Friday, 31 October 2014

October 2014 digest of everything (OK, some things)

This post is a bit of a grab all of a range of different concerns floating around, as well some news, in the middle of trying to avoid having a nervous breakdown, which is not an official term according to wikipedia. Also, don't listen to Bohren and Der Club of Gore if you're in that mood. Great record that one though.

Kids these days
With junior trials for next year now under way, just how many people are unhappy with the South junior system? Is it many or just a few? Are the things they're unhappy with South specific, NPL specific, or a combination of both? One thing is for certain, there are unhappy people out there - how the South board manage this issue will be interesting, especially after the failed Brazilian experiment of last year, and the fact that the junior system has, to this outsider at least, been the subject of continuous manipulation and upheaval. In addition to all that, the continuing failure to see any talent make its way through from the juniors to the seniors on a permanent basis - and not in a roundabout five years down the track kind of manner - would be a concern to everyone.

(woman or effeminate man or physical cripple or small child or palsied pensioner opens jar after the BIG MAN fails to open it, but he still tries to claim that he 'loosened it up') (or here comes the hero of the day and of course it's South Melbourne) (we're in the tent [is that a sex thing?] and so here comes South Melbourne in the A-League in 2017) 
What's our official position, if any, on FFA's National Club Identity Policy? Is it something that's even on our radar, or are we happy to just go with the flow? Flow it is then. Enough was said by both sides of the argument to not need to go over it again. I was speaking to a highly thought of Australian soccer writer, which narrows it down to about five people, four if you don't count me, and this person agreed with me that why don't South and Knights work together to achieve their goals? If Melbourne Knights want to the be the street fightin with western suburbs street cred coming out of their ears Problem Child, the loose cannon of the Ethnic Soccer Club Part of Australia if you will; and if South want to be the wheelers and dealers in the suits, the Albert Park Accountants and Masters of Realpolitick, with The Prince in one hand (a prince must want to have a reputation for compassion rather than for cruelty) and the Art of War in the other (On intractable terrain, Do not encamp: On crossroad terrain, join forces with allies: On Dire terrain, do not linger: On enclosed terrain, make strategic plans: On death terrain, do battle), who clean up the mess by looking down right reasonable by comparison, why can't they work together? 'All friendship is desirable in itself, though it starts from the need of help' said Epicurus, but then I would cite him, wouldn't I?

Speaking of which - Victory and Heart in the NPL in 2015?
So, Heart and Victory have enlisted the help of big brother FFA, effectively sending an ultimatum to FFV and the NPL clubs, let our youth teams in or else your FFA Cup spots could be under threat. I'm sure South Melbourne will come to the rescue, right after Melbourne Knights soften it up for everyone. It's called teamwork.

As important as whether Heart and Victory make it into the NPL or not, something will eventually have to give in terms of the massive number of teams now in the two Victorian NPL divisions. While the largeness of the league is in part a consequence of the compromise solution worked out between the dissenting clubs, FFV and FFA during the NPL establishment crisis, we already have the situation of 14 teams in each league, plus newcomers Nunawading, Murray United, and possibly Eastern Lions from. One news report suggests that Bendigo are re-considering their participation next year, and I've also heard talk that Murray United may also struggle to make it to the starting line - though their recent hiring of staff seems to suggest that their participation next year is more likely then not at this stage. But what happens at the end of the three year licence period? Will everyone be allowed to stay? And if not, can you imagine the furore from those that miss out?

There are two things a viking never does...
That  Phil Moss, eh? Puts out a stupid line, and then apologises. Not for what was said - that Sydney Olympic didn't sign him back in the NSL days because he wasn't born in Greece - only for the offense it caused. Sydney Olympic huffed and puffed a little bit, but in the end had to sit there and take Moss' apology like the little bitches that they are - and if that sounds like meanness for cruelty's sake, it's because I know that we'd almost certainly do the same. As for the two things a viking never does? It's a Hagar the Horrible joke.

Making a house a home.
Are our lights up to scratch? Some people keep talking about hosting an FFA Cup match as being of more importance than actually winning the state title, but could we even host a match under lights and on TV? There's been talk every now and again during our new Lakeside era that the lights aren't up to FoxSports broadcast standards. Sure there's plenty of room on the light towers to install more lights, and they may only need one more row each to get there, but are there any plans on actually making this happen? It'd be fairly embarrassing to win hosting rights for an FFA Cup match, and then not be able to host it at Lakeside. For that matter, what's the latest with the social club? Has construction started yet? Will we ever get signage on the ground to let people know we're there? Will I ever get rid of this albatross of a counter? And when's the AGM?

Are we any closer to to reconciling - if that's even the right word - with the women's team? While female players don't make up half the numbers of the male participant rate in the sport, it's still a massive blackspot in our attempt to be the broadbased and compelling club we love to portray ourselves as being, let alone one that could be considered as progressive. Still, this was interesting.
'Our' women? When did that happen? Interestingly, after Alan Davidson resigned or got the sack of the eve of the finals, his ultimately successful replacement was one Matthew Maslak, who had been sacked as coach of under 20s earlier this year.

Law and Order SVU episode blurb that could cover 90% of its episodes
The detectives investigate a series of sexual assaults, but come to realise that the prime suspect may not be the person they originally thought was responsible.

Comings and goings
Meanwhile on the South playing front, defender Shaun Kelly - who was also our leading scorer in 2012 - has parted ways with the club. Kelly, who missed the whole of the 2014 season with a lisfranc injury, has signed with Port Melbourne. At least he seems to have left on good terms, which is nice to know, as he always seemed to handle himself professionally, and it must have been difficult for him to sit out the entire championship season after hanging about during some very tumultuous times. Fellow Englishman Jamie Reed left this slightly cryptic message on Twitter
So is he coming back? I don't know. Tyson Holmes has left to go to Bentleigh Greens, apparently for a better chance of more game time, while Shaun Timmins has gone to Hume and Dimi Tsiaras has retired.

Staying put are Milos Lujic, Iqi Jawadi, Michael Eagar, James Musa, Brad Norton, Tim Mala, Nick Epifano, Stephen Hatzikostas, Leigh Minopoulos and Andy Kecojevic.

But did they actually get the terminology right? Aka, a souvlaki is not the same as a gyro, but OK we get what you're trying to say while being a patronising cunt
Some of those who watched the FFA Cup quarter final between Bentleigh and Γιουβέντους Αδελαΐδας - though not me, since I've been boycotting the tournament for various obscure and probably not very defensible reasons, but who are you to question my motives? Have I ever questioned yours? - noticed that the commentary kept hammering the souvlaki angle. Dedicated readers will however remember that Michael Lynch and I covered this earlier and better.

Frank Lowy mentioned that promotion and relegation in and to and from the A-League is imminent and everyone wet their pants or hunkered down in their bomb shelter
Me, I threw a tryhard nonconformist bomb of my own, but I mostly only got a few retweets.
Life after South Melbourne, if there is a such a thing; I still have my doubts
Congratulations to former South defender Jake Vandermey, who took out Hobart Olympia's best and fairest award. Vandermey also finished third in the state wide best and fairest count, behind South Hobart's Brayden Mann and Andy Brennan.

I'm playing all this week, tell all your friends
Now this I was not expecting.

Football Today, some sort of accumulating internet news service for Australian soccer - I'm sure there's a more appropriately tech-savvy phrase for it, but that's the one I'm going with - recently made South of the Border its featured blog.
I'm pretty chuffed with that, for reasons which I can't necessarily figure out. I mean, how did it even happen? I know how my blog got on the 'best blogs' list in the first place: I sent FootballToday an email asking them to put it on their registry, and they did it (I think it may have even been Bonita Mersiades who was responsible, so there's me momentarily running internet shoulders with an Australian soccer heavy hitter).

I don't subscribe to their Twitter feed, nor do I visit their site, because I'm not interested in the vast quantity of the articles that come through their feed. Sure it's not playing the game of internet 'I'll scratch your back and you'll scratch mine' that's a feature of the blogopshere and Twitterspheres, but I don't have a problem with that, my preference being for this blog to meander through time and space as it pleases, and not to the whims of aggregators. Nevertheless, I'm happy to have been noticed.

Maybe everything will change by tonight...
... and then this post will look stupid. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lakers artefact Wednesday - Lakers street sign

This arfetact was one of several images uploaded recently by Nick Vertsonis on Twitter, and which I'll be uploading one by one in due course. Now the first thing you need to know is that this is, of course, not a real street sign (der, Paul) but rather, as explained by Nick in email:
a decorative/novelty item to be displayed on a wall or in the garage... the sign was all the rage with all the AFL/NRL clubs at the time, around the mid nineties.
Irrespective of whether or not it was a legit sign, it's an interesting piece of memorabilia, which shows that the club was interested in not only trying out different merchandise ideas, but also a willingness to use the Lakers name, and hell, I'm going to just go out and say it: the logo's sorta crappiness aside, 'Lakers' was by no means the worst nickname that could have been conjured up for that unfortunate situation where we were forced to try and assimilate. At least we had a lake next to us, unlike the LA Lakers who allegedly tried to stop us using the name, though I've never actually seen the hard and fast evidence that they actually tried to do that. But that apocryphal story is so fun, that it just keeps on keeping on, though admittedly helped when I, too, have inadvertently given the story another push via one of Joe Gorman's articles on The Guardian.

