Saturday, 29 December 2018

90 Years of PAOK: Nostalgia for the Future (film review)

This was mostly written in a stop-start fashion over several weeks during the 2017 off-season while my brain was melted from reading too many scholarly journal articles. It's being posted here now in order to clean out some of my draft posts.

It hasn't all been thesis writing and boredom during the off-season for South of the Border. A couple of months or so ago I decided to go to the Como (a cinema I almost never go to, as I really don't like Chapel Street) for a screening of a documentary about PAOK, as part of the 2017 Greek Film Festival (it was also my first time ever at the Greek Film Festival, don't know why, probably some sort of internalised self-loathing or cultural cringe). Being the last film of Greek director and PAOK fan Nicholas Triandafyllidis (whose life and career I know next to nothing about, and thus do not wish to sully with any ignorant observations) I was expecting little more than a hagiography. 

Not that there's anything wrong with that. There are ways to write love-letters about the people and things we love, while still revealing truths about them that move not only those who are already convinced of a subject's worthiness, but also those of outsiders as well. I had my doubts though, because football documentaries like this are innately prone to over-egging the custard. When your documentary is about a club like PAOK though, which (perhaps in part because of its lack of trophies) has a profound amount of self-regard, this audience member's wariness levels are already on high alert. There are also so many football clubs out there, and the people who support them all think they're special. Mathematics suggests that most clubs are, in fact, incredibly ordinary. Luckily for this documentary then that PAOK does have a major point of difference from most clubs, and the documentary is at pains - at least initially - to talk about this. 

PAOK's point of difference lies in its origins as a refugee club, born of the Greek 'Great Catastrophe', which saw the Greek populations of the crumbling Ottoman Empire subject to genocide and expulsion from their ancient homelands. The documentary does not shy away from these origins; early scenes include Turkish soldiers storming towns, refugees fleeing their homes, and confronting footage of anonymous victims of genocide strung up in trees. It is incredibly emotive stuff, and your correspondent being the descendant of Greek refugees from Thrace and Asia Minor on both sides of his family, there is no chance of providing objective analysis of this footage.

This is followed by commentary on the dire poverty many of these refugees were forced to endure in Thessaloníki and in Greece more generally, to which is added the bitter reminiscence that the non-refugee Greeks and the Greek state itself did not help as much as they could or should have. In a bit of a provocative gesture, Triandafyllidis links that experience to the present day Syrian refugee crisis, gently reminding his Greek audience that the current situation is not very far removed from experiences which for Greeks exist only just outside the reach of living human memory. Less successful is his attempt to show PAOK's efforts to do something more for the refugee cause than hold a clinic or two for asylum seeker children; these scenes come across more like the charity PR fluff that all major sport clubs do these days.

Nevertheless, this first act is the film's strongest part, showing the hardships of the club, the supporters and the nature of the club as being caught between two cultures on several fronts - as refugees in a not entirely sympathetic 'native' Greek state; as people representing Constantinople in perennial second city Thessaloniki; as a club representing the marginalised Thessaloníki against voracious and dominant Athens. The stories of the club's earliest grounds, of balls flying into the nearby Jewish cemetery, and of a club running on the smell of an oily rag and the love of its desperate supporters give PAOK's early days an incredible amount of emotional heft. Thus the phrase "ΠΑΟΚ και ξερο ψωμι" (PAOK and stale bread) and "Bizim PAOK" ("Our PAOK") getting into the vernacular of PAOK 's supporters; although the latter phrase, with its Turkish origins, has apparently slipped from usage.

The film's middle section charts the period from the late 1950s until the verge of the professional era. Here is when PAOK moves into its Toumba stadium which provides it with both a permanent home and a firmer identity as a Thessaloniki club, and where there is an optimism and joy in attending PAOK games, even if there are more than overt references made to Athenian and referee corruption. When PAOK finally breaks through for its first national league title in 1976, hopes are high that this will lead to more frequent success. This does not prove to be the case, as mismanagement of the club hinders the prospect of more championships. Even a second league title, in 1985, doesn't lead to sustained success, as the club lurches from one crisis to another, many of those financial and self-inflicted.

The film's focus then in its closing third, is on the last 25 years of constant changes in ownership and appalling management, year after year of no success, and the club on the verge of being broke. These are the staples of so many clubs in football's late capitalist era; that if you are not one of the big players, your existence is made up of a perpetual kicking of all your problems down the road for the next person to fix. Even worse when you come from a footballing and economic backwater like Greece, and worse again if you come from its very much second city and not its gigantic, monopolistic first. PAOK as it is depicted in the third and final act of this documentary comes across as entirely ordinary. Surprisingly little is made of PAOK's Europa League match in 2010 against Fenerbahce in Istanbul, let alone PAOK's fleeting moments of success in European competition.

The film gets itself stuck in a narrative cul de sac. It wants to give equal weight to social and cultural history, on field history, and the charting of PAOK's (and Greek football's) journey from amateurism to professionalism. But the courage it displays in its first act, and the warmth and nobility of its second, gives way to a cold-blooded final act, where it's all business and politics - who sacked who, who fought with who, who mismanaged what. 

Triandafyllidis is willing to acknowledge PAOK's own self-destructive tendencies to a point, but 90 Years of PAOK: Nostalgia for the Future is a missed opportunity. Its best moments are early on, when the narrative is informed by an open-hearted sorrow, and an emphasis of its on and off field experiences of hardship. When the film moves into the professional era, that sorrow is replaced by a sort of internalised rage. While the club was born from violence, the film tends to gloss over the violence of the now; just one moment from the early 1990s is highlighted as an example of the violence which erupts all too frequently not just at PAOK, but at other major Greek clubs. Worse, the film's final act becomes fixated by the internal politics of the club, things which are of limited interest to everyone except the most hardcore PAOK fan.

Considering PAOK's origins as a refugee club, and the great migrations out of Greece during the 20th century (and even now), the documentary's neglect of PAOK's diasporic following is also strange. This is especially the case in situations where the club's followers in the diaspora are the descendants of not only the original migration out of Constantinople and Anatolia, but also the economic migrations to western Europe and the New World. Speaking only of Melbourne, there is a strong local PAOK fan club in Melbourne (whose supporters were out in numbers for this screening); Australia has provided players to PAOK, most notably John Anastasiadis (who was in attendance at the screening); PAOK has toured here in the past; South Melbourne Hellas even played PAOK in Greece in 1991!


But that neglect serves to reinforce the probably accidental concurrents of both the film and PAOK itself, that the club is not so much now the avatar of a portion of the displaced in Greece, but rather simply Thessaloníki's biggest and most important football team. The film's discussions of PAOK's rivalries are instructive in this way. Its city rivalries are discussed entirely in the past sense, and with a certain kind of fondness; Iraklis as a sort of respected elder statesman, Aris as the club of the city's petit-bourgeois. To be fair, it is difficult to talk of those rivalries in the present tense, with those two clubs having declined substantially over the past decade, but even so, PAOK's rivalry with Aris is depicted as an exclusively friendly one, and not the hostile one of today. 

