Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Like a little kid waiting for Santa, but much better

So, tomorrow's the big day. Or at least it's meant to be.

It's the day where FFA finally, probably, maybe announces who has won the coveted A-League expansion spots, and we South fans can finally get on with our lives when it's made official that the Team 11/Dandenong bid is FFA's preferred Melbourne bidder.

Then one or both of the political parties vying for election in November's state election can announce as policy the building of a stadium next to Dandenong railway station.

As for me, I'm mostly looking forward to this entire thing being over so there can be one less plausible reason or excuse for the club to be practicing social media radio silence.

It's a slightly perplexing thing though - the club has 10,000 Twitter followers, and 60,000 or so Facebook followers, and yet very few of them seem to care about the club's lack of announcements on signings, the coach, or anything to do with the club's day-to-day operations.

Almost as if those people didn't actually exist, at least not in the conventional sense, but that's another matter entirely.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Carrier Pigeon Express

Hi, how is everyone? I'm doing OK, thanks for asking.

Not much news from me or anywhere else, but I'm posting something quick here just to keep things ticking over. Let's just assume the club is waiting for the A-League expansion decision on October 31st - aka Not That Any Of That Matters Wednesday - before remembering that we have a supporter base that would like some news about anything related to our NPL fortunes,

Anyway, so former general manager of the club Peter Kokotis is now our director of football, or our football director, or something like that. Don't know if that means he's joined the board - I mean, I'm guessing not, but I'm trying to read between Greek lines here. Kokotis does say in the article that it was a mistake to sign Chris Taylor up to a five year contract. Of course the club hasn't announced how long we've signed Con Tangalakis up for, or that we've signed him up at all, but it seems that we have signed him up as our manager.

Further reinforcing the likelihood that Tangalakis is our coach is that Neos Kosmos' Greek pages refer to him as such. Today they noted that it appears that we've agreed terms with Northcote's Gerrie Sylaidos, a signing rumour that's been doing some of the forum rounds and probably the northern suburbs Greek café rounds before that. The article also says that South has reached agreements with a player from overseas and a player from New South Wales, whoever they are.

The journo then goes on to note that the South stints of Milos Lujic, Nick Epifano, Christos Intzidis, Iqi Jawadi, Matthew Foschini, Oliver Minatel and "probably Matthew Millar" are likely over, which is strange on so many fronts. I say strange, because for most of those names a majority of us would probably assume were out the door ages ago, not least because Epifano left during the season. But the Matthew Millar is even more bizarre, because he is - last time anyone cared to look - in the A-League, again something which happened yonks ago.

Well, that's all for now. I've got a ton of marking to do over the next week or two, but I'll try and keep up with whatever news comes up during the next week.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Hmm, I don't remember a bowling alley being there

Last week I remarked at how eerily calm everything seemed to be, and how I didn't want to hear anything to the contrary, if for no other reason than that I was (and am) busy marking essays, making corrections to my thesis, and generally trying to earn a living by pretending that I am an actual productive member of society until the end of October when my sessional teaching contract effectively ends.

Well, starting last Friday the club did a great job making headlines, even if they weren't all part of some greater plan. Now that the dust has settled on a few of these things - and since I have just enough time on my hands to write up some nonsense on all of it - let's recap what's happened over the past week or so.

Hail to the Chief
As reported on the official South website, which has otherwise been near comatose in the off-season - so much so, that by comparison it's made the necessarily semi-dormant South of the Border seem like the proverbial hyperactive kid dosed up on red cordial - we have a new president and a new vice-president. The director primarily responsible for senior men's football, Nick Maikousis, has been elevated to the role of president, while the director responsible for women's football, Gabrielle Giuliano, has taken up the role of vice-president. I'm not sure and I can't remember who the previous vice-president was, and going off the most recent update to the club's board of management web page (see above), it seems like the club was pretty much in the same boat as me. Who is even actually on the board apart from Nick and Gabby? I don't even know anymore. I'm assuming they've got their minimum requirement of seven.