It also reminds me of the photo on the left of an actual South Melbourne parking sign - originally posted in a Supermercado article which we've archived - which to me (and especially my dad, who was responsible for paying the parking fines for parking in those areas) always stood a bit menacingly. It makes you wonder though, if we were to ever somehow get back into the top-flight, where would all those people who wouldn't use public transport park? And would the local tramlines - the 12, the 1 and at a pinch the 96, be able to cope? Thank goodness that's not a problem we're ever likely to have to deal with.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

A passing thought on the FFA's National Club Identity Policy

Sometimes you can write an essay on an issue, hoping to get people across to your point of view using the age old arts of rhetoric and reasoned argument. Sometimes you can't be bothered, so you get someone else to do it, as has increasingly been the case on this blog. Other times, you watch a lot of TV and a week after you see a classic episode of The Simpsons for the 50th or 60th time, it occurs to you that, as per usual, someone else has done the overarching issue far better justice, so why not just let a simple image, familiar to every 1990s couch potato, do the job. So praise be to FFA and their crunch patties, flavour sauce and pocket bread. But do spare a thought for poor 'Christopher', just another in a long line of foreigners forced to assimilate because of the host culture's own insecurities.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Joe Gorman on Middle Park in The Guardian

Just in case you've missed it on its various Facebook and Twitter incarnations, Joe Gorman has recently written an excellent piece on Middle Park for the Guardian. It includes interviews and reminiscences from Mike Mandalis, Jimmy Armstrong, Kimon Taliadoros, Ange Postecoglou, Francis Awaritefe and friend of South of the Border Pavlaki. It also includes speculative commentary on the future by Tom Kalas.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Social club artefact Wednesday - Middle Park 'field of dreams' flag

2014 is not only ten years since we nearly went kaput, but it's also twenty years tomorrow since we played our last game at Middle Park. The acquisition of Middle Park is a huge part of our history, and it's the reason why from the start - or at least the merger of Hellas and South Melbourne United in early 1960, which perhaps should be the real founding date for the club - we've been known in English as South Melbourne FC/Hellas/Lakers/Pirates, and not probably something like Melbourne Hellas ala Melbourne Croatia.

That Middle Park is still sorely missed, and that Bob Jane Stadium/Lakeside never had the same feel, is almost a given. As an aside, it's disappointing, though not surprising, that the loss of soccer's suburban grounds was never given as much focus as those from footy, when the equivalent blood, sweat and tears were invested into the soccer venues, and that their demise as top tier venues was, aside from being linked with ethnic, non-conformist soccer clubs, also due to the same forces of economic rationalism and ground rationalisation.

Anyway, the video below is an absolutely priceless bit of footage for all sorts of reasons, including but not limited to:
  • The souvlakia grilling on the barbecue.
  • The most badass women's team ever assembled, with superb motley hairstyles and a keeper with sunnies. They're also wearing this rare jersey.
  • The ad hoc parade of champions
  • The Bristol Rovers style jerseys which harks back to 1966 when we wore a similar jersey.
  • The run through banner which the players will tear through unlike the weak AFL players of today who need a door to go through a banner. Soft.
  • Highlights of the actual game, including Gus Tsolakis acting like a bit of a knob after his goal. When he was playing for the Bergers, my uncle (then a diehard fan, later, meh) called him a monkey. When Gus was playing for us, he was dynamite. True story.
  • The post game scenes overlaid with cheesy music. Really cheesy music. 
  • There's a flag at 5:28 that I would kill to get a hold of.
  • A montage of photos including several run through banners and shots of the Middle Park outer.

The flag below was obviously designed and made especially for the occasion, The design looks a bit stiff, very dated even by 1994 and is, well, just plain ugly. Usually I'd find that charming but for some reason I've never been able to warm to this design. Still, it's a part of our history and any anecdotes about the design or the day are most welcome.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Off-season digressions - WNBL: Dandenong Rangers vs Melbourne Boomers

Towards the beginning of the year, or maybe some time in March, a friend of a friend's grandfather had died, and thus a discounted general admission ticket became available for a Melbourne Tigers game against the Adelaide 36ers, which I was able to take advantage of. Now the usual thing for me to do following attendance at such an event would be to write about it, especially because it was my first time at the basketball - but because of the hectic approach of the 2014 season, that never came to pass, though quite why I never wrote about the experience at all, with the intention of putting up in the following off-season I'm not sure. It still might happen at some point, though I can't really remember any of it too clearly. Maybe a eulogistic piece on the death of the Tigers is needed.

All of which is a roundabout of saying that my attendance at yesterday's WNBL fixture between the Dandenong Rangers and Melbourne Boomers was not the first time I'd ever been to the basketball, though it wasof course the first time I'd been to a women's basketball match. How did I end up at this game? Because fellow Australia soccer historian Chris Egan was in Melbourne for business, and as usual the thing to do was to find a 'random' Melbourne sporting event to go to. With the baseball not in town until next month, and Chris not wanting to go to the national volleyball league fixture being played out at St Albans, because it would clash with the A-League, we decided on women's basketball.

So after a trip to Laverton Market, because Chris wanted to see the real Melbourne and venture as far as away as possible from the World's Most Liveable City garbage, we made it to Dandenong Stadium, the home of the Rangers.
The stadium complex is fairly impressive, including the main arena itself - though I did find it curious that as the Rangers game was taking place, there were several simultaneous games taking place on the many other courts in the building. Also strange to see that the pennants for the Rangers' men's team seemed to be larger than women's WNBL titles at the opposite end of the arena. After initially entering via the side of the arena with the cheap seats, we made our way to the other side, with the proper fold out seating. These were located above small corporate booths, mostly filled out by Jayco employees and/or franchisees, the Rangers' major sponsor.

The game itself - part of the Michelle Timms Cup, played between the two teams over the course of the season - was a bit of a disappointment. The Boomers were appalling defensively, and while they managed to get the early deficit back to six points, the lack of an inside presence in particular (but what would I know?) seeing them fall further and further behind. For their part Dandenong weren't that crash hot, but did what they needed to do. Some of their shooting could have been better, but the US import Cappie_Pondexter was impressive, as was the range of scoring options at the Rangers' disposal.

All things considered, the actual match day presentation of the game was of a very high standard. There was a mascot, and the volunteers, announcer, scoreboards and court presentation were all of a good standard, and even though I find the entire concept of a 'matchday experience' anathema - just let the game be the centrepiece and all that - this was less offensive to me than usual. The national anthem being played before the game reminded of the NSL - I'm not sure if they do this for every game, or just for this, the opening home game of the Rangers' season.

The crowd itself was into the game, but there was a definite lack of nutjob, over the top style supporters, maybe two or three for the home team and one for the visitors. Chris noted that the gender balance of the crowd was fairly even, which would be an interesting phenomenon to analyse alongside the probably very female dominated netball crowds, which in Melbourne at least seem to be very healthy nowadays compared to the small crowd at Dandenong Stadium. Perhaps a comparison with the demographics of W-League crowds would be more useful? Hell, maybe just a study of why some women and girls choose to play basketball over netball would be interesting.

What was most fascinating was simply this: the experience of watching how a second tier sporting club by the standards of women's sport - if one counts swimming and netball as top tier in comparison - operates a national league team of any sort, ostensibly out of the working class outer south eastern suburbs. Something interesting going on there.

A better apology than the one Phil Moss dished up/South of the Border public transport saga nos. 562 and 563
Then this happened, and there was really nothing more that needed to be said about yesterday's adventures.
Though people did of course keep saying things - but that's democracy for ya.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Hubris artefact Wednesday - The Score Fanzine

This is truly one of the more bizarre Australian soccer publications I've ever seen. The short version is that it's a fanzine created specifically for the occasion of the second leg of the 1998 World Cup qualifying tie between Australia and Iran. However, the content makes this a bit more complicated than that.

The person who lent this to me claims, to the best of his recollection, that he bought this on the night of the match. Now this is an important detail, because this fanzine is so full of hubris that once can only hope it was made before the game and not afterwards as some sort of elaborate attempt at trolling. Everything from claiming the game as won, to Pauline Hanson parodies, to advice about how to go about booking your tickets for France '98 (including entering as many competitions as possible).

While there is an email address in the fanzine, my attempt to contact the writers behind this effort was not successful, with the email address now either inactive or deleted. This was part of a collection lent to me - mostly of newspaper articles circa the end of Middle Park and the beginning of Lakeside - by the supporter known as the Agitator. Hopefully I'll be able to upload a few more things from this collection to upload soon.

Click the following link to download the entirety of this fanzine.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

South of the Border Awards 2014

There were many fine efforts this year, and many memorably moments. This awards ceremony fits into neither of those categories.

Player of the year: Milos Lujic. He scored lots of goals.

