Sunday, 14 February 2016

Doooooooooooomed! Bentleigh Greens 3 South Melbourne 0

With Leigh Minopoulos being kept in mothballs and moonboots in the lead up to season proper, and Milos Lujic reputedly in Kokomo on his honeymoon, we were short-handed up front for our defence of the Community Shield, sticking Andy Kecojevic and Marcus Schroen up front. The question then was not if we would lose the Community Shield, but rather by how many goals. To be fair, in the first half we at least managed to match Bentleigh, if not in clear cut chances (their one, hit straight into the oncoming Roganovic, to our none), then at least in hustle and bustle.

That hustle and bustle however lead to a rather more torrid affair than perhaps one would have expected for even a more formal pre-season hit out, so much so that there were several flare ups during the course of this match. The passion on display from us was fine, but the apparent willingness to get sucked in to the opposition's antics always threatened to become costly, and thus Nick Epifano managed to get himself sent off with a straight red for retaliating. The eye witness accounts differ between Epifano kicking or stomping on his Bentleigh opponent.

Either way, it was a damn foolish thing to do, and Epifano will probably miss the opening two or three games of the season. Other than that there were moments where our interplay was rather pleasing to the eye, even if the end product was never going to amount to anything. As the game slipped away from us and Bentleigh took their foot off the pedal somewhat, our finishing only became more comical. Unusually in the mood to make bold statements, it seems to me that if we don't end up getting a strike partner for Lujic, we'll probably miss the finals. If we do, and he's half decent, then we'll win the league.

Next week
Round 1 at home vs Heidelberg. You may as well make an effort to come to this, because afterwards we have our customary slog of away games to start the season.

That's OK, I wasn't looking for a long term relationship anyway
Jason Hicks, once lauded as 'an experienced player', 'a versatile option', and a player who we were excited to have 'join us' has left us to join Melbourne Knights. Apparently we are openly crying into our cornflakes about this, which is news to me. Hicks' departure does open up a visa slot however, which according to scuttlebutt in the crowd yesterday will be used on an overseas striker.

Making things up again
Now I'm sure that Chris Marshall is a lovely bloke who loves puppies and hates mean things, but why is the club calling him a 'senior football adviser'? Is assistant coach too old fashioned?

Optional extras
Every NPL game will have a fourth official with one of those electronic boards informing the paying public of substitutions and the number of minutes of injury time to be played. Those of us not paying to enter venues should probably look away at those moments.

AGM? What's that?
Still no announcement of the AGM date as of this moment, though I have been lead to believe an announcement is 'imminent'.

Candy/Iron anniversary approaching
Someone looking far further into the future than your correspondent has noticed that the sixth anniversary of not having a social club will actually land on a South home game. According the internet the traditional gift for the sixth anniversary is either candy or iron.

Who was Robert Stewart?
In the match programme for our 1981 away fixture against Blacktown City, there is mention made of a young striker from Hearts of Midlothian named Robert Stewart. Now I've never come across this name before, so I assume that Stewart played no games for South Melbourne. But how did he get to South and where did he end up? Is he the same player as Rob Stewart, who is listed as playing for Frankston City in the 1981 Victorian state league season? Seeing as how the Victorian season started a week after that round six match, it's not an implausible theory.

The system works
Yes, your correspondent has once again been granted FFV media accreditation for 2016. This is despite my steadfast refusal to step into a press box, conduct interviews or write proper match reports. Best of all, I have been listed as a freelancer rather than being under the auspices of the club. Not that it'll make much difference to what I write, of course, but it's nice to have on the pass anyway.

New season's resolution
In order to try and actually pay more attention at our games this year, I will no longer be tweeting during South matches. Thus, those of you who wait with baited breath for my withering observations of modern life during Hellas match days will have to either wait until I get home or actually come and hear my comedic slivers of gold in person. Given phenomena such as Bentleigh charging $12 for a souv, I expect this vow to last all of abut five minutes.

Just on that...
$12. For a souv. A not even very good souv, hugely overrated in part because people from Melbourne's south-east generally have no clue what they're talking about on these matters, and in part because of this particular souv's appearance at the Food Federation Cup a couple of seasons ago. Now I know I'm very tight with money (I prefer the term frugal), but $12! And burgers $10! Absolutely outrageous! What's the thinking behind this? Are their profit margins in the canteen that bad? I'm not usually one to make too much comment about food at grounds, nor am I really the right person to complain about food prices at grounds since I get in for free most weeks, but what about those people that don't? Do we have to follow the FFA Whole of Football Plan manifesto of squeezing every penny from people in the game?

Match programmes and such
Received a couple of folders worth of match programmes, finals series booklets and the first ten issues of Studs Up. I have started scanning and uploading some of these things, but will be delayed a little by the fact that I've only now just figured out to apply OCR (text recognition) to the documents, which will allow users to perform searches within documents but also hopefully for search engines to be able to dig through them.

What that means alas is that I will gradually have to re-upload most of the stuff I've put up already, which is irritating but probably necessary. Not that the text recognition effect always works or works well, but usually it seems to be OK and something is better than nothing in these cases, especially with the very large and data dense yearbooks.

Final thought
No, I have not become a Berger, I just happened to figure out the answer to their quiz question, OK?

