Tuesday, 25 November 2014

THANK FUCK FOR THAT!

In a forthcoming post about everything (well almost everything) that had happened during November, I was going to ask the question 'WHERE ARE MY (AND GAINS' AND HIS MATE CHRIS') FUCKING ASIAN CUP TICKETS YOU FUCKING CUNTS?' except not like that, but rather more like 'Where are my Asian Cup tickets?', because there's no need to get worked up over it, even though they said September, then October and then when I rang them last week 'if you don't get them by early December, give us a call'. Right.

I was going to go COMPLETELY OFF TAP whatever that means, taking aim at everyone vaguely responsible - the local Asian Cup organising committee, Australia Post, even that bloody wombat named after a spice which can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes and don't you dare tell me that it can't. Tripod said it could in a song about Adelaide being shit, and who are you to disagree?

Anyway, I even speculated that the following would have happened before I got my tickets delivered.
  • South will have held an AGM.
  • South will have apologised to the Hamiltons and permanently adopted the heritage jersey for away matches, putting it in the constitution and thus making it incontestable.
  • South will been granted entry into the A-League, as South Melbourne playing in blue and/or white, and playing all games out of Melbourne and/or Darcy Street/North Hobart Oval/Launceston/Souvlaki Stadium.
  • Les Murray's farewell tour will have ended.
  • The social club will have been completeda dn ready for use, after officially being opened by Frank Lowy.
But lo and behold, yesterday my dad brought in a waterlogged card saying that I could pick up a package tomorrow at the Duke Street post office in Altona North, and I got very excited. And then after awhile, I kinda thought, 'maybe it's not the tickets. Maybe it's my copy of the inaugural edition of Leopold Method which is being mailed out this week'. Well that killed my buzz a bit, but there was only one thing to do - go to the damn post office and get the package.

And so here we are.
The envelope was severely waterlogged, the fancy case had some damage on the sides, but thank goodness the tickets - which are moderately attractive - managed to arrive in excellent condition. So, Gains, you can relax now just a smidge. And Steve from Broady, you can keep waiting for your cricket world cup tickets to arrive. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Book Review - David Winner's Brilliant Orange

David Winner's Brilliant Orange, an idiosyncratic look at Dutch football and its culture, is one of the more unusual soccer books I have ever read. (I read the updated version, which includes a chapter on the 2010 World Cup; the original book was published in 2000). It's unusual because it is a football book which is not necessarily about football, but about a cultural mindset, and the history which had to occur to create that mindset - the transformation of an inherently conservative country into one that's equated with the most brazen sort of liberalness.

Brilliant Orange, at least as far as I'm concerned, asks two important questions. Firstly, how much can sport represent or be representative of the particular cultural aspects of a nation? Secondly, can the pursuit of intellectualism and the arts be not just reconciled with sport, but also influence each other to the enhancement of both?

Winner tries to examine how Dutch football emerged from its entertaining but backward amateur era, and how it ended up with this small nation becoming the world leader in both attaining results (World Cup failures aside) but also beautiful football and revolutionary tactics. To that end, Winner opens up with an intriguing comparison of Dutch concepts of landscaping, space and architecture, and the development of Total Football. In it, Winner sees the influence of Dutch 17th century art and the necessarily efficient use of space by the Dutch as essential components of that tactical development.

At times it feels like Winner is shoehorning his argument, using retrospective analysis to make his point. This is inevitable, but he overcomes the worst excesses of this phenomenon with the help of several of his interviewees, not all of whom are footballers or coaches, let alone even fans of the game. I must admit I was reluctant to read this book. I haven't been interested in overseas soccer for close to a decade, and I especially wasn't interested in another hagiography of the brilliance of Total Football.

But to my surprise, by about page sixty I was hooked. Yes, there are hagiographic moments, but there is also a great amount of dissent as well. For every Johan Cruyff who is all about artistry being foremost, there is a contemporary of his who makes the point that the game is about winning. Caught in the middle of these debates, which are as much about perception and nostalgia as well as ideology - there are those like Louis Van Gaal, who are in a hopeless position.

While wanting to use the talents and strengths of the Ajax system to his advantage to get results, Van Gaal is forced by the footballing circumstances of the mid 1990s - bigger, faster, stronger and better organised defences - to negate the excesses of that method. He is then accused of turning something beautiful into something mechanistic; turning what in the 1970s was an attitude into a highly disciplined system. The reality that modern football just doesn't allow talented players to slalom their way through 3-4 players at a time is a reality that the old timers don't have to deal with.

The book is idiosyncratic in several ways, with a mostly positive effect (aside from its nonsense chapter numbering system). Apart from one drawing showing the effect of a Dennis Bergkamp pass, there are no diagrams. The reader is therefore compelled to imagine the field of play during those moments. There is also a huge emphasis on Ajax at the expense of almost every other Dutch club. In part this is because Ajax are the most successful Dutch club and the pioneers of Total Football, but Winner is also interested in the city as well. In terms of other clubs, only Heerenveen manage to get anything resembling a thorough profile.