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

11 years

Boy, this was an exhausting year. Apart from everything else that happened to the club, blog output was decidedly lower in quantity and often of middling quality. Here's hoping for upturn across all areas next year.

Nevertheless, there are people to thank.

Thanks to Josh McKenzie for his filling in for me with a match report when I missed Kingston away; and for sneaking in to the Altona Magic friendly more recently.

Also to Savvas Tzionis for his guest match report from round 1.

Mark Boric, Garry McKenzie, and The Agitator for various historical things.

Football Nation Radio for asking Ian Syson and myself to host the If You Know Your History show.

Thanks also to Ian and Matthew for getting me over the line - at last! - for my doctorate.

All readers, comment leavers, content sharers.

Gains.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Pre-Christmas break squad update

After some pre-season sessions and friendlies, the senior men's squad will be mothballed during the Christmas and New Year break, re-emerging in early January. The news since the last roster update includes:
  • Young fullback Josh Hodes has moved on, possibly to Oakleigh.
  • Goalkeeper Alistair Bray has injured himself again, and will be out for a few months. 
  • Marcus Schroen is back from his holidays and training with the squad.
  • The English striker trialling with us? Reviews from interested onlookers seem to be mixed at best.
2019 SMFC senior squad roster as of 24/12/2018
Signed
  • Dean Bereveskos (Bonnyrigg White Eagles)
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (signed until end of 2019)
  • Nick Krousoratis (Green Gully)
  • Perry Lambropoulos (Port Melbourne)
  • Brad Norton (signed until end of 2019)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (Northcote)
Seen hanging around pre-season training
  • Luke Adams
  • Manny Aguek
  • Alistair Bray
  • Ben Djiba
  • George Howard
  • Tim Mala
  • Giordano Marafioti
  • Giuseppe Marafioti
  • Jake Marshall
  • Andrew Mesorouni
  • Leigh Minopoulos
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • Marcus Schroen 
Rumoured
  • Visa player no. 1 (English striker)
  • Visa player no. 2 (Canadian midfielder)
Injured
  • Alastair Bray
Out
  • Rory Brian (Preston)
  • Matthew Foschini (Oakleigh)
  • Josh Hodes (Oakleigh?)
  • Christos Intzidis (who knows)
  • Milos Lujic (Oakleigh)
  • Oliver Minatel (who knows)
Unknown / MIA / Assumed dead from 2018
  • Iqi Jawadi
  • Ndumba Makeche
  • Will Orford

Friday, 21 December 2018

2019 memberships available / it's not plagiarism, it's a reprise

Like last year, they're out quite early, and this time via a no-frills, easy to use website. I've already bought mine - naturally it was the full voting rights membership.

So what do you get this year when you sign up? If it's anything other then the voting rights membership, all you get access to is entry to however many home league matches you've paid for. Voting rights members however get access to all home games, including home finals and home FFA Cup matches.

‎Created: Today, ‎21 ‎December ‎2018, ‏‎6 minutes ago.
On that point I made sure to screenshot that bit of the membership offering so the next time someone makes an attempt to say that it wasn't written down anywhere, or that we members misinterpreted what the brochure says, it'll be there in digital print, not that it will make any difference, because it certainly didn't in 2017, and it didn't make a difference in 2018 when it came up in conversation with a club employee, but moral grandstanding is fun to do.

Voting rights members also get a 60th anniversary scarf, a set of postcards, and two complimentary tickets to bring a friend to a game, which is a good idea provided you a) have any friends, b) they don't come to South games, and c) they would want to come a South game for some reason. One thing noticeably absent is the 10% members discount in the social club which while I'm sad to see the discount go (if indeed it does go), it won't make much difference to me and I imagine a few others, because the system was incredibly erratic when it came to actually deciding to recognise cards.

As for merch, my mail is that there will be pompom beanies, but I've been waiting for a long time for these, so I'm not going to celebrate just yet.

According to the club's social media outlets, life members, family memberships, and corporate memberships are being sorted out this weekend.

As for the moral/heartstrings arguments for buying a membership some have tried to apostate and lapsed followers alike after our most recent failed A-League bid, rather than write something new, I'm just going to copy and paste something from 2016

  • Economics - if you plan to attend a lot of South Melbourne games at Lakeside, it probably makes sense to buy a membership.
  • Stickin' it to the New Dawn - pretty self-explanatory this one.
  • Supporting grass roots football - weird notion that I can't really get my head around.
  • Malice - you need to buy a membership in order to abuse someone on the board. I can understand that feeling.
  • Self-loathing - probably a little bit of that for everyone.
  • Misplaced hope - mistaken belief that your purchase of a membership in some way helps us with our top-flight ambitions.
  • Sense of civic duty - whatever floats your boat I suppose.
  • Force of habit - the money seems to just leap out of your bank account at the same time each year.
  • Warms the cockles of your heart - that's that just a metaphor or something. It won't work in actually protecting you from the cold during the winter. Better off with a jacket, scarf or beanie kind of deal for that.
  • Guilt - you feel you haven't been good to the club over the past few years.
  • Hellenisation - You want to take the club back to 1966.
  • Broadbased and compelling - You want to take the club to 2066.
  • Hellenistic - Like Alexander the Great (the Macedonian general, not that mob on Catalina Street), you want to spread Hellenism to all parts of the world, and see it influence and be influenced by all it comes into contact with.
  • Philhellene - You love Byron, but since neither the romantic movement nor poetry have much cultural cachet in Australia, you've ended up with the next best thing. 
  • Lack of suitable connections - you like soccer, but you also happen to be one of the five people in Victorian soccer who don't have a media pass or season pass allowing you free entry into every ground.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Bus interchange informant - Heidelberg United 1 South Melbourne 4

Some people depend upon Twitter for pre-season match info, others depend on data scout services, and in the past some may have even gone by what was on this blog - but these days I might as well rely upon quasi-random encounters at the local bus interchange.

Not being there in person at Broadmeadows for our friendly last night, I'll trust the club's official Twitter account story that the senior men beat the Bergers 4-1, with goals to Gerrie Sylaidos, Manny Aguek, Dean Bereveskos, and 'a trialist'.

My accidental informant, who happened to attend the game, tells me that Bereveskos' goal was a cracker, and the trialist who scored was the Englishman we've signed/are looking to sign who has played in the Spanish second division.

Score lines mean little in these kinds of things, especially when it comes at this time, with Heidelberg resting some players and being a little behind where we are in terms of their pre-season preparations.

