Thursday, 31 December 2020

Expert Opinion: Three seconds of fame (previously unpublished)

A little gift to close out the year.

In February 2016, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers fans acted like twats at a game at Docklands, ripping out seats, and letting off flares and fire crackers and such. I was interviewed on the matter for ABC TV in my guise as a soccer academic, by their reporter Ben Lisson. Being my first television interview, I found the experience by turns exciting, nerve wracking, alienating, and bizarre. 

I wrote up a piece about the experience, but because it took me a little longer to finish than I otherwise would have liked, I didn't send it to my usual outlet of Shoot Farken, instead sending it to an irregularly produced magazine called Thin White Line; partly because I wanted something in print (even though they didn't have an ISBN), but also because I wanted to share the love around.

For whatever reason, the edition that the piece was meant to be published in never materialised. So here I am publishing it for the first time almost five years after I appeared on television. I don't think it's one of my better pieces by a long shot, but that's not the point,

Expert Opinion 
During an away game in Melbourne early in 2016, members of the Red and Black Bloc, the active supporter group for A-League franchise the Western Sydney Wanderers, lit a barrage of flares, as well as launched detonators which in the context of recent world events sounded not unlike the bombs let off in and around European football stadiums. Cue the expected reactions and outrage from all corners, including but not limited to: tabloid media hysteria; the pettiness of inter-codal rivalries; the self-flagellation of soccer fans; the rejection of any responsibility by members of active support groups; the obligatory conspiracy theories that ‘outsiders’ had caused the incident; and the eventual imposition of a fine and suspended point deduction penalty on the Wanderers themselves.

Now normally in these situations, I couldn't care less. Being what is described in Australian soccer parlance as a ‘bitter’ – that is, someone who displays near abject antipathy to the changes wrought to the game after government reviews and the return to the local soccer scene of billionaire Frank Lowy in 2004, which included the establishment of the franchise based A-League, which excludes clubs such as the one I follow from participating – I was content to just sit back and watch the carnage unfold.

On the following Friday morning though, the day before another potentially volatile fixture – depending on your definition of volatile of course - I received a phone call from a private phone number. It was sports reporter Ben Lisson, of ABC TV news, who said he’d been passed along my details from Dr. Ian Syson, a local soccer academic and my doctoral thesis supervisor. ‘Would I mind having a bit of a chat about the flare situation?’ he asked.

‘Not at all’, I must have said, or words to that effect, as we chatted for a few minutes about the flares and the media reaction to the incident. And so after going over some of the key issues, then came the invitation to speak on camera about these matters. ‘When?’, I asked. ‘Tomorrow’, said Lisson. ‘We’ll also be following a family with children that support Melbourne Victory to see what they think’.

So, with plans made for Lisson and his crew to visit my house in Melbourne’s western suburbs, I was already wondering what I’d got myself into. What did I know about flares? I’d never lit a flare. Apart from proximity to certain former notorious Australian soccer hooligans, I had no hooligan, ultra, or active supporter street cred worth speaking of. And while I am an Australian soccer historian and cultural observer, my main academic specialty is soccer as it appears in Australian literature. What’s more, while I don’t like flares, it’s not necessarily on the grounds of law and order, which seems to be one of the main objections to their use in Australian soccer; no, my dislike for flares is more to do with aesthetics.

Yes, there is the awful smell, and the smoke which stings eyes, nose and throat – and on a windy day, the obscuring of the playing field. But as one friend noted on the matter, they also come across as an attempt at a ‘cheap pop’, to borrow a phrase from professional wrestling. And rather than being a demonstration of a spontaneous emotional release, the premeditated launching of a flare after a goal has been scored comes across as creatively moribund almost from the get-go; rather than losing oneself in the jubilant post-goal moment, the person lighting the flare has taken the time out to perform pre-prepared material; rather than becoming one with the exultant crowd, they set themselves both apart from and outside of it.

Nevertheless, I assumed that that line of inquiry would not be at the top of Lisson’s list of questions. So instead I spent the day wondering about the mechanics of the whole thing. Where in my house would they film? Would I have to do a walking to the camera shot, or better still, pretend to be doing serious academic work on my computer or rifling through the contents of a bookshelf? What should I wear? Who should I tell? How would I be introduced to the world? And as a ‘bitter’ with a moderate online reputation, would whatever I have to say be inevitably consumed along partisan lines?

While still pondering these questions, that evening I found myself with a few hundred other souls at the Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, deep in Melbourne’s middle class south-eastern suburban nightmare, watching my club South Melbourne field no recognisable strikers in a 3-0 Community Shield loss to Bentleigh Greens. The smoke of the lamb gyros billowing across the field from the pavilion – and a short break when the ground’s sprinklers came on - was about as close as such as a game could come to being disrupted.

Despite the wonders of the internet age being able to turn anyone into a self-published viral star, there is still something to be said about being interviewed by the traditional broadcast media. And thus while I had decided to be very low-key about the whole thing, I did relent and tell a smattering of my fellow South fans about my impending interview to be broadcast on state-wide television, perhaps even national television – the common reaction being incredulity and confusion about why I’d be chosen to talk about such an issue. Still, one had to be cautious – the interview could have been cancelled, or I could have been interviewed and the entire segment discarded. Probably best not to get too much into a self-promotional state of mind then.

The next day, as the appointed time for the interview drew closer, I started to run through all the things I’d like to say. That despite claims to the contrary from some Australian soccer fans, there is actually a long-standing culture of lighting flares at Australian soccer matches. That active supporters by and large actually like flares, and can’t come out and claim otherwise when the Facebook accounts of active supporters are littered with photographs of flare shows from both local and overseas soccer matches. That flares are impossible to ban, and that all you can hope to achieve is a sort of containment, which would include the use of social ostracism. That whatever measures you attempt to take, there’ll always be one or two people who will disregard the social norms and do what they please, but the most important thing is that the third, fourth and fifth person don’t join in.

Furthermore, that there is the continuing issue of Australia and soccer having an uneasy relationship with each other, the latter often being tarred with the brush of novelty, foreignness and violence, just three items from a long list of historical criticisms of the sport. That the unsolicited advice regarding soccer’s internal cultural discussions from people with a vested interest in other sports is beyond worthless. That instead of listening to those hostile commentators, Australian soccer needs to acknowledge, understand and address the problem on its own terms and for its own sake, with no regard for the opinions of those who despise the game.

Perhaps I could put forward the idea that Australia still has a problem with multiculturalism, interpreting the word to mean the policy of gentle rather than forced assimilation into an imagined middle, instead of a pluralist model allowing many cultures to exist parallel to each other, with no privileged culture at the centre. That what mainstream Australia sees when they see the kind of active support typical to soccer, is interpreted as both a freak-show and as a vague cultural threat, challenging the notions put forward by other Australian sports that the only way to behave in an Australian sporting crowd is to sit down, shut up, and clap politely; and as an extension of that, active support as it manifests itself in Australia is also perhaps too Continental in style, even too Catholic for a nation with a more than residual Protestant fear of reckless displays of self-expression.

Ten minutes or so after receiving a text message from Lisson telling me he’s on his way, a familiar face from network TV strolled through my front gate, with his cameraman in tow. I was slightly unnerved by the fact that Lisson was wearing shorts and thongs (flip-flops for the international reader), but quickly surmised that since his job is mostly to be filmed from the waist up, that it really didn't matter what he wore below the belt.

While the cameraman went about setting up his equipment, Lisson asked me what I specialised in, and seemed disappointed that my officially designated speciality was in literature; my attempts to add my long-standing interest and credentials in Australian soccer history and culture came across as a lame attempt to prove to him that I was worth having made the journey out to Sunshine West. Having decided to film in my front garden, I was instructed to focus on Lisson and not at the camera.

During the interview, I became aware almost from the start that I was not providing the sought for answers, let alone providing them in the preferred format. Instead of clear, direct and definitive statements, the interview saw me play out all the usual academic tropes – that of the kinds of mumbled complexities which would make sense in a long form discussion, lecture theatre, or published academic paper. I thought that the most erudite thing that I’d said was that there was nothing new to see here, and that the situation as it was playing itself out had only served to repeat the standard tropes of the debate. In its own way a cynical reaction to the affair, but perhaps the most obvious one that too often gets ignored when this issue comes up.

After a few minutes the interview is over, and once the framing shots are done Lisson thanks me for my time, telling me that the segment will be on tomorrow evening. On the evening the segment was due to be played, the two televisions in my household were strategically set to everything but the 7PM ABC News bulletin. My parents, who had rightfully commandeered one of the televisions, were watching probably illegally streamed Greek channels. My brothers and I, on the other television, set about watching the rather mediocre repeat Futurama episode where Bender ends up on an island full of obsolete robots.