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The 3/4 serious stuff starts this week

So, South played two games in Sydney over the weekend. We drew 0-0 with Olympic on Friday, and because there was some sort of cup on the line, we had a penalty shoot-out which we lost. Matthew Foschini and Philtzgerald Mbaka missed and/or had their shots saved. This afternoon, we played on a synthetic pitch against Sutherland Sharks, and lost 2-0. No Milos Lujic on this trip, which may or may not back up the claims of those who think that we're going to be a one trick monkey when it comes to scoring goals this season. I think Friday night's Community Shield game against Bentleigh will be more indicative of the season to come.

Player movement news
Jake Barker-Daish is officially no longer a South player. Though he was not at South at all during pre-season, no had bothered to make note of his exact status. He's ended up signing for Richmond it seems.

AGM news but not really, we'll see I guess
More historical artefact goodness than you can a poke stick at
Super thanks to The Agitator, with whose help we've added heaps more match programmes spanning the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, almost completing several 1990s seasons. The seasons from 1977 onwards in which we have no match programmes at all uploaded on the blog are:
  • 1977
  • 1978
  • 1982
  • 1987
  • 1989/90
  • 2009
  • 2012
  • 2013
Which I am sure we will rectify as time goes on, especially once I start meeting up with people during the season proper.

Thanks to a combination of The Agitator's efforts, as well as a visit by Chris Egan, we've been able to upload every match programme where Perth Glory hosted South Melbourne, Though South had a rotten record in Perth, these programmes are worth a look for their density, professional presentation and overall glossiness, especially in the latter years. There's also some new stuff under the 'library' tab, including:

  • Two Melbourne Knights programmes from their 1995 Japan tour.
  • 1977 and 1978 VSF yearbooks,
  • A companion to The Score fanzine from the Iran game.
  • An ASF newsletter from May 1995.
  • 1994/95 NSL preview booklet put out by the ASF.
  • Eastern Lions 40th anniversary booklet (via Mark Boric)
In time, I hope to add the Studs Up collection we're hosting here - which is currently limited to what's available from OzFootball's sources - as well add match programmes from Australian national team matches. I also still have four VSF yearbooks to scan and upload.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Show me the money! artefact Wednesday - Hellenic Cup cheque

In this week's artefact segment we head back to the year 2007. Truly, it was a great time to be alive. South weren't yet in the A-League (any minute now some must have thought), but we had a state championship to defend, and a social club in which to socialise while eating bain marie dim sims.

There was also no South of the Border to upset people and take up my precious time; instead I was spending too much time posting on forums. And while we're still stuck in this interminable death spiral of irrelevance, at least back then the pre-seasons were more interesting if for no other reason than due to the existence of the Hellenic Cup.

Ah, the Hellenic Cup. Instead of spending your weekends travelling to public transport black holes to see a bunch of people try out for South that you'd probably never see again, with no food on hand and nothing even remotely at stake in a game played over three thirty minute periods, you could do the following.

You could go to a ground that had food, multiple teams in multiple categories playing in 70 minute matches on rock hard grounds in a compressed fixture, and for which pleasure you were asked to pay an exorbitant entry fee. It was expensive, it was often shoddily organised, but compared to this aimless schedule based almost exclusively out of venues that Chris Taylor seems to have the keys for, it was brilliant. South playing too far away from home in a midweek fixture? No worries, you could get out to the other side of the draw and get some spying going on. Oh, and there was prize money! Good prize money at that, too, rivalling what you'd get for winning the VPL championship proper.

In the 2007 Hellenic Cup final itself, played out of Northcote, we beat Oakleigh in a penalty shoot-out, celebrated with a low key pitch invasion, and collected 10,000 dollarydoos for our efforts. I don't know whether or not a giant novelty cheque is as legitimate as a normal one, but this item was in the boardroom when I took the photo now many years ago - so many years, in fact, that the various Christian denominations will probably agree on a date for Easter before we actually build a social club.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Late January 2016 news and/or update

I couldn't make it up to Bendigo for the various games against Bendigo City last night. Seems like the men won 5-1 (Epifano x3, Schroen x2), and the women won 6-1.

Squad news
Forward triallist Velibor Mitrovic has gone to Kingston City in NPL2, having played there in the past.

Takis Mantarakis' funeral
Is on tomorrow (or Monday 1st February if you get to this late).

What exactly is South's relationship with Genova International School of Soccer and Morris Pagniello?
So it's a few months now since we announced our 'we're in a relationship or is that partnership or is that friends with benefits' deal with Real Madrid. Despite that passage of time, and even a tour to Spain by some of our junior teams, I don't recall ever being fully informed about what this relationship entails.

This is the case even as we've had a number of youth players achieve contracts in Spain over the past few months, including Spiros Stamoulis, Andrew Mesourouni, Josh Meaker and even under 20s coach Sasa Kolman. It seems as if most if not all of these have included the involvement of Morris Pagniello and his group Genova International School of Soccer, or 'GISS' for short. So what's our relationship with GISS?

