Monday, 29 May 2017

Comeback (ahem) Kings - South Melbourne 2 Port Melbourne 1


Jesse Daley's shot flies past Port's keeper for the equaliser.
Photo: Rob Cruse.
If you're in the mood for jokes, copious Simpsons references, and the usual sorts of hilarity, this week's post will likely disappoint. Wednesday took a lot out of everyone, including myself, and it's going to take a little while to recuperate. That's why this week most of the good gags are stolen or woefully out of date.

But as for Sunday, what a pleasant late afternoon's work it was. There was a chill in the air even as the sun shone, there was a rainbow, there was a little bit of rain, and we worked our way to another win and third place on the ladder. It was great having to once again only half care about what was taking place on the field. No hype, and no glory even in victory, just like most other weeks.

If there was one lesson to be learned from our embarrassing 4-0 loss to Port earlier this season, it was 'don't let them shoot'. So of course we let them shoot, and got lucky - one shot rattled the crossbar if I remember correctly, though I could well be remembering another game - except for the one time where we weren't lucky. Did Andreas Govas' shot bounce over Nikola Roganovic's arm?

Either way, we fell behind, but did we even care? As one of the lads in the stand noted, after Wednesday, what was left for us to do? It was kind of like one of those thrill seeking adrenaline junkies that's pushed the envelope so far that it's impossible for them to get excited about anything. Nevertheless, the team worked its way into the game, working the wide positions well, which is when we're at our best under this current iteration. On a narrower ground, with an opponent more apt at closing down the passing lanes, we'd be a lot less convincing.

I'm not saying we were great, because we were not. Everyone expected that we'd be flat, and we were, except for the unsung hero of Wednesday, Jesse Daley, who was in manic form. He was everywhere, and it was through him that we got the equaliser, when he blasted his shot past the Port keeper. By this stage we had gained control of the match, and apart from some slack marking in the middle park, there should not have been to many issues with overcoming the visitors.

The second half saw Daley - who was in an especially mouthy mood - put in a number of good crosses, with one eventually being met by the head of Milos Lujic. There was a period of five or so minutes where we struggled to get the ball out of defensive third, but apart from that, Port posed little threat. Even with an assortment of Stellas coming onto the field, Port's biggest chance lay with us being stupid. Cue Tim Mala badly misreading a passage of play, and getting sent off for his troubles, as he committed a foul as the result of needing to furiously track back. At least the resulting free kick missed, and we got the chocolates..

The only downside was having to ponder the consequences of winning in this way, with yellow cards mounting up and real or imagined reinforcements still some time away.

*record scratch*
*freeze frame*
Yup, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation, etc
Next game
I don't know. It's supposed to be Avondale at home on Sunday afternoon, but there's all sorts of wild rumours going around about postponed matches, Brazil using Lakeside, and Dockerty Cup scheduling, that who knows what's going on. Check the official sources for any changes, but maybe wait just a bit for the Roberto Carlos circus to leave town first. If South of the Border hears anything, we'll let you know.

It can only end well
A bloke who can't coach, hired for a team that doesn't exist, for a competition that's not desperate for either. But of course if you talk like this, 'they' get upset and start murmuring things in the bowels of Lakeside, believing that you can't hear them. Guys, even if I don't type it, I'm thinking it. And even if I can't hear you say it, I can imagine it.

I mean, I've started joining in wrestling gags, and I don't even watch wrestling for crying out loud.

Chants
An unusually productive day yesterday, motivated mostly by the tenacious work of Jesse Daley and Luke 'The Luckiest Man in Show Business' Adams coming back from Bali without a tan,
  • 'Bill Paps is on fire, the truth is terrified'
  • 'I wish that I scored Jesse's goal / where can I score a goal like that?'
  • 'Jesse talk it up, talk it up, Jesse talk it up'
  • 'Where's your tan at?'
A big opportunity was missed when we failed to tie Adams' midweek absence to Schapelle Corby's return to Australia.

Comings and goings
Fahid Ben Khalfallah (still no idea who he is) ended up signing with Brisbane Roar. What a pity.

Letter to the editor (including how to contact South of the Border)
Following on from Wednesday's win against Dandenong City, South of the Border received some welcome feedback and commentary, including a timely and appreciated reminder about choosing certain words more carefully.

[Although I was a bit taken aback by one regular reader who saw only an attempt to be a curmudgeon - which was certainly the not the point]

One of the more interesting bits of correspondence came through the comments section (though I did not publish it for reasons which shall reveal themselves), which reads as follows:

Greetings Mr Paul, wow I've just discovered your blog and love it. I read in some very early posts you sometimes ask fans to contribute articles. I would like to contribute this below if you think it is appropriate regarding Hellas’s A-League bid. Sorry for posting in this wrong area – I just didn't know how to contribute this article.

Well, of course I'm always delighted when new readers discover South of the Border, especially when it's South fans doing the discovering. And I'm even happier when they want to contribute something a bit more substantial than a comment - not that there's anything wrong with contributing solely through the comments.

As for the best way to go about contacting me, email is my preferred option - blackmissionary@hotmail.com is my address. If you want to more immediately get my attention, and you have a Twitter account, then you can find me @paulmavroudis.

Here is our new friend's submission, on the matter of the rhetorical conduct of South Melbourne's A-League bid. Keep in mind that this was sent before yesterday's shenanigans.


Bill Paps was off in the world of make believe again today.
SMFC A-League bid strategy – wrong approach
I write this piece with a heavy heart. I have been a South Melbourne Hellas supporter since I was a young child – probably like most South fans. I have experienced agony, frustration, sadness and plenty of lost sleep whenever I think about our omission from the top flight of football in Australia. I wouldn't say I am a great fan of the A-League or its structure – but I am mature enough to recognize the NSL needed to replaced. I just always thought that South would be at the forefront of soccer in Melbourne and indeed the highest competition available in Australia. I like most have waited patiently knowing that some day our time will come. Melbourne is a big city growing by 100,000 people per year and it’s inevitable that at some point a third Melbourne A-League club would be looked at. That is indisputable; at some point expansion will happen again in Melbourne. This has always provided me a glimmer of hope even in the dark times when I felt sick at the prospect we will be stuck in the wilderness forever.