For what's it's, our friend says that apart from the scorers noted above that our lineup included at various times Norton, Adams, Konstantinidis, Howard, Schroen, Krousoratis, Lambropoulos, Roganovic (Bray on the bench?), Pep and Gio Marafioti. No sign of Minopoulos or Mala.

I think there might be one more pre-season friendly to close out the year on Saturday, but I'm not on top of those details; as usual, I'd check more reputable sources for details/

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Friendly tonight against Bergers, in Broadmeadows

As per the club's tweet below. At least this one has been made known to the public, as opposed to some more recent friendlies, which have been both closed and open at the same time. I probably won't be there - because it's in bloody Broadmeadows on a weeknight - so if someone attends and wants to post a summary here, let me know.
Also, the club is also doing its annual informal Christmas get-together this Friday in the social club, with festivities kicking off at 7:00PM.

Also, the last episode of If You Know Your History for 2018 is available here, where we talk about a Peter Fitzsimons style anti-soccer article from 100 years ago, have a chat with Tasmanian soccer writer Walter Pless, and take a look at the online history offerings of the various state federations.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Not that any of that matters

So, no A-League for South Melbourne.

Look, I'm not going to say "I told you so", mostly because I didn't tell anyone so, and we should all know by now that no one equivocates on South Melbourne Hellas matters more than me. That it was a long-shot would've been obvious to anyone who's followed the South Melbourne exodus saga these past 14 years, but exactly how long those odds were could only be tested by putting forward a bid. You've got to be in it to win it, otherwise people will always ask why you didn't even try. But there are at least a couple of journalists floating the idea that South was never even close to being seriously considered by FFA, which of course makes one think in a conspirational way.

In 2004, thanks to being in administration we were in no position to put our hand up to even try to apply for the inaugural A-League Melbourne licence. Since then there has been the Southern Cross bid, attempted buy-outs of Melbourne Heart, Central Coast Mariners, and Wellington Phoenix, and now this attempt to get in under our own name under our own steam, with some outside investment help. The funniest thing though is that each time we play the game, FFA gets something out of it. They get to push up a licence fee, force a minority shareholder to go the whole hog, or put pressure on an existing franchise that they don't really want to sort itself out. They can put forward the illusion of a contest, a fair process, or engagement with 'old soccer'. So we play the game, because we feel that we must, but it's not our game.

So we're still left out in the cold. Only the people directly involved with the bid know how good it actually was. Most South supporters are left to do as they always do, which is speculate based on what limited information we've been made privy to, and then filter that through our preexisting prejudices.

Speaking with one former board member way back when about our chances in this bidding round, they acknowledged that the real value lay in information gathering. That pragmatism wasn't something reflected in the way the bid was presented to the public or to the broader South Melbourne family, but maybe this reconnaissance can be taken to the next bid, or perhaps more realistically, to the push for the second division and promotion relegation. Granted, I'm not a believer in the viability of promotion and relegation in Australian soccer (though I'm more cautious on a standalone second division, a discussion for another day) but there are people who do believe in those ideas. Considering the effort put in to this bid - an effort more than a few South fans consider was expended to the detriment of the core business of the club - it would seem negligent to cast aside the value of that information and experience.

Then again, there's also an argument being made that the expansion course taken by FFA this week makes promotion and relegation less likely to happen in the short term. I have said that part of the reason that FFA decided to take up the expansion course was due to the pressure which came from outside the A-League, namely the Association of Australian Football Clubs, who managed to bring matters to a head. Part of the game then became who would be able to shape Australian soccer in their own image fastest. While all reports suggest that the AAFC are still aiming for a 2020 start to their national second tier competition, FFA's particular choices in expansion are designed to further entrench the existing ownership and operating model. And while there will be changes to the latter when the A-League achieves its independence from FFA next year, it's basically more of the same of what's 'worked' lately for FFA: growth corridors, lots of cash, rejection of small markets.

To be fair, FFA had a difficult choice to make under difficult circumstances, albeit some of those difficult circumstances were of their own making. They have a league that has the feeling of stagnation, disgruntled licence holders who have lost millions propping up their teams and the league, and a television audience that seems all but maxed out. They don't want to expand, because they cannot afford to; yet they cannot afford to not expand. Under pressure from fans, extant licence holders, player unions, broadcasters, and myriad other groups, FFA were offered a dozen or so choices for expansion, all flawed in one way or another, all encompassing some degree of risk.

It was fairly obvious that in the context of Australian soccer's culture wars, our bid was a risky proposition for FFA. Not much has changed on that front for more than decade. But on another front, picking South would've been a conservative, risk-averse decision for FFA to make. An imperfect but nevertheless extant stadium; a supporter base with finite potential for broad engagement and growth, but nevertheless a supporter base that was somewhat tangible; the inclusion of a club that offered something familiar, and yet with also enough of a point of difference so as to add something new to the A-League.

But if people think that the two successful bids - Western Melbourne Group, and MacArthur South-West Sydney - are absurd, illogical choices, destined to fail - let us never forget that famous old mantra which haunts the rhetoric of the 'bitters' even more so than "No South, No A.P.L.", that being "three years tops". The goalposts for the A-League's imminent demise keep moving, but the league keeps going. And maybe these new teams will succeed, proving everyone on our side of the fence wrong again.

Only a few will ever know for sure why the South bid was rejected, and the circumstances in which that happened. At some point our bid team will be briefed by FFA on the process; maybe FFA will tell the truth, or only a part of it. It could just be a case of, in the words of the AAFC on their own second tier model, "what may be good for football may not be good for your club". I doubt that we pleb supporters will ever find out the reasons, which means that rampant rumour-mongering will continue much as it already has during the process. Let us not forget the refrain from some people that Team 11 had it in the bag, that Southern Expansion's largesse would see them through despite their absurdity of their three home ground bid, or that Brisbane City would get it for Queensland derby-metric purposes.

More than every other failed attempt to re-join the top-flight, this failure sees South Melbourne at a significant crossroads. Ideologically, does the club at last abandon its plans to work within the system for its own progress? If so, does it throw its weight more openly and wholeheartedly towards the second division and promotion-relegation push? Structurally, what does the next board of South Melbourne look like? With long-serving president Leo Athanasakis set to retire from the board and the presidency - and under whose leadership this return to the top-flight strategy has been enacted - will his successor make a clean break with this approach?

And will A-League bid chairman and Hellas board member Bill Papastergiadis stick around? Initially brought in to sort out the contractual mess with regards to our leases at Lakeside, Bill stuck around to try and achieve something many of us dream of even while we doubt its plausibility. It's required non-stop politicking, but now that that's over, what is his role?

The reaction from South fans on social media has been a mix of disappointment and anger, with more than a dash of the sort of squawking, entitled petulance that's straight out of 2004/05 era TWGF. In its naked, shameless display of raw emotion, much of that outpouring of grief has been hard to look at directly; it has a pathetic quality, both in the sense that one might feel pity and sympathy, but equally in the alternative definition of something miserably inadequate. It hasn't been helped by our failure resulting in all the anti-South trolls coming out to play.