It's a question that's sure to come up at the next AGM - if it actually ever happens (late February 2016, maybe) - but more to the point, why haven't the SMFC media team made as big a deal of it as they have with other, far more ephemeral news items (cough, A-League ambitions, cough)?  I am interested in particular in learning what the financial arrangement is between South and GISS, as well as whether or not it fits in with the idea of the NPL trying to get rid of academies.

We're seemingly not alone in working with GISS - GISS is also running clinics at Casey Comets and Bendigo City, the latter of whom I'm told have a coach there with connections to GISS, as well as imterstate and has also transferred young players from a range of local clubs to overseas sides. But it's our involvement with GISS that I'm most concerned with. I'm sure it'll be an interesting story.

More match programmes!
Huge thanks to The Agitator who has sent us pdf files of match programmes from the 1992/93 season, as well as some later stuff from towards the end of the NSL era. Check out what we've uploaded so far.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Thank goodness for Google Translate

Port 3 South 3
Out at Port Melbourne last Friday, those present saw a match of two halves, which I prefer to a game of three thirds. Being 3-0 down and then bringing it back to 3-3 says something and nothing at the same time. I have not seen enough of the team during this pre-season to make too many sweeping judgements, Michael Eagar looks good, Milos Lujic is doing his usual thing, and the rest of the usual first teamers have looked neither better nor worse - though Norton's cross for one of our goals suggests that his good form from last season will be taken into this season. I'm not sold though on this centre back they have trialling at the moment - Milos Tosic, I think his name is, probably from South Australia - he's a massive unit, which will be good for defending at set pieces, but his size comes with a severe lack of pace.

The search for strike partner or Milos Lujic continues. To that end we have apparently signed Congolese - that's Republic of Congo for all you geographers out there - striker or midfielder Philtzgerald Mbaka. Mbaka, a 23 year old left sided player, most recently played at Getafe B, the lower tier outfit of Getafe. The news article rightly mentions that this is a risky move for Mbaka - should he perform poorly, he will lose visibility for selection to the Republic of Congo's national team - and for all you promotion-relegation enthusiasts, the article also mentions the lack of promotion-relegation to and from the A-League, not just for its own sake, but in the way it hinders players at lower levels here. Mbaka didn't do anything special in his time against Port (nor against Comets), but then again neither did pretty much anyone else. All our goals conceded seemed to come from defensive mistakes.

For their part, Port will be competitive once again in 2016, and will be pissed off if they don't make the finals, but it's hard to see them pushing all the way unless they get a good run in terms of injuries and the like. This game was watched from the now normally closed off outer side of SS Anderson Reserve - here's hoping that continues in the 2016 season proper - in part perhaps because they've dug a large trench of sorts where the hill adjacent to the Laurie Schwab press box stands. Whether that's where the planned electronic scoreboard will be installed, I don't know, but I reckon that trench would be too deep for that, and on the wrong side of the ground for most spectators. It looks like local Greek-Australian soccer stalwart Jim Massis is also back in charge of the canteen there.

Some of you may have seen the video of triallist Velibor Mitrovic's excellent free kick against Port doing the rounds of the internet, but those of you who are a little too obsessed with the work of Football Chaos may also be familiar with this player from this stunner during Mitrovic's time with Kingston City.



Sure the defence gives him too much room, but anyone that can crack a shot like that should be worth a look, no?

In less good news, word on the street seems to be that young midfielder Cody Martindale, who missed the majority of the 2015 season after getting injured away against Heidelberg, has re-injured the same leg and may miss the entire season once more. Leigh Minopoulos was a non-starter for ??? but will hopefully be right for the start of the season.

Youngster Spiros Stamoulis seems to have been signed by Spanish side Alaves on a two year deal.
It's possibly only an academy thing, but good luck to him anyway.

South 1 Comets 1
A photograph of people of taking a photograph. Yes, yes, it's all very meta. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.
In front of a crowd of 80 people (not counting those people running around the track) some sub par finishing kept the goals in this game to a more modest level than they perhaps should have been. Comets had been beaten 5-0 by Heidelberg last Friday, although according to some people that had been a weaker team than was on evidence here. Both sides switched players around and in and out as tends to happen at this time of year. Missing for us were Leigh Minopoulos (moon boot), Matthew Foschini (honeymoon), and Tim Mala (partying).

On the plus side, Matthew Theodore looks a like a bundle of energy during this pre-season. Injuries and work commitments have hampered Theodore in recent times, but there's obviously still a lot of love out there for player with his work ethic, style and ability to quickly thread a through ball to Milos Lujic. Still, you wonder if he will be able to overcome the obstacles of combining a hectic career as a corporate lawyer, being the wife of a bitter and broken entrepreneurial consultant and the mother of two teenage girls growing up in the cynical and angst ridden 1990s - and still find the time to play semi-professional soccer.

A pennant from Adelaide Comets
marking the occasion of their visit to
Melbourne. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.
Having deleted Twitter off my phone - ostensibly because it was interfering with my work and/or not allowing me to be 'in the moment' at games - I was surprised to find out later that I had received two notifications from gamblers looking for score updates from this game (which was also played in three thirty minute thirds). Of all the things to gamble on, why this fixture? OK, I get that some might get a laugh out of it because of the sheer obscurity of the affair, but beyond that?

Oh well, I suppose people need to entertain themselves with something while we wait for resolution to the lease and social club issues.