At some point during the evening’s syndicated viewing, I received a text message from Pamela, a friend and colleague from university who had seen the segment. There were also a couple of tweets from those who had been implored by others to look out for it, but it seemed that by and large my debut television appearance had gone unnoticed. Mustering my courage the day after the segment went to air, I decided to watch it on the ABC’s online catch up service, enduring the vox pops with the Victory supporting families, waiting for my moment of fame, and finally, there I was: ‘Paul Mavroudis: soccer academic’, complete with ruddy face, blotchy skin, and mumbling something – re-imagined as ‘an aporia in the intercodal discursive relativities’ by one online wit - which seemed to have little connection to the rest of the story.

And that was it - my supposed intellectual expertise and days’ worth of angst reduced to a three-second sound-bite. The truth of course, is that I could have backed out at any time, but chose not to out of the vain sense that I would have something important to say, and something which would be noticed and appreciated by the wider public. In that sense, my actions bore at least some similarity to the person who chooses to light a flare at an Australian soccer match; a chance for self-promotion, and a contribution to an unceasing and largely unchanging discussion about flares and Australian soccer. And thus the discursive tropes around flares and Australian soccer were repeated once more, with me fulfilling my obligation as abstract indirectly involved talking head.

Saturday, 26 December 2020

Except for joyful but ignorant attempts at gardening, 2020 was rubbish

In keeping with the blog's low level of productivity in 2020, I was going to produce a very, very short piece thanking a handful of people, and then moving on. 

At best it would have been a box-ticking post, doing one's duty to increasingly vague ideas of the blog's continuities, and then forgetting about it.

But upon further reflection, it is worth making at least brief reference to the pile of crap that was 2020.

I doubt there will be many people who enjoyed this year. From my point of view it was an ordeal. Not an unmanageable ordeal, but an ordeal nonetheless. 

At least in previous years there was not, for me at least, this extended social isolation, partly a result of social distancing, and partly a result of things not related to the pandemic. At least in the past there was something to look forward to, and one of those things for me was attending South Melbourne Hellas matches.

Attending Hellas matches didn't solve any of my personal problems, and I wouldn't expect it to do so. But apart from watching the games live, there was also an entire procedure undertaken in order for me to watch South games. This procedure included the trips (usually by public transport) to and from whatever ground we were playing at; the getting to the ground early to make the most of the evening or afternoon; and of course writing the blog piece after a game, which gave me the chance to try and make sense of what I'd experienced, and to place it within a wider context.

My weekend was scheduled around South games - everything else in terms of leisure time was a bonus, and subject to negotiation with other duties. But apart from the certainty created by routine, the most important thing of all was that going to South games was a social experience. There were people I could speak to, whether briefly or at length. There were people who were glad to see me, and people who weren't. There were handshakes and eye contact. And there was a feeling of a common cause, no matter how absurd that cause is, and how marginal it has become. 

People shared their joys and frustrations together, in social proximity to each other. What the pandemic and the lockdown diminished then, on so many fronts, was that feeling of social proximity. We were all in it together we were told, and that was true to a large extent. But we were also mostly all in it together apart. We became remote from each other. No amount of online work - chats, forums, Zooms, or whatever other technological tools kept us connected - can replace that absence of social proximity. 

This year I continued to co-host a podcast on a weekly basis with my good friend Ian Syson, producing 36 episodes, mostly remotely via Zoom, and it was enjoyable, not least for giving me something to look forward to, a reliable signpost in the desert of social distancing; but what I most looked forward to by the end of the year was getting back into the studio. And it is to the resumption of engaging in the practice of social proximity that I look forward to most of all in 2021. 

I hope the team does well on the field and that it prospers off it, but I especially look forward to reconnecting with my fellow South fans, and maybe even some opposition fans. There were about 20 people at the members forum in the social club last week, and as low as that seems, it was wonderful to be in that room with those people, and to be chatting with them after the meeting had ended. 

I missed watching South play, but mostly I missed being near South people, and I look forward to getting back to Lakeside in 2021, reconnecting with the human side of the sport and the club, and once more making the abstract idea of supporting this club into something more tangible.

Fuck, just getting back into Row H will do me wonders; until we cop that first goal of course, and then I start wondering what I'm doing there.

Now that the verbose emotionality is out of the way, thank you to the following people and organisations in what was South of the Border's 13th year.

Thank you to Football Victoria for media accreditation, even if it only lasted five games.

Thanks to Football Nation Radio for continuing to give me and Ian a radio slot to talk Australian soccer history.

Thanks to everyone who offered their condolences after the death of my father, but especially to Greg Stock, Sam Barres, and Davy Raff for checking in on me regularly at the toughest time.

Thanks to those also who gave me and Gains a lift at some point during those memorable five games of 2020.

Thanks to Gains for being my public transport buddy.

I would like to think that I'll try harder next year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

2021 senior men's and women's fixtures released

Well, here's something to look forward to, maybe. The 2021 senior men's team fixture has been released, and there are a handful of points worth bringing up.

The first thing to note is that the senior men's running order is pretty much the 2020 fixture repurposed for 2021. There are a couple of minor changes in the early stages - our opening round fixture against Heidelberg will be at Olympic Village instead of at Lakeside; and our round six game against Thunder will be a Wednesday night fixture at Lakeside, as part of a league-wide midweek round.

Everything else appears to be about the same, except for the allocation of South senior men's home match days. And if you like Sunday afternoon/early evening soccer at Lakeside, you're out of luck. In 2020 we were due to play just the one Sunday home game - the Eastern Lions game early in the season - this year, there will be no Sunday home games.

The club has committed to exclusively trying out Friday and Saturday nights, with a couple of exceptions - the aforementioned Wednesday night game against Thunder, and a Saturday 3:00PM kickoff against Hume, the latter of which is an accommodation for Orthodox Easter.

The only Sunday games are St Albans away (naturally), Eastern Lions away (unusually), and Bentleigh away (final round simultaneous kickoff). All up for home games, it's one Wednesday night, four Friday nights, one Saturday afternoon, and seven Saturday nights. 

The senior women's fixture has also been released, and the news on that front is that there will be six NPL-NPLW double-headers on those Saturday evening senior men's fixtures. The women will be relieved at not having to trudge out to Knox or Darebin for their home games.

Monday, 21 December 2020

South senior men's squad as of 21/12/2020

Since I put up my first such list for the pre-season on Saturday, I have come into some new information, or rather clarifications, on this matter. And since we've reached a little Christmas/New year break where there will be no more games, it was perhaps worth providing a perfunctory update. 

Named in official South Melbourne FC social media during what might be called the 2020 post-season/2021 pre-season, or noted to me during the members forum yesterday, and thus one might assume that they are on the senior men's roster for 2021:

  • Luke Adams (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games)
  • Zac Bates (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games))
  • Daniel Clark (yes, back from Queensland)
  • Pierce Clark ((yes, also back from Queensland)
  • Ben Djiba (could yet become the right-sided fullback or winger of our NPL dreams)
  • Lirim Elmazi (was wished a happy birthday, distinctive head spotted in other social media content)
  • Chris Irwin
  • Perry Lambropoulos (was wished a happy birthday)
  • Mathew Loutrakis (interviewed post friendly)
  • Jake Marshall (played in pre-season friendly
  • Brad Norton (scored goal in pre-season friendly)
  • Luke Pavlou (some sort of mention in a social media gimmick video or something)
  • Harrison Sawyer (yes, also back from Queensland)
  • Marcus Schroen (was interviewed in that video about South Melbourne;s new blind football team)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (scored goal in pre-season friendly, also easily recognisable thanks to trademark bandana)
Youth team players named as part of social media guff from a recent friendly played with a "youthful side", and/or, 20s players that might still be around next season:
  • Sasha Murphy
  • Yianni Panakos
  • Esad Saglam
  • Giorgi Zarbos (unclear if he will stay or seek greener senior football pastures)

  • Marco Jankovic
  • Josh Wallen
Neither here nor there as far as I can tell:
  • Josh Meaker
  • Melvin Becket
  • Josh Dorron
  • Stephen Folan (returned to Ireland in mid-2020)
  • Amadu Koroma
  • Nick Krousoratis
  • Nikola Roganovic (retired, again)
  • Peter Skapetis (Kingston City)

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Notes from today's members forum

As usual, these notes are not the complete picture of what goes on at such meetings, but rather the version which results from my tasteful curation - just in case that wasn't clear to any long term readers. As for the new people - are there still new people?

I didn't really take any notes, except for about four compact notepad lines on my phone. If I missed something important, it was probably while I accidentally spilled about eight Eclipse mints across the table. 