Remember that four of the other bids in the final six didn't even exist as actual teams, being scarcely more than concepts no-one really asked for. Their existence was entirely conditional on winning an A-League licence - and thus the only 'fans' making serious arguments online for or against something were either 'neutrals', or Canberrans and South fans. And the vociferous nature of some of our fans on social media, along with the PR stunts and boasting of our own bid leader, made us an easy target for ridicule and scorn.

(and as I and others have previously noted, there's a certain irony in South board members imploring our supporters to not embarrass the club with poor behaviour during games this year, when the bid team's antics arguably did as much if not more harm to our reputation, and the behaviour of some of our fans on social media made us look simultaneously arrogant and desperate)

But if nothing else, FFA's decision at least put to bed the value of those clickbait internet polls which benefited only the ad revenues of those news agencies running the surveys, showing the importance of Australian soccer's social media argle-bargle to the game's decision makers being close to zero. As I noted two years ago:
The discussions around the future of Australian soccer which take place online are very niche discussions. Within those discussions there even more niche discussions, which while promoted with quantifiable passion, make no ripple whatsoever on the greater whole of Australian soccer. Promotion/relegation, second division, NCIP, the NYL - like those people who keep making petitions to bring back Toobs or the KFC tower burger - their enthusiasm and its attendant clamour more often than not obscure the fact that there are not actually very many of them: it's just that they're louder.
The episode on Facebook with the Greek Orthodox priest from Moonee Ponds was the most farcical point, encapsulating the most crucial problem of this saga - and not just the last two years, but the past 15. We go back to a bit from an older post:
In time the greatest betrayal of the ethnic clubs, if one can use such a provocative term, comes not from their own or the governing bodies' incompetences, nor the disinterest of the general public who had no obligation to follow them, but from those younger supporters who turned their back on their fathers’ clubs.
It's not just the young people of course. The broader point is that if we actually had the support we claimed to have - or that we used to have - we probably wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. If we had 2,000 people turning up to games instead of 200, the quality and vitality of our optics and our metrics would all be harder to ignore, or to treat as a fabrication.

It's worth revisiting this point for an interesting micro-phenomenon which has taken place during the immediate aftermath of this failed A-League bid. There have been current and/or latent South people vowing to give up their A-League season tickets and come back to South. This sounds grand, magnificent, like the beginning of a movement which could make Hellas great again. Even more appealingly, it's a positive move, not just more useless complaining, but actually doing something for the betterment of South Melbourne.

Except human history is littered with short bursts of mass penance after a disaster, most of which never lasts. I'm reminded of Agathias' comments on part of the aftermath of the devastating Constantinople earthquake of 557,
Agathias also claimed there was a short-lived effect on the attitude of the population: the wealthy were motivated to charity, doubters were motivated to pray, and the vicious were motivated to virtue, all in an apparent effort of propitiation. Agathias reports that soon enough everyone lapsed into their former attitudes.
So while we all hope that people come back to South, and stick with South, the reality is that the numbers will likely be small, and most of those returnees unlikely to be permanent. It's going to be a massive challenge for the club to appeal to people to come and support it, or to continue to support it, when so much hope was invested in the A-League bid and the promise of a brighter tomorrow, and soon. Instead we're back to another season of NPL, our 60th anniversary season set to be spent crossing from industrial back-block to fringe suburban paddock, alternating that with our presence at a boutique stadium which we are destined never to fill again, except on very special occasions.

As the dust settles on this latest attempt at regaining our former glory,  these are the things that matter.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Not the final word on this expansion business

Yesterday while I was cruising around the western suburbs with a mate, I deigned to check Twitter on the off-chance that something interesting might have come up in my feed, and I saw this:
It's a fair supposition to make, but sadly for the interlocutor, a mistaken one. I have been calm, I am perfectly calm, and I will be calm - probably - no matter the result of today's decision on expansion by FFA, and even if the decision is only announced tomorrow. My emotional investment in this matter, though it has gone through natural variations in mood, has mostly remained in the same spot since whenever this latest iteration of A-League expansion began: in appreciation of the process as a superlative example of high farce

That being said, I acknowledge that this is perhaps a minority view - anecdotally at least, South's extant supporters are either very much for, or very much against the South A-League bid succeeding, for all sorts of legitimate and arcane reasons. If I have been seen to project a certain aloofness on the matter, it's perhaps only because everyone else has been so emotionally invested in the result. That, and I have become exhausted by the nonsense surrounding the process, especially as it sat alongside our worst season in at least a decade, perhaps worst season in 40 years.

(And if nothing else, such dithering, meandering, quasi-thoughtful analysis should be the final proof that this blog's main writer is only the voice of a singular Hellas fan, and not a de facto spokesperson for our seething masses.)

To be fair, FFA - and a good number of the A-League teams - have been dragged kicking and screaming even to this point. They need to expand, but they cannot afford to expand; worse, they cannot afford not-to-expand, in an ever more congested sporting market which demands they expand. It is a competition which has the feeling of staleness and which is being asked to add new blood, which will probably only end up alleviating the issue of stagnancy for a couple of years at best; and that's under an operating model that everyone thinks is broken.

Neither do the current licence holders really want teams that would infringe upon their territory, even if evidence - in the form of the Western Sydney Wanderers - suggests it could strengthen club identities and brands. Out of the six remaining bids, only Canberra would unequivocally avoid cannibalising an existing franchise's fan base, so there will be at least one successful bidder - assuming that FFA don't a Honey Badger - that will take away supporters from an existing team.

The likelihood however of a Canberra is low, because of course it is a small television market and Fox Sports - they who fund the league, or at least fund the capacity for A-League licence holders to make manageable losses on their investment - want more derbies in our two biggest cities, they being Sydney and Melbourne. Of course, Fox Sports probably won't fund this pending expansion by providing extra funds for the extra content likely to come about from expansion, and thus we have FFA and assorted related entities making noises about giving the prize away to the highest bidder.

As for ourselves, I'm not going to argue that the ethnic angle isn't a factor in both private decision making and public agendas. What I will say though is too many South fans make too much of that issue, ignoring our bid's genuine weaknesses. These include flimsy attempts at claiming territory, when our historical and latent support (if the latter still exists), is spread throughout Melbourne - and it is spread throughout Melbourne in part because that's how Melbourne sport works, but also because Greeks are spread throughout Melbourne, but that's not a fact that people want to amplify.

And as much as Lakeside Stadium actually exists, unlike the stadium offerings of our local bid rivals, it will also need work to bring it up to scratch. Putting aside the issue of the running track, at present Lakeside seats just 5,500 patrons, and has what might be called at best unconventional corporate and media facilities. It is unavailable for large stretches of February and March because of athletics events and the grand prix. The playing surface is routinely affected by athletics events.