Bendigo calling
Seems like we're booked in to play a sort of match against NPL2 franchise Bendigo City on Saturday night up in Bendigo. Kickoff would be at 7pm at Epsom Huntly Reserve, which is on the outskirts of Bendigo. I don't think I'll be able to go to this one, which is a shame, but that's what happens when you play these games in the middle of nowhere. Check the South website for more details in case they bother to put any up.

Takis Mantarakis passes away
Multiple championship winner, captain, South team of the century team member and all round club icon Takis Mantarakis passed away at the age of 81 last Saturday. The obituary on smfc.com.au is well written, and has some excellent photos to boot. Looking at the reaction on Facebook to Mantarakis' death, what comes through is not so much his undoubtedly massive contribution to South over many years, but especially his human decency. Those understand Greek may also choose to listen to this piece from SBS Greeks' 'Athletes who we loved' series.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

All these things are baseless assertions (the cosmic ballet goes on)

So, another 'South has ambition' article has come out, and once again people have latched on to it with the usual blend of outrage and attention seeking. Mission accomplished, SMFC Social Media Team!
Now me, I'm at the stage where I see no point in getting excited one way or another about these kinds of articles unless there is something worth getting excited about. Having advanced to a higher plane of Australian soccer bitterness - somewhere above crass 'OMG Hellas is da best' Facebook banter, but below the level which would see me ignore all of this - right now I'm more interested in the 'South has ambition article' genre itself; how it came to be, why we get excited (mostly, but not always, in part because of over-exposure) and what we should perhaps focus on instead.

Over the past ten years or so, South Melbourne has attempted to court various writers and commentators in both the Greek press and the mainstream media. Of course we have always done this, as it is what any even half competent sporting organisation would do; but the difference now is that since the end of the NSL, South Melbourne is no longer as newsworthy as it once was, even as the coverage of soccer in Australia in the mainstream has generally improved (with the necessary caveat that while it has improved for some, it has deteriorated for many, and that the media landscape we live in now is of course not the same as that which existed 15 or 30 or 45 years ago).

So, if your bread and butter operation is no longer worth anyone's time or effort - in this case, winning soccer matches - how do you make yourself newsworthy? Well, you do it by playing what you consider is the best hand at your disposal - in this case threatening to join the national top-flight every few months, and getting someone sympathetic to that cause to do a write up on it. Now South has some natural advantages in this area, but also some disadvantages. The disadvantages are that, unlike some other clubs, it is harder for South to use its legacy of creating champion soccer players as opposed to buying them, because we don't have a development legacy of any note. More of a problem though is that as the most significant ethnic club in Australian soccer - or at least in the NSL - we have become the poster boys for everything the NSL stood for; and with the NSL not being the most attractive thing to be attached to, we struggle to avoid being blamed for everything that was wrong with soccer in the past, even if we were only responsible for approximately half of it.

The advantages of being South Melbourne are not without merit though. We can point to crowds that didn't taper off towards the end of the NSL, regardless of whatever fair and unfair rubbery figures allegations people like to make. We had and still tend to have a better reputation among the more open minded folks in the New Dawn, even those who are against bringing ethnic or former NSL teams into the top tier, and we've been putting in the hard yards on the public relations front for a lot longer and more effectively than most of our contemporaries. That doesn't necessarily mean that our effeorts have been very effective, but someone comparing the image we have projected of ourselves is probably going to be more sympathetic to the way we seem to want to do things than perhaps may be the case for other clubs. Those things being the case, we have the opportunity to exploit those advantageous circumstances; circumstances not necessarily open to other clubs in our situation.

Another aspect to the problem of how to make ourselves newsworthy is the issue of how to deal with two very different groups of media, in this case the mainstream English language media along with the local local Greek media. Over the past decade, the relationship with the local Greek press has largely been a bust, and not just because of the local Greek media's adherence to the old system of quid pro quo; rather, the problem is that the local Greek media industry is serving a demographic that is steadily losing numbers, as an increasing number of their readership ends up in the paper (in the death notices) rather than reading the paper.

More importantly, while the Greek-Australian demographic has been and will be an important part of who we are, in a sense most of those people have made up their minds about us. They either come to our games (actual supporters), refuse to come to our games (sell-outs and apostates), or are waiting for the 'right opportunity' to come to our games (the occasion needs to warrant the effort - so a grand final, or more realistically FFA Cup match). Still, as stagnant a market as it may outwardly appear to be, it is important to us from a historical point of view, and still a worthwhile source of sponsorships and connections - and there are elements of that demographic which themselves are transforming what it means to be a Greek in Melbourne.

On the other side of the equation, you have the attempts to work with and use the services of writers within the English language press. This is crucial for all sorts of reasons. Most of our supporters, regardless of their background, speak and read English as a first language, and associate with others who do the same. Getting our name and goals out there in the English language press is therefore not just a way of making a bit of noise to be noticed, but an acknowledgement of our present reality. Of course, anyone can look back at the match programmes and other attempts at engaging the mainstream and ask 'if it didn't work then, why should it work now?' - a fair point in an era where we are even more on the margins of Australian culture than we used to be. But for the time being, neither as a club nor as a spectator do you want articles and information about South Melbourne coming only from South Melbourne's media team; as a pleb South Melbourne supporter (unless you're one of those getting shouted coffees by board members), this is because you don't necessarily want the club being the sole source of information about the club; and as for the club itself, because they need to have evidence beyond the boundary of their own content creation machine to show to potential sponsors and other third parties that there is a broader interest in the club, even if it happens to include hostile interest.