Under 21 player of the year: The Cliff Hussey Memorial Trophy goes to Nick Epifano. When his head was in the right space, which was more often than not this year, he was pretty good.

Goal of the year: Milos Lujic's goal away against the Knights, following Leigh Minopoulos' run down the sideline. The comedy answer would have been Stipo Andrijasevic's goal against the Knights.

Best performance: The second half against Bentleigh at home.

Best away game of the year: Werribee away, because of the scaffolding. Yes we had an interstate trip, and more memorable games elsewhere, but scaffolding.

Call of the year: 'Conya' away at Ballarat. As we noted at the time:
After another dreadful call with the requisite whinging by South fans, one of the Ballarat smartalecs yelled out 'stop your sooking', to which one of our own wits replied, 'well at least we get to home to Melbourne after this', which was perhaps a little harsh but seemed a fitting response at the time.
Runner up: Me, when I wrote off the season an hour into round 2.

Chant of the year: 'Scenic ground, some fans' against South Hobart. A neat inversion of the usually derisory chant. It can't all be all farce and hostility.

Best pre-match/after match dinner location: Late kickoffs and unrelated circumstances meant that thus category now includes pre-match eating options. Nevertheless, Thai Deli is always a strong contender and would be right up in contention on most years, but for the serendipity of the moment it goes to that Indian joint in Ballarat that we went to after that game. I forget its name.

Friends we lost along the way: One third of the Public Transport Crew, because we're not cool enough anymore for said person.

Barely related to anything stupidity highlight of the year:Just before the game against MetroStars, under 20s coach Sasa Kolman driving his blue Toyota FJ Cruiser over the top of the concrete barriers on the boundary of the Lakeside carpark, A-Team style.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Stupid in-joke artefact Wednesday - South Melbourne guestbook photos

Admittedly, in a week where I could have pulled out several thematically appropriate artefacts for the purposes of reminiscence, I've decided to go in the completely opposite direction. This entry, dear readers, is pure farce.

The following images all predate the destruction of the social club and office spaces. Back in the old days, aka or sometime around the year 2009, the old South office at Lakeside had a guestbook, as is the norm for any organisation that... I'd finish this sentence, but with my entire employment history consisting of having worked at a) my folks' business b) four days as a temp for a school supply business c) two days delivering beer d) various stints as a university tutor/lecturer/research assistant, I don't know what kind of businesses use these things, nor for what purpose.

Obviously, the standards of this type of bookkeeping weren't too high at South Melbourne, and I certainly wouldn't try and pull the same stunt with the FFV office guestbook, but if it was only me writing nonsense in this thing, it probably wouldn't be worth uploading.

And it's barely worth uploading as it is, with in-jokes that only a select few people who both frequented a certain forum at the time, and also happened to hang around the South office during that same period, will be probably get. For those that fit into those categories, feel free to click on the photos and enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Lujic player oif the year, Taylor coach of the year at Gold Medal night

Last night Milos Lujic picked up the FFV Gold Medal for the NPL's player of the year award. The most recent South player before him to win that award was of course Fernando De Moraes back in 2010. Lujic also collected the golden boot trophy for the second year in a row, as well as the player's player of the year. Chris Taylor rounded out what was a good night for South, by winning the NPL coach of the year award. This is the first time that a South coach has won a coach of the year award since Ange Postecoglou took out the prize for the 1997/98 NSL season.

While Oscar Crino was inducted into the Hall of Fame, sadly, my nomination of Cindy Nitsos' photo from the game away to Ballarat didn't win photo of the year, losing out to a photo of South Springvale. Neither did any of the half dozen submissions I made for article of the year - all of them blog posts from here - managed to get up, with David Manuca winning that prize.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sunk by ghost of Hellas past - South Melbourne 1 North Eastern MetroStars 2

The club sandwich at the Limerick Arms is a joke. Scott Tunbridge scored the winner against us ten years down the line from his South stint. And the corneal scarring on my good as gone left eye got inflamed again. All in all, a top day at the soccer.

I'd like to think it wasn't hubris or over confidence on the part of those South fans discussing the costs of heading to Sydney to play Bonnyrigg White Eagles - whom North Eastern MetroStars will meet in the final - more so the need to be prepared in the event of South beating MetroStars and being required to make plans at very short notice, made more complicated and expensive by the fact of the NRL grand final this week. All this while a bee tried to get into the remnants of my gin and tonic, and while Steve From Broady poured himself a beer from the communal jug and made it frothier than an Eaton Mall frap.

For what it was worth, I thought we'd justly be favourites for this game, but victory was hardly an assured thing. Going into a gale force wind and copping an own goal in the first ten minutes or so, not a good start. Barely looking like we'd bothered to turn up, it looked like this was going to get nasty, as the visitors played a skillful and pacy sort of game, while our skill level deserted us. It didn't help that the wind changed direction at halftime, but that'd be short changing the visiting team with the name straight out of Lawn Bowls Rendell's and Old Man Dunkerley's Victorian Champions League Summer Soccer Football competition.

(By the way, how good was it sucking up to Martin Foley again? We'd ditched him for the Liberal Party candidate for his seat once we got the job done with the Lakeside lease arrangement, and then we had some sort of special ceremony for Foley to show that we still loved him, baby. That other woman meant nothing to us. Girl, I do not even remember her name. Pamela or something. It is irrelevant for our purposes.)

That we somehow held on long enough without conceding another goal, and actually managed to work our way into the game whereby our equaliser was unapologetically deserved, was a pleasing development. In typical retrospective sports report fashion though, Jamie Reed's missed penalty doomed the side to lose. Never mind James Musa's effort against the crossbar in the second half which still could have given us the lead - Reed's miss was the clincher.

And if that's being unfair to Reed, in singling him out for blame when there were 92 other minutes of stuff to be done, and considering he'd put in the great cross for Milos Lujic's equaliser, then that's the whole point isn't it, of the aforementioned typically lazy hindsight afflicted match report. Pick a scapegoat, and run with it for all it's worth. A good match reporter, even one that can't really see, would for professional reasons take the time to write a nuanced, relatively objective report.

But I'm not getting paid for this, and I suspect that like the players themselves, the long season - 32 league, cup and playoff games, not to mention the long pre-season - has caught up with all of us. We clapped the players off, disappointed as we all were to witness that kind of end to an otherwise successful season - but with no social club yet to hunker down in, sticking around on the concourse in front of our grandstand, even if there was the women's game to follow, seemed kind of pointless, especially since now my left eye was playing up again.

Four or so hours after I entered the Eye and Ear Hospital's emergency department - and I'm not complaining here about the wait, because there were clearly others with a higher level of priority than me needing care - and having been told that I probably wouldn't be given the anaesthetic drop into my eyeball, because 'we can't keep doing that', which probably had some sound, 'let's not get this guy addicted to steroids' medical reasoning behind it, I stood waiting while the doctors talked about having an absinthe party, and then sat down in the optometrist's chair as we went through what one nurse has previously called the 'fat file' of my left eye's history - retinal detachment, cataract, light sensitivity, ulcer, the herpes simplex virus causing blisters to explode on the surface of the eye with attendant corneal scarring.

The doctor and I agreed that while it was an option which would probably need to be undertaken at some point, removing the eye would be a fairly drastic step, especially as it could cause an auto-immune response in the other eye. So keep taking the ointment and these drops, and come back on Friday. In the end, I was glad to be able to get some sleep. Then I woke up on Monday, watched some NFL, played Grand Theft Auto IV, went and bought a power supply for my brother's computer, and did some reading. That no one seemed to miss me during this delay in getting this post out hurt my fragile ego somewhat. Worse is the horror of having the facade of my affected disaffection swept away so easily.

What now?
I don't know, you tell me. Some pre-season kick and chase, not much on the line kind of affair, some time next year, or very late this year. Who knows? Maybe we'll find a way to get the Lakeside ticketing system running properly. We'll start hearing rumours about players coming and going - it's already started, if you know where to look. There'll also be the gala ball on October 31st. Not sure if I'm going to that yet, though I suppose it would be nice if I went to Merrimu Receptions for something other than my funeral. That's a little inside joke there, by the way, understood by me, SMFC TV cameraman Tim Dovas, and maybe Cuddles.

As for the blog...
The usual deal. We'll (I'll) be slowing down. At some point in the next two weeks, I'll hand out some awards. I'll put out the odd book review, try and find some historical artefacts to put up, and thank everyone that needs to be thanked at the end of the year. There'll also be an AGM, and hopefully news of the social club beginning to take shape - and even though it may create the most hits for this site, I'm hoping for a minimal amount of controversy.