Contrary to the South bid team's PR, a South A-League franchise would by necessity cannibalise supporters from the two existing Melbourne A-League teams; of course the hope is also that our latent supporter base which has kept away from both us and the A-League would come out of hiding, and that some curious neutrals would take the Hellas plunge. Maybe there's some hard core market research the bid team has done in this area that none of us are privy to.

There could also be concerns around liquidity and the proposed ownership model, which runs counter to the way A-League teams have come to be set up. But that's not to diminish the South bid's perceived strengths, among them extant women's and youth teams, an extant stadium, and an extant (even if comestible with regards to its size and loyalty) supporter base. But the duty of South fans for the sake of the club is to be truthful, even if they can't be objective, though I acknowledge that pushing such a line is a Sisyphean task.

But none of the extant bids is a slam dunk. They each have some combination of significant financial, demographic, infrastructural, and conceptual problems, and if I were to put on my South Melbourne Hellas conspiracy hat - and the club really should make such a cap available at our merch stand - the reason this process has dragged out so long is entirely plausible - that however lacking in certain aspects a South bid may be, FFA knows in its heart of hearts that a flawed South bid is still far ahead of at least four of the other bids, and thus they must delay the process until such time as some other solution can be found.

And if one thinks this can't or wouldn't happen, look at the way South's attempt to buy out the Mariners licence looked like it was leveraged by FFA to push Mike Charlesworth to buy out the whole of that franchise. This was back in the days when I would make bold and reckless pronouncements such as:
My ultimate position, for future reference 
  • a member run and owned club 
  • called South Melbourne 
  • playing in blue and white 
  • with all games in Melbourne 
  • with approval granted for entry by the members
which in retrospect also contains a lot of room for weaseling out of these promises should anything which deviates from such a model actually manage to get up.

But when I'm in a less conspiracy mongering frame of mind, knowing so little about what is actually being offered by our club, in addition to the parlous administrative state of FFA and the A-League, I can't really offer my support for a South A-League bid, nor can I really argue against it. So much of what's been going on exists in the world of behind doors politicking or, even worse, in the cesspool revealed when one searches for @smfc in Twitter. 

At this moment, for me the South bid exists solely in the abstract or under a conditional framework, which is true I suppose for every bid - the only difference being that unlike the rest of the bid hopefuls, should we fail to secure a licence we'll kick on for another season at state level as has been the case since 2005. It's not ideal, but I'd argue that it's better than nothing.

But if one were forced to choose to support a South Melbourne related A-League bid being selected over any of the alternatives, I would do so for the following reason - to see if any of those people who claimed that they would stop supporting the A-League if South Melbourne (or any ethnic team) were allowed in, would actually follow through on that threat.

Of course, there are also the matters of Wellington Phoenix and their death row existence, as well the second division and promotion-relegation hullabaloo to consider, but it's not like that any of matters.

Monday, 10 December 2018

So very tired

As the A-League expansion licence process enters what I hope is - one way or another - its actual true ending point on Wednesday, we've been made to endure one last media flurry from the bid team. Where probably many of us are exhausted by the whole business, Bill Papastergiadis, South board member and SMFC for A-League bid chief, has been sprinting to the end of the process.

Last week began with an attempt to claim the 'south-east' as our natural territory, what I hope is more of a cheap PR move than a genuine belief that we actually have any popularity in those suburbs outside of extant and/or latent Hellas fans. Then came the 'revelation' that we have the support of what was it, a touch under 50 Melbourne clubs? Then a bit where Ange Postecoglou does his filial duty. 

And there was the big one, at least for those of us wondering who was going to pay for all of this should the bid be successful, with property developer Ross Pelligra revealed as the money-man that would add the necessary liquidity to make it all happen. What Pelligra's ultimate motivations are, and why he would spend a millions on a facility that's owned by the government, I haven't the foggiest.

In the meantime, those of us with slightly longer memories will wonder whatever happened to major sponsor Luvarc and/or Luisa Chen, who seemed attached to the bid in early publicity, but which have since disappeared.

And some will say, and have said, why haven't we heard of any of these initiatives before now? If one assumes that these late stage media interventions will make a difference, I suppose it could be said that keeping our powder dry might be worthwhile. For those unconvinced by that possibility, I guess we'll wait to see the outcome of all these efforts, and remain unconvinced one way or another.

Outside of us, the bid process has maintained high grade levels of farce, which need little elaboration - bids without stadiums, waiting for government handouts; bids without stadiums, vowing to build their own, along with one assumes government handouts to build supporting infrastructure; bids with stadiums, waiting for government handouts to make them better. And that's just in Melbourne!

Across several if not most of the remaining bids, there is no obvious signs that the public these bids will rely upon are in any way interested in what they have to offer. Now there are threats by some that if they don't get in now, they will never try again. You have a league under new management that knows it must expand or stagnate further, while also contending that expansion must not infringe upon the supporter bases of existing franchises, while only one of the remaining bidders exists outside the current licence holders.

And outside of what actually matters in the decision making process, burner accounts battle across social media. But if we hold on a for a couple more days, we'll finally be at peace...

Friday, 7 December 2018

There are doors that open by themselves / There are sliding doors / And there are secret doors

I was going to talk expansion, South Radio, expansion, South Radio going overtime, and perhaps also ponder when the AGM might be, because once again it looks like it will be on the 12th of never, but I can't be bothered, mostly; except to say that on Tuesday one bit of South Radio stuck out like the proverbial dog's balls - this was when the hosts were chatting (and I'm paraphrasing here) about how great a facility Lakeside was, and that there was a social club, and if you were free you should all come down to Lakeside tomorrow night for the pre-season hit-out against Moreland City.

Then all of a sudden, there was a very hasty reversal to that whole-hearted invitation, as it was noted that they had been informed by 'someone' that the game was in fact not an open-door affair. I'm sure they have their reasons for this, though I don't know what they are. Now I, being a very good boy, did not attend the pre-season game, but others are less virtuous, as one could see from Facebook and Twitter posts.

Thankfully, one of those people who did enter via a poorly manned entrance, was kind of enough to write up a short review of what he saw, and we thank him for that.

South Melbourne 4 Moreland City 0 (goalscorers: P. Marafioti, A. Mesourouni, M. Aguek, K. Konstantinidis) - guest post by Josh McKenzie.
This game was, as pre-season so often is, a bit hard on the eye, but not as bad as you can get in these kinds of things.

There was a decent turnout last night, and even a bit of passion for pre-season - the chanting and drumming provided by two young blokes I hadn't seen before was quite impressive (less impressive was their Zorba dancing performance)

We looked OK I guess, though who can know for sure? Moreland looked fairly rubbish, having apparently lost their best players over the off-season, and we seemed to be pretty coherent.
Our new lads all looked pretty promising, with Sylaidos and Lambropolous providing a decent combination down the left flank, as well as the Canadian DM we've allegedly signed who looked solid enough. The English trialist striker seemed to be a quick, off-the-shoulder type, who had a couple of good moments where he broke away from the defence.