I absolutely do want to acknowledge that the board of SMFC have done a terrific job re-building the club which let us never forget was on the brink of oblivion circa 2004. The stadium deal, the refurbishments, the social club are massive achievements. These are no small feats, they have secured our future. So why the heavy heart and frustration and countless nights lying awake in the middle of the night? It is because I unequivocally and firmly believe that we are squandering the best chance we will ever have to position ourselves to get back into the top flight. This shouldn't be the case but we actually are shooting ourselves in the foot and on various fronts becoming a laughing stock. Here is why:

We need to stop our arrogant approach, we need to stop the rhetoric that it is our ‘Alvaro Recoba’ divine right to be in the top flight. I would like to know from the board who thought it was a good idea to have Bill Papastergiadis head our bid and be a spokesman? Wrong choice. In all his public appearances and interviews the ridiculous comments regarding over inflated crowd figures, the whole Real Madrid ‘link’ which is misconstrued garbage and the let’s not get started on the ‘Roberto Carlos’ angle. This is all GUFF – this actually harms the credibility of our bid. I cannot overstate this.

Bill is obviously an intelligent person, great lawyer etc., but he should not be representing our hopes and aspirations. That he is the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne and the spokesman for our club does nothing whatsoever to demonstrate to the masses that we are looking for broad based appeal bid, it rather just reinforces prejudices that unfortunately the majority of people hold.

Other bids speak of how they will engage the community. Someone please, correct me if I am wrong but I have not heard from anyone associated with the bid team or the board how we will be a broad based bid – how we will attract new fans. Other bids talk about alliances with local communities, teams or football associations. But for us it’s been left to assume that the ‘thousands’ of poulimenoi will come back to follow us. Wrong, wrong, wrong! If this is our great hope – we are gone.

The other angle I wish to tackle is our relationship with the FFA and indeed what the A-League is and represents. Key people from our club and some supporters continually diss the FFA and the A-League. Geez! Where is our diplomacy? Does anyone think this approach will actually bring a groundswell of support to our bid? Do we actually think it is a great idea to have Tom Kalas being pivotal in forming and becoming a spokesman for the AAFC? Agitating change, sniping comments against the FFA but then at the same time asking to be considered for an A-League license? Again – no diplomacy at all. Where is our humility?

I will end here with a comparison to other A-League hopefuls. This quote from Robert Cavallucci of FC Brisbane City A-League aspirant is a pearler and sums up perfectly all that is wrong with our bid team strategy:
If you've got a commercial argument, if you've got a football argument for what you’re doing, stop doing it by antagonising and picking a fight with FFA. Through positive presentation of who you are, demonstrate to the football community, the A-League clubs, the governing body, why you deserve to be there.
Bang! Spot on! Let’s repeat this and shout it from the rooftops to our bid team, Mr President Leo Athanasakis, some board members and some of our social media fans. Please say after me: “stop doing it by antagonising and picking a fight with FFA”. And again: “stop doing it by antagonising and picking a fight with FFA”. Through positive presentation of who you are, demonstrate to the football community, the A-League clubs, the governing body, why you deserve to be there.

In concluding, I would please urge our board and the bid team to reconsider our approach. This might be our last shot for a very long time. Do what is right, be humble, focus on what we bring to the table and demonstrate how we can attract new fans. Make it a football bid – not just a selfish we deserve to be there SMFC centric bid.

Regards, T. Arvanitis, Murrumbeena, VIC

Around the grounds
$7 for a souv means $3 for the raffle
Standing in a particular position at McIvor Reserve on Saturday afternoon, it looked like there were twice as many people at Yarraville vs Altona East than there actually were. But enough about metrics. Both teams have had their difficulties in 2017, but there's struggling and then there's struggling, if you catch my drift. The team that was struggling less scored within the first few minutes, scored a penalty at the end, and were rarely troubled by Altona East in between those events. I don't remember Tommi Tommich, who was in goal for Yarraville, having to make much more than a solitary save.

Final thought
Very saddened to hear of the passing of former Heidelberg player and president Jim Mangopoulos. Back in the 1990s in his guise as a lawyer, he represented my folks in a civil case when so many others refused - and got them a result of sorts. It was an incredibly stressful time for us - his support was and remains appreciated by my family. Sincerest condolences to his friends and family, and to all at Heidelberg Alexander.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Broken down and rebuilt from scratch - South Melbourne 5 Dandenong City 4

We have options
For a well balanced review of last night's game, read the Corner Flag's story on the match.

For a professional report, see David Davutovic's Herald Sun piece.

The short version
...you will be broken down to the level of infants, then rebuilt as functional members of society, then broken down again, then lunch, then, if there's time, rebuilt once more.
Prelude to mediocrity
Two weeks ago
I decided belatedly to get a flu shot. I hadn't had one for a couple of years, but decided to do it this year because I'm in the final stretch of my thesis work, and besides which, I watch a lot of soccer during the winter and didn't want to be laid up at home unnecessarily. Apparently it takes two weeks to work, so it was a good thing I didn't get sick during that time.

One week ago
Someone used a pair of scissors to break into my car, but found nothing of value to take except for a box of tissues and a pair of my dad's reading glasses. I'm not sure what they were expecting to find in a 1989 Toyota Camry with two of its rims missing. I haven't even bothered checking to see if they took my Achtung Baby cassette; it's not like the cassette player in the car works anyway.

Saturday
I experienced the brief visceral thrill of watching Collingwood beat Hawthorn on television, before rationalising that it was a Hawthorn side missing five of its best, while at the early stages of re-build, and how did we get seven goals down anyway? I then watched Spinal Tap on SBS2, not really thinking that I'd be rationalising anything like that Pies' win on Wednesday, not even really thinking about Wednesday at all.

Sunday
Get to Lakeside, and have a blast watching a game that no one really cares about. Get home, have dinner, write a slapdash and uninspired match report for a game that no one cared about.

Monday
Trying to get some work done. Started to feel that nervousness kick in. Hating every second of it. But so far it's been bearable. As usual, Twitter provides a useful distraction. Late in the afternoon I get a message from a mate about a conversation he's overheard on the tram (see right). I don't know what to make of it, because on the one hand, it's completely unimportant - I mean, it's only South Melbourne after all. And there's also the paranoid matter of it possibly being part of a disinformation plan.
Of course the Fahid Ben Khalfallah (whoever he is) stuff has been doing the rounds on Melbourne soccer focused internet forums for a couple of weeks at least, lest a certain Sydney based radio programme tries to convince you of its having snared some kind of 'scoop'. Later on I find myself thinking about the cup fixture as I'm trying to get to sleep. At least the distraction of an inflamed eye (again) diverts my attention to something else.

Tuesday
Realised I'd lost my USB drive at uni, again. But fortunately found it where I'd left it the day before.
Wednesday
Juniper Hill earned a hard fought 1-0 win on the road in the fourth round of the Oceanian Cup. I skimmed through the relevant parts of Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters and Ange Postecoglou's book for my thesis. And then it was finally time to go to Lakeside.