Something I thought about while reading a Stewart Lee book recently
Ever had a great idea for a written piece, but you were worried that no-one would publish it? No? How about a slightly above average idea, but had no where to even pitch it? Well, that's the situation I'm in at the moment, whereby I have this idea for a piece - and not just an idea in and of itself, but a means in which to potentially rescue a great but reputedly borderline mean and unpublishable piece, and add to the myriad discussion on all things Australian soccer identities in the post-Lowy, post-multicultural era. And I've found that epithets like 'best Australian soccer writer', 'most underrated', 'funniest', 'most obscure', hell even 'fifth or seventh best Australian soccer writer', or 'one of its worst' - some semi-real, some of which I may have made up about myself - mean close to nothing. What's the point of this hard earned imaginary and/or imagined street cred, when there's no one to turn to get this 'idea' into print (and it needs to be print for aesthetic reasons, if nothing else). So kids, the lessons are. Don't shoot from the hip. Neuter your sense of individuality. Don't upset old people. Play the game.

After much debate, we eventually decided that
the shade of blue of Upfield's playing kit was
most similar to 'Robin Egg Blue'.
Around the grounds
Robin Egg Blue
Ian Syson made the offer of giving me a lift out to neutral Truganina to watch the champions of State League 4 West, Hoppers Crossing, and their North division counterpart Upfield, play off in a post-season finals series. After finding myself in a state of confusion on the importance of this game, I was eventually convinced that both sides had already won promotion regardless of this result, and that this was just part of the process of determining who was the best of the State League 4 sides - so, in short, the stakes were pride. The first half saw Hoppers start off with a bit more polish and vigour, but once Upfield settled down they looked good, putting together some quick passing play. One of those plays, along with a bit of patented individual brilliance saw them open the scoring. Too bad for them they kept giving away fouls, and thus they copped a goal from a set piece. The second half was all Hoppers, as they stormed to a 4-1 win, which could have been more if not for the intervention of the woodwork. Arndell Park, the current home ground of the Truganina Hornets, is not a bad ground, though the addition of an extra lighting pole in between the benches on the outer side would not have gone astray. It wasn't too windy last night, but I can imagine there'd be days where it'd be horrible to watch games there,

Final thought
Things could have gone worse this year.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Details for this week's game against North East MetroStars

Since the Kiss of Death is on its usual second half of the season hiatus, and I haven't bothered with match previews for a while now - and anyway, I know almost nothing about our opponents this week - so this is just a quick post to sum up what's happening this week.

We're playing in an NPL national playoffs semi-final against South Australia's North Eastern MetroStars. It's at Lakeside, this Sunday at 3:00pm. Your 2014 South membership will not get you into this match, and I assume by extension neither will your FFV season pass should you have one of those - I'm not sure about FFV media passes though.

The tickets seem to be a little bit more expensive than the usual NPL Victoria gate prices, but how often will we get to play in a game of this relative importance? It took eight years just to win the state title.

Even if there isn't a massive crowd at the game, the ticket printing system at the gate at Lakeside can be painfully slow, so it's worth considering using the Ticketmaster site to pre-purchase your ticket.

If for whatever reason you can't make it, FFV will be broadcasting the game both on a radio stream as well as internet video stream.

Regardless, for those that can make it to the game, I hope to see you there to hopefully see our boys get us to the final.

The match will also serve as the first part of a Lakeside double header, with the South Melbourne women's team also playing for a spot in the WVPL grand final, against Bulleen, the team that vanquished them in the recent cup final. That game is due to start at 6:00pm. I know they're not part of our fine organisation at this present moment (hopefully one day soon), but depending on the mood after our match, I may end sticking around for that game as well.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A measured response to David Gallop's 'state of the football nation' address

The following missive was sent to us by the same writer of last year's popular anti-NPL piece. Feel free to share and comment upon this effort.

Well, I was really looking forward to this when I heard Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop was going to address the public – but like most things in Australian soccer, and life, it has served to disappoint and reinforce the entrenched power structure to continue on as it pleases. What a great box ticking exercise to get the sheeple in a hype over the start of the A-league season, while at the same time showing the ‘unconverted’ how forward thinking and hip soccer is. Yes, you know that you’re in for a bad read when I refuse to use the word football. I grew up knowing the game as soccer and I’m not ashamed to use that word. If I was as well-heeled as Frank Lowy I might be inclined to get the Skyhooks to do a remake - 'Soccer is not a dirty word' has a nice ring to it. Kind of like Coles teaming up with Status Quo, but I digress, maybe on a further tangent than where Paul Mavroudis has ever dared to venture. Probably not. That guy is wacky in an intriguing kind of way. I’m not. I’m pretty straight up and if you’ve been following my not so infrequent tirades against the (soccer) man you’ll know that what I’m about to tell you is going to be frank, open and in your face. Some of you may not like it, but do I care? No, because the truth is confronting and speaking it is not a crime, should not be frowned upon and is the morally upright thing to do.

Leading into the Gallop ‘speech’ I was thinking to myself which David Gallop would turn up. Would it be the David Gallop that has been polished out of recognition by the marketing department’s copywriters? Those pesky fedora wearing types that sit in a dimly lit room smoking hand rolled pencil thin cigarettes churning out the annoyingly catchy buzzwords that corporate Australia loves to latch onto? What the fuck is robust?

Anyway, it was as I thought. A thoroughly rehearsed, bland and ultimately false-hearted delivery by a guy that is capable of much better. But, you can’t blame him. I mean you can, but I won’t, not just yet. Let’s begin where David Gallop begins:

Everywhere you look at the moment, you can see that Australian football is enjoying a golden period. And it's about to get better. The months ahead have the making of football's biggest ever summer.

We have an unprecedented run of finals, tournaments and big occasions that will see the game of football in the daily lives of more Australians than ever before.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say golden period - but if that’s the way you want to spin it, I’ll let that go because I see through that shit, as do most people – especially the ones that are so rusted on and fanatical about the game that they will watch an exercise in ticking boxes from a soccer administrator.

The game has 1.9 million participants - the biggest of any sport in this country - but we expect to see the football family swell in the months ahead.

David, this is a lie. The FFA marketing department, and you as its mouthpiece, love to bring out this line whenever they get the chance. It’s a good line as well. The biggest participation numbers of any sport in this country. Wow. If only it were true. This number, as you know, is based on the FIFA Big Count where Australia is ranked in the mid 50s. The FIFA Big Count is split into three categories. The first is registered players which National Associations cannot falsify, as you’d know it’s part of FFA’s official reporting to the world body for soccer. The number of registered players in Australia is 435,728. There is another section which is in regards to unregistered players, or players that play socially, in church competitions and other parts of the game such as indoor soccer not under the auspices of the FFA. This is an estimated number put forward by each association and then vetted by FIFA. This number is 535,000. The third and final section relates to officials (being match officials, club officials, registered coaches etc.) – this number is 67,632. This gives us a grand total of 970,728. It’s an impressive number, but the one that really counts is the number of registered participants. That’s 435,728.

All the other numbers are irrelevant. Your recent survey which you commissioned with the purpose of inflating Australia’s participation numbers, because of the age old soccer small man complex that has infected the game in some quarters ever since I can remember is a big fat lie. The FIFA Big Count numbers more than likely have double and in some cases triple counted participants (a person that simultaneously plays for a club, plays indoor or school soccer and coaches, referees or is in a club committee) which is a concern, but how you got to 1,960,000 participants is anyone’s guess. Creative accounting was never my forte. Please stop bringing out this propaganda, because people see through it for the most part, and it’s kind of embarrassing that our own national body craves relevance so badly. This is a good point of reference from a source that is more reliable than a privately commissioned survey designed to reinforce how good you are.

We'll have record-numbers of Australian fans in stadiums watching the Socceroos at the Asian Cup, the Hyundai-A-League's momentous Season 10, the Westfield W-League, which is underway right now, and the final stages of the Westfield FFA Cup and PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues finals.

Australian football will be on the TV screens in homes, pubs and clubs, in digital channels and social media - and we expect bigger audiences than ever before.

These are all good things and I can’t disagree with much here.

And because of the game's booming profile, the mainstream media will generate more attention than ever before.

Football has a great story to tell, and I thank all the media here today for their interest in telling it to your readers, listeners and viewers.

Read: thanks to the media for getting behind us, you’ve been a powerful ally in propagating our message for the most part.

You can see there are six trophies up here today... three will be won before Christmas, and three after...

The three before are the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues trophy, the Westfield FFA Cup and the Westfield W-League trophy.

And the Hyundai A-League Premiers Plate, the Hyundai A-League Championship trophy and of course the AFC Asian Cup.

There'll be all sorts of drama, great football and magical moments before the silverware you see here is held aloft by the winners -- but that's just part of the story.

This exciting period for Australian football is book-ended by two major global events ... the FIFA World Cup in Brazil earlier this year and the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada next year.

Having the Socceroos and Westfield Matildas at World Cups creates a wonderful halo around Australian football and showcases what it means for Australia to be a part of the world game.

This is one area where any Australian soccer administrator can’t make a mistake and is something 99% of people within the game agree on – that the Socceroos are the single most unifying factor within the sport.

There are other major factors at play to make this a remarkable time for the game.

Firstly, the convergence on the calendar of so many events - from international to the grassroots - and the way they showcase a sport so full of opportunity, optimism and growth.

Secondly, we're seeing the connection between all the tiers of our game come to life - it's closer and more productive than ever before.