What might the inclusion of Feyenoord and PSV have done to the book? A certain element of working class perspective could have done this book some good, but by doing so, would it also have destroyed the nature of what the book is? The absence of Ajax's chief rivals creates a sort of negative space, though whether Winner intended to use that in that kind of artistic manner I'm not sure.

One last minor quibble. Where is the speed skating? How can you go through an entire book on Dutch sport and culture, and not mention even once what is apparently The Netherlands' true sporting passion? Nevertheless, this is a fine book, one which can be enjoyed by both the tactics nerds and the artistically minded alike - there's even room for the cynic, too.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Donald Sutherland artefact Wednesday - 1954 South Melbourne United reserves

I was going to post this some time ago, but I wanted to get a few things checked out first. MFootball writer Donald Sutherland put this up on Twitter towards the start of the year. It's a photo of the 1954 South Melbourne United reserves team which, if nothing else, shows that youth development at South Melbourne was working a bit better back then. Donald's grandfather (also known as Donald Sutherland) is in this photo (see caption for more details).

1954 South Melbourne United reserves team, from left to right:
Back row: ???, ???, ???, ???, ???
Middle row: Des Hamilton, ???, ???, ???, Graeme James, ???, Peter Hathaway
Front row: ???, ???, ???, Macka(?), Donald Sutherland, ???,  ???.

Former South player Ted Smith was able to fill in some of the player details. Peter Hathaway went on to play for South Melbourne United's senior team, as did Graeme James. According to Smith, both these players also played in the Laidlaw Cup (the local mock world cup tournament of the time) representing Australia. Des Hamilton was of course one of the two founding vice-presidents of South Melbourne Hellas (the other was Floros Dimitriadis of Yarra Park), and reportedly was still coming to South games in the 1990s.

(as an aside, I believe the original South Melbourne Supporters Group may have even named an award after him, for the fans' player of the year. Maybe we should bring that back...)

While the official in the top row, second from left remains nameless, he has been equated by former South Melbourne United junior Graeme Hocking as being the same person as the man in the middle of the back row in the team photo in this entry, and I reckon it's a pretty certain thing. Of course, any help people can offer in filling in the gaps would greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Tom Pollock's NCIP/ethnicity in Oz Soccer radio documentary

Tom Pollock, Swinburne media student and MFootball/Melbourne Knights media man about town, recently interviewed a bunch of the usual suspects about ethnicity in Australian soccer for a uni project. The piece goes for about 20 minutes, and includes contributions by myself, Melbourne Knights vice president Pave Jusup, and historians Ian Syson and Roy Hay.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bubblewrap artefact Wednesday - framed Team of the Century print

This post is tinged with both sadness and also a bit of hope. I have lived in the same house for something like 27 years, and now it's on the market. Quite where my family and I will end up is undecided at this point in time, but wherever that new home happens to be, one thing I will finally be able to do is find somewhere to hang up this framed South Melbourne team of the century poster - since I had it framed back in July, it's just been sitting on the floor of my study, leaning up against my brother's barely used drawing board.



The club still has a small handful of these posters left - probably fewer than ten - and not all of them are in the best condition, but most are still in acceptable condition. I found them during my stint cleaning out the social club several years ago in preparation for its renovation, and since then have always wanted one, even though I did cringe at the $150 cost, not including the framing. I suppose I could have nicked one then and there, but I would have felt sick doing that. Besides, I was compensated for my efforts well enough.

As for the painting itself, I'm not sure who the artist is. I may have had the detail somewhere, but I can't seem to find the information now. I'm pretty certain that it was not done by Jamie Cooper, who did the AFL team of the century paintings, and I probably wouldn't class this painting as being equal to that standard - to me at least, it seems like the players' bodies are too similar, and there doesn't appear to be a sense of warmth, camaraderie or connectedness - the subjects being too scattered and lacking in focus, the antithesis of your typical soccer photo, with the starting lineup looking forward with just a hint of the askance, waiting for battle. I suppose I would have liked to have seen the players in the various jerseys used by the club over the years as well, something akin to the Fitzroy team of the century painting - but you can't always get what you want.

Of course the original painting - rarely seen by South supporters, because of the fact that it was located in the old Lakeside boardroom - is in storage at the moment along with our other treasures. Will it be brought out into the public areas of the revamped social club, or will it retain its place in the new boardroom? I'm not too fussed either way, but I did like the way it dominated the old boardroom space, reminding whoever was in charge that there was a profound legacy that they were being asked to maintain, with the muted, but still inherent menace of the framed photos of the club legends in David Williamson's The Club.