I'm not privy to the behind-the-scenes machinations to know if it was an orderly handover of power; I'm not even sure that really matters. I wish Nick all the best, because there's this vibe around the club that we're in this real deep hole, and someone or some persons have got to take responsibility for what's going on. Anyway, Leo got to thank everyone and wish them well at the presentation night last week, so it can't have been too traumatic an experience. For his part, Leo says he always intended to leave his post at the end of 2018, which might be news to a lot of people. Though he did add this idea into the mix.
“If we do make it to the A-League, I will take a position on the A-League Board, but not as a chairman or in any leadership role there. I will continue on the Board until South Melbourne goes to elections,” he says, reaffirming that another SFMC board member, Bill Papastergiadis, had already put his hand up to be the Chairman of the A-League team.
Not that any of that matters, of course.

That's right, there was a presentation night last Saturday
It wasn't exactly a secret, but at the same time it was barely promoted as well, at least in online places that I visit. Given the events of the day before - and more on that in a later segment - a few people who didn't go to the presentation night later spent their time scouring the club's increasingly elusive social media presence looking for clues as to which senior men's players weren't completely pissed off with us, coming up with no one apart from old reliable Leigh Minopoulos. Later updates at least showed us Brad Norton was in attendance, along with most of the women's team, and... you guys who went need to tell me who else showed up, because I wasn't one of those slinking around social media like a madman looking for clues which would up at the RAND Corporation and the reverse vampires.

Anyway, Leigh won the Theo Marmaras award/prize/medal for our best and fairest, which just quietly, I think is a good choice, not that the club would or should take any advice from me on such matters.

Do we have a coach? And do I have to read the Greek papers to find out?
While everyone has concerns about everything going wrong at the club, some concerns are more equal than others. Those of us with only small barrows to push - or even no barrows at all, because I've either misplaced mine or loaned it to someone and I can't remember who now - only really want to know who we've picked to be the senior men's coach for 2019. It's something that really should be a run-of-the mill decision, and something that probably should've been sorted out by now, especially once John Anastasiadis made the decision to stick with Bentleigh.

The rumour had been going around that Con Tangalakis has been offered a three year deal. In true South Melbourne fashion that rumour had been reported as hard fact by a few people, showing that we'd learnt nothing from the previous week's antics. Other people have said that it has actually been reported in the Greek press, but it certainly hasn't come up in our club's once legendary social media presence. I guess the club must have lost its social media profuseness somewhere between a couch cushion in the last couple of months.

Though my Greek is getting rustier by the day, I think somewhere in this article is confirmation that Con Tangalakis has been appointed as coach... but you know, wait and see and all that.

And you want to be my A-League franchise / And you want to be my hard-hitting Australian soccer news-breaker 
Late on Friday afternoon a news report was published with the eye-catching headline accusing the club of wage theft. The story quoted former player Liam McCormick, a former employee of the club in Despina Donato, and an unnamed current player. The club, via outgoing president Leo Athanasakis, claimed that the allegation that staff and players are owed money is false.

(As an aside, I wonder if Leo made that comment with the endorsement of the rest of the board, or felt that he could do so in his capacity as president even as he was soon set to leave the post. Eh, it probably doesn't matter.)

Some people say you shouldn't laugh at things like this, and I won't. But I will note a few things which I find hilarious, in that grim, clenched teeth kind of way. First, Clement Tito, the journalist who wrote the story, was attacked by some South fans for doing his job, as opposed to our fans asking relevant questions of the club. Now where have I seen that kind of behaviour before? Oh yes, the time a young photographer was hauled over the Twitter coals for taking a photo of Kristian Konstantinidis jamming his fingers where he shouldn't have.