Anyway, slightly smaller attendance than I'd anticipated, but what did I anticipate? It doesn't matter. I think there's still people who are COVID-shy, which is totally understandable, and hey - it's the week before Christmas, which is hardly the big ticket time for attracting people to non-AGM related South gatherings.

And maybe people had better or more important things to do. Having relocated what might be an apricot sapling from a pot to an empty space in my front yard, all my tasks for the day were done; and thus I was free to attend a South event for the first time since April.

Representation from the board on an official front was from president Nick Maikousis, and secretary and treasurer Mario Vinaccia. 

Speaking of the AGM, the club has received a COVID extension from ASIC, and thus the AGM will be held some time in February. One reason given for this is that the auditor needs to visit the club in person to see the books, something which has not been possible thus far because of the pandemic; or something like that. 

We are assured that unlike all the other times, this time it is genuinely all above board. And I believe them, not least because I'm too tired to argue, but also as an extension of goodwill on my part to people working hard under difficult circumstances to make the club better.

There was some discussion on the club's attempts at establishing its business coterie group, which has been hampered by the pandemic. The discussion from the floor seemed focused mostly on finding ways for the pleb South Melbourne member to be able to make use of the networking opportunities the coterie is designed to provide to its clientele.

On the matter of the composition of the senior men's team for next season, I would not expect too many more new faces. The club appears to believe that it has a strong contingent of youth prospects - even if it also appears that the club is not sure if it fluked this cohort, or actually somehow planned for them to become available all at once. 

There was talk, as there has been in previous seasons, that the club is cutting costs on its senior wage bill. If the club uses more youth team players to fill out the senior men's squad, there's every chance that this claim of cutting the senior men's team wage bill might actually be true this time; or at least more true.

Apparently, rather than the wage bills of NPL Victoria senior men's teams taking a hit because of the pandemic, the suggestion seemed to be made that in fact more money was being spent on senior men's teams for the coming NPL season. If that's true, then I wish those players raking it in all the best. Take 'em for every last cent!

On the matter of memberships for next season, as promised the question was thrown open to the floor, with the board to take on - but not necessarily act upon - the advice offered. The main question is of course for 2020 financial members who were if not outright promised that their 2020 membership would rollover to 2021, than at least had that possibility offered as a suggestion earlier this year by Maikousis during one of his pre-recorded briefings to the members. 

Unsurprisingly, the board's starting and/or preferred position seemed to be that 2020 members should pay the regular rate of membership dues. The supporters in attendance tended to veer to the opposite view, but there was also the suggestion made by some supporters that 2020 members could pay a discounted rate of $50, which is analogous to the rate paid by active life members. It will of course be interesting to see what the board settles on, because I don't think they were all that thrilled with the $50 amount. 

At the same time, the pandemic has impacted people in a variety of ways, and of course the club should take that into consideration, not forgetting also that apart from the shortened season, we only got two home games in anyway. One member managed to articulate the question that seemed to have hitherto gone unspoken; that being the question of establishing goodwill from the board's part. I assume we'll find out what the board finally settle on in the new year.

But generating goodwill between the board and ordinary members, however difficult, needs to be a top priority. The relationship between the late Athanasakis-era board and the ordinary supporter got to a frankly poisonous stage. Goodwill takes a lot of time to build up, and mere seconds to destroy.

On to the matter of the National Second Division. There will be a white paper released (I think) next month. The club is of the position that it would prefer a 2022 start, but it seems we could end up with a 2023 start. Some people from the floor were less optimistic than even that. Assuming we get in to the NSD of course! So much yet remains to be made official that it is difficult to talk with any certainty about the future of promotion-relegation and a National Second Division. 

COVID has thrown its own spanner in the works, including creating realignments within the balance of power of Australian soccer, probably weakening almost everyone, but some groups more than others. Using my powers of discretion I won't elaborate too much on the thoughts of Maikousis on the scheme as a whole, except to say: 
  • that the goal remains for South to enter such a competition at the earliest opportunity.
  • that despite the high degree of interest from clubs around the country in participating in a National Second Division, that the cost of doing so may prove to be more prohibitive than people would like.
The NSD is not a favourite topic of mine, in part because I acknowledge that I am largely incapable of understanding and assessing the merits of what is being proposed as it relates to the scheme's practicality. I recognise my deficiencies in matters of finance, accounting, and logistics, and leave these matters to people who have more information than I do, and hopefully comprehend it to a suitable level.

Ah, there I go apologising for dodging the question again. One observation of mine from a cultural perspective, is that the goal of establishing an NSD along with promotion-relegation to all tiers, is that such a scheme is in a race against the desires of the extant A-League licence holders. Who will get to their promised land first, and will the imminent unbundling of the A-League from Football Australia bring riches or disaster upon the house of A-League?

And my goodness, until this pandemic business gets sorted out, and the top-flight's long-term broadcast deal with it, there's too many variables. But I digress. 
While it appears certain that our first game of the 2021 season will be played away at Heidelberg, the club seemed hopeful that it would still manage to get two home games within the first six rounds of the coming season. From what I understand from a sidebar conversation I had during the meeting, the 2021 fixture is more or less settled.

There has been a mutual and apparently amicable termination of the social club catering arrangement with the lease holder. The club is exploring its options on that front.

It appears that the taekwondo folk could end up hiring the futsal court space for some time yet, providing a welcome medium term revenue source to the club.

There were a brief mention of the improved relationship with the Trust, and the soon be signed deal for the pavillion down at Middle Park.

That about covers the main points of the meeting. 

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Pre-season rolls along

Another senior men's pre-season friendly today, played behind closed doors at Lakeside. Another youthful South line-up, and another win, 3-2 over Eastern Lions. The appearance of winger Matthew Loutrakis in the post-match interview allows me to move him from the "existential limbo" status to "2021 senior roster" status, as per the edit to the previous post.

2021 SMFC senior men's squad roster as of 19/12/2020

In an attempt at serving my now even tinier audience - which is mostly my fault, because I have just about given up trying to do anything of value on this site - I have attempted to figure out the status of our senior men's squad as we come to the close of the calendar year.

A good chunk of this is wild guesswork on my part because I don't do facial recognition too good, which makes the following list even less useful than would normally be the case. All corrections and updates are thus quite welcome, via the comments section below.

Named in official South Melbourne FC social media during what might be called the 2020 post-season/2021 pre-season, and thus one might assume that they are on the senior men's roster for 2021:

  • Luke Adams (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games)
  • Zac Bates (played in pre-season friendly, and interviewed following one of those games))
  • Lirim Elmazi (was wished a happy birthday, distinctive head spotted in other social media content)
  • Perry Lambropoulos (was wished a happy birthday)
  • Mathew Loutrakis (interviewed post friendly)
  • Jake Marshall (played in pre-season friendly
  • Brad Norton (scored goal in pre-season friendly)
  • Luke Pavlou (some sort of mention in a social media gimmick video or something)
  • Marcus Schroen (was interviewed in that video about South Melbourne;s new blind football team)
  • Gerrie Sylaidos (scored goal in pre-season friendly, also easily recognisable thanks to trademark bandana)
Decamped to Queensland once it became clear that there wasn't going to be any more soccer played in Victoria in 2020, and we assume they'll be back but who knows?
  • Daniel Clark
  • Pierce Clark
  • Harrison Sawyer

Maybe they've been shot into the sun, or maybe they're still around, and just maybe they've been in photos but who can be bothered squinting at Facebook on a crappy laptop to make out the differences between one disposable NPL player and another, with no offence meant to anyone who might fall into this category:
  • Melvin Becket
  • Ben Djiba
  • Josh Dorron
  • Chris Irwin
  • Amadu Koroma
  • Nick Krousoratis
  • Josh Meaker
  • Esad Saglam
  • Giorgi Zarbos
Youth team players named as part of social media guff from a recent friendly played with a "youthful side":
  • Sasha Murphy

  • Marco Jancovic
  • Josh Wallen
  • Stephen Folan (returned to Ireland in mid-2020)
  • Nikola Roganovic (retired, again)
  • Peter Skapetis (Kingston City)

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Friendly vs Dandenong Thunder tonight

Open doors, 7PM at George Andrews Reserve in South Dandenong.

I won't be there, but maybe some of you will be interested in reclaiming the sooth-eastern suburbs for South Melbourne Hellas.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Members forum on Sunday

Sunday at 11:00 at Lakeside, "under strict Covid Guidelines", with admittance only for people who were paid up members in 2020. Items to be discussed include National Second Division, membership arrangements for next year, and "all things relating to our club for season 2021". 

