Wednesday, 30 October 2019

All Greek To Me artefact Wednesday - 3XY Radio Hellas' Oceania Club Championships final broadcast

This week's artefact pays tribute to two anniversaries, although I was more aware of one than the other when I started writing this piece.

It seems kinda sad that - so far - the club's 60th anniversary has gone by without too much fanfare, but that the back-to-back championships and the Oceania triumph have also slipped by. Maybe there's something in the works to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the club's peak, but we'll see I suppose.

2019 marks twenty years since South won the Oceania Club Championships, although this post also missed the boat by a good month. Closer to the mark - in fact, being celebrated right now - is 3XY Radio Hellas' 25th anniversary, the Greek-Australian radio station which has been both friend and foe to the club, depending on who (and when) you ask.

On September 26th, 1999, after a gruelling run in which they played four games in about eight days, South Melbourne Hellas were crowned the inaugural club champions of Oceania; an honour which saw the club win the right to represent the Oceania confederation at the first World Club Championships in Brazil the following January.

South had qualified for the tournament by virtue of winning the 1999 National Soccer League grand final against minor premier Sydney United. The fact the minor premier didn't qualify for this tournament probably sticks in United's craw to this day, but doing it via grand final winner is the Australian way. Still, an administrative bungle by Soccer Australia could've - in theory at least - have seen United go to Fiji in South's place, as seen in this August 1999 article by Michael Cockerill in the Sydney Morning Herald.
South must win the Oceania club title before confirming their passage to Brazil, but that seems a formality, despite an amazing administrative blunder by Soccer Australia. 
A fax bearing the signature of NSL general manager Stefan Kamasz and sent to the Oceania Football Confederation in Auckland on July 27 nominated minor premiers Sydney United as Australia's representatives, instead. Kamasz is in Greece on holiday and unavailable for comment.
Anyway, the Oceania Club Championships were played in Fiji, in tumultuous weather, difficult pitch conditions and occasionally, as in the final, in front of large, boisterous, crowds. The tournament also seems to have been marred by an overly physical style from some of the Pacific Island teams, the occurrence of which took its toll in particular on the team that South Melbourne would have expected to play in the final, New Zealand's Central United. United were so beaten up by the schedule, that not only did they lose their semi-final, but the third place playoff was called off because of their injury toll.

So South went on to play Nadi of Fiji in the final at Prince Charles Park, in front of 10.000 locals

The South Melbourne squad on the day was:
Milan Udvaracz, Steve Iosifidis, Fausto De Amicis, Robert Liparoti, Con Blatsis, David Clarkson (George Goutzioulis 67'), Steve Panopoulos, Vaughan Coveny, Paul Trimboli, Michael Curcija (Jim Tsekinis 55'), Goran Lozanovski (Anthony Magnacca 46').
(One of the heroes of the previous two grand final wins, John Anastasiadis, missed the final because of injury.)

There were apparently only about 70 South fans present for the final. The rest of us probably had to make do with either waiting for reports to be published in the print media, or if they were too impatient for that, listen to the 3XY Radio Hellas broadcast of the game. I was never a big fan of listening to the 3XY broadcasts of our NSL matches. I mean, if you didn't have a choice in the matter, you tuned in regardless, but the signal quality was often crap, and as for the quality of the commentary... let's just say that it could be ages before the commentators would update the score.

But at least I understood enough of the Greek that was the predominant language of these broadcasts! It must've been much worse for fans of ours with a sketchier or non-existent knowledge of the Greek language. During the NSL, there were sporadic updates provided in a heavily accented English, but this was years before livescore apps. And what else could you do, if you weren't at the game or didn't have subscription television? I suppose if you were ahead of the technological curve at the time, you could've used a mobile to call a mate a the game. But that was probably not an option for this game, what with it being in Fiji and all.

Anyway, when I was cleaning out the old social club back in the day, one item I took with me rather than allow to be packed into storage was an audio cassette with the label:
OCEANIA CUP FINAL 
Sunday 26 September 1999 
PRINCE CHARLES PARK, FIJI 
NADI (FIJI) 1
STH MELB (AUST) 5
I don't know who the person was who recorded the broadcast, nor what the circumstances were, nor if they're even still South fans. You'd like to think they're still with us, but the past 20 odd years have done a number on the club and a lot of its supporters,

Back in the day I was dabbling with transferring some JJJ Live at the Wireless tapes (The Strokes, Something For Kate, Pollyanna) onto my computer, ending up with huge WAV files and not much knowledge about what to do with the material after that. And that's kinda what happened with this tape, albeit a few years later. A couple of chunky WAV files, converted into appalling quality MP3 files, and then no real idea about how to get them to the stage where they could be uploaded to the internet, especially in an era when YouTube still restricted you to very short

That, and for the longest time I couldn't really bother listening for long enough to figure out which side had which half of the game, and what the hell was actually going on. So, a mea culpa on my part for exaggerated slackness. But here we are, finally, with this little artefact now available for all to enjoy.