Nick Epifano shoots and scores with his left for the opening goal.
Photo: Jason Heidrich.
Frivolity leads to near-despair
Having a drink and a feed in the social club while watching a futsal match, the mood was light and festive. I even made lighthearted quip toward Milos Lujic as he was walking in about his choice of hat. I honestly did not feel as nervous about this game as I normally would have. Even when we got outside and Clarendon Corner inexplicably split into Upper and Lower factions, the fact that there was a Rod Stewart lookalike wandering around our bay just reinforced the nonchalance I was feeling. That, and Nick Epifano opened the scoring within two minutes, with a left foot shot of all things. Even when we conceded the equalising goal soon afterwards, I didn't feel particularly bad. Annoyed, but not bad. In any event, the team spent the next twenty minutes carving up the visitors, so surely another goal for us was coming soon, right?

When Milos Lujic was pushed in the back in the box, I thought surely that would be the chance to retake the lead, but the ref didn't call it, and City went up the other end and scored. And that's when things started to look really rubbish. We'd had City where we wanted them, off-balance and chasing shadows - especially Stefan Zinni's - and now we were behind and forced to play the game on their terms. We lost our nerve, and started bombing the ball long to Milos, and every one of those balls was cleared away easily by the City defense. Worse, we weren't really putting any pressure on City's players on the ball, so they were able to play as they wanted to.

In the last five minutes of the half it looked like we were getting our mojo back just a bit, so it was a surprise to see Zinni benched and replaced with Leigh Minopoulos. Is Zinni not match fit? Was the plan to only play him for an hour or so and hope we'd have wreaked enough havoc that we could sub him off safely? Whatever the initial plan was, I give credit to Chris Taylor for going for the early sub instead of waiting, even if it's not the sub I would've made myself. The move and whatever was in the halftime talk seemed to work, as we came out in much the same way we had in the first 25 minutes of the game.

[I am reminded here of something I'd read in Postecoglou's book earlier that day, about a coach having really very little opportunity to make an impact during the course of a game, and realistically only four or so minutes in ideal circumstances during the halftime break - it's probably a bit different in a fully professional environment compared to one merely aspiring to reach that level. The overall point here though is that the coach, while not being absolved of match day results and decision making consequences, must do most of their work during the training sessions, and not just on fitness - they must prepare the team to be able to handle itself on the field without the coach's constant interference.]

But the elephant in the room - the makeshift defense - came back to bite us on the arse repeatedly. Letting former South Melbourne Hellas defender and golden boot (2012 season) Shaun Kelly score once was bad enough, but twice? The marking for both goals looked abysmal. How he was able to get so free for that header beggars belief. So 4-1 down, and now I'm slumped in my chair. Worse is to come, because we revert to that nonsense long ball crap, which Ljubo Milicevic deals with easily. As eccentric as he is, he's a fine player, and among his greatest assets is his ability to read the play - not much of a challenge the way we were going about it though.

We had begun the season with four senior and experienced centre backs, and somehow started this game with just one. So while the coaching staff don't escape any of the blame for what happened last night, I would like to berate two people in particular before anyone else. Those people are Kristian Konstantinidis and Luke Adam. Konstantinidis for his finger business suspension; Adams for going on holiday during the season. Oh, and a special brickbat to whoever couldn't manage to keep Carl Piergianni around for one more week knowing that we would be short staffed in this area.

[I am reminded here of a game away against the then all conquering Dandenong Thunder in 2012, where we squeezed out a meritorious draw despite being similarly short-handed, in part because we'd managed to get Filip Jonsson to stick around long enough to play one more game.]

The lack of centre-backs meant that we ended up using Tim Mala at centre-back and Luke Pavlou at right back, throwing our whole backline and system out of whack. It was scenes straight out of Gully from earlier this year. You can't blame a player for under-performing in a position they are clearly not used to or suited to playing in. At some point someone decided that Matthew Foschini at centre-back and Pavlou in the defensive midfield role wasn't the way to go, We got punished for this repeatedly. Every time City went up the field they looked dangerous. They didn't even do it that often, because we had most of the ball, but their efficiency in front of goal showed not only how makeshift our defense was, but also the quality of the chances City created. But that didn't mean that their defense had magically improved. We'd just reverted to being dumb and playing dumb. You might call it a lack of composure, you might call it a lack of leadership; you might call it both, and you wouldn't be wrong on either count.

[Discussing this issue with one of the coaching staff after the game, he felt it could be one of those things which changes the side as we've known it during the Chris Taylor era. Having managed to dig really deep and find that intangible something in order to overcome the frankly ridiculous odds, one wonder what the long term consequences may be. That's not to say that the team hasn't been resilient, that it hasn't won things, that it hasn't come from behind in big games - but has it overturned a game in this fashion? This game wasn't about Taylor's rhetoric and conditioning of a team to win mere 'moments' - this game and its comeback were about overcoming our own implied/inferred mental fragility and the spectre of repeated failures in similar occasions of elevated importance.]

So to get back on track. I enjoyed the first two minutes of this match. The other 90 odd minutes, increasingly not at all. That's a strictly personal take, and I do not in any way wish to lessen the excitement and joy felt by our long suffering and loyal supporters which materialised during the comeback; nor do I want to diminish the achievement of the players in somehow finding their way back. But last night, this team broke me.

I only have two sporting loves. The Collingwood Football Club and South Melbourne Hellas. Both have caused me an immeasurable amount of mostly manageable grief, but when in attendance at a game of either of these two I have only voluntarily walked away twice that I can recall. Both times were at Collingwood matches, once in the old Ponsford against Geelong in the early 2000s, and once in the new Ponsford in the mid-2000s against Fremantle. I can't recall what exact minute or what particular sequence of play triggered my walking out of the stands last night - maybe it was the general trajectory of play and the team's attitude - but I'd had enough. I couldn't take anymore, and so I walked into the social club to sit quietly waiting for the inevitable to play out.

I loathe the FFA Cup. I hate how it skews things so much in our league that league performances - the bread and butter of any soccer club - become secondary in importance. I hate the perverse financial and promotional rewards. I hate the gimmickry, and the patronising commentary. I hate the crap-shoot. I hate how this peripheral tournament has taken centre-stage, and set in course a new player wage arms race. That doesn't mean I don't understand the FFA Cup's appeal, its novelty, its charm, its so-called romance. But all those things belong to dare I say it, smaller clubs than ours. Not less worthwhile clubs, but smaller certainly in history and ambition, and indisputably smaller in ego.

For almost no other club in Australia is a knockout tournament hinging on the luck of the draw more than just about a fleeting moment in the limelight, and a happy payday if they're so fortunate. It's not even about making a passing political point for us. The way we think of ourselves, distorted and anachronistic as it may be, forces us to treat this thing as being incredibly serious. This seriousness lends a bizarre and unearned sense of legitimacy upon the worth of the FFA Cup. We judge our success and more often our failures now based on this, These are failures which have, and successes which could have, or so we like to believe, serious long term consequences. This is even in the likely event that those consequences are unquantifiable and what's more, indistinguishable form everything else that we have to contend with in our hopes to get back into the top flight.