So is this the AGM you have when you're not having an AGM? It does seem like it a little bit. Does this also mean that when the AGM eventually does roll around, that it will be an in person affair? You'd like to think so.

What seems fairly clear is that there is an ongoing attempt being made to separate discussions on general club matters - the team, the supporter experience, and sundry matters that fall into what might be called "current affairs", from the non-negotiable elements of an AGM, such as the financial performance of the club.

Which to be fair, is not an altogether bad idea, as long it means that alongside holding AGMs that are both efficient and informative, that the club otherwise continues to hold more informal gatherings like this one in order to keep members abreast of other matters.

That's not something the club has been good at, but at least president Nick Maikousis seems to be holding firm to his goal of keeping in touch with member concerns outside a mandatory annual meeting.

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Infer from this what you will

So last night while I was having a so-so dinner at some Vietnamese joint in Footscray, a "youthful" South senior men's team had another closed doors training match, this time against Hume City. Gerrie Sylaidos scored the only goal in a 1-0 "win".

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

It begins!

While we await news of memberships (hopefully this year) and the AGM (goodness knows when), the senior men's team has stepped up from mere jogging to starting their scratch match series; to wit, a 2-0 "win" against Manningham United last Saturday(?) at Lakeside. 

This is the bit where one would normally complain about not getting an invite to watch said practice match, which would lead to grumbling about the logical and yet still absurd situation where the Trust considers our activities at Lakeside as either practice or matches, but not both at once, and thus we choose the former to keep costs down, especially during our non-priority use period.

But COVID19| Coronavirus! Pandemic! And thus one does not grumble, but merely acquiesces to the peculiarities of the situation we find ourselevs in, and tries to glean what one can from the social media crumbs given to us - which in this case is not getting perturbed that the two goals we scored were by the two players who scored our most recent goals during the season, ahem, "proper".

Also, whatever other qualities Jake Marshall has, speaking to camera - or even managing to stay within the camera shot - is not one of them. Though it doesn't help when your teammates are piffing objects at you during your interview.

So that's the first hit-out out of the way, as everyone tries to return to something approaching normal. Speaking of which, I'm hearing - but which I mean I read on a forum - that the 2021 season is likely to begin in late February, with an away trip to the remodelled Olympic Village. After scoring two home games to start the 2020 season, could we be in line to be away from Lakeside for months on end to start next year?

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Don't press that button just yet

Like at least some of you, yesterday I received an email from the club noting that my membership had expired, and that it was time to renew for 2021. That's pretty standard fare under normal circumstances, but this not being a standard year, one does not immediately go hitting the renew button.

This is especially the case as the idea was floated a few months ago that the club might consider rolling over paid 2020 memberships into 2021, though I'm not sure that was an idea that was ever declared a certainty.

I am of the understanding that the club is still looking into the matter, and hopefully we will have an update soon. Considering the club's social media wing has sparked into life with regular news about senior men's pre-season and the exploits of our loaned players up north, it would be unwise to ignore the membership question for too long.

As for me, I'm happy to write-off my 2020 membership as a donation to the club and pay my dues again for 2021, though I understand that's not for everyone.

Monday, 30 November 2020

News from northern climes for southern slackers

Every now and again one sees little items about some of our players currently occupied with soccer matters in Queensland: Pierce Clark made some saves; Daniel Clark scored a goal of some sort in a game that was maybe important; Harrison Sawyer scored a ton of goals against what looked like on video to be a very flatfooted defence, but turned out to belong to the team sitting second on the ladder at the time.

If I were being paid to keep track of this stuff I'd have put in more effort - not just in terms of taking an interest in the form and status of our players currently in northern climes - but also maybe trying to figure out how Queensland soccer actually works, and in which league which players of ours are playing in. It'd be so much easier if they were playing in Tasmania.

Anyway, I think the top flight Queensland (that is NPLQ and BPL - is there still a BPL?) season(s) are over, which means that soon enough our on loan personnel will be returned to us, so they can go jogging on the grassy bit in the middle of Lakeside Stadium, and running on the sand of South Melbourne beach.

But then again... one does these routine searches for news in one's half-arsed way, and see that Harrrison Sawyer was selected for a Brisbane Roar pre-season friendly. That Roar outfit beat their opponents (according to one source, some sort of youth team) 7-1, with Sawyer not getting any of those goals. Nor was there any indication of how much game time Sawyer got to see.

So, I guess he'll be back in Melbourne soon?

Friday, 27 November 2020

Well, it was more or less inevitable, when you think about it

Almost four years ago now, in a semi-mock confused and somewhat curmudgeonly way, I wrote a piece about the unveiling of a statue of Ferenc Puskas out the back of Gosch's Paddock.

At the time I noted that the entire concept of the statue - its provenance, its reasoning, its design, its location - was so out of sync with what Puskas meant to Melbourne, that the only vaguely meaningful part of the enterprise was the fact that they placed the statue in the obscurity of the bushes beside a goat track. 

Since then, the Budapest bid for the 2024 Olympic Games - for which reason the statue was commissioned and given as a "gift" to Victoria from the government of Hungary - was withdrawn well before the voting for 2024 got to its final stage.

Considering the Victorian government didn't even want the statue, the supposed "avenue of champions" that was to see more statues commissioned and placed within the vicinity of the Puskas piece, has not yet materialised. To which I say "I am shocked, shocked! Well, not that shocked", as the kids like to meme.

Meanwhile, the statue itself has not fared well, as seen in this tweet by SM Pete

which shows not only the statue looking quite the worse for wear, but also that the plaque that was on the plinth has gone missing. One assumes that it was stolen by someone, for who knows what reason. Considering the out-of-the-way location of the statue, and the restrictions on movement around the city due to the pandemic, who knows for sure when the plaque even vanished?

At any rate, the unseemly state of Puskas' statue has fired up parts of our supporter base, who are petitioning members of the state government to relocate the statue to Lakeside. I wish those activists well in their quest for statue justice, though it might help their cause a little if they knew about how the statue came about - and that for once it was not a failure of the Club that saw things turn out the way they have. 

Yes, there is a first time for everything. And I also forgive those people for not reading about the story of the statue on the one place that reported on it.

It's been my understanding for some time now that there has been provision made for a South Melbourne Hellas statue to take up a spot outside Lakeside Stadium, opposite the statue of South Melbourne Swans champion Bob Skilton, assuming we could find someone to stump up the cash to craft such a thing. 

Since that's unlikely to happen anytime soon, there are worse solutions to this sorry saga than to move the Puskas statue to the spot which has been allotted for a possible future Hellas statue.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Peter Skapetis joins Kingston City

Well, considering the career trajectory of Peter Skapetis, his South tenure seems to have come to a suitably anti-climactic end. So it goes.

Usually at this part of the year I like to keep tabs on who is signed with South, who's come in, and who's head out the door, but frankly who knows how to make sense of this year's goings on.

That, and maybe I just can't arsed.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Just a few things to keep the blog ticking over.

The hard lockdown is over, the sun shines occasionally, and Paul thinks it might be worth continuing to blog - even though blogging was already passe when he started, and he's now engrossed in another passe pastime, podcasting.

This year being just awful, what was there to say even if one was half-motivated - which one was most certainly not. Not much news of new signings or looking to the future, but the club has been making announcements about junior coaching appointments and such, which I am sure will work out just fine.

Still, the fact that this stuff is happening at all seems to suggest that the club believes that the year 2020 will eventually come to an end, and that there will be a 2021 (hard to believe, but I suppose anything could happen), and that football will be played in this hypothetical "new year", and thus preparations should be made for that eventuality.

He's aged terribly / but haven't we all
So the club put up a Facebook video with an update from (a weary looking and sounding) club president Nick Maikousis. Some chat about the national second division. Nothing particularly new here - reiteration that the club has always sought to play at the highest level possible, and chat about working on the model. But ah, the promise that any South Melbourne Hellas club in a hypothetical higher competition will be a community based and member based entity. Also some stuff about the South Melbourne Business Community initiative. 

The holding of the AGM will be problematic because of COVID restrictions,  but the club is working through that.

Notable persons
Former South Melbourne Hellas president, the late Sam Papasavas, has made it into the Australian Dictionary of Biography. The article is a well-rounded summary of Papasavas' versatility of public service, especially within the migrant and soccer spheres. As good as the article is, it's already been noted that the detail on Papasavas' tenure as National Soccer League chairman is in error - but I'm sure someone out there will take the necessary steps soon enough to correct

That's some language you got there. And you talk like that 24/7, huh?
So there's some kind of Brazilian A-League podcast or something on YouTube, and they had beloved post-NSL South Melbourne Hellas hero Fernando de Moraes on as their guest. I assume the entire hour and forty-five minutes is in Portuguese, and my Portuguese isn't crash-hot.