The only three senior players not seen were Schroen, Adams and Howard- whilst our finishing let us down, it was nice to have those chances available.

Reassuringly, our set pieces are still rubbish.

I mention that last fact just in case someone, whether of any particular importance or not, wants to know what's wrong with the team, based in some part on what I remember annoying me the most, or rather perhaps the last thing I remember annoying me.


On the whole, a solid first hit out for the mighty white and blue!

South Melbourne soccer club timeline pottering (2018)

While you're all waiting to find out whether South will secure an A-League licence and arguing about the matter with Twitter randoms, I'm going in the opposite direction and making a quick historical post.

The other day Socceroo and South Melbourne Hellas championship player Ted Smith asked for a timeline of all clubs which have ever borne the name 'South Melbourne', and after shooting off the email I kind of realised it'd be nice to post it here for all to enjoy and have as a handy reference. It may also act as an incentive for me to renew my efforts to do some more research on these clubs, and might be something I update each year around this time.

Timeline of soccer clubs which have borne the name 'South Melbourne'.
  • South Melbourne (1884-1890). This team played in Melbourne's first soccer competitions - such as the Beaney Cup, and the George and George Cup - under the auspices of the Anglo-Australian Football Association, and lasted until the end of the 1890 season. I haven't been able to find anything after that date for this team. It is not known whether any people involved with this club became involved in Victorian soccer once the game officially reformed in 1908.
  • South Melbourne (1908-1909). In 1908, when organised soccer in Victoria re-emerged from its long slumber during the 1890s and early 1900s, a South Melbourne team was one of the clubs that was involved. The only references to this club's existence - and the term 'club' should be used with caution here - are a scheduled match against Prahran in September 1908, and a scratch match on the South Melbourne Cricket Ground in April 1909. The result of the match against Prahran does not appear to have been reported in any media outlets of the day. At this stage it is unknown why South Melbourne failed to take part in the subsequent league and Dockerty Cup competitions, whether any of its players or officials moved across to the other clubs, or whether the club changed its name before the start of the 1909 season.
  • South Melbourne (1910-1911). Possibly the same club as the previous entry, but I'm uncertain - I've only recently come across this club in Mark Boric's statistical history work. This club played two seasons in the Victorian Amateur British Football Association's Amateur League (which was above the second tier 'Junior' league), and finished bottom of the table in both seasons.
  • South Melbourne (1927-1940). This club appears in 1927, which was the year Victorian soccer split into two competing organising bodies. It appears that this South Melbourne remained loyal to the original soccer body during this dispute. I have a hypothesis, as yet untested, that this South Melbourne is a re-badged Albert Park, but I need to do more research to confirm that theory. Albert Park had played in the post-war competition from 1919-1926, and an Albert Park club - possibly related to the post-war outfit - had also played before the war. At any rate, this South Melbourne does not seem to go beyond 1940, nor does it re-emerge after the Second World War. 
  • South Melbourne United (1937-1960). The exact origins of South Melbourne United are unclear;Soccer News article from 1953 claims that the origins of the club date back to 1932 in the guise of a club called 'South Melbourne Juniors', formed when members of the Middle Park Schoolboys' Soccer Club changed names, and that later on this junior club merged with the pre-existing South Melbourne senior club to form South Melbourne United (I have my doubts on this though - it is worth noting that the 1927 South Melbourne and South Melbourne United did play against each other in the late 1930s). Contemporary (and probably more reliable) sources seem to locate United's official founding to 1936 as a junior club formed by former pupils of the Middle Park School and the South Melbourne Technical School. By early 1937, South Melbourne United had decided to field senior teams in the local competition. It is unclear if this team played in the 1943 season, but it certainly competed in every other season from its foundation up until the point it helped form South Melbourne Hellas. Occasionally in the record books - principally in the early 1950s - the club is sometimes referred simply as 'South Melbourne' without the 'United' name. In 1946, some younger players split from South Melbourne United to form Park Rangers.
  • South Melbourne Hellas/Lakers/FC (1959/1960 - present). In August/September 1959, two local Greek clubs - Hellenic and Yarra Park - merge to form Hellas. In early 1960, the newly formed Hellas amalgamates with South Melbourne United. The club decided to use 1959 as its foundation date, but more correctly, the true foundation year is 1960.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Cruising

FIXTURE THIS!
The 2019 NPL senior men's fixture came out some time last week. There was some good news for South fans: we're guaranteed* 3.5 home league matches in the first half of the season, an increase of half a home game on 2018's offering. The uncertainty factor comes from South being unable to say exactly when or where its round seven home against Green Gully will be played. 

But at least we get a home game early on this time around, a round two affair against Dandenong City. Not sure why a round one home game couldn't have also been fixtured considering our traditional grand prix and athletics affiliated home ground access issues, but I'm sure there's a really good reason for it not happening; there always is. 

In terms of what the other clubs are doing, it's more of the same for the most part. Kingston are sticking with Monday nights. Most other clubs are going for Friday or Saturday nights, while Gully seem to have considered their Friday night experiment a bust, and are going back to Saturday afternoons. The recently promoted Dandenong City and Altona Magic are doing Friday nights and Saturday nights respectively. By comparison, our club's persistence with Sunday afternoon kickoff is the height of civilised quaintness.

As usual, I've written up our fixture on the blog. It's probably chock full of mistakes, but what are you going to do about it? Go to another website there and get the info from there? You think by doing that you'll be both better informed, and crash the blog's advertising yield? Well you'd be wrong on both counts, but whatever, it's your life.

*not a guarantee

No friendly - Maybe friendly - Future friendly
An article posted to the Greek section of the Neos Kosmos website said that we were due to play a pre-season friendly at Lakeside last Saturday afternoon against Geelong. Lucky for me I asked the club on Twitter whether this was actually happening (in a manner of speaking), and they quickly replied with no; my subsequent mail is that Geelong cancelled some days before the friendly was due, and that for whatever reason that info didn't make it to the person responsible for the article. These things happen.

The same article says we're going to play Moreland City at Lakeside on Wednesday evening, but geez, you'd want to check your local guides for confirmation of such, because you might want to go check out the Shaft/Super Fly double feature at the Astor instead.

In a different Neos Kosmos article, also in Greek, we have what may be considered confirmation that we'll be visiting West Adelaide in February as part of our pre-season preparations. The game will also be the official opening of West Adelaide's new facility, which looks pretty snazzy.