On top of our own complicity in setting up this paradigm, everyone outside of us who hopes we do well - or just as likely, hopes we fail - also places a ridiculous amount of conceptual leverage. We could win ten Victorian titles in a row, and none would warrant as much merit for South as reaching the FFA Cup semi-finals, or so the thinking goes. What an atrocious situation to find yourself in every year; not just for us supporters who are locked into this for seemingly years to come, but also for the players and coaches who have an elevated sense of pressure on top of whatever other expectations they have to deal with. Is it any wonder then that I lost the plot yesterday? I thought I could see what was coming, having seen it so many times before.

At 4-1 down, and while I was still in the grandstand, we had some nut in the back of the stand start abusing Chris Taylor, and folk from Clarendon Corner abusing that bloke back. The scene was overwhelmingly familiar - a disastrous performance on a stage set up for us and by us, followed by eating our own, and then onto a Sunday league game in front of 30 people. Then of course there would be the pile on of the haters, the fence-sitters. Left in that wake would've been the people who turn up every week, both in the stands and behind the scenes, who cling on to misguided and repeatedly dashed hopes that this club might somehow dig its way out of this unceasing and only partly deserved purgatory.

The first goal in what came to be the comeback came from a clumsy penalty, which on other days may not have been given. It was certainly not as obvious a call as the push which Milos received in the first half and which should have been given as a penalty, and from which City scored from immediately after. Enes Sivic wasn't in any way malicious, but the way he threw his body at Milos Lujic just looked incredibly stupid. It got Sivic a second yellow, and eventually for Milos Lujic a hundredth goal in South colours, a milestone completely overshadowed by the massive hole we still had to dig ourselves out of. Not that I thought we had it in us, as I remained in the social club feeling miserable alongside various staff members.

Even when we got it back to 4-3, I still didn't think we'd get it back to 4-4. Watching the replay afterwards, my attention is caught by Leigh Minopoulos. Yes the pass from the People's Champ is the right one, as is the run into the box by Leigh, but there's a moment where Leigh does a quick head check just before he collects the ball. It's probably just a reflex, but that moment is so crucial to what happens next, because instead of going for the direct, low percentage but perhaps even necessary shot at goal, he cuts the ball across the six yard box and not only is it perfectly placed, but someone is actually there to drive it home.

The goal for 4-4, I heard it before I saw it. As I've noted before, even though there is a stream of the game being played in the social club, it's on a few seconds delay. The social club's proximity to the arena means that should anything of note happen - especially a goal - you'll hear the cheer well before you see it on screen. What strikes me only now after watching the goal several times, is that for probably the first time in a year - the last time being Kristian Konstantinidis' goal against Bentleigh at home - that we actually had someone waiting at the right spot at the edge of the box. Let's not make it to be something greater than it was - it was an absolutely horrible shot - but at least Daley was in the right place to take it.

There was some discussion about whether Jesse Daley's goal was helped by Michael Eagar obstructing Dandenong City goalkeeper Damir Salcin from an offside position, and possibly even Eagar getting a touch (so far I've only seen Daley as being credited with the goal in official channels. Eagar however was kept onside by one, and possibly two opponents. (After publishing this piece it occurs to me that Milos Lujic is more guilty of obstruction than Michael Eagar, but that shouldn't matter if Milos is also onside, and I think he is, though the footage from stream's broadcast side doesn't make that clear.)

Image credit: Paul Zaro/SMFC TV.
Being off in mental no-man's land, I didn't give Daley the credit for being one of the catalysts of the comeback, but others have noted that after he came on he seemed to bring a bit of poise and composure to the team. I'll take their word for it.


So at 4-4, despite feeling like a ton of crap even though we'd almost got ourselves out of this mess, I went outside again but could not enjoy what was happening. There I was watching one of the most ridiculous comebacks you will ever see, and all I could do was pace up and down the concourse, where much of the grandstand had decamped to, Upper and Lower Clarendon Corner Egypt having combined again in their excitement. I was even told, probably rightly even though I have no truck with any kind of superstition, that I should go back inside the social club so as to make sure of things for us.

If nothing else, coming back outside and pacing up and down the concourse like a maniac saw me end up pretty much right in line with the final, incredible, incredulous moment of the game. In the sequence which would lead to the winning goal, it was certainly unfortunate for Dandy, but for mine that was a handball any day of the week. That's not partisan feeling talking - after all, I was almost guaranteed to be in a foul mood regardless of the result - that was gut instinct. And if I am wrong on many things to do with the game, one thing in which I usually find myself in total agreement with the referees and their decisions is that when it comes to handballs, we're almost always of like mind. You can talk all day and all night if you like about accidental handballs, and ball-to-hand instead hand-to-ball. But gut instinct told me handball, and that's what the ref gave.

Lujic stepped up and scored. A hat-trick on the night, and goals 100, 101, and 102 in his South career in all competitions. Despite everything that had happened that night, and even at 4-4, I couldn't see City getting past us in extra-time had Lujic missed his second penalty. We would have overrun them. As it was, the final score was a stupid 5-4, the method madder than the end product. I am still stunned and upset by the whole experience, probably unconsciously why I have so much of my self-esteem attached to this club in particular, and being amazed that I even had a breaking point. The South fans had gone absolutely mental, and I've got Joe Gorman yelling at me as I stand there in a daze.

Whatever misgivings and unease I had and possibly still have, I felt good for most of our supporters. I felt good for the people working at the club above and beyond the call of duty, as they have done for many years, trying to put in place everything so that the club can leverage opportunities like this, opportunities which we have inevitably blown. I felt great for our supporters, who have to put up with a lot of crap. And I felt good that for the first time in seven years that we could celebrate a win like this in our own social club. I even managed to join in with the general joy, admittedly after I'd consumed a neat gin to restore some sense of existential equilibrium.

I would also like to relate a conversation I had with a now former contributor of South of the Border. This contributor and I have often had very different views on any matter of social issues. In more recent times, our views on matters at the club and those running it have also gone in wildly different directions - these things happen. But on certain matters, we do find ourselves in agreement, and informed by a sense of vanity I like to think it's because we watch a lot more football at this level than most people at South. I probably watch too much.

The point here is that there were people at South who apparently were happier to play Dandy City over Northcote. Now, no offense to Northcote, who have beaten Dandy City this season, but I would have rather played the mob from John Cain Memorial Park any day of the week. Northcote are a team based on heart - they will grind out results, but they have no outright star quality. They are team fortunate enough this season to be in the weaker side of the NPL 2 divide, and they are team based around winning promotion in a competition that is a marathon, not a sprint.