Ay, caramba, que mujer tonta! Veinte horas estudiar por nada!
Slightly easier to get a handle on is this Spanish language interview with our senior men's team coach Esteban Quintas, if only because there are ways to dump the whole site into translating tools to get the gist of what's going on. And what is going on? Well, there's a bit about Quintas' playing career and his transition from playing to coaching, and some stuff about his playing philosophy. 

Thinking back to when I read the article a week or two back, and trying to claw back memories of what was said, I'm less concerned about Quintas' methods - which seem convoluted to me, but hey, I'm no football professor, so what would I know - and more concerned with his assessment that Australian players are strong (yes), fast (yes), physical (yes), but don't necessarily lack in technique (what?). Quintas says (more or less) that Australian players lack for tactical knowledge and situational awareness (undeniably true).

While I have my doubts on Quintas' assessment of Australian players' technical prowess, what's more important here is that his assessment of Australian soccer's strengths and weaknesses - and that on field organisation and decision making is our major flaw - is what informs the way he coaches. Thus if you are the kind of person who has a higher interest in matters of a tactical nature, it might be worth the effort to get a translation of the interview to try and understand what it is that Quintas had been trying to get out team to do.

As for me, I think I'll stick with yelling out variations of "clear it", "up the line", and "box him in".

Community support
Here's an interesting story, on how South Melbourne is trying to make it easier for young footballers of African heritage to play in the NPL system. What's just as important is that it seems it's not just a South Melbourne initiative, but one that ties int broader efforts led by the Greek community, looking at mentoring African diasporic communities in establishing the community infrastructure that the Australian Greek community has created for itself over he past few decades.

Scene missing
Finally, we started out with the current president, and we finish up with a former one - and some of his mates for good measure. In a Soccer Scene article, writer Peter Papoulias, interviews George Vasilopoulos, Peter Filopoulos, and Peter Abraam in a piece nominally about the off-field talent and innovation fostered by clubs like (and in this case, specifically) South Melbourne Hellas; talent which has gone on to higher degrees of responsibility both within Australian and in other fields.

There's no denying that - much of both the on field and off field talent which was at South Melbourne during the 1990s (the focus of this article) has ended up holding down important roles across the Australian soccer industry - in media, coaching, administration at state and national level, and even at A-League levels as owners, sponsors, or board  an administrative positions.

But the most perplexing part of the article is the literal missing scene; like here is this innovative and successful club, which goes to Brazil and then without any real explanation, ends up where it is now. Like, how did the hell that happen? And before some people yell out "racism, Frank Lowy, and A-League" related conspiracies, my thoughts are more on what did the people leading the club through the 1990s and (immediately thereafter) do which contributed to the club being in a position where it could not even contemplate pursuing an A-League licence?

Ah, but this is retreading very old ground, and the world has moved on. Still, I'm intrigued by that bit which says that the club itself engaged with the producers of Acropolis Now to get more South content and branding on the show.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Nikola Roganovic retires, again

It was on the club's socials, you all saw it, so this is just another blog place-marker / kicking the pandemic can down the road thing.

As noted in the post's title, this is not the first time that Roganovic has retired, but you feel that this time it's really for real. Thanks again for the memories, and the big saves, and the genuine passion he seemed to have for the club.

But now to the future. Assuming that local soccer resumes next season, and that Pierce Clark is definitely the first choice keeper, it will be mildly interesting to see what the club does in terms of a backup option.

Because with all due respect to the children, our youth team options are inadequate in this regard. Sad, but true. That could mean the club recalls Josh Dorron from his state league "loan", putting aside for a moment whether Dorron is up to this grade.

But would any senior grade Victorian keeper who missed an entire season due to the pandemic be willing to play as a backup? Keepers are the least likely players to be substituted on, and as much as getting a paycheck to sit on the bench for 26/30 odd games a year has its own sort of appeal - but people do want to play as well.

It's not a lot to think about, but it's something.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Ange Postecoglou training kit jersey

There's a social media account that's been posting their collection of South Melbourne Hellas jerseys o social media - notably on Twitter (here) and on Facebook groups like Australian Football Memorabilia.

(Just as an aside, and I know I've mentioned this on one of the episodes of the history podcast, but whoever decided to change the name of the game in Australia from "soccer" to "football" has made the work of Australian soccer historians and researchers infinitely more difficult).

Most of the jersey uploader's jerseys seem to be of a comparatively recent vintage - think mid-1990s onwards - and that'd be no surprise, as they're by far the easiest ones to get. I mean, good luck prising a Marathon Foods era jersey out of someone's cold, dead hands. 

And as for a Montague Smash Repairs jersey (supposedly the thinking man's South Melbourne Hellas top) or anything before that, forget about it. That stuff is gone, and probably the only people who have those things have them locked in a vault, or have no clue of their value or importance of such an item, even as it's right in front of their face as I'm saying this, waggling back and forth, perhaps being help up by a loved one.

Nevertheless there are some rare gems in our collector friend's collection, such as this training kit, and this General Diagnostic Laboratories kit before the company's botched pap smear tests saw the firm re-brand as GDL, and the kits changed accordingly. At any rate, the whole affair has prompted me to dig out this photo of what I assume is Ange Postecoglou's training kit jersey from the late 1990s, which I found when I was cleaning out the old social club many, many years ago now. Strange what survives and what doesn't.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Daniel Clark spotted in Queensland

Got informed of this last week, so forgiveness for the late post. South midfielder Daniel Clark has popped up in Queensland, plying his trade for NPLQ side Peninsula Power for the rest of the year. 

Saturday, 12 September 2020

South of the Border awards 2020

Earlier this week I put away my heavy winter coat, after having taken out my 2020 media pass from the inside pocket, because at some point everyone - even disinterested bloggers - has just got to admit defeat on there being any more soccer being played this year.

Which, to be fair, I think I'd already done long ago, but it seems like we're getting close to Football Victoria releasing its fee refund policy, if they haven't already - which means that South Melbourne will be one step closer to finalising its own refund policy.

That of course doesn't affect me in any way - I'm no player, nor do I have any children playing. And as for a membership refund? I think I got my $200 worth of miserableness this year, even if we only got two home games. But now to my annual awards, not that anyone deserves anything for this season.

Player of the year: Lirim Elmazi. The easy way out would have been to go for Melvin Becket, but that would have been giving in to the biased social media campaign.

Under 21 player of the year: The Cliff Hussey Memorial Trophy goes to Matthew Loutrakis.

Goal of the year: Brad Norton. From a short corner, with a cross by Melvin Becket. The last thing we did during the 2020 season. The last thing I can actually remember.

Best performance: Eastern Lions at home. Because we won.

Best away game: Oakleigh away. Every away game sucked, but they were our toughest opponents, and we didn't lose, so let's go with that.

Call of the year: Something said by someone about the noted South Melbourne identity "Greeksta", about him having never read a book in his life or some such. Which was a terrible lie, because Greeksta was able to expound at some length on my cameo appearance and other matters in Joe Gorman's The Death and Life of Australian Soccer.  

Chant of the year: I honestly can't remember anything worthwhile on this front.

Best pre-match/after match dinner location: Gains will have to remind me if we went to Thai deli before the Port game, because the experiences of the Indonesian joint (Oakleigh) and the hole in the wall Burmese place in Sunshine (Altona game) were underwhelming in their own way. I regret not getting an ice cream on the way back to Sunshine station now.

Friends we lost along the way: Not so much lost as misplaced, but thanks to COVID19, pretty much everybody. Yes you can see and interact with a good deal with the usual suspects on the old socials, but it's just not the same. 

Barely related to anything stupidity highlight of the year: The one silver lining in this dumpster fire of a year is that it didn't last long enough for us to get dragged into a relegation battle.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Our time is passing, old friend

I suppose we should acknowledge something that happened over the weekend, if only to keep the blog ticking over, and to avoid being accused of glossing over quasi-significant events in Australian soccer history.

For regardless of whether it was something that could actually be claimed outright, courtesy of Sydney FC's fifth A-League title yesterday, South Melbourne is on most objective levels no longer the most successful soccer club in the country.

So as South fans, should we feel sad? Aggrieved? Petulant? Resentful? Argumentative? Aloof? It's really up to you I suppose. Who I am to tell you how to deal with this utterly momentous, yet also inevitable moment? 