So another important aspect of these articles is that while they clearly include our involvement, they are not written by us, but rather presented via the middleman of the journalist. South can, and has, written and published much of its own guff on the same issues, but that will only get the issue going so far in terms of being taken seriously. Going via a journo or esteemed media personality, while risky, is a necessary extra step towards convincing non-South Melbourne people that what you have to say is important. Like every other club at this level, South just doesn't have the cultural or commercial leverage to attract people consistently to its content - and that includes its matches, media and ideas - without outside help. So rather than work belligerently against the system, why not attempt to work if not with it, then at least within the parameters of the contemporary Australian soccer culture in a way that they can understand?

Of course once an article like this gets published, the club loses control of the message somewhat, as must happen in all cases on platforms where they can't simply press 'delete'. But it is this discussion which the club is looking for, despite the club's censorious tendencies on its own social media spaces. And these articles scarcely fail to bring in the contest of ideas that the club is looking for. Considering that for the vast majority of the past decade or so, we have been (along with every other ex-NSL club) considered worse than persona non grata when it comes to the topic of A-League expansion, any public discussion which includes something other than the total denial of our acceptability is seen by the club as something positive to latch onto.

This approach manages to upset people in a very predictable manner. Part of that I feel is because there is a perception from some South fans that the achievement of the articles being published is the goal in itself - and what else could it be, since by themselves these articles appear to achieve no tangible outcomes? What needs to be understood here is that the goal is to get people talking about South Melbourne in the comments section of a website or on social media. More comment equals more traffic; more attention means a better chance of attracting better and more diverse sponsorship, instead of having to dip back into the same old social connections, which rely more on the notions of goodwill, guilt and favours than on the idea that the club is worth sponsoring because the sponsor will be able to get a tangible increase in business from it. It's part of an overall media plan (yes, it does exist; this blog was even in that media strategy at least once a few years back, but I don't think that ever mattered in any material sense) which the club uses as part of its overall corporate strategy (vomits a little inside). There is also the hope that, whether after reading that article or by attrition over time, people previously hostile to South Melbourne will soften or change their stance. By itself that change in attitude may not make a great deal of difference, but it is part of a plan to reposition the club as something other than the bogeyman of Australian soccer.

Whatever the good intentions and long term planning involved in getting these articles out there though, it doesn't always turn out for the best. I've already noted the issue of over-exposure to these articles, but there are other bugbears that people have with them as well. First, these articles upset people from within the club, who would rather see more immediate and day to day concerns addressed as a matter of importance, like the lack of resolution to the lease and social club issue. Second, it upsets people from our club who see any attempt to curry favour with the mainstream as a betrayal of the club's values, however they may interpret those. Third, others become upset at the appearance of the club seemingly whoring itself out in desperation for any sort of mainstream attention.

And then there are those from outside the club. Knights fans have latched onto the not entirely implausible idea that South Melbourne is looking after South Melbourne first, and not the greater good - which then brings in the proponents of promotion/relegation and the second division, of which Knights fans are the loudest supporters. Some A-League fans have brought up the ethnic angle, while others have been more considerate and at least tried to consider the practicalities of South's A-League ambitions including, but not limited to, the club's ethnic background. And then you have the Hellas apostates, who are the most rabid when it comes to rubbishing the club, in their own desperation to prove their allegiance to the New Dawn.

My favourite trope though in this mess is an idea - one I've long considered in private, but which has only in recent times been expressed in public by others - that South Melbourne are preparing a sort of Trojan Horse attempt to get into the A-League. That idea by itself manages to upset people in two different ways (and has some form in more recent times in a different situation), and is inescapable when you're Greek and seen to be pulling a shifty. The first demographic that uses the Trojan Horse trope are those who think that if they let 'pleasant enough' South Melbourne into the A-League, that it will then only be a matter of time before all the really bad clubs come in as well - I leave it up to you to decide, dear reader, as to who they might mean. The second manner of making people upset in this area, is the idea - or rather perhaps the fear, so feel free to take your pick - that South will get into the top-flight, and rather than helping to break down barriers between old soccer and new football, that South will shut the door behind them, and bolt the door down for good measure. 3200 years on, and Odysseus still has a lot to answer for.

The thing here is that they pretty much all have valid points. The social club issue is important. It does often seem like the club is desperate for attention (I am particularly annoyed by this), Yes, it looks like the club is looking out for numero uno. Yes, this approach doesn't really help the idea of a second division or promotion and relegation. The sell-out Greeks are still concerned that their apostasy will come into sharper focus. There are also a billion good reasons why a club like South should not be let anywhere near the A-League, and just as many as to why they should, but all those things get lost in amid the competing agendas.