Update
Our friend Pavlaki tweeted this as part of his response to this piece.
The suggestion is that the artist's name may be Dave Thomas, who has also done a few other team of the century paintings, from what I can tell mostly rugby league ones.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Johnny Warren and George Negus time capsule - ethnic question 1996

I wasn't going to do anything for the 10th anniversary of Johnny Warren's death - it had both not occurred to me to do so, and neither am I into beatification - but some of the commentary around Warren's legacy - whether he would be proud of where soccer has gone in Australia, and the treatment of the ethnic clubs - was mildly interesting, in a 'party like it's 2006' kind of way.

If, as I've mentioned previously on Twitter, the Crawford Report is the Australian soccer equivalent of the Christian bible that no-one's read but everyone quotes, then Warren is Australian soccer's Jesus, a figurehead whose existence could be co-opted into whatever cause you needed him to, a situation made easier by the fact that now that he's gone, we - and I mean all Australian soccer fans - can turn him into pretty much anything we want, and which suits our particular agendas. WWJWD if you like.

One particular aspect of the debate, as noted earlier, was about the treatment of the ethnic club constituencies in the game, and in particular comments made back in 1996. While digital newspaper archives have improved (especially for pre-1950s stuff), the fact of the matter is that unless one has access to university databases, archival newspaper material in a digital format from the 1990s is very hard to get a hold of. 


To that end, here is a snapshot of the 'ethnic' debate, as it was at the time, no more, no less.


The old curse rears its ugly head, Warren, Johnny. Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, N.S.W] 22 Aug 1996: 48.

Television commentator, writer and former Socceroo captain JOHNNY WARREN has his final say on soccer's LOST CHANCE .

Soccer's shameful "ethnic logo" controversy may end late today with a simple compromise - the tweaking of a symbol here, a change of colour there.

What the weeks of bad blood and distraction will prove in the end is one, big, blank nothing.

If Soccer Australia bosses David Hill, George Negus and company were hoping to lead the revolution, if they were hoping to storm the barricades of the recalcitrant old guard, then they failed.

They succeeded only in changing some logos. The club boards are still the same, the membership is still the same, the staff is still the same, and the players are still the same.

And so they should be, for they are the heart and soul of soccer in this country.

The muscle-flexing might have given Soccer Australia a real adrenalin rush, but this little exercise has fooled no-one.

Who cares about logos? On my list of 1,000 things soccer can do to improve itself, changing the logos of ethnic clubs does not figure.

My father, a passionate man about soccer, told me two wise things about the sport in Australia. One was that the code would not reach its potential in this country because "they always fight amongst themselves".

The other was that soccer is the only Australian sport where the officials are better known than the players. Both applied in his day and they apply now.

The fact is that this latest fight is just one of a series over the years that has stunted the growth of the sport. The controversy over the colours in a club logo should have been dealt with behind closed doors at the administration level.

But no. Soccer Australia dragged it out only weeks before the start of the competition and all it served to do was distract everyone from the game itself. Soccer has shot itself in the foot again.

The ethnic purging attempted by Soccer Australia was nonsense, as I said in the column that I wrote in the Herald on Tuesday. No other sport would countenance such a move on one of their members.

I can speak with authority on this issue because of my longterm involvement in the sport. Unlike SA commissioner George Negus, I have lived all my life in soccer and have experienced first-hand the passion and commitment of the people who are now being threatened with expulsion.

I played with St George, a club of Hungarian origin. I was there when members passed the hats around the stands to raise money to build the club which in 1974 provided eight players for Australia's only successful World Cup campaign. These are people who should be treated with respect not disdain.

The competition starts in a few weeks. Perhaps some teams will have new logos. Perhaps it will be a competition missing a few clubs.

The sad part about it all is that Hill and Negus have made the headlines but the fans have no idea what the starting line-ups are.

My father was right.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Soccer must change to grow, Negus, George. Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, N.S.W] 21 Aug 1996: 44.

Soccer's "ethnic" controversy reached new heights yesterday when Johnny Warren, writing in the Herald, took on the sport's hierarchy. Soccer Australia commissioner GEORGE NEGUS replies to Warren and reveals he would have handled the dispute differently.

I've agreed to write this article in response to yesterday's spiteful and personally jaundiced piece by John Warren, but, to better understand my motivation, let me put this in context.

This mess should never have happened. I have stated this view publicly and privately. There was always another way to deal with it, but irrational antagonisms have rendered the current hiatus inevitable. But, that's spilt milk.

On Monday, I was approached by the Herald and asked to respond to whatever was in John's piece, which, the paper indicated, was critical of Soccer Australia.

Fair enough. But what I didn't expect was that John's comments would degenerate into mean-spirited, personal slurs and insinuations. John has bought into the debate in a way that does him no credit, the rest of us a lot of harm and helps absolutely no-one! That's why I am responding.