And it was inevitable. For most of its 15 years, the A-League has been a competition comprised of an average of 10 or so teams. Furthermore, according to the people who follow that league closely, and whose comments I most frequently come into contact with, in most of those 15 seasons about three-quarters of the teams have been garbage. That doesn't exactly compare favourably with the NSL, which always had more teams in a season, and of which it could be said only five-eighths of the teams in any given year were utter rubbish, leaving out the mess of the 1984-1986 conference system.

Be that as it may, the combination of a small league and a large contingent of non-competitive teams - despite salary caps and salary floors - means we were going to end up here eventually. It could've happened earlier, it could've happened in another few years. You're free to treat it like the SANFL pre-1997 - two very successful clubs with 60 flags between them, and three or four others that couldn't muster ten flags collectively.

For my part, I'm not too fussed. In fact, for someone who cares little for the goings on in the A-League - except for when there used to be crowd shenanigans which exposed everyone's hypocrisies, and the sports business side of things - I was always more annoyed by other things. Namely, the way the A-League elevated what used to be called the minor premiership into a championship in its own right; which also lowered the worth of a grand final already compromised by a finals system which let more than half the league in as if it was the Canadian Football League, and the fact that said finals system gave almost no material benefit to a team finishing higher up the ladder.

Even so, that garbage, no double chance finals system bothered me more because it's the system we've come to use in Victoria. They could do what they like in the big leagues, but if we are to have finals in Victoria, why can't we have something which doesn't render one early false step in the finals for a top side an automatic failure? But I digress. 

I have argued before that merging stats doesn't mean merging narratives. On a raw data level, Sydney FC have won more national titles than anyone. On a narrative level, we haven't been allowed to compete for any of the titles Sydney FC has won; which is not the same as Sydney FC not even being a twinkle in Frank Lowy's balls when we won our four NSL titles. Indeed, for a good chunk of the A-League's history, the narrative was that what came before the A-League was either irrelevant or non-existent.

Which, to be fair, is actually true on both counts. Forget mealy-mouthed and revisionist takes from people involved with dismissing or burying the NSL's history. Except for little checkpoints like this, everything that came before (with the possible exception of some player records) is irrelevant and/or non-existent.

And it's not just on an official level. Someone asked the question on one of our forums, about what our seven pre-NSL state league titles mean in the great scheme of things. And when it came down to it, all I could really think of is, "not much". Yes, they matter to the few hundred supporters who still attend South games. But most of our supporters are either dead, or doing something else with their lives these days. For both the dead and living South fan (and I assume, for the fans of other clubs like ours), the past has long receded in the rear view mirror.

Yes, people may jump on the odd social media post (whether posted by us or by some nostalgia site) and wax lyrical about good old days and whatnot, but that's the totality of the emotional engagement. It's little different to the way people reminisce about 1980s and early 1990s NBL. A few wistful signs while remembering Gaze to Copeland, Bruce Bolden's free throw routine, or Phil Smyth's bald patch, and then on to whatever it is that occupies their attention in the present.

But for those of you that care about the seeming indignity of our situation in a more, let's say... "robust" manner than my trademark morose indifference, there's little reassurance or guidance that I can offer on how to respond to those who would wish to goad you on these matters. I guess you can just hold to the dream of a National Second Division and eventual promotion and relegation; or if you're still an unreconstructed 2005 World Game Forum-style bitter, plan for the death of the A-League within three years, tops. Those of us still here are all in this together, but we're all in it together in our individual way.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

¿Esteban ha sido despedido? No parece probable.

The dark little corner of social media that deals with Australian soccer has been quietly buzzing with intimations that South Melbourne senior men's coach, Esteban Quintas, is no longer coach of South Melbourne's senior men's team. 

The rumours started because of this job listing by the club looking for a new senior head coach. South fans were perplexed, wondering if this was some bizarre new way of telling the public that the senior coach had been sacked. Non-South fans apparently scoffed at the combination of what they considered low pay and high experience and proficiency requirements.

So is the club actually looking for a new coach? If we follow the logic of one South fan who has made a comment on this issue... then probably not. Our friend on the forums suggests this is likely just part of the process of renewing Quintas' work visa, which requires that the club put up the job for new applicants. It may even be that the combination of a seemingly lowball monetary offer with high requirements is a way to put off potential applicants.

That, and the erratic grammar and references to the A-League and B-League, which may even indicate that this is a rehash of an employment ad the clubs used the last time we were looking for a senior coach.

I mean, it would be harsh to get rid of someone who hasn't lost a game in months. OK, I'll show myself out...

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Brad Norton signs on for 2021 season

Apart from whatever Football Victoria thinks it can concoct in terms of a short-forum tournament for the tail-end of this miserable year, it appears that the rest of 2020 for South fans will be spent like this - ticking off signings and re-signings for season 2021. And maybe the announcement of some sort of limited edition merchandise if we're lucky. Who knows how this year's AGM will get held, but I'm sure people will figure it out.

Anyway, not a new signing this time, but another re-signing, with Brad Norton committing to South for the 2021 season, which will be his tenth in blue and white. It's been a very long time since we had a ten year player at the club, and Brad has done well to last as long as he has. Think about this - he's not only survived the last two and a bit seasons of upheaval (in some respects for him, the easier said than done bit), but he's survived the clean-out that accompanied Chris Taylor's arrival.

So who was the last ten-year player at South? From the players who played for us only post-NSL, Fernando de Moraes managed nine seasons; among the next best, Ramazan Tavsancioglu, six. The best of the rest probably somewhere around that five or six year mark. 

Then there are those players who spent time with us both in the NSL and after it. Tansel Baser had five NSL seasons at South, and two more in the VPL era for a total of seven - there will be those who think that Tansel could've made it a few more, had he not been shuffled out the door perhaps before his time was done. Someone saw his injury riddled body and made a decision, which in hindsight turned out to be wrong, as Tansel had a good few years at Hume City after us.

Con Blatsis, like Baser, was part of that mid-1990s Frank Arok-era youth intake. He also had five NSL seasons at South, and played in our first two VPL seasons; but while remaining on our senior list from 2007-2009, Blatsis never managed another game due to injury.

Vaughan Coveny had racked up nine NSL seasons at Lakeside, and three more in the VPL in stints broken up by his participation in the A-League, as well as the 2004 season spent with Essendon Royals - so twelve seasons all up, including three erratic VPL seasons, which gets Horsey comfortably over the line. 

The other player that comes to mind is Dean Anastasiadis, who had four mid-1990s NSL seasons with us, and two more seasons right at the end of the NSL at Lakeside - though in the 2003/04 season he appears not to have managed a game, with most goalkeeping duties taken up Eugene Galekovic, and the remaining handful by the artist formerly known as Michael Theoklitos. In our hour of need after the NSL however, Deano came back for four more season to make it to ten years all up, even if we might have been better off with a different keeper in the last couple of those seasons. 

So there it is, or perhaps (fingers crossed) there it will be - our first post-NSL era ten-season player. If all goes to plan, Norton will be our first ten season player since Dean Anastasiadis; the first player to play ten consecutive seasons at South since Vaughan Coveny, if we leave out the necessity of players like Coveny having to play elsewhere in 2004 following the dissolution of the NSL, (Anastasiadis also played with Coveny at Royals that year).

Figuring out this stuff is not the worst way to pass the pandemic time.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

During this pandemic, I demand entertainment! Failing that, some sort of distraction will do.

You ask me here to have lunch, tell me you slept with Elaine, then say you're not in the mood for details. Now you listen to me, I want details and I want them right now! I don't have a job! I have no place to go! You're not in the mood? Well, you get in the mood!

During the week there was news that Mike Charlesworth, the current owner of the Central Coast Mariners A-League licence, had decided to put up said licence for sale. With the Newcastle Jets licence also up for sale, that makes two A-League licences currently on the market, both from the competition's two least valuable audience pools.

In the not too distant past, the potential sale of the sale of the Mariners licence (the Jets one would be harder to budge for various reasons) would've had South Melbourne Hellas committee folk laying siege to the A-League gates - exciting those among our fan-base who look forward to getting back into the big leagues; annoying those of our fans who want nothing to do with a competition which would compromise the (supposed or inferred) integrity of the club; and unnecessarily upsetting certain types who juggle the not-at-all contradictory beliefs that South Melbourne shouldn't be in the A-League, South Melbourne couldn't be in the A-League, and that if South were somehow to get into the A-League, it would instantly destroy not just a competition which is both healthier, more popular and more robust than than any national soccer league Australia has ever had, but also see Australian soccer collapse in on itself like a Cthulhu-esque horror being slayed in a Conan novel.

I mean, I've added a bit of extra mayo to the scenario for comic effect, but you know how these things usually go.