I mean, I get the innate desire to defend the club - and there are times when we should be doing that - but there are ways of going about this which are more effective (and ethical, if that's a relevant consideration - it probably isn't) than others. Our normal online fan behaviour in such situations tends to be of the foaming mouth rabid dog variety, but every now and again people surprise you - like here, where one pseudonymous supporter provided evidence contradicting McCormick's claim that he was owed money.
That such information was posted online by a pseudonymous character is a bit of a concern - where did they get the document from? It has to be either someone from the club, or someone connected to the board. It doesn't seem like the best way to play the game, especially when board members have often been critical of the anonymous posters on this blog - but why should I apply my own flawed notions of ethical purity onto others? It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and since I prefer the aloofness of cats, it's probably not my place to cast aspersions.

Though another possible interpretation is that McCormick was owed money at the time of his departure, but agreed to waive his rights on those matters in order to get a clearance to different club which, by the dubious sources I rely upon, was going to pay him a lot more than what we were doing anyway.

Still, the line being run by some people that the article was part of the great masonic anti-South Melbourne Hellas conspiracy was, as usual, a bit over the top. Tito was accused by some South fans of writing the article in order to damage our reputation and by extension our A-League bid (not that any of that matters), and taunted him and the website which published the piece with the threat that he'd be sued. Tito didn't do himself any favours by not actually standing up for his work (at least on Twitter). Maybe he has better things to do than hang around on social media all day and argue with people, and good luck to him if he does. But my feeling on these things is that if you're going to post incendiary material like that under the guise of being a professional journalist (as opposed to the hackiest of hack bloggers, such as yours truly), you should probably be prepared to defend your work, especially if your mates come to your defence and you kind of leave them hanging.

Unless of course Tito has another article up his sleeve, and wouldn't that be fun to read?

Insofar as the wages and benefits owed to Donato (who is no longer at South Melbourne) and other staff members and volunteers (who are still at South Melbourne) it is pretty much an open secret that various staff have been or are owed money or benefits, though I'm not as up to date on these things as I used to be. Maybe all those issues were sorted out ages ago. I do know that former and current staff members have taken different paths in dealing with these issues, and it's not my part to judge how they go about collecting what they're owed, if indeed they are owed anything. Suffice to say that Donato and any other staff member owed money is fully entitled to be paid what they are owed according to their contracts and the law, and if the club is in the wrong, then it deserves just about every bit of grief it receives.

As far as what the players may be owed, since I don't talk to them about such things - and unless personally approached, I never would - it's always going to be rumours as far as I'm concerned. McCormick's pisspoor attempt at getting back at the club aside, the fact that another, current player has spoken out (albeit under the promise of anonymity) should be cause for concern. As a general rule, whatever players say to each other in private about wages, they rarely come out and talk about such matters in a public forum, especially in cases where they could be theoretically identified. That they have done so here should be ringing alarm bells.

The situation with regards to the player payment situation takes me back to the comments section in this post from just over a month ago, where an anonymous poster claimed that "Players have not been paid in over two months. PFA has been contacted apparently. This season is turning out to be a nightmare for the club." Another anonymous poster responded with "What a pathetic rumour to post, well done Paul." for my approving the original comment, but with nothing more than competing allegations/points of view, it was pretty much a case of the irresistible force against the immovable object cancelling each other out. Until Tito's article came out anyway, and then the club responded, and then nothing happened. I'm not saying it's a letdown, just an anti-climax.

The funniest thing though by the length of the straight is thinking back to the A-League information night a few months ago, and the pleas from Bill Papastergiadis to the fans to not do anything stupid which would embarrass the club. Well our fans being who they are, some of them did engage in some less than stellar behaviour - at least according to the club - and were banned from Lakeside for various indeterminate lengths of time. But even the worst of those fans would have been doing well to drag our club's name through the mud in the way it has been here. Still, there's always new depths to plumb.

As alternately horrifying/comic as this situation turned out, it is also worth putting things in some perspective. Most clubs in Victoria who pay players go through periods where they struggle to resolve their wage bills. Some clubs end up making the difference at the end of or after the end of a season, and plenty of others never even get that close. Some players have enough street-smarts, or have been around the block enough times, that they know how to work around the issue, or are content to cut their losses and move on. A special few talented players know precisely the value of their on-field worth, and can wield their reputations both to collect their owed moneys and move on to another club to start the process again. Probably everyone else is content enough to move on with whatever they've managed to squeeze out of clubs, considering that below the NPL2 level players aren't meant to be paid at all, except for expenses.

