the former is a bit of a slog nowadays. I rarely visit Facebook anymore. I don't follow almost any of the soccer podcasts, and on Twitter I seem to mostly only follow funny people rather than angry people. And I tell you what, it's been good for my mental health. It's helped me calm the fuck down a bit, but it does mean that I'm more out of the loop than I've ever been with whatever the latest outrage or conspiracy is doing the rounds. And since I no longer get drip fed info like I used to - those days are so far back in the rear view mirror, that nowadays it feels uncanny that I ever even actually knew anything - just about anything that happens at South behind the scenes is as surprising to me as it is to most of you, if and when we ever find out about. So where we end up from here, I can really only blindly speculate, and what's the point of that? And really, what's the point of writing this section down anyway? I don't know, but don't mistake it for resentment, perhaps just the sense that South of the Border should periodically note where it sits in the pecking order of things, which has always vacillated between low importance and lower importance; which is how I like it to be honest. I'm not good with confrontation, as I think I've mentioned before.

Final thought
Sometimes it's only right to go back to the beginning and remember the moment when someone decided to put their hand up...


  1. Good luck to our WNPL team! Pride of the club! Can't wait to no doubt see our women in the Green and Gold eventually!

    Well done Leo. Your term delivered Lakeside stadium and hopefully set up the club for the next 40 years. It delivered unity across the Men's, Women's and Juniors. It delivered on field success in the Senior Men's and continued the success of Australia's best women's team outside the W-League. Not without fault but the club is still around. For that, thank-you.

    I hope the new board can address the following challenges:
    - Cash-flow and making the club financially sustainable.
    - Get the social club and futsal court to work.
    - Get fans onside! It was a tough year and those bans still seem... questionable.
    - Build a community out of our home! Bigger crowds, more connected fans/sponsors centered around our social club hub.
    - Onfield stability and player meritocracy...
    - Find some way to deal with the Grand Prix issue...

    Forza Hellas!


  2. Hi Paul,

    The other night I was watching the first episode of Peter Fitzsimmons "The Great Australian Race Riot".

    The main focus was on an incident involved a massive riot between Catholics and Protestants at a Melbourne Pub in 1846.

    The outcome that the authorities decided upon was to ban the colours Orange and Green(?) from being hoisted/flown etc. The way that Fitzsimmons said it, this ended the issue! "Keep the #NCIP!" :)

    But what is interestingly coincidental is that date of your Dec 2014 blog post on the introduction of #NCIP and the date of the attached article in relation to the Fitzsimmons doco (ALSO Dec 2014!). Maybe someone from the FFA was watching it and decided this would be a good idea for local wog soccer?

  3. Ah, there also this from the soon-to-be departing prez, on home game scheduling

    "Will be mixing it up next year.
    Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday Games and no long term breaks away from home."

    1. Let me guess, having Kimon and Filops in FFV has given us some leverage?

    2. Wouldn't have thought so, the clubs themselves are mainly responsible for their match day preferences. Where other clubs may have council availability issues, we have grand prix and athletics and such which mess things up.


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