This is currently my most hated buzzword coming out of head office. Connection between all the tiers. What fucking connection? There is no connection. There is no promotion and relegation to and from the A-league. Likewise in some states, the new-old NPLs have also entrenched clubs as either ‘elite’ or ‘community’ (two more shit corporate buzzwords that can fuck right off) while at the same time people generally go about their soccer business (playing, supporting, administrating) at the non-A-League level totally oblivious and very much in contempt of any metaphysical connection that you have cooked up on Level 22 in Oxford Street. You talk about connection? There are currently the privileged and the rest. Ten teams (I won’t give them the courtesy of being called a club, because it takes more than a graphic designer with a design brief to create a club) receive a television rights dividend of $2.5M per annum from the FFA to cover player wages and to ensure the sustainability of the league.

Meanwhile, the rest of the clubs up and down the country have to self-finance to field teams in all ages, find sponsors (normally friends or family) and volunteers to work in the kiosks to sell the dim sims and kransky rolls that go into subsidising the costs of the clubs. And when a club like this, run on a totally voluntary basis for the love of the club and by extension the game actually contributes to the greater good of Australian soccer by producing, unearthing and nurturing a player to a high level of quality – he is stolen away by the privileged few at the top, who not only get their TV money, but at the same time get free pickings to any player in the country. And then they sell him off for a big profit while the little club is still selling South Melbourne Dim Sims. What do these clubs that do the hard lifting get? A token mention on Fox Sports about player 'x' coming from club 'y'. Yeah, club 'y' has good 'z' (food). Awesome connection.

The lower tiers of the sport (and by that I mean anything not the A-League) are not there to be servants to the A-League. This is where our philosophies diverge. You have a Head of Community Football, who I thought was responsible for looking into and taking care of everything except the A-League. But no, the God of the FFA, the almighty dollar, dictates that this position is for a person to engage ‘community football’. What does this mean? This means that not a fuck was given by FFA to the plight of anything but the A-League – so much so that the Head of Community Football’s job is to go out and ‘engage’ with these ‘community football’ clubs and basically sell them why the A-League is so good and why they should all jump on board to follow the A-League. So it’s actually not about helping these clubs up, it’s about helping the A-League up while shitting on anything else below. That’s been the modus operandi since day one. You shouldn’t be surprised, but you are a little bit, I know you are.

The success of the Westfield FFA Cup is proof. That's an historic development - the football community is moving as one.

The announcement of the FFA Cup is a welcome one. The Cup has been a good step in the right direction. However, the tokenism of, for example, calling South Springvale a pub team, when most in Victoria know that they have a relatively high budget is pretty disingenuous. On top of that, you keep banging on about the magic of the cup, 'like our very own FA Cup' – like England is the only country in the world to have a cup competition. Australian soccer has gone backwards in some respects - where before we were comfortable within our own skin, ability and knowledge, now we continue to second guess ourselves. The football community is not moving as one. Your number one priority is the A-League, and there are still plenty of people out there that don’t want a bar of it and care deeply about their traditional club, youth development, futsal, the Pararoos and another whole host of ‘agendas’, for want of a better word.

Unity of purpose - too often a question posed about us, rather than an affirmation - is now a strength.

No it isn’t. We don’t have a unity of purpose and I don’t think we ever will because the history of the game in this country is disjointed and I don’t think you stating that we are all on the same page makes it true. Nice words, no substance.

That's why today - on behalf of the football community - FFA is making a major statement on the future of Australian football.

It's time for a National Plan for the Whole of Football that will set us on our way to making football the biggest and most popular game in Australia.

Wait, what you’ve done over the past 10 years was without a strategic plan? Or is it that you’ve realised that there’s more to soccer than the top national domestic division into which you have sunk most of your time an energy as an organisation?

This is not a plan just for FFA; it's a plan for the Whole of Football.

From the five year old playing MiniRoos to the heroes playing for the Socceroos.

From the grassroots of community football to the pillars of the professional game.

For all the stakeholders and all the partners at all levels of the game.

I find that very hard to believe. FFA since its inception, and at the behest of Frank Lowy has been an organisation in a position of absolute power. He wouldn’t have taken it on if he wasn’t guaranteed a tenure, because as we all know and sometimes forget, Mr. Lowy took his ball and ran home in 1987 after his team had already played a match in the national league that year. What people accuse those on the outside today of doing, Lowy did himself in trying to destabilise the game when he didn’t get his way like a petulant little child. Just to prove to you what the FFA thinks about stakeholder engagement – I’ll run through the National Constitution just quickly. Specifically Rule 3.5 relating to Standing Committees. The Directors must establish Standing Committee x, y, z etc. I started to investigate these national standing committees. When I couldn’t find them listed or referenced anywhere, I called Head Office. I spoke to a person in the legal department who relayed to me that the FFA hasn’t had the need or ability to convene these Standing Committees. Oh, OK then. It must be all too hard. So let's recap. The FFA has within its Constitution provisions that it have certain Standing Committees (like the State Federations) that will give advice to the Board on issues that it has been convened under. The FFA decides not to have these Standing Committees at all. And you keep believing that they give a shit about you and your shit opinion.

It's a plan for all the fans who love this game and those who are on the mission with us.

I suppose I’m firmly in the not with ‘us’ camp. It’s OK, I’ve been called much worse before. It’s just disappointing that the FFA thinks they ‘own’ the game, can control its dynamic wishes and ultimately decide who can and can’t be a part of the mission. Seems like my description of the old wog clubs and their disciples, of which I am a proud standard bearer was right – they do see us as a dangerous fifth column.

The need for this plan has become obvious to me after almost two years as CEO of FFA.

I am excited and ambitious for the game, but I've come to understand that Australian football suffers from a "burden of opportunity".

It's the reality we see today - the game has a huge growth trajectory and massive potential, but we don't always have the capital, the resources and the structures to harvest the opportunity.

To put it another way, we have many mouths to feed, but rarely do we have enough to go around.

We could sit and wait for things to change, and certainly the game will continue to grow if we were to continue our current course, but leadership demands more of us at FFA.

I agree to a certain extent, but I am cautious to believe you as you’ve disappointed on a number of occasions, not least of which your recent correspondence with a fellow concerned football administrator. He wrote to FIFA about promotion and relegation in regards to the statutes and the A-League, you cracked the shits when you found out and basically asked him not to write to FIFA but to you. So he did and asked the same question. Your reply was more words with no substance. Basically, there will be promotion and relegation, one day. When is that day? Ignore and talk about something else. These CEOs must have a module at school on how to talk without being pinned down to anything specific. I reckon there is room to make a compilation of AFL journalists asking questions of Andrew Demetriou being answered by the CEOs of other sports. You all speak the same double-Dutch, no pun intended.

The National Plan for the Whole of Football will not be an overnight fix, and it will take longer than the next four-year World Cup cycle.

Yeah, we’ve heard that give us time rhetoric before. National Curriculum anyone?

But we need to start and the first step is to galvanise this generation to address this challenge. I will have more to say later on how we intend to proceed.

First, it's important that we celebrate the State of the Game today, because we are in amazing shape for a sport that was on its knees just a decade ago.

The sport was never on its knees. The national body was broke (none of the States were) and was subjected to various political maneuvering to allow for the messianic complex of the Australian soccer pleb to be fulfilled. Clubs across the country were in better shape overall then, than they are today, especially at the lower levels.

This summer, in the middle of the busiest domestic calendar on record, our nation will host the biggest football event we've ever seen.

The AFC Asian Cup is bigger than anything we've seen since the 2000 Olympic Games.

16 nations, 32 matches in 23 days in five cities. That's big enough from a sporting point of view, but beyond the tournament and the matches, football is bringing the Asian Century to life in our own backyard.

I’m a lifelong soccer fan, and up until recently I didn’t know much about the Asian Cup. Most people couldn’t give a shit about it. It’s not going to capture the national audience like you hope it will, I wish I was wrong but that is the reality of it.

Australians will see Asian football and culture on show. And from the outside looking at us, Asian audiences up to 1.3 billion will see Australia on show.

This is nothing new, of course. Our national teams and Hyundai A-League clubs have been building links Asia for years, especially with Western Sydney Wanderers and their fantastic run through to the semi finals of the Asian Champions League.

The Wanderers' 0-0 draw last night in Seoul leaving them tantalisingly close to the Asian Champions League Final.

Football is leading the way for Australia in the people-to-people connections in Asia.

It's another way that football is once again playing a crucial role in nation building.

I agree, but again, much more can be done. Instead of A-League clubs signing washed up hacks, why not sign a promising Vietnamese player that will forge that link between Australian soccer and Vietnamese soccer, as well as the large Vietnamese community in Australia? This is much more beneficial to the connections to Asia and the future of the game, rather than signing the Mario Jardels of the world.

Our game is inclusive, accessible, multicultural and international - they are the qualities that make Australia such a diverse and successful nation.