The recording begins about four or five minutes into the game. The chief commentator is Kostas Paterakis, a long time contributor to both 3XY and its sports content, who while commentating on the game, also liaises with "Aleko" back in the Melbourne studio.

Apart from calling the game, Paterakis also makes observations about the weather (heavy rains the previous two days); the state of the pitch (muddy and soft, but at least no longer the rock hard version of earlier in the tournament); the nature of the local crowd (a party atmosphere, ala Brazilian football); the attempts by someone to steal the match ball as a souvenir during an early part of the second half; an observation that Fiji is first a rugby nation, and then a soccer one; and that the Fijians are a very devout Christian people, with many of the crowd leaving the game early to attend evening church services..

The audio quality isn't the best, but is mostly clear enough to understand what's going on.
The recording on the tape is also incomplete. Apart from missing the first few minutes, signal problems mean that the first two minutes of the second half are missing, and of course there's also a small amount of time missed when the tape is flipped over to "Side B".

There's a very brief English language summary midway through the second half, but the overwhelming majority of the game is broadcast in Greek. At the end of the game, Paterakis corrects an early mistake he made, where he credited Steve Iosifidis with a goal that belonged to Fausto De Amicis. It would've been Iosifidis' first goal for the club - I'm not sure Steve actually ended up scoring any goals for South.

Post-match there's a summary of the game and its meaning; speeches and the trophy presentation in the background; a brief chat with Steve Iosifidis; relaying the congratulations of then Victorian state Liberal MP (and later WA state Liberal) Peter Katsambanis;  a chat with "Eleni" and her husband "Vasili" - Eleni had assisted Paterakis during the week; and a chat with some random from Greece named "Dimitri" before the tape ends.

So, while not nearly as good as video footage, for those with the language skills and patience to listen to its lo-fi entirety, it's a worthy artefact in its own right.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Old South doco artefact Wednesday - Afifa's Game

In the mid-2000s, Afifa Saad was a goalkeeper for South Melbourne's women's team. The Victorian Women's Premier League goalkeeper of the year in 2006, apart from personal success, Saad's soccer career was also accidentally controversial (through no fault of her own), when in 2004 a referee refused to let Saad play in her headscarf, an issue on which she was still offering commentary on in 2010, when the matter of the headscarf/hijab went international.

Part of the SBS 'Halal Mate' documentary series looking at the lives of Muslims in Australia, this documentary from 2007 focuses on Saad weighing up whether a soccer career is compatible with her Muslim faith. There's quite a bit on her family life, but there's also some shots of the old Lakeside Stadium


Monday, 21 October 2019

Lucky guess

All hail the mighty oracle that is South of the Border.

Well, not really, but I wouldn't be me if I didn't deliberately seek to undercut my own moment of irrefutably minor online glory.

Yesterday morning the club's social media accounts put out the mystery-and-intrigue laden notice of the  "new striker and Australian marquee player" that was going to join us in 2020. That sent people rushing to speculate both honestly and mischievously. I guess some people thought it was going to be Avondale's Liam Boland, whose name has been thrown up during this off-season as a possible signing for us.

But me, I went with my hunch that the announcement was going to be Harrison Sawyer, a 22 year old Queenslander who has been on the books with a couple of A-League teams, but who has also played in the Philippines and Hong Kong. That hunch was proven correct at a touch after 6:00PM, and after which I went to claim my theoretical prize of internet kudos.

But it's easy to be right when the rumour of Sawyer's signing with us was posted on the South forum over a week ago. That must surely annoy the remnants of our once fabled media team, but the truth is that we're a long way of the Chris Taylor led no South Melbourne Hellas news leakage era.

As for those wondering about the language used in terms of "Australian marquee", one has to give credit to the South media team for that one, exploiting the designation given to a certain kind of player under the PPS system.
An Australian Marquee Player is an Australian Player (i.e. not a Visa Player) that was registered as a professional Player for a Hyundai A-League Club or an overseas Club immediately prior to registering with the NPL Club. 
The Australian Marquee Player will only incur a maximum of 10 points on a Player Roster and will not otherwise be subject to the Switching Player category. The Player can benefit from the other categories of the PPS (i.e. Homegrown Player).
Sawyer comes with big wraps from former South man Jesse Daley (I assume they were once Brisbane Roar youth/NPL teammates) and from Queensland soccer media type and football historian Garry McKenzie.