So after so many bid and takeover disappointments, when an A-League licence comes up for sale with a sketchily reputed price-tag of $4 million - well below the cost of a licence paid by those consortia which won the two most recent expansion slots - where is South Melbourne? As it turns out, nowhere. But why? What has changed? Well, clearly a lot has changed in Australian soccer in very recent times, and there are more changes set to come. There's the gradual shifting of the A-League season to winter, though for how long remains unclear. There's a revamped, stopgap television deal, effectively making the A-League a casual employee of Fox Sports. There's the people still trying to figure out a method and timeline for FFA to offload the comp to the owners of the A-League franchise licences. There's mooted overhauls of transfer systems and salary caps and salary floors. There's also the "depending on your viewpoint" of the either "perennially stalled and always improbable" or "the measure twice cut once to get it right" National Second Division.

Oh, and this whole pandemic thing, too, of course, whose end I'm sure is just around the corner.

For the official word, Joey Lynch managed to get direct quotes from our president Nick Maikousis - published in an article the club was happy to quote from and link to, rather than publish its own press release. Those few sentences suggest two things have happened from a South point of view, one minor, and one major. First, the relatively minor one - that more or less because of all the uncertainty noted above, plus the unknown about whether FFA (or whoever's in charge of the A-League now) would even allow the licence to be moved from Gosford, or even out of New South Wales, or any further than Canberra.

I mean, even if the FFA or A-League were to allow relocation of the Mariners licence, could you really see it being allowed to be moved to Melbourne, where we've just had a third team added that no one seems to particularly care about (yet) outside matters relating to housing developments and public amenities in Melbourne's west suburban sprawl? Less convincing is the argument about whether South Melbourne could afford to relocate the Mariners licence - as if the licence was anything more than a piece of paper saying "you are in the A-League"; it's not like we'd have to take the Mariners' stuff with us - this isn't moving the Colts out of Baltimore in the middle of the night.

The more important thing though is that we have now well and truly hitched our wagon to the National Second Division train. Now you all know what I think about the NSD - that my now largely private derision for the concept is based upon ill-conceived ideas like: "show me the money"; "your views of promotion-relegation are ahistorical and don't allow for valid exceptions"; and "this is just a brilliant fifth column manoeuvre to undermine the A-League by being concerned for its welfare, all while taking advantage of the circumstance (in Australian soccer history terms) of a comparatively popular and stable competition, which nevertheless suffers the notable weakness of its poor public perception of success, value, and viability". 

But that's just me, the classic example of an over-read and under (real-world) educated contrarian nobody. Now who knows what the road to Damascus moment was for the people currently running South Melbourne, or even if this new found faith in the "global football standard" will stick, because we're not exactly the most dependable people in a crisis. Still, little moments like this help pass the time, because it's not like there's much else to do.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Joshua Wallen joins South, next year

Another day, another Bentleigh player set to come us. Honestly, I have no idea who this guy is beyond what the club presser says, and that Wallen is not a Queenslander - according to one of my correspondents, Josh is actually from far north New South Wales and has played in Queensland, which is much of a muchness really. Some South folk are asking who's going to make way for the new signings, which seems like a good question to ask.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Pierce Clark also heading north

Another pandemic day, and another Queenslander playing for South Melbourne is heading up north for a little bit to see out the soccer season in a place where they're actually playing soccer (in Bluey voice) "for real life".

So goalkeeper Pierce Clark will be heading up to play for South West Queensland Thunder, before returning to Lakeside for season 2021.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Marco Jankovic heads north, then South

So, in previous pandemic dispatches from the president there was mention made that, in true NRL style. we had already signed players for next season. Well, here's one of those - defender Marco Jankovic from Bentleigh. My concern with this is that I worry about when Bentleigh releases any player and we end up snapping him up, because I'm suspicious about why said player would leave a stable, successful environment for whatever it is that we're doing. Anyway, like Harry Sawyer, Jankovic will be spending the rest of the 2020 season in Queensland (in his case, playing for Lions FC), so our most immediate hope is that both players come through that in one piece.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Harry Sawyer goes north

Harry Sawyer - the likely winner of South Melbourne's 2020 golden boot award, for whatever that's worth this year - has signed up with Gold Coast Knights for rest of the season. The move has been described by Gold Coast Knights' social media outlets as a loan move - though I am unaware if Sawyer was signed to South for 2020 and 2021, so who knows what such a loan move actually means for Harry's future at Lakeside. Then again, who knows what the future holds for anything anymore.

Saturday, 25 July 2020


Having spent over a decade at a western suburbs university full of self-doubting weirdos, I'm well aware of the idea of "impostor syndrome" - but the creator of this minor masterpiece being critical of their work is a bit too much.
I mean, if I had anywhere near the cake design skill of our friend here, would I have spent the past 13 years blogging about soccer?

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Party like it's 1998

I'll play them if I have the chance - usually by being the stingy sort and just borrowing it from the local library - but I'm not a big enough fan of modern soccer video games to go out and buy my own copy. But I know some of you are, and you've probably already seen this making the rounds.

Someone has gone out of their way to apparently try and re-create the glory days of Australian soccer for play on the latest Pro Evo game - and by glory days, I guess this means the National Soccer League circa-1998. And who of us could argue? Though like Billy Natsioulas, one does have to query whether they got Trimmers' speed stats right. They also misspell the sponsor's name, bit that's neither here nor there really. Seeing how they no longer exist, Viviannes Collection is hardly going to issue a cease and desist anyway.

I assume those of you who bother with such things know how to download and make the option file work.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Stephen Folan returns home

As reported by the club's media avenues, visa player Stephen Folan is returning to Ireland.
Makes sense.

Monday, 13 July 2020

2020 NPL Victoria season cancelled

So, that's it for senior men's or women's soccer in the mainline metropolitan competitions for 2020.

While Football Victoria and a select few clubs who believed in their (given by who knows) mandate of football heaven that they must try and play through a pandemic, the pandemic has ultimately won.

But only for now. Because even as there appears to be no end in sight to the pandemic easing in Victoria to such a point where we might conceivably see local soccer return this year, still the dreamers of dreams are going to try and find a way to get any sort of soccer played in what remains of this awful year.

At the moment that seems to be mostly around getting junior competitions completed under some modified format, because won't someone think of the children and all that. Or won't someone think of a governing body that would hate to have to refund a ton of money back to clubs who would, in theory at least, return those fees back to those who put the money in the food chain in the first place.

And while sporting body budgets are always erratic things prone to mild swings of boom and bust, and belt tightening and free spending, having no competitions and therefore no fees coming into your coffers for a whole year would be hard to deal with for any governing body. And even if there was some kind of government bailout to cover your arse for this situation, it might not yet be enough.

Anyway, all of this is disappointing, but understandable. I blame no one who wanted to bail on the whole year when it seemed like most teams were gearing up for some kind of return. I blame no one who bailed when it became obvious that the virus' first wave had returned. I don't even blame those who wanted to play, whatever their motivation for doing so.

As it is, Football Victoria is looking to try and organise cobbled together tournaments of some sort for the spring and summer, for what purpose other than trying to claim some of their soon-to-be missing fees (assuming they don't keep the fees of those that choose not to play in of these proposed tournaments).

As it is, I would like to be able to say that I can write up a season review now, but since there might be some sort of South related action yet in 2020, I'll guess I'll just pad out the weeks with other crap until such time as everyone gives up on trying to get anything going this year.

Monday, 29 June 2020

The extended gist of the June 2020 president's message

As many of us are aware, as part of a personal push to improve member/board relations, president Nick Maikousis had promised to instigate regular member forums to inform members of ongoing matters at the club - as well as receive more prompt feedback from the membership rather than wait for an AGM.

Regular member forums also reduce the time needed to be spent at AGMs as well, of course, but I guess that's more of a fringe benefit.

If you haven't noticed these promised member forums, it's because they haven't been happening this year, for obvious reasons. Still, after giving an update via the re-booted South Radio in early April, Maikousis has not made any further appearances or made any further announcements until yesterday. 

As a matter of fact, South Radio also seems to have disappeared again.

All of this is understandable, because there's been both nothing happening, and a lot of stuff happening. The nothing is both on field, because no one's playing any games, as well as off field, because there'd been little obvious progress being made on a resumption until recently. But the lots of stuff happening is also true, as the club's senior teams had returned training, and there was constant talk about how the competition would resume.

Either way, it's nice to have official word on a number of issues. Of course you can all watch the video on Facebook - it's only about ten minutes long - but if you don't like the usage of the generic dance music that the club's media wing has made its signature, you may as well as read this summary instead. 

This summary also has the benefit of being easier to find for future reference. 