I was hoping you weren’t going to give me an opening to bring up the National Club Identity Policy, but now I have to. When the policy was released, you were quoted as saying; “The intent of the National Club Identity Policy is to ensure the game remains inclusive and accessible, not just in the way we organise ourselves, but in how we engage with the community. The very name and logo of a club sends a message about what that club stands for. We want clubs that stand for uniting people through the joy of football,” You may want clubs that fit a neat little box so that the marketing department has a straightforward sell, but imposing your political opinions upon the clubs in your jurisdiction is not your place. So step off.

Secondly, the wording of the policy states as a preamble “
FFA acknowledges the multicultural nature of Australia and the valuable contribution that various communities have made to the historical development of football in Australia. FFA also respects Clubs’ desires to acknowledge their heritage and contribution to their local communities. FFA has a responsibility to protect and grow the reputation of the sport of football in Australia and to ensure its openness and accessibility to all Australians.”

No you don’t Davy boy. No you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. Either you embrace multiculturalism, warts and all, or you go down the assimilation path which is your policy in practice, not theory. You say that the name and logo of a club sends a message about what the club stands for – if a club chooses to call itself Morwell Italia to cater for the Australian-Italian community in the La Trobe Valley, who are you or anyone else to say that they can’t or shouldn’t or that their message through their name and symbolism is not to be tolerated? It is a club’s choice to stand for whatever they like. For whatever reason, and this is related to your earlier point, if you don’t fit the bill, your plan is to excommunicate (in some way) those that don’t toe the line. I think you’ve bitten off a little more than you can chew here and I sincerely hope that it bites you, and everyone else that has their dirty fingerprints over it on the arse.

By excluding certain types of personal and collective expression through soccer, you are being the opposite of inclusive. By stopping multicultural communities of Australia publicly displaying their culture is being the opposite of multicultural.

Beyond the sporting, cultural and social links, we're now seeing Asian investment driven by football - the $12 million takeover of Melbourne City by the Abu Dhabi interests, the owners of Manchester City, is a snapshot of our future.

I like to say that "as the world gets smaller, football gets bigger" - our game will make sure Australia is always a vibrant player in sport's global community.

The Asian Cup is a festival of football not to be missed. The joyous scenes of Brazil will be coming to your backyard. Tickets are on sale, so let's "Unite for the Asian Cup".

Blah blah, words, buy tickets, Asian Cup, blah.

Let me share the insights to the domestic game that have me seeing blue sky for the summer ahead...

The Hyundai A-League is on target to set new benchmarks for attendance, TV viewership, digital engagement and club membership.

The aggregate attendance is set to surpass 2 million for the first time.

We're aiming for a fourth straight year of TV ratings growth, to see a weekly viewership of 660,000.

The boom in digital and social channels shows no signs of slowing, with 2 million web users and 1 million followers on social media.

Across the league, club membership is currently 13% ahead of the same stage as last season and on-course to break the 100,000 mark for the first time.

Thanks to the huge vote of confidence from SBS TV, we'll have unprecedented reach and audiences for the A-League with the move of Harvey Norman Friday Night Football to the primary free-to-air channel SBS ONE.

The same is true internationally. New rights agreements in India and Africa mean the weekly reach of the Hyundai A-League will top 300 million across 30 nations and five continents.

Of course, this season will celebrate 10 years with our primary broadcast partner Fox Sports, a foundation investor in the Hyundai A-League.

Fox Sports has covered every game live since day one - and given millions of Australians world-class coverage of the competition.

Tomorrow, the attention turns to the terraces. The Hyundai A-League National Ticket On-Sale gives fans the chance to secure their seat for the big matches in Season 10.

This week, the pre-sale for Sydney Derby was the hottest ticket in town - Wanderers members bought at a rate that outstripped two finals in another code.

The Sydney Derby will sell out once again - so if you want to sample this incredible event, go to from 9am tomorrow (Friday).

Another blockbuster on sale tomorrow will be the Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory match at Adelaide Oval in round 2.

The fixture was a sell out at Hindmarsh Stadium last season, and we expect a new record Hyundai A-League crowd for Adelaide.

Sydney FC's opening round match against the new Melbourne City outfit is also selling strongly, no doubt driven by the expectation of seeing the Spanish World Cup star David Villa.

It's really pleasing to see so many great Australian players choosing to stay in the competition - it's notable that Mark Milligan, a starting X1 player at the World Cup in Brazil, has chosen to stay with Melbourne Victory.

This is a dividend of the growing stature of the Hyundai A-League.

It's the fastest growing professional competition in Australia because it gives us fantastic football, star players and the best atmosphere you'll experience. I can't wait for the kick off.

As expected, the largest chunk of the address reserved for the A-League. Surprised? I’m not.

Last weekend the Westfield W-League started - again with live TV coverage on ABC TV -- and is heading for a Grand Final on 21 December.

Our finest female players are also on the mission of making the Matildas squad for FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada next May.

One of our top priorities is to appoint a new Head Coach of the Matildas, and that's now just days away.

I don’t want to come off sounding sexist, but the women’s game doesn’t interest me at all. Not that I want it to be hampered or discriminated against, it just doesn’t interest me.

There's a renewed mission for women's football thanks to a $500,000 development grant from FIFA and we're building stronger player pathways for our rising talent.

It’s a nice touch to mention FIFA’s grant, but it’s really a drop in the ocean compared to the funding that the women’s game needs.

The FIFA grant will partly fund nine development officers into the community across Australia.

See above.

Females already make up more than 20% of our participation base and we are forecasting the numbers to grow strongly in the years ahead. It's our big point of difference in the Australian context and we intend to make the most of it.

See three points above.

Right now, we are in the midst of the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16 and can I say I've never seen a new competition make such an impact on the Australian sporting landscape.

It's not just the romance and upsets of cup football - this is a festival of the Australian game.

From the self-titled "pub team" of South Springvale to the national champions Brisbane Roar, we have a great mix of clubs from across the country.

One of my favourite moments was the Thomas Love goal for Adelaide City that knocked out the Wanderers - whatever else he achieves, Thomas will go down in folklore for that goal.

The magic of the Cup has captured the imagination of sports fans everywhere.

If I may say, I'm so proud of the way FFA has rolled out the Cup in conjunction with the Member Federations, commercial partners in Westfield, NAB, Harvey Norman and Umbro and our broadcast partner Fox Sports.

Yes, give yourself a pat on the back for starting a Cup competition that could have begun in 2005, but didn’t because the FFA wanted to protect the A-League at all costs. Rules still exist in all states that don’t allow any games to be held at the same time as an A-League match, at the discretion of FFA and the local federation. Has everyone forgotten that?

We talk a lot about the strategic objective to connect the grassroots to the professional tier - well; here it is, alive and kicking.

See above for explanation about buzzword ‘connecting grassroots’ et cetera.

Best of all, we have a countdown of dramatic mid-week matches still to come before we reach the inaugural FFA Cup final on Tuesday 16 December.

I can tell you now, other sports would love to have this sort of opportunity, but it can only happen in a game based primarily on skill, not those based on collisions.

Cue crappily veiled troll of other sports. Was waiting for this. A bit of a letdown to be honest.

In the first week of October, the Grand Final of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues will be another chance to elevate the semi-pro tier to the national stage.

OK, how in fact does it elevate them to the national stage? In actual fact, what is the point of the national playoff anyway? You can’t get promoted into the A-League, there is no prize money on offer, your club might get the opportunity to play one or two games in a national playoff once every 7-8 years or so if you’re lucky. Awesome. Can’t wait for South to play in the NPL playoffs again in 2021. Hopefully they’d have invented those wretched hover boards by then.

This year we have clubs from eight state and territory member federations in the play-offs to be crowned NPL champions.

The NPL is the engine room of our player development pathways and - again - a vital connection between local clubs and the national tier.

So far I have counted three. Connection, local losers and national glamour.

So far that's three glittering occasions - the Westfield W-League Grand Final, Westfield FFA Cup final and PS4 NPL Grand Final - all before Christmas.

That's an entree to our national team the Socceroos to take centre stage and seek to become champions of Asia.

Without doubt, Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou has transformed the team - on and off the pitch - in a matter of months.

The FIFA World Cup showed his strategy of bringing the best young players into the team is quickly delivering results - our team played really attractive football in Brazil.

Already, some of the young guns - like Jason Davidson, Adam Taggart and Josh Brillante - have moved to bigger clubs in Europe.

This is a key part of Ange's plan to rebuild our national team, by fast-tracking our best young players and having more Aussies playing against the world's best, week-in, week-out.

Next month we travel to the Gulf to face the UAE and Qatar and in November we travel to Japan.

Each step advances the cause of the Socceroos and their rebuilding as a national team that truly unites the nation. We saw the journey commence in Brazil, just wait till you see it at home.

What happens on the pitch is the rightfully the main focus of fans and media. What happens behind the scenes is my responsibility.

Let me preface this; personally, I don’t think Ange Postecoglou is a bad or incapable coach. The current bunch of players that we have, and more importantly the ones coming through are incapable of achieving results that mirror or exceed the 2006 World Cup results. Hang on, let’s take a step back and qualify for the next one as a start. I wouldn’t want to be in his position to be honest, not going to be easy.