I listened to the new iteration of South Radio so you didn't have to even though you probably did anyway
Keep in mind that this is me commenting on this matter as a long time listener of many kinds of radio, including being a reasonably dedicated listener of the previous version of South Radio, and certainly not me commentating as a radio industry veteran of four episodes of my own show co-hosted on the same network. In summary:
  • It's slicker than the previous version of South Radio, which was to be expected, especially when you have George Donikian dominating or directing proceedings.
  • Related to this, the show had the kind of awkward banter that comes with making a show that's basically a pilot episode going out to a much larger potential audience than the old show would have done. Thus the 'banter' was affected by no longer being informed by the pre-existing friendships that the former South Radio cast had - and that includes this audience member being 'in' on many of the in-jokes - and which was also a way for members of the then South media team to let their professional guards down.
  • There was quite a bit of content dedicated to the A-League bid, but nothing new. After having been promised at a members' meeting during the season itself that there would be more information revealed to the public as the various deadlines approached, nothing happened. Bill Papastergiadis suggested again during this show that they would release more information. I'll believe it when I see it, not that any of that matters.
  • There was quite a bit on the culture and history of the club and how great it is.
  • There was a little bit on the powerchair team, which I would like to hear more of in future. 
  • There was nothing that I can recall on new signings or any such things.
  • There was an obligatory shout out to South of the Border. I thank David Henning for recognising this blog's ongoing importance to... something. Shall we call it sublime-pettiness? Arch-contrarianism? You-can't-handle-the-truth-ism? But I must admit, it was nice to reminisce about the social club's official opening in 2017, and the geekiest cutting of a ceremonial ribbon anyone could think of, back when I was still if not friends with certain people, than at least on friendly terms. Ah, that's where this blog's importance lies: adolescent woe-is-me-ism! 
Over time I expect the show to become less stilted, and even if the shadow of the club's oversight will always be there, I imagine I'll be listening in most weeks. Someone close to these things suggested to me that I call in during a show, to which I demonstrated the likely outcome should I choose to do so.

Speaking of South and FNR, tomorrow night from around 6:30 there'll be an A-League bid special. 

The Western Melbourne/Region/Universe bid people won't be there, but it might be worth a listen anyway, just in case someone says something mildly interesting. It could happen.

2019 SMFC senior squad roster as of 2/12/2018
Not much news this week on the signings front. Backup keeper Rory Brian has signed at Preston in State League 1 North-West.

Signed

  • Dean Bereveskos (Bonnyrigg White Eagles)
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (signed until end of 2019)
  • Nick Krousoratis (Green Gully)
  • Perry Lambropoulos (Port Melbourne)
  • Brad Norton (signed until end of 2019)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (Northcote)
Seen hanging around pre-season training
  • Luke Adams
  • Manny Aguek
  • Alistair Bray
  • Ben Djiba
  • George Howard
  • Giordano Marafioti
  • Giuseppe Marafioti
  • Jake Marshall
  • Leigh Minopoulos
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • Tim Mala
Holiday in Cambodia (It's tough, kid, but it's life)
  • Marcus Schroen 
Rumoured
  • Visa player no. 1 (English striker)
  • Visa player no. 2 (Canadian midfielder)
Out
  • Rory Brian (Preston)
  • Matthew Foschini (Oakleigh)
  • Christos Intzidis (who knows)
  • Milos Lujic (Oakleigh)
  • Oliver Minatel (who knows)
Unknown / MIA / Assumed dead from 2018
  • Josh Hodes
  • Iqi Jawadi
  • Ndumba Makeche
  • Andrew Mesourouni
  • Will Orford

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Για την Ελλάδα, ρε γαμώτο! Or not! And Britain too, I think! I'm not sure

I'm starting this piece by way of one of my standard unnecessary preambles. Earlier this week I was at my day job, attending one of the daily stand-up meetings that management is using to tell us how great their latest project is. 

To help prove how important and interesting this new endeavour is, one member of management referred to a PowerPoint slide linking to positive news articles (I assume positive, because why else would management link to them otherwise), not caring that they were behind a Murdoch paywall, and probably not caring or perhaps even oblivious to the fact that a room half-full of humanities academics is probably the last group of people likely to be taken in by such obvious PR guff passing as journalism.

I begin with that pointless anecdote if only to ask the question of whether we as South fans could do with looking at the news we consume with a bit more caution and a detached critical eye, rather than interpreting even the slightest ambivalence about our A-League bid as a call to furious arms.

To wit, a situation was created by what was and is a rather straightforward article of little consequence about A-League expansion; a summary of what to the jaded and the unbiased alike are the obviously lesser hopes of the Canberra and South Melbourne A-League bids in securing one of the two expansion licences on offer. It was an article written by Michael Lynch, The Age's chief soccer reporter, and someone I've posted my occasional criticism of during the past eleven years on here, and before that, too. And if I'm being honest and fair, Lynch is someone whose forté is beat writing rather than dense or lyrical analytical pieces.

That's not a crime, but it does acknowledge a historic structural issue in the relationship between Australian soccer and the media. Australian soccer has been and remains an also-ran insofar as its treatment goes in the mainstream written press. It might not be a palatable fact, but it is true. And even as that relationship goes through peaks and troughs, each daily newspaper tends to end up with one and only decicated soccer writer, who is expected to cover all angles of every issue, even as the space allotted to them to do so is limited, and even as they are expected to be all things to all people - beat reporter, political analyst, on-field tactician, and quasi-historian.

These days you can add click-bait writer to those functions, a less than appealing idea for any news writer with a semblance of self-respect, but utterly necessary when newspaper revenues are in such steep decline.

(And incidentally, this is one of the reasons why I took out a digital subscription to The Age - yes there are noble sentiments in this somewhere about being part of the solution rather than the problem, but it's also for the chance to be smug and note that as a subscriber, the concept of the click-bait reader is marginally less applicable to me because of the $4.?? I allocate to this weekly expenditure.)

In the article, Lynch points out that Canberra and South are perceived - both in the public sphere, and within the behind-closed-doors decision making sphere - as being the obvious outsiders compared to the other four remaining bids. Lynch rightly asks the question about Canberra's previous poor history of soccer at a national level - both on and off the field - and the feedback he has received from current Canberra soccer followers that times have changed, especially with the nature of the city itself. Lynch compares Canberra's difficulties of being a regional centre (and thus having doubts about its ability to raise sufficient sponsorship, as well as getting a new stadium), with South's troubles of being perceived as an ethnic/old soccer throwback with limited broad appeal.

Now, Lynch is clearly not saying that he himself thinks South should be excluded from an expanded A-League because of 'ethnicity'; only that, rightly or wrongly, such perceptions exist, and that they will be a factor in the decision making process. While singling out ethnicity as a drawback factor for us, along with Canberra's tainted 1990s national league history, Lynch puts these issues into the perspective of representing:
... interesting arguments about the history, diversity and geography of the game in this country. 
These are arguments which Lynch doesn't expand upon on this article. Like I said, it's neither his speciality, nor do the constraints of time, space, and editorial line allow for something more effusive on what multiculturalism actually means in Australian society, and the way in which Jim Cairns' dream of a pluralist Australian multiculturalism persisted beyond his term in government most notably via deliberately and inadvertently insular ethnic soccer clubs. In short, history can be a launching pad, but it can also be an albatross, and if you want to read something with more expansive intellectual heft on these issues, read Joe Gorman's book rather than a quick semi-throwaway article designed as much to leverage your anger as your sense of reason.