First cab off the rank is that all teams and all age groups have resumed training, which is nice I suppose. In regards to the men's season, Maikousis noted the difficulty of getting even this far into agreement to resume the season, remembering that just three NPL clubs (ourselves, Hume, and Gully) wanted to resume, and that Bentleigh have withdrawn from the 2020 season. Our club pushed for as much football as possible to be played - and thus we will (probably) have a completion of the remainder of the first half of the season, and an expanded eight team finals format.

The proposed finals format will include home and away legs. Maikousis makes no mention of matters relating to promotion and relegation for this year. It appears though that there will be a Dockerty Cup played for this season, which is nice.

The issue of a mid-season transfer window remains unresolved, though Maikousis noted that clubs may be able to use players signed for next season, for this season. How that actually works I'm not sure. No mention was made of any of our players potentially leaving for other clubs during whenever the mid-season transfer window may look like. 

There was brief mention made of the women's NPL and position in that. As expected, the plan is for a full home and away season, with finals series. At any rate, there are no fixtures set for either competition at this stage. 

While no direct mention was made of the possibility of crowds returning to games this year, in the event that clubs are allowed to host crowds at games in 2020, the club will extend the rights of members to use their memberships for home Dockerty Cup ties as well as home NPL games. 

Though I think we can safely assume that under the current circumstances, a return to crowds is a tad unlikely.

As noted in earlier dispatches, the club is exploring the option of providing discounts to current members when renewing their memberships next season. I just hope the club's membership database is up to scratch.

Maikousis noted that Eric Zimmerman has joined the board, with his immediate remit being the building up of our sponsor portfolio and business networks. Again, this has been a stated goal of Maikousis that's been oft repeated.

The president noted that there are no outstanding payments owed to members of the current senior men's squad. I don't know what that means for members of previous squads. The club is also seeking an overhaul of the player contract and dispute resolution process, and is working with bodies such as Football Victoria and the PFA in order to avoid having an "Avondale situation" happen again, as well as I assume avoid having wage dispute matters dealt with through the media for want of appropriate dispute resolution channels.

The Chris Taylor matter has been resolved, though the nature of that issue's resolution will remain undisclosed and confidential. No surprise there. All one can say is that I'm glad that's finally over, though who knows what the monetary costs were, as well as the costs to our reputation and success on the field.

Lastly, the club is pushing ahead with trying to get the second division  up and going - something about "seizing the opportunity", and offering all the resources the club has at its disposal to FFA, in order to make the dream of aspirational clubs all over the country come true. Who knew we had that many resources?

Monday, 22 June 2020

News! Sweet, nourishing news!

Finally some solid sense of when local soccer might come back, as well as in what form. Hold on to that feeling for as long as you can though, because you don't know when it will be taken away from you by irresponsible Essendon players or people attending poorly thought out house parties.

So the date for resumption of NPL Victoria is the weekend of July 25/26th. According to this Joey Lynch article (which is well worth a read), the recent spike in corona virus infections and the associated re-implementation of some pandemic restrictions won't have any effect on the resumption of local soccer, but we'll see. 

The consensus resumption format *seems* to be that in the men's NPL competition there will be eight more rounds played to complete the home and away season, which with the five already completed rounds, will at least set up a situation where everyone has at least played each other once. After that there will be an eight team finals component, of who knows what format.

This proposed return to action has been complicated by the fact that Bentleigh Greens have withdrawn from the rest of the 2020 season, As long as they pay their fiscal dues for this year, they get to keep their spot, and it seems like there won't be any relegation anyway.

As to what happens to Bentleigh's first five results, one assumes they'll be annulled and each team granted a bye from now on, but until such time as Football Victoria clarifies the situation all I can d is speculate. No official word either on what happens to members of Bentleigh's squad now that there's no senior team for them to play for in 2020. The talk is that at least some will try their luck in the state leagues.

No word either from what I can on the status of and/or existence of a mid-season transfer window, or whether the Dockerty Cup will continue - though the persistence of the latter for 2020 does seem to be something that is being mentioned.

As for the NPL women, they're looking at a 14 match home and away season with a top four finals series. Unlike the men, the women's NPL had not yet started before the pandemic lockdown. South is still signing players up for that competition, and in some respects it all looks a bit more straightforward on that front, for the time being at least.

In terms of whether fans will be allowed to attend games, my hunch - and it really is only a hunch - is that it's not bloody likely, especially with the recent spike in corona virus cases. Quite how anyone will enforce a ban on spectators at games in open parks - such as those used by many women's teams, and of course many state league teams - is anyone's guess though.

Football Victoria plans to continue streaming some games, but that doesn't mean there's any guarantee that we'd be a team being covered. Still, I assume the club itself would endeavour to do whatever is possible to provide streams of games.

And there's also this...
Interesting news emerged over the weekend that along with a reformatted broadcast deal, the A-League will move to a predominantly winter season from next year, for at least the next couple of seasons. Whether this is a temporary move in order to deal with the effects of COVID-19 and the 2022 Qatar World Cup - which will be played in November-December - or a move that the A-League will be in for the long haul, remains to be seen.

I have my doubts about the sensibleness of this change in direction, but that's for those who are more engaged with the A-League - and those who are trying to get promotion and relegation up - to deal with. What hasn't been explained yet - not that I was expecting to have been sorted out so early in the piece - is how this will effect the leagues below the A-League.

From a Victorian perspective, one assumes that there will be little problem in terms of accommodating the match day use of AAMI Park between Victory, Heart City, Storm, and the Rebels. Where Victoria Patriots Western United end up is an ongoing problem, and while I don't think that any of the local A-League teams will end up at Lakeside at times during the winter, it will be interesting to see if any attempt is made by the government to accommodate them on the off-chance that AAMI Park is double-booked by another sporting event or a concert.

Of course there's also the issue of training venues which some local A-League teams are sorted for (City, United), and one which still isn't (Victory). Again, we will wait and see.

Up until now the tail-end of the summer-based A-League seasons have already extended into the start and/or end of the NPL Victoria (and before that, Victorian Premier League) and state league seasons. In the beginning, when the A-League had an August-September start, the competition would finish in early February. In more recent seasons, as the A-League has pushed back its season starting point, the competition has gone all the way into May. That is much like the National Soccer League had done its business during its summer seasons, with both competitions crossing well over into the start of grassroots soccer seasons across the country.

Where this becomes relevant to us is scheduling. Some states - I believe South Australia is one such case - does not allow local competitions to run against Adelaide United fixtures. That's easy enough to do when you have just one A-League team in your city, but also where there isn't a holdover collective of clubs who are not fans of your city's A-League team representatives. The multiple teams issue in particular is going to be very interesting to see play in Victoria in terms of scheduling A-League matches.

On any given week, there could be two A-League games in Melbourne, with limited premium time-slots available. Saturday afternoons are out, because that's already taken up by the vast majority of senior men's soccer teams. Sunday afternoons have a variety of junior and women's competitions in action, though most will be over by early afternoon in the event that our local A-League teams choose to go with a late Sunday afternoon kickoff.

Friday nights, apart from often being the AFL's marquee night (with most of those games being played in Melbourne), will also go up against the majority of NPL senior men's games. These Friday night senior men's games have come about sometimes from long habit, and some from recent attempts to avoid clashing with junior NPL Sunday fixtures.

Will the A-League seek to create rules in cities like Melbourne, which have multiple teams, preventing local soccer from clashing with local A-League fixtures? Or will most teams - including the increasing numbers of state league teams which have gone with Friday nights as their preferred home game timeslot - simply move out of the way when there's a clash? It will be interesting to see how the A-League goes about trying to make this work, considering that some of the accompanying rhetoric around the move to winter is about coming into line with/connecting with grassroots soccer and its participants.

(keep in mind that I don't buy the angle that there is any great hostility toward the A-League from most local soccer people - apart from the usual suspects - just indifference)

The switch to winter doesn't seem to bode well for the future of the perennially embattled Y-League. Will they persist with their too-short, budget summer season? Or will it also move to a full-length winter season winter, where you would then assume the A-League (senior) NPL reps would leave their respective comps? Or will the concept gets dumped entirely - with A-League youth teams (and I assume senior players who miss out on A-League selection) going on about their business in the NPL competitions?

There's also no word on what will happen to the W-League, and whether it will also move to winter. If the W-League moves to winter, it jeopardises its favourable alignment with the American NWSL. If the W-League does move to winter, it will probably see most capable W-League players move overseas to the more lucrative NWSL, as well as then sucking up even more players from local WNPL competitions to fill out the numbers.

All in all, a lot of things to ponder for those of us in the second (and third and fourth) tiers, even though public consideration of our relationship to this change seems to have been negligible at best, except as possible customers for a competition heading into waters left uncharted for 30 years.