It's fair to say that the game's governance structures have been a work-in-progress since the reform process of the Crawford report in 2003, and the inauguration of the FFA under the leadership of Frank Lowy in 2004.

Frank Lowy and his board have done so much - starting new national competitions, qualifying for World Cups and joining Asia.

Our chairman's energy and commitment is a source of inspiration to so many people and I want to personally acknowledge his guidance and wisdom.

FFA could not have done this in a decade without the support of so many companies, broadcasters and governments.

At least he admitted (in a long bow kind of way) that the Governance Structures of the Crawford Report were designed in a way to give Lowy absolute control and no threat of a takeover. After that was achieved nothing else was important. Not Standing Committees (see above), not actual accountability…

There are too many to name individually, so you'll see our acknowledgement on the video screens.

I personally thank the leaders of these organisations. They see the opportunity that football presents and we applaud their vision.

Let me return to our major announcement - a National Plan for the Whole of Football.

It's a sign of our confidence in the future and our determination to build on today's foundations - to turn the "burden of opportunity" into an institutional strength and prosperity.

The plan will put the football community at the heart of everything that's important.

If you are a player, a fan, a volunteer, an avid TV watcher - if you are among those who love this game - you are incredibly important to this plan.

And the plan will be critically important to your future enjoyment of the beautiful game.

The scope of the National Plan and some of the key questions for the football community look like this;

In elite player and coach development, I have no doubt we need to overhaul the way we do things. Do we want to see others in Asia setting the standards, or do we want to be the leader?

I don’t think Australia, or any country outside of South America or Europe will be able to develop players to a world standard in house. Why we continue to bang on about this implausibility is anyone’s guess. Our efforts should be centred around a concerted plan in promoting what the Crawford Report wanted to stop (and did) – the player drain of young talented Australian players going to Europe. For the national league this was a bad thing. For the national team, it was great. You have to find a balance and decide which is more important. I think the answer is pretty obvious.

* For our national teams, qualifying for World Cups is fantastic, but do we want to be a contender and challenge the elite nations?

Unless soccer becomes the number one sport in this country and our population grows quickly, only then can we begin to try and be a contender and challenger to the elite nations. Both of those things are out of our control and unlikely to happen.

* Community football is currently a strength in the participation base and our collaboration with our Member Federations. But is it enough to have a model primarily based on clubs and outdoor football when so many people want to play indoor, at schools or just for fun in parks?

So many people do play indoor, in school and just for fun? This statement doesn’t really make sense as the FFA doesn’t receive any income from any of those three activities.

* Facilities are at the heart of our game, but how can we thrive as a sport when the space to play remains a critical shortage?

By lobbying Government for a $1B facilities fund. Without it, it will be left to the clubs to scrounge together the money to get it done, and in that case, it will never be done to the standard needed or in the time-frame needed

* Our national competitions, the Hyundai A-League, Westfield W-League, PS4 NPL and Westfield FFA Cup provide us with a 12-month of the year calendar, but structures, connections and expansion are big questions for our future.What? Connections, again?

* Fan Engagement is the life-blood of everything we do, whether it's in the community, with our major brands or through the many channels where you find football content. But we need to stay ahead of the trend in this digital world if the football family is to remain strong.

Fan engagement = converting people into customers of the A-League above all else. It isn’t a conspiracy, he just said it. Don’t say I didn’t tell you that it’s the FFA’s number one priority above all else. Why have a vibrant 2nd, 3rd or 4th tier that’s well supported when they’ll be considered a threat to our plan to convert every fan of the game into a fan of the A-League. Why not be happy that people are part of the game supporting their club, whether they play or watch in the local league, State league or NPL?

* Commercial revenues are the dividends of a successful sport, but we know we need to do a better job telling corporate Australia about the massive potential if we are to have the resources to deliver on the game's promise.

Every other time I’ve heard Gallop and the FFA speak about this it has been a very rosy picture of moving forwards in leaps and bounds and gaining the confidence of corporate Australia – this is the first sign of alarm in this regard. Interesting development.

* And our governance structures need to be aligned, efficient and ready for the challenge. Every stakeholder needs to know their role and have the trust in others, and that's the starting point of our ambitious thinking.

The Governance Structures were designed with the specific intention of limiting the influence of stakeholders, and now you want them to push your agenda onto those they have influence over? So either toe the company line and you’re a good bloke, or speak up about the massive structural issues within the game and be condemned a trouble maker.

The first phase of the National Plan is to listen to the game's key stakeholders - clubs at all levels and their members, our state and territory Member Federations, sponsors, broadcast partners, governments and stadium managers.

That is rich. This comes only a month or so after the announcement of the National Club Identity Policy by the FFA where they failed to ask a single club about what they thought of the policy prior to its publication. So someone got an idea in their head that we need this policy, went to the trouble of writing it up, presented it to the State Federations and passed it as gospel. Where and who did they listen to in that instance? I can’t see this organisation and its culture changing from being outright belligerent towards anyone with an opposing view to inclusive and listening.

We'll consult individual participants and fans via an online portal that will capture the voice of the people.

I suppose the results of which will not be made public? Definitely not. Because I could easily hire 50,000 bots proposing a variation of the same idea, it being the overwhelming response to the consultation and it still won’t be accepted as what the people want. If it’s not in line with what FFA and Frank Lowy wants, it won’t happen. The whole thing is a sham and a farce and will not be transparent, like everything else they’ve ever done.

The outcome of this national plan will be a road map to guide all the key stakeholders in the game.

To achieve that, we need to align all the game's stakeholders - without unity of purpose, we can't make a difference.

There's no time to waste. We aim to publish the National Plan at the conclusion of the Asian Cup.

And what of it? After it’s published it’ll be another nice piece of paperwork to add to the National Curriculum, Coaching Handbooks and other wastes of time that the FFA has wasted resources and energy on. More actions, less words.

We need to capture the momentum and make the most of our biggest ever summer.

There is no momentum to capture. The game is in a state of flux, and if you can’t see that – we’ve got even bigger issues than what I thought.

We want to see this simple, skilful and safe game played in every backyard, every school ground and every suburban pitch.

Cue second subtle troll.

We'll do that by ensuring our sport is always inclusive, accessible and multicultural.

Cue second hypocritical lie about inclusiveness and multiculturalism. How do these cocksuckers sleep at night?

This summer, the vision will come into focus. We'll see opportunities starting to turn into tangible achievements.

I’m not holding my breath.

We'll see the enormous promise take shape in our competitions week-in, week-out

We will see football looking forward with dreams that can become reality.

We will unite people in the joy of football -- especially this summer.

I just know you can't wait to be a part of it.

We Are Football. Thank you.

OK, that ended with a barrage of clichés that hurt my brain. If it has indeed whipped the plebs into a frenzy of Craig Foster-esque parochialism, I suppose it has done its job – but I, and many others are after a bit more substance and maturity from a body that is responsible for the promotion and regulation of the sport of soccer.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hellas get the win - South Hobart 0 South Melbourne 1

Maybe it was due to my crook eye, all puffed up and sore - though I prefer to think that it was because of sense of anticipation of the day ahead - I woke up several times in the middle of the night, and upon waking up, proceeded to head to Spencer Street Station even earlier than I had planned, ending up waiting for Gains outside the Bourke Street Hungry Jack's next to some crazy motherfucker with a Balkan accent, who was going off at some taxi driver as Port Adelaide Power supporters trickled into town for their team's preliminary final.

By the time I got to Tullamarine, those South fans due to depart on earlier flights had gone, but there were still plenty of us waiting for the 9:45 flight. The guy at the screening area asked me to take my beanie off, but otherwise there were no issues clearing that barrier, other than him mistaking us for North Melbourne fans.

The flight itself was rather dull, as cloud cover blocked out most of what was worth looking at, and besides, I was in the middle seat and having to look past a sleeping woman's head to see outside the window. I amused myself with the in-flight magazine, and suffered an OCD moment when I had to ask Gains for a pen so I could complete the unfinished crossword. I can understand maybe missing out on Isaac ASIMOV, because you don't know science fiction or the three laws of robotics. I can even understand missing out on Margaret POMERANZ, because you don't know how to spell her surname. But missing out on the name of AC/DC's second album, when the answer's only three letters long and already has the 'N' in the middle filled in?

Upon landing, it's straight from the airport to the pub around the corner from the Darcy Street ground, a trip made cheaper by the fact that someone had planned ahead and hired a maxi cab, so give that bloke a medal. The Hellas faithful had already commandeered the Cascade Hotel's beer garden, the banners up along the fence, and the chanting in full swing. There was even a chant for my arrival, and one for the super beef schnitzel on the menu. I also got to catch up with former South Hobart players Shae Hickey and Dan Brown, as well as local soccer journo Callan Paske, who thanked me for doing up the Hellas write up for Walter Pless' site because it helped. If only I'd bothered doing as much research on South Hobart, my readers would have known what to look out for.