It's easy to target South Melbourne, because who cares what "insert other no-name brand club" does in this matter? But people should care. Wage inflation in Victoria has gone bananas, and since a good portion of clubs in our fair state are supportive on a second division - and wages will be an important part of the increased costs of such - it would be worthwhile actually having a mature debate on the probably untenable salaries being paid to part-time footballers playing in front of very few people, and bringing in very little revenue. But again, some people who promote the pro-rel argument also promote the live and die by the sword manifesto as it applies to soccer, and the idea that there'll always be some club available to replace one that fails. If that's the driving philosophy, then let the wage recklessness continue.

But just because these things happen on an all too regular basis across the state leagues, it doesn't mean that it should happen. It especially shouldn't be happening at a club with top-tier aspirations even if the vast majority of funding from any A-League bid attached to South would be provided by private interests. And how stupid did those internet heroes look trying to make out as if this would actually have any bearing on South's A-League ambitions, especially when they already claim to believe that we're no chance anyway. It also doesn't even matter if these things have happened in the A-League with their own alarming regularity. South boasts of its on and off-field professionalism, and even the suggestion that it fails to live up to those boasts doesn't do the club any favours.

I'm not enamoured either of the idea put up by some fans - even if it was an idea largely made in jest - that because the players didn't do well this season, that they don't deserve to be paid anyway. That's a crock. The fact is we've made legal commitments to players in the form of professional contracts, and we are obliged by the law if not common decency to honour those commitments. Any other response is flat out immature.

The club did eventually release a more formal response to the article, hinting at players breaching contractual obligations, as well as accusing Clement Tito of declining the opportunity to check the club's accounts in person. But really, the biggest mistake Tito made - apart from relying on McCormick as a source - was getting the article published on the same night Usain Bolt was pissfarting around against park footballers. Who cares about South Melbourne Hellas' sideshow antics when you have the three ring circus in town?

Also, geez man, if you come at the king, you better not miss.

Preparations for 2019
If I understand some of the things I've read correctly, we've been invited by Newcastle's Hamilton Olympic to go up there for a preseason game, though I can't see if we've actually accepted that invitation. Seemingly more certain is that we're doing a preseason game in South Australia early next year against West Adelaide. Whether we have a team to take up to either locale is another wait and see proposition.

South gets another red rose in A-League Expansion Bachelor(ette)
Well, well, well. After some people said last week (and don't people say so many things) that the FFA had decided who they wanted to be their A-League expansion franchises, and that it wasn't us, Ray Gatt noted yesterday that the Wollongong and Ipswich bids had been turfed, and that the
Not that of any of that matters, because apart from clearly just being strung along for laughs and/or an insurance policy in case the FFA and A-League's preferred bidders turn out to be hollow nothings, will expansion even happen next year? There's plenty of talk (always so much talk) that the FFA or whoever ends up running this process is going to Honey Badger (why do I even know what that is?) the process and not pick anyone, or make them wait another year.

Which is fair enough in my opinion, because like a puppy, an A-League franchise is not just for Christmas, although most puppies probably have a better anticipated lifespan than some of the A-League's former and possible future franchises.

Lastly, good to note this particular extract from a recent Vince Rugari article on all these things.
"It's believed some A-League clubs would view their (@smfc) inclusion as a retrograde step for the competition. The proximity of their home ground, Lakeside Stadium, to AAMI Park is also a concern." 
That sounds a lot like something you'd read on the FourFourTwo forums or from a columnist on The Roar. Which is not having a go at Vince by the way (and congrats to him on getting the Sydney Morning Herald gig), who like others obliged to cover these events is only reporting what he's being told. It's just an observation on the kinds of things being fed to journalists, and the ways in which they sometimes seem to align with tropes used on popular discussion boards populated by people even less credible than South of the Border's chief correspondent