Thanks to Dion for passing along these screenshots of this text
message conversation his dad was having with an absent fan.
Dandy City, in the stronger NPL 2 East, are also gunning for promotion, but the kinds of players they've recruited and the gradual build from a slow start also seems to indicate that they were taking very seriously an FFA Cup push. Apart from knocking out the Knights and Bulleen, the quality they had on the park last night should have been enough to dissuade even the most foolish of our people to think that this was a safe or easy draw. Certainly it was better than many of the other options, but it was not the best of all possible outcomes. After all that, it was impossible for me not to feel a little bit sorry for Dandenong City's players, but what good would mine or anyone else' sympathy do? As for our people, I let Leo Athanasakis and assistant coach Chris Marshall know that if our players ever tried a stunt like that again, they'd have to answer to me. A stupid, nonsense threat if ever there was one.

On the way home, the tram was on time, and the connection to the train was good. What else could any reasonable person want?

Next game
Now that the circus has left town, it's back to plain old unimportant league action against Port Melbourne at home on Sunday.

Comings and goings
Gavin De Niese has left the club, joining NPL 2 East side Springvale White Eagles.

Dockerty Cup news
Concurrent with our victory last night taking us to the national stage of the FFA Cup, that win has also seen us move into the Dockerty Cup semi-finals, where we have been drawn against Bentleigh Greens. The game will be played at a neutral venue. The game will be played on one of Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th, or Thursday 8th June.

Final thought
A-League or NPL, it does not matter to us;
The only thing that really matters, is FFA Cup South Melbourne Hellas.
See everyone on Sunday.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

'Write that', he said...

Anyone expecting me to stay up into the wee hours of the morning crafting a post which makes sense of what happened tonight - you're out of luck.

First, it is already way past my bedtime, and second, you should all get some sleep as well, hard as that might be what with all the excitement.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, enjoy the win for what it was and frame a version in your own minds before I come in and do whatever it is I end up doing.

I hope I have something finished by noon tomorrow. 

But I probably won't. 

I'll try not to wait until the absolute latest moment possible to pull my finger out, but since that's how things are apparently now done at this club, why shouldn't I follow the club credo?

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Less important than you'd like it to be - South Melbourne 3 Bulleen Lions 0

No. 98: Milos Lujic opens the scoring against Bulleen Lions.
Photo: Cindy Nitsos, who was chuffed that she actually captured the moment
Just a short post for this game in lieu of something more substantial, because I've got some other stuff to do.

Current Port Melbourne and former Bulleen coach Dom Barba was an interested onlooker - we play Port in the league in a week's time - but I don't think too many other people's minds were on what happened in this game. The mood around the ground seemed jovial enough, but it is at best the calm before the storm. Yes, everyone else already had one eye on this Wednesday's FFA Cup match, but at least the South players were appropriately switched on from the start, and thanks to some dreadful Bulleen errors, this game was sewn up a lot earlier than may have otherwise been the case.

Milos Lujic opened the scoring early on, nodding in a cross from close range. The optical illusion initially made it look to me like he'd missed, but that was not the case. That was goal no. 98 in a South shirt for Milos, though most of us didn't know that at the time. Matthew Millar continued on with his free scoring run, taking advantage of a poor back pass to Bulleen goalkeeper Lewis Italiano to make it 2-0 at the break. Lujic pounced on another stray back pass in the second half, curling it past Italiano for 3-0, and despite having given up a 3-0 lead earlier in the year, there were no serious concerns that the visitors would mount a comeback. That being the case, it was odd to me that Chris Taylor didn't use the lead as an opportunity to rest or protect some of our players.

Lisa De Vanna came off the bench to score the winner for the NPL women
against ladder leader Calder.United. South's 2-1 win sees us keep pace
with the top two sides. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
The romance of of Lujic notching up his 100th goal in South colours was tempting, but it would have been nice to have seen under 20s player Giordano Marafiotti given a run given that the game was wrapped up. It was also disappointing that Stefan Zinni did not not get much more than a few minutes at the end. But I'm sure the folk in charge have their reasons for going about things the way they have. And when they're on a such a good run in the league, who am I to complain...

Bulleen were disappointing all around, offering little in attack, and being flimsy in defense against a South side that was professional in its approach but which did not otherwise break into a serious sweat. Considering the fact that they have a relegation battle on their hands and no other distractions, I expected a little more. There was not much Italiano could have done to prevent the rout.

The win aside, the highlight of the afternoon was Mike Mandalis winning the half time shoot out competition (and collecting a tyre voucher for his troubles). Also we got to boo Dave, who brought shame to Clarendon Corner with his efforts,

Next game
FFA Cup against Dandenong City on Wednesday night at Lakeside. Like it or not - and I don't - this match is probably the most important one we'll play all year.

I'm not sure what the ticketing and gate arrangements will be - as usual, check with the club's media channels on that front - except that South Melbourne members and season ticket holders will get free entry to the game.

Mid-season comings and goings
There was confirmation from central defender Carl Piergianni himself that he is heading back to the UK.
This leaves us in a bit of a bind in terms of central defensive options should something happen to Michael Eagar or Luke Adams, what with Kristian Konstantinidis still having several weeks worth of suspension to serve.

There is also talk is that Giordano Marafiotti will be upgraded to the senior squad from the under 20s, as well as rumours that we're looking at making a couple of signings in the mid-season transfer window

Around the grounds
I never wanted to be your weekend lover
Since no one at home wanted to watch Purple Rain with me on TV on Friday night, I made my down to Somers Street to see the Marth-less Melbourne Knights play Hume. Hume would have won this game had they been a bit more direct and a lot less cocky - they certainly had more than enough possession to do much more damage on the scoreboard than they did, which incidentally was none at all. Knights struggled to gain possession let alone hold on to it, so when in the second half Elvis Kamsoba put a one on one wide - the best chance of the game up to that point - you felt they would cop it in the end. And it almost happened right away when Atilla Offli pushed an underhit shot straight at Fraser Chalmers. Chalmers released the ball long, a Hume defender made a hash of controlling the ball under very little pressure, and Marjan Cvitkovic jumped on the loose, sauntered towards goal, and gave Knights the lead and eventually their first win for a couple of months or so.

Darkness be my friend
Saturday afternoon was spent at Chaplin Reserve with Joe Gorman. Promotion playoff hopeful Sunshine George Cross were playing runaway NPL2 West leader Northcote City. George Cross missed two great chances within three seconds of each other in the first half, and Northcote hit the crossbar in the second stanza. That was as good as it got on the field, as Northcote in particular sought to kick the crap out of its opponent. The game was scheduled to kickoff at 3:15, as have all George Cross' home games so far this season, which becomes a problem as winter approaches, especially if the game doesn't start on time. Thus the final 15 minutes or so was played in darkness; probably best for all concerned to be honest, this one time.