And for some of those not entirely in favour of this tactic - and I tend to count myself among those - there is the worry that apart from the perception of a lack of any tangible benefits or even progress for our ambitions, that rather than the discussion creating goodwill and positive momentum in the broader soccer community, that the tendency for these kinds of articles to attract the very worst of Australian soccer humanity en masse to these discussions actually does our cause a disservice. That goes for those folk on both sides of the 'South in the A-League' equation. For those opposed, their rabid hostility could be interpreted by casual onlookers as evidence of a market not just unready but unwilling to accept a club like ours. On the other hand, some of our supporters have little sense of shame, decorum or the ability to be anything other the worst kind of Hellas stereotype; the kind that thinks we not only deserve an A-League spot, but are owed one.

If we can change just one person's mind to be for us, is all
that effort worth it? Don't ask me, I'm just a girl.
Thus the discussions always end up at the level of the lowest common denominator, which is a feature of Internet discussions to be sure, but not necessarily something you want to be associated with. Still, before you can even envisage the return of South or any old club to a stage where they can be considered relevant on a consistent basis (as opposed to something you'd see on the Food Network), you have to get people to accept the idea as not only plausible, but something worth considering from an emotional standpoint. Sure, some people are more interested in the less abstract world of hypothetical spreadsheets and the intricacies of minimum stadium requirements, but the majority of people falling well short of the ideal of applying even rudimentary self-control to the random pulses of electricity occurring in their craniums, I guess you sometimes have to move the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak.

Right at this moment what I want to hear more about is not what Knights or other non-South fans think about us (because they'll tell us anyway if they feel like it), but more on the very possible and/or tangible attempts by South Melbourne to weasel its way into the NYL and/or the W-League. No one really seems interested in that at all, despite it coming up both in these latest batch of articles, and in a Mike Cockerill article from last November, which we discussed in our November 2015 digest. My humble opinion is that NYL participation seems a far more likely occurrence at this stage for South (and other clubs) as opposed to getting into the A-League, especially if FFA are planning on creating a split division format in order to cut down on costs.

But back to the topic at hand. Yes, what a world it would be if we could somehow marry these two approaches; an appeal to the heart and to the head, but that's not where we are. (perhaps with the exception of the promotion/relegation crowd's appeal to the somewhat specious idea of 'that's what everyone else in the world does'; specious, because it refers to an idea that in some cases may only be continuing because for the time being it is too hard for those who want to discard those systems to do so. Who's to say that if they were starting a competition from scratch that they would do it the same way?). As distasteful as these efforts are to all right thinking South Melbourne Hellas supporting humans, it may be the case that they are a necessary evil - and as I've mentioned before, neither the right way or wrong way to go about these things, especially if neither co-operation nor belligerence is successful in the long run.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't still complain about them, and hope for a day that they are no longer seen to be required, but the same could go for the more belligerent approaches, too. Acknowledging that these articles and the relationships which see them created are not the only thing the club is doing to improve itself - regardless again, of the actual effectiveness of the bigger plan - will at least remind people that the articles are part of a longer game which has no guarantees either way. The conclusion, for now, is yet another South of the Border 'neither endorsement nor denouncement' piece. And I hope that upsets everyone in equal measure.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

2016 memberships now available

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

Two more friendlies coming up
A couple more friendlies have been scheduled. Friday evening we travel to SS Anderson to take on Port Melbourne, while on Monday (the day before Australia Day) we play host to Adelaide Comets.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Summary of friendly against Box Hill United

Searing heat.
Signal problems at Tottenham.
Route 12 tram chopped in two.
Sudden dust storm outside the ground.
A plague of flies.
Six goals to none.
One mediocre pizza.
Next game: Bulleen, Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Plates! - Social club (and friends) artefact Wednesday

South Melbourne Hellas' commemorative plate, currently in storage while
we await the building of the social club. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.
Here's one that should have been posted a lot earlier. A Philips Soccer League commemorative china plate from the earliest years of the National Soccer League, with the contemporary logos of the then participating clubs. Quite a few of these plates seem to have survived the decades since they were released circa 1977/78 - at least that appears to be my impression based upon the 'Australian soccer before the A-League' Facebook group and the soccer public's general familiarity with these plates. Made by Coalport Fine Bone China or some such - a company which according to Wikipedia was absorbed into the Wedgewood group even before these plates were made - these plates are pleasing to look at, and are a real snapshot of the pluralist enterprise that was the National Soccer League at the time. The first photo shown here is of the plate belonging to our very own South Melbourne Hellas, and which once had pride of place (or something akin to that) in one of the glass cabinets which made up our museum space in the old social club.

Photo of a commemorative plate sent to us by 'Lakeside Spy'.
The photo of the second plate shown here was sent to South of the Border by a mysterious correspondent known only as 'Lakeside Spy'. Lakeside Spy's plate is also in its original box, and includes a sticker on its surface with 'A VICKHOAD 705' on it, which I'm not sure of the meaning of. While the plates come from a limited release of 750 - and are numbered as such - I would guess, having not seen the South Melbourne one in the flesh for some years now, that such a number would be on the bottom of the plate. Both photos shown here, as well photos I've seen from other people who have these in their collection, all seem to be in good condition, with the plate in the original box.