Also about a week before that centre-back Jake Marshall signed on again for another season, a bit of news which garnered a lot less interest.

2020 SMFC senior squad roster as of 21/10/2019
Signed
  • Perry Lambropoulos
  • Jake Marshall
  • Brad Norton
  • Harrison Sawyer
  • Marcus Schroen
  • Gerrie Sylaidos
Played for us in 2019 but now on the payroll in another guise
  • Luke Adams
Played with us at the end of 2019 but who knows about next year
  • Tom Aulton
  • Keenan Gibson
  • Peter Skapetis
  • Nick Krousoratis 
  • Manny Aguek
  • Ben Djiba
  • Amir Jashari
  • Giuseppe Marafioti
  • Will Orford
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • Zac Bates
  • Josh Dorron
  • Melvin Becket
'They' say that he's not coming back for whatever reason
  • Kostas Stratimitros
Possibly already moved on to Kingston
  • George Gerondaras
Has he even been in Australia since early in the 2019 season?
  • Andrew Mesourouni
Last time anything was heard from him, he was exploring options in India
  • Billy Konstantinidis
Out
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (time to say goodbye)
  • Leigh Minopoulos (retired)

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Match program and sundry items update

With thanks to stuff loaned from the club, this is what I have added in the past little while in terms of South programs:

  • Presentation night materials from 1988 until about 2000. Not for every year, but most of the 1990s seems taken care of on this front.
  • Testimonial dinner booklets for Mike Petersen, Steve Blair, and Ange Postecolgou.
  • The 1991 NSL final series program, which I had inexplicably not uploaded before.
  • The 1999 Oceania Club Championships program.
  • A South Melbourne Hellas journal from 1986, from the eve of the 1986 season rather than after it. This one is particularly good.
  • I've not linked to them on the blog, but if you really, really want South gala auction booklets from the 1990s and 2000s, you can get them at this link.
You can find - and download! - all these in the relevant year in the usual place.


Elsewhere, I have added a few clubs histories, some pinched from Mark Boric's superior Australian soccer library, and some Dutch related ones from Adam Muyt. I've also added the first Australian Soccer Hall of Fame book from 1999, and all those things can be found in my inadequate library page.


Saturday, 12 October 2019

Book review - Jason Goldsmith's "Surfing for England: Our Lost Socceroos"

Jason Goldsmith's Surfing for England: Our Lost Socceroos, begins with the kind of question which keeps certain kinds of Australian soccer fans up at night: what if we didn't lose all those players who couldn't or wouldn't commit to Australia? What if we had Craig Johnston or Tony Dorigo playing for the national team during the 1980s? What if Joe Simunic hadn't played for Croatia in the 1990s? Would we have made World Cups during that time, and changed the course of Australian soccer history?

Take for example the inspiration for the book and its title, Craig Johnston, simultaneously one of Australian soccer's greatest players and one of its greatest villains. When the Australian national team was struggling to make world cups using semi-pro players, we had at our nominal disposal a player plying his trade at one of the strongest clubs in the world. And yet when asked to front up

These days Johnston is a weird sort of pariah, in that while he was persona non-grata in this country for a very long time for his "surfing for England" commentary, and has since had a sort of minor rehabilitation of his legacy despite his best efforts to undermine that with nonsense rants about the state of Australian soccer. Having read parts of Johnston's biography, I was on top of the personal commitments required of Johnstone to play football in England at the time as a foreigner - especially the precariousness of being a squad member at a successful club like Liverpool, in an era where starting XIs seldom changed even with a crowded schedule, and where flitting off to Australia to play in World cup qualifiers could cost you your livelihood.

But it's the Tony Dorigo chapter which follows Johnston's which makes the situation as it was as the time much clearer. Unlike Johnston, Dorigo doesn't have the self-aggrandising character traits that immediately, and thus the reader is able to elicit empathy not just for Dorigo, but also for Johnston. The situation is as straightforwards as this: with no worldwide fixture windows set aside to give international football clean air within the crowded domestic and continental club scenes, players from far-flung corners of the football world such as Australia had to make a choice - choose their club and continue making a living as a professional footballers, or choose country and squander their hard-won position in the starting XI of a club.

To its credit, Surfing for England also goes beyond the well-known cases of players "betraying" Australia (especially the well-known Croatian examples of the 1990s), and looks at players who made decisions based on other factors. These include the existence of the perennial Australian goalkeeping glut (Joey Didulica and Sasa Ilic) with Ilic being the hilarious surprise packet of this book. There's also Australia's 1960s FIFA suspension, which cost Indigenous player John Moriarty a national team cap, also covered in John Maynard's The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe. There's even the great 'what if?' moment in the form of Christian Vieri - including how he never really stood out as a junior at Marconi - but also the tragic case of Dylan Tombides.