Final thought
Was never a big Chris Cornell or Soundgarden fan, but this song always had a certain majesty to it.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Monday night football still sucks - Kingston City 1 South Melbourne 2

Like last week, the collective amorphous 'we' chose some less than ideal spots to watch this game from, the second half less worse than the first because at least it had some elevation. But, and this is so good, having decided at the last moment to move around to a different sport from where we had been, Milos Lujic's goal 30 seconds into the game was missed by the lemming ensemble. No matter, just because we didn't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't count.

At the same time, we had to deal with a bloke wearing a South scarf being escorted rather unwillingly out of the ground by security/ground marshals. We had seen this gentleman banging away at the back of one of the benches, not incoherently but quite clearly to the rhythm of a traditional Hellas chant. Only later did we learn that he happened to be Gavin De Niese's dad, but also that he'd thrown a bin over the South bench. One suspects he may have just received the news that his son, who has not been able to break out of the under 20s side, is to be let go - but that is just me being speculative.

[disputed remnants of Clarendon Corner intolerable in-joke digression - as one wit noted, no one thought we'd top the 'wet socks' fiasco from last week during the rest of the season, but here we are a week later with 'bingate'.]

The first half settled into a pattern of stupid but funny UFO related chants and the team playing pretty well. Some better crossing (even though it wasn't so bad this week as compared to last), someone waiting to pounce on the loose ball, and even a bit more luck for Milos would have seen us go ahead by two or three goals. Lujic's quick header in particular was one of those moments where you feel that last year he would've scored the same thing, but it's not worth being harsh on an opportunity that came onto him so quickly.

Anyway, because we didn't score, Kingston did. They relied a bit more on the counter attack then I thought they would, and they'd usually try to shoot from longer range than they perhaps needed to. But since we were unable to get the ball back into the mixer with as much reliability as we should have - perhaps it would've been better to have Matthew Foschini instead of Jesse Daley in that role - Kingston were entitled to try and absorb pressure, being under siege as they were, and relying on pace to get them up the field.

The one time they did get proper close to goal, former South man Chris Irwin latched on to a good pass and made the most of an out of shape back line to slot it past Nikola Roganovic. Some people (not me, for once) must have felt at the time that it was a crime to have let him go, and wasn't it amazing what he could do when not coming off the bench in the 93rd minute as a time-wasting sub.

Not that one felt that we couldn't get the lead again, but it sucked to have conceded even against a nimble and pacey attack like Kingston's. The second half was more of the same as far as I'm concerned except that, as noted earlier, perhaps our vantage point behind the goals at the eastern end of the ground was not the best place to watch the game from for analytical purposes.

It was the best place from which to see Marcus Schroen blast the ball over from range when a low drive would have done the job with the Kingston keeper way out of position. It was also a good place to watch the home side's defense block shots off the line. It was also, sadly, a magnificent position from which to watch Lujic miss an absolute sitter, which looked much worse from behind the goals than it did from the live feed - and it looked pretty bad from there.

With the People's Champ having played in Stefan Zinni - yes, he's actually back from his A-League sojourn, contrary to some things I had been hearing - the young winger passed the ball across the face inviting Lujic to score into an unguarded goal at the back post. Except that Lujic somehow launched it over the bar and possibly adding to the Westall UFO mystery in the process. At that point you had the feeling that we'd find a way to lose this game, but instead we scored our best team goal of the season. I'm not going to say it was some master class of planning and sequential deliberation - and it was helped by a Kingston player being caught ball watching and not tracking Matthew Millar into the box - but they all count the same.

And what's more, the finish was delightful, Millar calmly chipping the ball over the keeper and getting the ball to be at the right height and velocity to make it impossible for the defenders to clear it. Millar now has six goals in maybe almost as many games. I don't know what to make of it. What I do know however is that the 'Apples' nickname and associated chant is a bloody stupid gimmick and I won't have anything to do with it.

We were a little lucky not to be caught falling asleep at the wheel from a Kingston counter attack - Irwin should have done better with the chance, but he fluffed it, and maybe some people (not me, for once) must have felt at the time that it was hardly a crime to have let him go, and wasn't it amazing what he couldn't do when not coming off the bench in the 93rd minute as a time-wasting sub.

Anyway, we won the game, I've lost track of how many that is on the trot now, and are within three points (or something like that) of top spot in a crowded upper(!) half of the table, And some of people (maybe even me) wanted this entire team thrown on a barge which had been set alight and shipped off down the Yarra and into the ocean, viking style. How times change. Just don't check back in here in the event that next Wednesday night it all goes to crap again.

[By the way, how much would such a barge cost do you reckon? I'm thinking we should get a crowd funding scheme to buy one, so we could chuck the entire Melbourne Rebels organisation onto it and float it out to sea. Whatever it takes to get 'professional' and unnecessary rugby union out of Melbourne]

Next game
Bulleen at home on Sunday, the first of a very long series of home matches. I think Matthew Foschini is going to miss courtesy of pickup up five yellow cards. A few others will have to be careful not to pick up their own fifth yellow card, seeing as how the FFA Cup is on straight after the league game.

FFA Cup news
Our match against Dandenong City has been scheduled for Wednesday May 24th at Lakeside. Get your pitchforks and/or floral tributes ready for either of the scenarios.

Periodic burst of public transport user virtue signalling
The journey there was uneventful, except for the decision to take the winding backstreet path, often through poorly lit streets. The journey back, well... fairly brisk 15 minute walk back to Westall station. Pretty good connection with the next train to the city, except that it only went as far as Caulfield, because of some sort of works. Thus it was on to a replacement bus to South Yarra, not too bad considering it was not an express. Then a quick connection to the next city bound train at South Yarra, unfortunately ending up at the back end of platform 13. Plenty of time to get to platform 4 for 11:58 Sunbury service. Got home some time around 00:30. Good thing I didn't have anywhere to be on Tuesday.

Transfer window open
The transfer window is apparently open. Who knows if we have any loose change to spend, who's going, and where we might look to for reinforcements. I'm reading 'not much', 'Carl Piergianni', and 'who knows?'. Among other things (ie, another striker), the fans seem to want an attacking midfielder - one that isn't Andy Kecojevic, who isn't getting a game anyway, nor the People's Champ, who has been played there as a stop-gap measure at times - and preferably one that isn't cup tied. As noted earlier, Stefan Zinni has returned, having completed his stint at Western Sydney Wanderers - where he didn't get much game time. As a winger, he'll be competing against Leigh Minopoulos, Jesse Daley, and whoever else Chris Taylor likes to throw out on the wing. I don't know about our PPS situation either, but conceivably the club knows what it's doing (all hail the all-knowing club people squirrelling away in the back rooms, and not on the internet) on this front, and thus that won't be a major issue.