To attribute racist and discriminatory attitudes to people involved - including myself - is a low, black act and probably actionable. So is to suggest that anyone - including myself - is involved in soccer at this point in its turbulent history to take the credit for any advances the game makes.

Come on, John. You're better than that. I don't think I'll sue, but, I can tell you, I am angry enough to be tempted!

Anyone who interprets as racist and discriminatory attempts by Soccer Australia, David Hill or anyone else to "Australian-ise" - as distinct from "de-ethnicising" - the world game by spreading its influence and attraction as far afield as possible in

this country, has either missed the point entirely or has his own curious agenda.

The sad thing is that much of what John had to say was intelligent and perceptive, even helpful. His analysis of Australian soccer's past is accurate. But, his view of the present is horribly flawed and unfortunately, as I say, personally jaundiced. Worse, any vision he has for the future of the game in this country appears to be non-existent.

As a non-elected Commissioner on the SA Board, I am somewhat at odds with Soccer Australia about the strategy that has been adopted on this so-called "logo issue", but, that's also academic at this point.

Instead, let me quote none other than the incomparable Mark Bosnich from last weekend's press.

Mark had this to say on the whole issue: "I feel sorry for Australian fans. There are so many people who are denied the game. I feel a little awkward that those fans can't come and watch a team they can identify with. It's up to the people involved in the game - of all ethnic backgrounds - for the sake of Australian soccer, for the sake of themselves, to make soccer into an Australian game."

What more needs to be said? Mark has said it all - as a young man of proud Sydney Croatian origins.

The point that John makes - and, it appears, simultaneously misses - is that soccer is the greatest, living, breathing example of multiculturalism this country has.

But, multiculturalism, John, is a two-way process. In this case, it involves non-ethnic Australians benefiting from soccer's old ethnic roots and the original ethnically based clubs benefiting from and becoming part of non-ethnically based Australia. It's all about two-way multiculturalism, John, not racism and discrimination.

Ultimately, this issue has nothing to do with logos, national symbols or even merchandising. It has nothing to do with whether John Warren, David Hill or Tony Labbozzetta - or even yours truly - is right or wrong.

It's about attitudes and vision. It's about removing forever counterproductive rivalries and power bases. It's about acknowledging the ethnic community's indisputable contribution to Australian soccer, without alienating the growing non-ethnic throng of soccer players and supporters. It's about the future, not the past.

That's what I meant, John, by "getting soccer out of the ethnic ghetto" and into the mainstream of Australian sport and society, where all matters ethnic - including soccer - are better enjoyed and appreciated.

That's contemporary Australian egalitarianism, a far cry from the dark image you paint of discrimination. It's also the "Australian identity" that John refers to but chooses to misread in this context.

I became involved with Soccer Australia to employ my profile, experience and contacts for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of kids - more than in all the other codes combined - running around the soccer fields of this nation every weekend - regardless of where their mothers, fathers, grandmothers or grandfathers were born!!

Like so many others, I want my soccer-mad nine year-old, his six year-old brother and their mates - many of them of ethnic descent, even though they wouldn't even know - to be proud of the game they love, not to have to apologise for its dubious history of inaccessibility to so many young and older Australians, particularly at the club level.

Call me an idealist, John. But, don't dare call me a racist. What is racist, however, is to deny non-ethnic Australians - who make up the majority of soccer's players and supporters - access, for whatever reason, to the game they play, love and support.

Speaking as a besotted "Europhile," the ethnic community might have introduced many Australians to the world's best and most popular game, and they should be thanked and acknowledged for that - but, they don't own it!!

And my Italian, Croatian, Maltese, British and other friends of ethnic backgrounds agree.

They also want soccer's enormous potential in this country - which has been talked of, but, never really acted upon since before John Warren's illustrious time as Socceroo captain - to be realised.

 This will not be achieved while we keep re-igniting old embers, John. But, that's what you've done.

Tell the club what you think

The club has an online survey running at the moment, asking about the general supporter experience. Please do take the time to answer the questions, to help the club better understand what kind of person (at least those that have internet access) follows the club in 2014, and what kinds of things they're interested in.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

More headgear artefact Wednesday - Lakers Headband

Back in July of this year, I put up a post celebrating the Hellas headband, a wonderful piece of South Melbourne Hellas merchandise history. Now in the comments section of that piece, someone mentioned that there was also a Lakers headband, and thanks to collector and friend of the blog Nick Vertsonis, we have an image of the Lakers headband for all to see, so thanks Nick for continuing to share the bounties of your collection with the wider South Melbourne Hellas supporter base.

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 following a now infamous guest post, 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 fighting with western suburbs street cred coming out of their ears Problem Child, the loose cannon of the Ethnic Soccer Club Party 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 Realpolitik, 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 offence 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?

Women
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.