The third photo here is from the aforementioned 2015 auction.
Less common as far as I can tell is for the attendant paperwork to be included in such photos - certainly, I don't recall those elements as being part of the South Melbourne set. While I believe they hold considerable value from an Australian soccer perspective, it's harder for a non-specialist like me to place a monetary value on them Antiques Roadshow style. An auction last year which valued two of these plates and some attendant materials at just $40 only managed to raise $30. Yet on a Gumtree advertisement someone is or was attempting to sell two of these plates for $350.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

You can merge the stats, but can you merge the stories? Probably not.

So, FFA is merging the NSL and A-League statistics. About time many of you will say, and there was once a time that I would've agreed with this move, but not now. Rather, the rhetoric and the reality of the situation have long ago worn me down to the point where token gestures like this only serve to make me despair even more.

Several people have called for this move over the years, perhaps most notably Australia's soccer statistician par excellence Andrew Howe, on the FFA website no less - an article which incidentally had its visitor comments deleted, many of which were very much against the idea of merging the stats (and you can imagine the usual racist junk in there); though Joe Gorman's sort of follow up article garnered a more positive response. And there will be those South fans who will be glad to have acknowledgement of our success. But what does it mean in the long run? To my mind, not very much. And as far as I'm concerned, it;s not even about FFA having had so many opportunities over the past decade to have made this decision.

Do we have a chance to add to those records? No, of course not. Our records will remain in a persistent vegetative state, with no chance to be improved upon. We've had to endure eleven years of derision, ignorance, belittling, omission and finally being turned into food trucks without wheels. After all that, why not merge the stats? It's almost the perfect final insult - 'hey, let's celebrate 40 years since the birth of the NSL, the league we replaced and whose legacy and people we rubbished without mercy'. The timing, too, could scarcely be more convenient - with two A-League teams on three titles each, one of them is bound to match the record four of South Melbourne, Marconi and Sydney City - records which as we've noted, none of those teams can possibly add to.

As always, these things are done from both a position of power, and as a demonstration of power. When the 'old soccer/new football' and 'pumpkin seed eaters' comments were made, it wasn't offhand or accidental - it was just another demonstration of what the new ideology was all about. There was nothing 'unfortunate' about it, as Simon Hill has claimed, especially since his main employer was as responsible as any organisation for pushing this angle and persisting with the rigid distinctions between old and new. Now that we, that is the bitters, are even less of a threat - persistent pipe dream internet promotion/relegation chit chat aside - being brought back into the fold in this symbolic manner changes what exactly? Symbolism's great, and it's important - I would have an even more tenuous grip on my so called career if I believed otherwise - but where is the change in the material conditions?

There will be those that will be happy in one way or another with this, and others who will tell us that we should be grateful that they're doing this at all. But it's not even a week ago that we had the Melbourne Victory Twitter account baiting the Perth Glory account by telling them they'd never experienced winning a title - and the Glory Twitter account could only muster a 'well played'! Perth Glory, the team that more than any other was the inspiration for the A-League, having no idea of its history and relevance. It took the intervention of Bonita Mersiades to set the record straight:
Sure Perth Glory are mostly irrelevant now (relatively speaking, of course), but who let things deteriorate that much? To the point where two years ago, we had media and the FFA telling us Thomas Broich was the first player to win the Johnny Warren Medal twice? Records and stats are not just numbers - in sport they are an essential part of the story we tell ourselves as sport fans, and the story for the past decade or so is that the pre-2005 stuff didn't matter, or worse than that, an attempt at some sort of damnatio memoriae. So what's the story that the FFA want to tell now? That we're all one big happy family, and that all we had to do was wait until the old NSL clubs had been materially ground into the dirt?

There is one group out there that will rightly benefit from this and for whom it is hard to begrudge this change in official policy, and that is those players who either played exclusively in the NSL or had their careers split across both competitions. Those players have found themselves caught in the middle of this culture war through no fault of their own. What's more, a player's career and experience differs from that of a club's existence: a player's career is rigorously finite, while in theory a club's existence and opportunity to play at the highest level are not.

But that line of thinking doesn't apply to Australia - at least not for the next twenty years or so.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

December 2015 and early January 2016 digest

Social club and Lakeside lease saga
Unresolved.
When is the AGM on?
Every year this thing gets later and later. Now I know that there is obviously the issue of the reunification of the women and stalling for time to announce the building of the social club, but we have got to get back to the point where an AGM is held in November, a point in time where the financial details are still half relevant. The delay is also exacerbating the breach between those who have the ear and proximity of those on the board, and those who do not. Here's hoping that in future we get back on schedule with these things - here's hoping also that the AGM is not held on a school night, in attempt to rush the proceedings.

Friendly news
There are a number of friendly games coming up, as the season proper approaches. At the present time none of these will include South Hobart, as they have pulled out of their planned to trip to Melbourne this week (though I believe that they will be here next week to take on other opponents). Instead this Friday evening we will be hosting Eastern Lions at Lakeside. I won't be there, as I have other things to do.

This Sunday at the early kickoff of 11:00AM (reserves at 1:00PM), we'll be taking on Knox City out Egan Lee Reserve in Knox. I won't be there because it's in the fucking public transport black hole that is Knox. Then on Wednesday, we'll be playing against Box Hill United once more at Lakeside. I might go to that.