Languid
I had been asked by a famous journo friend to attend North Sunshine vs Preston (true story), but I did the right thing and trundled over to Lakeside on Saturday afternoon, through the Shanghai-like haze - now that's bravery for you. And it's not like anything of not happened out at Larissa Reserve anyway, if you know what I mean.

I was at Lakeside to watch the women's team play Heidelberg, which provided the chance for our WNPL side to rack up some goals and boost the plus/minus differential against the struggling visitors. But first there was the issue of lunch. The open souv has changed, more expensive now to distinguish it from the closed/takeaway variant. It's also more in the vein of what'd you get in terms of a plated souv at various Greek restaurants - meat, salad (not the caramelised onion of before), chips, pita, tzatziki on the side. They've also brought in a couple of new craft beers on tap.  But they also trialled brining in some pastries, and this I also pigged out on a very buttery danish. I thought everything was very good, but others may be less impressed by everything. It's not in my nature to complain after all.

Caitlin Greiser has won an athletic scholarship to the US.
Photo: Damjan JanevskiStar Weekly.
The game itself was not lacklustre, but it did lack something. Maybe because both sides have played three games in a week due to cup commitments. Maybe because of no Lisa De Vanna, reputedly dealing with a hamstring injury. Maybe it was because Heidelberg are anchored near the bottom? Probably all three of those reasons contributed.

South dominated this game from start to finish, with Heidelberg rarely mounting a meaningful attack. While South was unlucky to a degree - the girls hit the woodwork a couple of times - it took until the last ten minutes of the half to convert that dominance into goals. When we ended the half 3-0 up, not only was the game cooked, but one began to wonder how many more we'de end up with. As it turned out, the halftime score was also the full time score, as for whatever reason the team wasn't able to convert its mountain of possession into meaningful chances. So, while we chalked up the win we were expected to, it was a missed opportunity in terms of bettering our goal difference. This week our women host the ladder leading Calder at home at 1:30, as the curtain raiser to the men's game against Bulleen.
Match programme uploads
I've uploaded some more South vs Newcastle and Newcastle vs South match progammes, including the Michael Schumacher special! Thanks to Todd Giles for those. I've also added the recent Bentleigh vs South programme - it isn't much to look at, but at least it exists - and a Knights vs South programme from 2014 which I had stashed away but had forgotten to upload.
 
I've also added more editions of Soccer News with text recognition (1961 and 1964) after Mark Boric recently updated his collection.

Video uploads
Relive the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles.. in other words, I've finished uploading all the 2005-2007 South Melbourne videos I had at my disposal. Next step is to somehow get access to the Greek Media Groups' archives to get as much of their footage online as possible. Don't hold your breath. Thanks to Box, Gav, and whoever else put these games on DVD in the first place.

Around the grounds
As for the match itself, well...
Decided to walk towards Ralph Reserve from my house, a leisurely 15 minute stroll, for Western Suburbs vs Altona East. About halfway there you could smell the souvs, but wouldn't you know it, when I eventually decided to get one, one of the volunteers threw a tantrum while I was waiting in line and the canteen was unilaterally closed for five minutes. As this was five minutes before kickoff - and it's hard to tweet and eat at the same time - I had to wait until the halftime break. Aside from that, I had to deal with the Bentleigh Peanut Man having a go at me for being a Hellas fan at non-South game, and then becoming chatty with me and offering me a lift back from The Grange to Westall on the next night if I needed one. As for the game itself, pretty freaking ordinary. East will be shattered not only that they lost 4-1, but that they copped the same goal three times.

Final thought
Outside the ground, someone had placed one of those cleaners' "caution - wet floor" signs on the grassy path. Not sure if they were being serious or hilarious.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Scattered thoughts on something I skimmed through, in order to pass the time until Monday's game

This isn't here to be coherent. This is filler to make up for the fact that I didn't get to finish the thing that I wanted to put up in this space, which was in itself not going to be remarkable in any meaningful way. I haven't even read the whole or even the majority of this book, because that's how thesis work happens sometimes - you hit the index or chapter list, and set your heart for you think the most valuable quotes and most relevant insights are likely to be. Thus this should not be considered a book review; it should not even be considered anything more than moderately typical evidence of my note taking processes. Neither are these positions meant to be taken as final - even if you like them. Yes, there are bits of this book which are not about Melbourne, but you can search these out for yourselves if you are that way inclined.

Steve Georgakis, Sport and the Australian Greek:
 an historical study of ethnicity, gender and youth,
 Rozelle, N.S.W. Standard Publishing House.
Those who have the vaguest idea (or concern) of what it is that I do in my 'day job', know that I think that despite their mutual hostility in Australian culture, sport and literature (and the arts) have much to say to and about each other. That's why I was encouraged when I saw that in Steve Georgakis' book - one of those things I should have picked up much earlier than I did, but which only re-occurred to me once I came across a reference to this or another work of Georgakis in something else - refers to several films when discussing Greek consciousness.

Georgakis begins his book by referring to the films Zorba the Greek and Head On, both of which use dancing a key way of asserting certain aspects of Greek culture and sense of self. More importantly however, Georgakis goes on to discuss how soccer is used in The Heartbreak Kid and Never On Sunday. Aside from the specific ways in which Georgakis uses these creative works to illustrate his broader points, it’s reassuring to me that there is the scope to use these flights of creative fancy/creative works as evidence within a historical or sociological space.

Of course my main interest is literature, but both Christos Tsiolkas - the writer of Loaded, which was turned into Head On, and The Heartbreak Kid in both its play and later film adaptation have a significant role to play in my 'one day I hope to finish this thesis'. The former, for his seeming lack of interest in soccer, the latter because of its oft forgotten soccer sub-plot, lost in among the collective of the film being mostly about Alex Dimitriades

*********************************************************************************

Georgakis makes an interesting note on the scholarly attention – or rather the lack of – paid to Australian Greeks and sport. The assertion then is that more attention is paid to apparently traditional tropes – church, family, food, and dance – than modern novelties. Could this explain why there is this ease in non-Greeks (read Anglos) in going to Greek restaurants as opposed to Greek soccer clubs? Yes, the sport itself has something to do with it, but there is also something to the notion that soccer and soccer clubs are modern inventions, not associated with Greekness in Australia except as a point of difference to the mainstream modern interest (which are characterised as traditional). People like their wogs to be compliant, quaint and rustic. To be fair, some of those same wogs like to think of themselves in the terms of assumed hyper-authenticity as well, even if they resent outsiders thinking these things. Returning from that tangent, Georgakis makes the point, that in the literature about Australian Greeks - which could refer to either creative or scholarly literature - there is an oversight: writers and scholars do see the Greeks out here playing sport and they do hear them talking soccer results in the cafes. But sport does not figure in their writings.