Unless... what if those forums were also being used by people connected to competing bids, extant A-League licence holders, and/or FFA? Hmm, I'll have to consult the positions of the sun, the moon and the stars, and maybe read the φλιτζάνι to see the likelihood of that being true. Not that any of that matters.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The latest from the off-season procrastination corner

Judging by the deafening silence from official sources regarding almost all things South Melbourne, I have to say that everything must be going really well, and I have no interest in hearing otherwise. I've got my hands over my ears, I'm singing "lalalalalalalalala", and all I can see is you people's mouths going up and down, your tongues twirling and teeth shifting from side to side, and your hands gesturing wildly in some vain attempt to get my attention, I assume in a vain effort to tell me that, actually, we're all doomed.

Well, I'm not having it. Everything is going to be fine. Relax ρε, etc. And even if our 2019 season - our 60th anniversary season - is a bigger failure than 2018, well, so what? As the middle-aged Clarendon Corner kids like to say, "we had a good run", and isn't that true?

I can see already that what's left of the regular South of the Border audience might be a bit suss about this new-found positivity, and I sympathise. But maybe I should try being big-hearted and open-minded about things, and just let the universe do as it pleases. To that end, rather than scoffing at every transfer rumour, I'm going to choose life and believe everything posted on soccer-forum and at least half of what gets posted on the current iteration of the South forum, especially the stuff that contradicts the other stuff. I could be cautious, but since when that has that got me anywhere?

Months ago we had a big info session about our A-League bid, one of whose elements included the promise and/or threat that there would be more information released to the general public, and yet here we are months later, with almost no new information about the bid. Some of that delay has to be put down to a rare case of South's board exercising some proper restraint, what with us being in danger of relegation for a good chunk of that part of the year; but even after that pitfall was avoided we have still heard diddly squat, other than to note that we had indeed submitted our bid.

Not that of any of this matters anyway, but assuming that the whole expansion process isn't effectively delayed for another year because of the changes in the FFA Congress and the A-League licence holders getting their dirty mitts on the mechanics of expansion, do we - or rather our anonymous financial partners - even have the $15 million now rumoured to be the asking price for a licence fee? And who are these mystery bottomless pits of money? Is it the Chinese, who will eventually be forced to bow out by the Communist Party? is it Harry Stamoulis, formerly of the Tasmanian A-League bid, former Victory shareholder, and former possible maybe South fan? Anyway, all the leading journalist boffins have said that we're not anywhere near the frontrunners for one of the two available licences, so what does it matter, except now we have other anonymous self-declared insiders blathering away on social media that we're actually in a good spot, and it is other groups which have failed to impress, and you can apparently take to the bank.

Speaking of money, I look at the absurd wages and sign-on fee figures being bandied about for the NPL next year, and I just have to laugh, before remembering that we have to believe that all of it is true. Like Altona Magic offering $40k a sign on fee and $1.5k a week for the nonce formerly known as the People's Champ, and I call him nonce for obvious reasons (boo hiss etc) but what if he is going to get that money? Who's the fool then? Certainly not him unless he fails to declare it on his taxes and the tax man comes calling, but how likely is that to happen anyway? Victorian semi-professional soccer players are all very diligent in declaring their earnings from football, especially the stuff that they get in brown paper bags out in the carpark every second Thursday after training.

And look, if clubs are dumb enough to hand out that kind of cash, then who's fault is it if players take it? Players are only human after all. But when most places have two men and a dog following them, are they even actually clubs any more? Because let's be honest, the vast majority of the time it's not clubs funding the players wage arms race, it's money-men and the occasional money-woman, for purposes that are best known to them and their accountants. Now every level-headed person knows that soccer is a bad investment, and our local leagues are an especially pertinent example of that. And yet we here are, with wages and the like still escalating, even as people still cry "but the prize money for winning the championship is stuff-all!", as if the people chucking in the money don't know this, or that even most successful FFA Cup runs are largely a bust.