Now Canberra fans seem to be able to handle this casual dismissal of their A-League chances better than South fans. Not having a race issue attached to that exclusion certainly makes things less emotive, but we should also note that as far as controlling their tempers online goes, South fans have been garbage at it since they first got access to the internet. I say that as someone who when they were 16 years old would use school computers to act like the prototypical uncouth online Hellas knob. Things have only gotten worse in the ensuing years, as the experience of exponentially increasing irrelevance combined with the faintest whiff of hope from FFA's Pandora's Box sends fully grown men into a collective apoplectic rage whenever someone considers South to not exactly be a prime candidate for A-League expansion.

And thus Lynch's Twitter feed went into (relative) overdrive with people wanting to hammer him and correct him. The response from Lynch to that, er, 'feedback' is made up of several tweets amalgamated by me.

Hardly ironically, Lynch's article predicted such blowback:
It is not dissimilar to the arguments that South fans – often the most vociferous, if at times intemperate – make on social media when the plausibility of their bid is questioned.
But somehow being accused of being a racist by the very same people he described as borderline nutbags surprises him. Irony dies in the deep dark internet sea. It's not like he's the first journalist either in recent times to cop that kind of abuse merely for reporting what he hears that the public is not privy to. Recently hired Sydney Morning Herald soccer writer Vince Rugari has also copped his share of social media hate from some South fans for making similar observations about South's outsider status, with those South fans being unable to grasp the idea of confidential sources, much as the same people will willingly accept obtuse answers and impossible to verify information from South Melbourne board members.

No surprises though about who one of the ringleaders of the anti-Lynch lynch-mob was, a fact one can surmise by several "tweet not available" notices (because I'm blocked by him), but disappointing if not surprising that several other South fans chose to follow that particular lemming over the edge of the cliff. To be fair though, there was a higher than usual dose of bewilderment from South fans as well, wondering what all the fuss about Lynch's article was.

Of course our lovable larrikin soon-to-be former prez Leo Athanasakis also jumped in with his own 'facts'.


Facts which are anything but of course, and which are easily debunked only if you actually know what you're talking about on these matters. Unfortunately such knowledge is limited to a mere handful of people, most of whom have nothing to do with Twitter or social media and even when they do, they are rightly reluctant to wrestle with metaphorical pigs.

[And while no doubt well intentioned, the other bloke who said it was a four-way merger including a Jewish club is also peddling half-truths at best - because let's be honest, the 1980s merger with what was left of Hakoah was little more than a takeover by South which probably mostly served to secure us a few more grounds in the Middle Park area. And I'd love to be corrected but it was my understanding that the Hamilton (named after either former South Melbourne United and founding South Melbourne Hellas committeemen Des or Bill Hamilton, or perhaps even both) award for club best and fairest was actually a supporters group initiative, not an official award from the club.]

For starters, the 1959 date - which South Melbourne FC uses as its foundation date - is the birth of the Hellas club, which was a merger of the struggling (and still very young) Greek-Australian Hellenic and Yarra Park clubs. The new entity they formed, Hellas, amalgamated with South Melbourne United, an Anglo-Celtic Australian club (what you might also term an Australian club, for lack of a better term, to describe a club founded by non-migrants), at some point in early 1960, ostensibly to get access to Middle Park, the home ground of South Melbourne United (and also Melbourne Hakoah).

To make the merger more palatable to the supporters of the small United club, the Greeks of Hellas throw a few bones United's way. They add 'South Melbourne' to the front of the Hellas name, inadvertently making the thing sound more poetic while also being unusual in being an ethnic club in early 1960s Melbourne with a ready-made and self-selected and unforced district name. They keep United's white jersey with a red vee. And they allow some committeemen from United to be on the new South Melbourne Hellas committee.

It's an arrangement which lasts a mere half decade or so. Soon enough non-Greek committeemen are a thing of the past, United's red vee is gone, and all pretence that this club represents anything in the South Melbourne area apart from the Greek migrants who live there is over. Since that time, in its glory days the club had mostly been content to gloss over that early history and the Anglo connection. This is not a judgement call - whether what happened is right or wrong is for someone else to mull over - but it is an acknowledgement of what actually happened.

Later, toward the end of the NSL era there were the beginnings of attempts to recognise that early history, though I always get the vibe that it was a minority of forward thinkers rather than staunch traditionalists responsible for those efforts. As the club found itself in the (now seemingly without end) rut of being simultaneously abandoned by the Greek-Australian community (its core supporter constituency) and alienated from its identity of being a big fish in a small pond (which had begun to attract its share of non-Greeks, but not quickly enough to form a critical mass at the critical moment), one of the flailing measures taken to recalibrate the club's identity saw some people engage in bumbling and not entirely intellectually honest attempts to leverage elements of the club's history (and parts of pre-South Melbourne Hellas history) that had been neglected (and sometimes derided) for decades.

This led to some people trying to link South Melbourne Hellas directly to the very earliest soccer clubs with the name South Melbourne, as part of an attempt to claim something that is not ours to claim. As I have noted in several places, at best South Melbourne Hellas can lay claim to being the most important club in the South Melbourne/Albert Park/Middle Park precinct; at a stretch it can perhaps lay claim to being the most notable current custodian of a local soccer culture going back to 1884.

But since we know of no formal connections between the 1884 South Melbourne club to the South Melbourne club which was almost formed to play after soccer was reformed in Melbourne in the early 1900s, and certainly no known connection to the 1920s/30s South Melbourne, can we really claim a legacy that fragmented and uncertain? Never mind also that the 1920s/30s South Melbourne was a totally different club to the Middle Park Schoolboys junior club which eventually became South Melbourne United in the mid 1930s (with United thus being more aptly classed as an Anglo-Celtic Australian club than as a British club).

These are, in the greater scheme of things, annoying and pedantic points of history, wielded here by me not to show how smart I am - because at any rate, most of the work in this area has been done by others - but rather as an illustration of how utterly stupid discussions of history are, especially when they are made by people who have no respect for something they claim they have respect for while also claiming that others have no respect for that same history. In other words, as much as I'm drawn to the facts of what happened pre-1959, these bits of trivia become less important in a situation like this than the reasons and manner in which they are deployed -  too often in a shallow way to score cheap political points, ironically mostly in an environment where most supporters of Australian soccer see history as neither burden nor blessing, if they think about it at all.

Not that any of that matters, of course.