Surfing for England also looks at players who knew they never had a realistic chance of playing for Australia, and thus made decisions based on other factors. On that front the stories of Manny Muscat and John Hutchinson playing for Malta - especially the latter's lack of awareness of his eligibility for the Maltese national team - add to the quirkiness of the story of international football. And Buddy Farah's travails through the Lebanese and Asian football scenes, at a time when Australian soccer had yet to cross over to the Asian Football Confederation, are the kind of story you hope someone is eventually inspired to flesh out.

Some of what Goldsmith misses in this book - and it's by no means through lack of trying - are players who existed well before the time of current controversies of player allegiances, such as Frank Mitchell. I would have liked to have seen more on players like Jimmy Jackson, probably Australian soccer's first genuine star. And as noted by Adam Muyt, who is writing a history of Dutch-Australian soccer, there's also the matter of Western Australian players who by virtue of the state's long-term soccer isolation from the east coast, remain unknown despite their quality.

The book, published within the last couple of months, comes at a curious time in international football. Where once national team loyalties were largely clear-cut - you were eligible for one team and that's it - we are now in a situation where the factors of heritage, citizenship, residency, birthright and FIFA rule changes, have combined to give players and national teams options. Australia is in its own way well-placed to acquire a certain calibre of player through those channels, and the recent cases of Apostolos Giannou, Martin Boyle, and (just this week!) Harry Souttar demonstrate that.

The outcome of Goldsmith following through on the question of national team loyalty, is a book which sits somewhere between a guest contributor's article on The Roar and a weighty tome dealing thoroughly with the matters at hand. In that regard, people may find it an idea not worth being stretched out to the 80 odd pages here; or conversely, treating this relatively slim tome as an idea that deserved a more thorough exploration. That's not to take away from what this book does well however, which is fill in an important gap in the story of the national team, while also acting as a primer for why some of these things happened in the first place. Hopefully some people reading this book are intrigued enough by some of the stories that they decide to fill them out.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

2020 SMFC senior squad roster as of 9/10/2019

To keep the blog ticking over and just in case you missed it, Marcus Schroen won the Theo Marmaras Medal for our best player this year, much to no one's surprise but perhaps to some people's disappointment. I'm not losing any sleep over it, but it takes all kinds, doesn't it?

On both the re-signing and "need more Greeks" fronts, Gerrie Sylaidos and Perry Lambropoulos have both retained, but Kristian Konstantinidis' time at Lakeside is over. Injury and inconsistency were hallmarks of KK's time at South, but there is this to be said as well - he was a fun player to watch and have around the club, and he clearly cared about South - and he scored some nice goals as well.

Signed
  • Perry Lambropoulos
  • Brad Norton
  • Marcus Schroen
  • Gerrie Sylaidos
Played for us in 2019 but now on the payroll in another guise
  • Luke Adams
Played with us at the end of 2019 but who knows about next year
  • Tom Aulton
  • Keenan Gibson
  • Peter Skapetis
  • Nick Krousoratis 
  • Manny Aguek
  • Ben Djiba
  • Amir Jashari
  • Giuseppe Marafioti
  • Jake Marshall
  • Will Orford
  • Nikola Roganovic
  • George Gerondaras
  • Zac Bates
  • Josh Dorron
  • Melvin Becket
'They' say that he's not coming back for whatever reason
  • Kostas Stratimitros
Has he even been in Australia since early in the 2019 season?
  • Andrew Mesourouni
Exploring options in India
  • Billy Konstantinidis
Out
  • Kristian Konstantinidis (time to say goodbye)
  • Leigh Minopoulos (retired)

Friday, 4 October 2019

More match programs (and more to come..)

Sometime late in the 2019 season, I borrowed some match programs and other things off the club, and have gradually started scanning and uploading them.

But we've also all been fortunate enough the Mark Boric inspired scanning and uploading projects of all things Australian soccer history and publications, has seen all sorts of people come out of the woodwork - especially Graeme McGinty - to share their collections, including some South Melbourne Hellas related material.

For those who are aware of South of the Border's online collections of South Melbourne Hellas match programs, but who don't follow my social media exploits, here's the gist of what's been updated recently:

  • Programs from the late 1970s, including Olympiakos tour game.
  • A smattering of home and away programs throughout the 1980s.
  • A lot more 1989/90 and 1990/91 programs.
  • Odds and ends filled in elsewhere.
I still have more stuff to scan and upload, including non-match related material, but in the meantime you can find the collection so far in the usual place.