On Friday February 5th, we will be travelling to Sydney to take on Sydney Olympic for the 'Bank of Sydney Cup', at Kogarah Oval. On Sunday February 7th at 3:00PM, we will be playing Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw Park. As per last year's pre-season trip to Adelaide, I won't be able to make this trip, this time due to ongoing concerns with the condition of the posterior hyaloid of my right eye. 

Season 2016 start date
The fixtures for NPL Victoria's 2016 season are out, and have been updated on the blog. The season will begin on the weekend of February 19th/20th/21st/22nd. Our opening match against Heidelberg is the only match on that day.

There's a lot of blocks of multiple home and then multiple away games. On the plus side, we've at least partly moved away from the Friday night experiment. A lot more of our Friday games in 2016 also seem to come up against Melbourne based AFL games, which probably won't help attendances, but we'll see.

Player movements and contract statuses
Mathew Theodore has been signed up for another season. Including the four new signings, that makes 19/20 of the available spots on the squads - though of course some of these players, like Luke Eyles, may be put into the under 20s squad. No firm word yet on Andy Kecojevic or Jake Barker-Daish, though the latter has reportedly been released.

Assistant coach Dimi Tsiaras has resigned from his post, in order to focus on his business and family.
Players signed until the end of the 2015 season.
Players with unknown contract statuses
  • Jake Barker-Daish (probably released)
Gone
  • Andy Bevin (Team Wellington)
  • Thomas Lakic (Oakleigh Cannons)
  • Fraser MacLaren (Dandenong Thunder)
  • Dane Milovanovic (Hong Kong Pegasus)
  • Nick Morton (returned to South Hobart)
  • David Stirton (Port Melbourne)
In
  • Zaim Zeneli
  • Marcus Shroen
  • Jason Hicks
  • Matthew Foschini
South Melbourne Hellas match programmes
I may be the king of starting a thousand minor and/or major projects and never finishing any of them, but here is something that I've managed to get through over the break. Having recently received a number of match programmes from the mid 1990s (courtesy of Roy Hay), I've scanned, uploaded and created a section for them on this blog.

The stuff from the 1993-1995 era is the most interesting. The magazine at the time has the most interesting and original content of what I've uploaded so far, including a letters section. In contrast, the 1998/99 era is more laden with advertisements, but all of it is interesting insofar as the match programme portrays the way the club sought to portray itself to its own fans and the wider public who happened to stumble upon it - two demographics which didn't necessarily have a good deal in common.

As usual, feel free to download and share these items with your fellow Hellas fans and Australian soccer history buffs. If people have items that would fill in the gaps, they would be most appreciated, whether you've scanned them into a pdf file yourself, or whether you'd prefer me to do it. Just contact me, and I'll try and arrange something.

Peter Filopoulos' piece
Worth a read if you've missed it. Among other things, it talks about how the club bought its first computer.

Flare incident at Lakeside Stadium
As noted by Southpole

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Doom of the Noldor

Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.

JRR Tolkien - The Silmarillion

Monday, 4 January 2016

A bitter and defeatist manifesto for supporting soccer in Australia

As a preface to the following missive - I was in a grumpy mood a few weeks or months ago (depending on when I finally decided to publish this), if you can imagine such a thing. I'm not even sure what in particular had set me off then, and there's no guarantee it was anything or anyone important. It's half thought out at best, but maybe that's the point, that a half thought out Australian soccer ideology is better than a fully thought out one, in that the latter implies you have all the answers. 

A bitter and defeatist manifesto for supporting soccer in Australia
I sort of like soccer, under certain variable conditions, with a probably tangible yet non-specific bias towards my club and the hope that it succeeds at the expense of other clubs, and on occasion even at the expense of the game as a whole, such as it exists in this country, and depending on how much flack I get for following a club such as this, often placed in categories by people who love categories for the sake of making categories, in order to position themselves as modern and the rest as recalcitrant. The rest is mere detail, and you may pick holes at you see fit. I care enough to have written this, but not so much that I am not weary of the debates, and the constant need to justify my stance.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A list of the usual complaints

The person who asks you who you follow overseas, and doesn't believe you when you say 'no one'.
The person who looks surprised when you tell them South Melbourne Hellas are still around.
The channels that keep needing to be changed during every summer sports report.
The sports reporter now with a different view on things, because of the dancing mostly.
The soccer reporters who hedged their bets until seeing who would butter their bread.
History split and spun and wound and reconstructed not to inform, but to appease.
The interminable waiting for a chance, the one they tell you that you already blew, while others get several attempts at failure.
The voice of the game's local history telling you to assimilate or be left behind.
The long dead being spoken for, by anyone.
The constant name-calling and blaming and scapegoating and shaming, because it's you who held the game back singlehandedly, and who would do so again at a moment's notice.
The way self-interest begins and ends here, but apparently has no presence in that higher plane.
The express train to the future which skips your station.
The constant probing, pushing, digging and questioning, as they seek a different answer to the one already given.
Like a finger being shoved into your chest every single day.
Is it any wonder hearts have hardened.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

XIV

May this epistle
prove them wrong, show them that no end

could ever justify their means, my friend

Tim Thorne - 'Letter to Egon Kisch'