But like I said, here we are, where tens of thousands are squandered each week by clubs in order to win games played in front of nobody. Now if there were crowds and media attention and sponsors to be impressed, I'd understand, but there aren't, and because I don't understand and because I have no money, I probably never will understand. That's OK, understanding is overrated anyway. I've tried ignorance, half-ignorance, half-knowing, and with full-knowing being out of the question, I've come to understand that as far as these matters go, ignorance is best.

Back to us for a moment though. Last week or thereabouts the whole South world was abuzz with the news that Johnny A hadn't quite said yes but also hadn't quite said no to us, and therefore we had people saying it was a lock and/or imminent that he would be our next coach as soon as Bentleigh's FFA Cup run was over. Therefore because of the certain fact that Johnny A was going to be our coach, certain folk had to start doing the mental gymnastics needed to accommodate this return of a newly re-minted favourite son because of the, er, unpleasantness, which had come to pass us lo this past decade. For the sake of being able to get a coach with some pedigree of success and good football - and more importantly

And then whether because we couldn't stump up the necessary money or because he's some twisted genius, Johnny A signed up with Bentleigh for another season, leaving us with our pants around our ankles. But while we don't have a coach as other clubs start making signings and begin thinking about pre-season, and we have no idea if Con Tangalakis hasn't been insulted enough by our bypassing him for this long after he saved us from relegation, we at least get to boo Johnny A again assuming we have a club next year.

If you believe what's been said around the traps, we're not going to have any players left anyway, that we'll be starting from an even worse position than our return to soccer in 2005 after our long lay off, and that even long-serving players are considering their options and shopping themselves around. Now half the rumours around that include the notion that we owe players two months wages, the other half being rumours that we only owe them four or five weeks wages - which if true is still bizarre and horrific considering how rarely we had to pay for win bonuses in 2018 - and further to that, that we're being taken to the PFA, and FIFA, and the United Federation of Planets. But who cares if some of these players are leaving, because according to dark corners of the internet, some of them tried to get us relegated anyway.

So like I said, it's going well. At least I have other things to distract me now.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

South of the Border awards 2018

As usual, I put in zero effort with these.

Player of the year: Leigh Minopoulos. I was going to give it to Oliver Minatel for his novelty goals and shift into defensive midfield which yielded temporary positive results. Then I was going to give it to Marcus Schroen for being a sort of mid-season boom recruit. But I give the award this year to the guy who showed the biggest heart throughout the whole of the season.

Under 21 player of the year: The Cliff Hussey Memorial Trophy goes to Ben Djiba. It's a shallow pool, again. Though there were numerous young players dropped into the side during the year, and most of them showed something, there were few if any who were given extended time invthe seniro side. But among those who were used, none was thrown into the deep end quite like Ben Djiba, and I give him credit for this - he coughed up the goal in the first ten minutes against Port, but he was nowhere near our worst player on that day, and went on to settle and look like maybe belonged on that field.

Goal of the year: Four way tie between the three goals Kingston scored against Gully in round 26, or Pascoe Vale's equaliser against Hume in the same round.

Best performance: Dandenong Thunder away. Downshill skiing? Maybe, but it was 9-0 and utter domination from start to finish.

Best away game of the year: Bentleigh away. Positive attitude, positive result.

Call of the year: "We should let Sasa coach the first half of games, and CT the second". It almost seems quaint now, but it showed that the team wasn't completely trash.

Chant of the year: I really shouldn't pick any of the perennials for this, but "sack the board" became the standout. Apologies to "Sideshow Bob / Kill Bart", and "call it off!".

Best pre-match/after match dinner location: Even though the MSG lobby says there's no scientific evidence that their product causes the headaches that MSG is rumoured to do, I got a massive headache the day after eating at some Laotian joint whose meal was otherwise very good. So the prize goes to some Afghan chicken place in Dandenong.

Friends we lost along the way: A South Melbourne umbrella. Table service in the social club. Dignity.

Barely related to anything stupidity highlight of the year: South supporters reputedly betting successfully against their own team, exploiting outrageously mistaken odds in order to help fund their own world cup trips.