Now last week I had a go at Brad Norton and our taking of short corners, to which one of our readers, Neil, left a comment on the general uselessness of corners, short or long. While an interesting study, I think it still more or less supports my position from last week, which is not that I believe that we will score from any given corner ipso facto, but that the act of getting the ball into a dangerous position, with the possibility of either scoring or at least regaining possession from a defensive clearance - as opposed to hitting it into the first defender on the edge of the box after a botched short corner - is a better option.

That the article in question says that short corners should be considered because of the greater chance of maintaining possession, is not applicable in the case of South Melbourne as we have come to know and love them, because we have not used short corners as a way of maintaining possession - rather, we have used them as a means of supposedly opening up an angle and/or drawing out defenders towards the ball and away from their own goal area in preparation from an a semi-delayed cross. The problem here is that we either fuck up the initial short pass from the corner, fuck up the pass back to the corner taker, or if we somehow manage not to cock up those two passes, we cock up the cross that's meant to come from that contrived trickery.

On a related matter, when people ask me do people from the club read this blog, here's the proof of the pudding. While waiting at Hobart's airport to go back to Melbourne, our lovable larrikin president Leo Athanasakis pulled me up to have a bit of chat about one particular event of this game, which happened very early on in the piece. Brad Norton had taken an early corner, sent it deep, and saw the South Hobart defence at sixes and sevens trying to deal with it. The subsequent corner, which followed immediately on from the first one, was played short and sunk without a trace. The president felt inclined to point out to me that when that happened, he looked towards my direction to see my reaction of utter disbelief.

Anyway, before the game, the one thing that I was worried most about - apart from Brayden Mann and Andy Brennan up front for South Hobart - was whether we would take the home team seriously, and not rock up thinking that a Hellas win would be a fait accompli. Thankfully we started off like a house on fire, and duly opened the scoring off a Jamie Reed overhead kick.

Note to all South Melbourne players: that goal came from a corner sent deep, which caused all sorts of mayhem. You know, like the first one we put in. What's that line that Dr 'not registered in California - this show is for entertainment, informational or educational purposes only' Phil likes to say? That the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour? And what was it that old drunk WC Fields is alleged to have said? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again? Then quit - no use being a damn fool about it.

Walter Pless' brilliant photo, capturing the moment after Jamied Reed connected with his
 overhead kick, but before it sailed past South Hobart goalkeeper Kane Pierce.

At that point I thought, here we go, but then for whatever reason things started to go a bit pear shaped. South Hobart starting winning more of the ball, but the biggest problem was that the complacency I thought we'd left back at the hotel had turned up, and we started doing things that we pretty much hadn't done all season. We spent so much time knocking the ball around, which would have been OK had we actually done it properly, and were we not playing a pitch with a wicked slant down which made what would have been normal passes into a variation of trick pool, such was the swerve and spin that was on display.

It didn't help that some of our players had all of a sudden discovered their inner Garrincha and tried to dribble through and around everyone. James Musa in particular seemed to become manifest as a reincarnated Steven Topalovic, which is strange because Topa's not dead yet. And while often enough the skills our players were looking to pull off actually managed to be completed, too often it was just looking for trouble.

Should South Hobart have had a penalty? I don't know. Unlike other crucial moments in the game, I haven't gone and looked back on the video. I'm going to stick with 'no', just for the sake of it. Regardless, we managed to go into the break 1-0 up, and came out looking better in the second half. Sure, there were still mistakes being made, and openings there for South Hobart, but if they're going to blaze their shots wildly into the backyards behind the goals, whose fault is that?

Steve Hatzikostas' knee injury was a concern, though apparently he's been cleared of serious damage - whether he'll play in the next game though is doubtful. Had he not gone off, I would have taken Iqi Jawadi off, who unfortunately had an awful game. As it was, the bloke I would have replaced Iqi with, Tyson Holmes, came on and did an OK job.

The critical moment of the second half was when Lujic, having been released into space and having also beaten the offside trap, went to go around Pierce on the edge of the box, only to be clattered into cynically by the South Hobart keeper. Somehow Pierce escaped with only a yellow card for his efforts. Looking at the video, I'm still mot quite sure how he managed to escape a red. Still, we ground out the result despite putting in ordinary performance.

I'd said in my preview for Walter Pless' blog that our vulnerabilities were in our lack of pace at the back, and in our tendency to be a grinding out team suited to league rather than cup or playoff successes. On the latter front, our unconvincing Dockerty Cup wins at Sunshine George Cross and Dandenong Thunder seemed to suggest that when it comes to one off games, as the team likely to go into them as favourite, opposition teams see us as a likely scalp. Certainly, I think South Hobart lifted and perhaps played at a level they perhaps wouldn't be able to sustain over the course of an entire NPL Victoria season, if they were involved in such a thing. All these things are hypotheticals of course, but that's the nature of knockout football, and something we have to deal with.

I can't say much for most of the team, who battled hard, but put together a very disjointed performance, one of our worst this season. Too often our defenders were exposed by the speed of the opposition forwards and our own poor decision making further up the field which gifted them the ball back. Milos Lujic was relatively starved of chances, though he could have done better with those that he had - credit to Kane Pierce for making some good saves. Jamie Reed held the ball up well and caused a lot of problems for his direct opponents.

However the man of the match was our skipper Michael Eagar, who when everyone else was still trying to find their bearings, sorted out the danger time and time again. Added to that, despite whatever looks on goal South Hobart managed to eke out, they barely if ever (Walter Pless counted one) forced Chris Maynard into making a save - a point I made when speaking briefly with South Hobart coach Ken Morton after the match, who rued his side's inability to take their chances.

How can you have a trip to Hobart without a visit to the Hellenic Club? 
Because apparently they were hosting a wedding reception instead. Now that I think about it, we probably should have crashed that party. Instead a few of us ended up back at the pub, and I ended up drinking with Joe Gorman, Australia's second best soccer writer, discussing Leopold Method's upcoming print edition, the Macedonian issue, Ian Syson's romanticism, my bitterness, and how Joe had never picked up on Kimon Taliadoros' South African accent.

Meanwhile those of us South fans at the pub had more or less resigned ourselves to playing either Western Australia's Bayswater or South Australia's MetroStars away. An expensive trip on short notice to Perth, or a cheaper, easier one to Adelaide - and sure I've got a mate in Perth who's offered to put me up should I ever end up on that side of the country, but it's not worth it for a fly in fly out deal. Making matters worse, we'd arguably been dealt the easier part of the deal - go to the weaker opponent, score three or four goals, don't do anything stupid. Well, the stupidity was limited to James Musa's yellow card for a rash challenge, and we managed to win in regular time, but the lone goal meant that in likelihood we'd have to travel.

What could have been had Pierce been sent off? Or had Lujic managed to find the back of the net instead of the cross bar? Bayswater got a man sent off early, and as that game dragged out into extra time, and then penalties, it turned out to be MetroStars, and what's more we'd play them at home. Sometimes things fall into place, even when you try hard to screw it up.

Next game
South Australia's North Eastern MetroStars (what a terrible name) at Lakeside. Date and time to be confirmed. The Transplant Games are apparently on Sunday from 7am to 3pm - does that allow us to have our game afterwards? Would we dare to host the game on a Saturday night? Is Friday night even a possibility?

Former South players Scott Tunbridge and Adam Van Dommele to return to Lakeside. This world just gets a little crazier.

This Sunday at 3:00pm, at Lakeside.

The view from the other side
Some fascinating reading over on Walter's initial summing up of the game, mostly in the comments section. It's all over the shop to be honest, as the occasional Hellas fan chimed in with positive words, surrounded by those locals talking up South Hobart's performance and talking it up, those inexplicably (to my mind) talking us up, and the internal conflict between supporting an interstate interloper over a local team, and whether such brotherhoods as may exist in the case of one Greek Australian club and another can supersede those state loyalties, whether that shouldn't even matter, because South Hobart represent themselves first and their state second, and is the nature of such things, a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda.

The best local view of the game, at least in terms of matching whatever biases may exist in this blog, is from Richard's Rant Blog. Passionate, provocative, but not without praise when he feels it's due - though a lot of that praise seems to be reserved for the supporters who made the trip down for providing a rambunctious atmosphere. Considering the flak South fans cop on occasion for supporting their team a bit more vigorously than a lot of the smaller clubs here in Melbourne, it's a nice bit of respite from the hate - though I suppose it's easier to appreciate what we do when the chants about inbreds were quickly howled down, and instead replaced with 'Scenic ground, some fans'.

Baby take off your dress/Self-diagnosis spectacular
I would have thought that wearing a Shoot Farken t-shirt would have had me singled out immediately, but it was the overly precious metal detectors at Hobart airport that kept pushing me back, rather than whatever stray coins I thought my have been left in my pocket, and thus off came the belt.  It also turns out I probably suffer from airplane sinus headaches or some such affliction, a stabbing, jabbing pain over one side of temple. Makes flying a less than pleasant experience. At least we the Hobart flight left early, and the SkyBus and train connections synched up beautifully.

Final thought
Shaun Kelly buys Nesquik cereal. Make of that what you will.