*********************************************************************************

Georgakis makes the point that to outsiders, the ethnic identity of individuals is often considered to be the same as their nation-state identity. Thus, in Georgakis’ example, there is no differentiation between Calabrese identity and Italian identity. Those who have read Peter Goldsworthy's novel Keep It Simple, Stupid, or David Martin's novel The Young Wife (and why haven't I reviewed that here yet?)can see how this becomes manifest. Nor is there necessary consideration or understanding of the differences between first and second generation migrants (or why the second generation is even called migrant despite being born here. Geoffrey Blainey gets part of the blame here, especially for his use of ‘our’).

*********************************************************************************

Some things worth noting – there are, apart from gender concerns, also issues of class and education which often go unremarked upon. There are nouveau riche and petit bourgeois Greeks and other migrants. There are those who can speak better English than others. There are those who are uncomfortable in their new surroundings and those who are uncomfortable within the confines of an insular migrant culture. Within the apparent monolith of an ethnic community, there are innumerable hybridities and fissures. No different to anyone else, really. And yet the depictions of us, and especially the most recent migrant groups, remains broad and vague.

*********************************************************************************

Georgakis asserts that the creation of Pan-Hellenic soccer clubs was seen as a means of uniting Greeks across a range of demographic and political strata. In addition to this, he notes that as the majority of Greek migrants to Australia came from rural and agricultural environments, their adjustment to the (limited) leisure options in the urban setting of (let's say) Melbourne was difficult. This would have been compounded by the lack of familiar family and social structures influenced by the absence of women. Thus notions of conformity, removal from gambling spheres and other bad influences formed part of the rationale for forming these soccer clubs - in other words, creating a moral tether. How much this could be expected to work considering the limited match times - two hours a week and whatever time it took reach the ground and return home is not answered, and is probably unanswerable.

The apparent motivating factors – an apolitical unifier, a moral modifier – clash with the accounts of Martin, who sees ingrained political intent, and soccer attendance being just one of the (limited) social outlets for Greek migrants. More importantly, Georgakis doesn’t flesh out the differences between the pre-mass migration clubs (Melbourne Olympic) and the post-mass migration clubs (Hellas, et al); that the former were based around participation (and could be done as such because of the small population needing to be managed) and the spectator orientation of the latter.

*********************************************************************************
It may be that the soccer organisations were in fact the only Anglo public space that was ever appropriated by immigrants; (Georgakis 2000, p. 189)
Georgakis seems to suggest that the ethnic Greek soccer club re-created, in its own fashion, the agora/public sphere space that the migrants had left behind. That this space was also an overwhelmingly male domain fits in with this trope - the soccer match becomes an extension of the public square left behind, and the cafes of the Greek precincts.This seems to accord with Martin but does not so much with Dina Dounis; then again, Dounis is writing of the end of the 1960s and a time when women and families have begun to arrive en masse; Martin is writing from the start of the 1960s, perhaps even of the late 1950s, where the recently arrived Greeks were mainly single men. Dounis, in the relative brevity of her poem, is almost wistful in her vague recollection of the crowd violence; Martin always sees it as a contemporary, barely controllable issue - he can sympathise with the pressures incurred by the migrants which exist fuel for the powder keg, but understanding is not justification. One wonders what those who hoped the formation of these clubs would act as moralising forces made of violent scenes.

*********************************************************************************

Georgakis talks about the difference in the class system between the Greek migrants and their Anglo-Australian counterparts. He notes for the Greek community that wealth was only one factor, and one which was not always as important as networks, patronage, etc. We are talking here of the parallel world, of what happens when a migrant community (a problematic term, because how one chooses to define such an entity is riven with imprecisions and qualifiers) both chooses and is compelled by mainstream society to exist outside of the main political and social system – unless it chooses to assimilate completely.

*********************************************************************************

I have the same photo in a different context in another article.
Check the this tag for that. 
Georgakis spends much of the early parts of the book discussing the sporting interests of those pre-World War II Greeks. Wrestling captures their fascination more than anything. While teams sports such as cricket and Australian Rules take their interest, it is a small community, and one which is unable to create long lasting entities. There is also the matter of many of these people being involved as small business people, working six or seven day weeks and thus not allowing them much time for leisure activities such as sport. The relatively cosmopolitan Egyptian, Cypriot and Smyrniot elements seem to be the forefront of things, at least in the 1920s and 30s, and with regards the short lived Apollo Athletic. How much the other Greeks knew of soccer though is questionable.

This becomes obvious by the 1940s, when the Olympic Club is set up for participation by Melbourne Greeks in almost every other sport except soccer. Even Greek women, who have generally little role to play in the Olympic and related clubs other than fundraising, have a netball team. The creation of Olympic's soccer wing in the mid to late 1940s comes through the exposure of some members of the Greek community to soccer while on overseas duty with the Australian army, or while on holidays in Greece. It's almost like a Greek version of an Ian Syson World War I scholarly article.

*********************************************************************************
It is according to an old tradition that a rich man should take a soccer team under his patronage and that others should admire his magnanimity. (Georgakis 2000, p. 187)
How does ethnic community patronage work for the Greek community now? Is the money of wealthy Greeks now spent on better things? The Greeks who arrive after the war are so much more different from the Greeks who have been here. There is a difference in class, education, regional origin, gender. Those here from before knew something of the local customs; many of them would have grown up in Australia, or had spent the better part of their lives in the country. Melbourne Olympic club newsletters increasingly had English language articles in them.

Those who cam hereafter had no use of such a club, which was for better or worse half-assimilated in form, and whose preferred games were those which were popular locally. And thus one of the great distinguishing marks between pre-war and post-war migrant Greeks seems to have a love and/or familiarity with soccer. By the late 1050s, the Melbourne Olympic Club, which no longer has a soccer wing, is on its knees. Its newsletter (an edition of which was used by David Martin as part of his research for The Young Wife) is entirely in English; that in itself is no crime. But it is evidence of the cultural gulf between the old and the new Greeks. But there are members of the old guard who manage to get organised enough to form South Melbourne Hellas, if not primarily for their own entertainment, then for the benefit of others...

*********************************************************************************

The book was published in 2000. It was, for South Melbourne Hellas at least, the peak of everything; and thus Georgakis is optimistic about the club's future. Had this been published now, it would in all likelihood be a very different book.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Composure - Bentleigh Greens 0 South Melbourne 0

First things first. The journey up to the ground did not take as long as it usually does, because we (me, Gains and surprise guest Chris Egan, whom I bumped into at Flinders Street while I was walking through a daze probably caused by Chokito deprivation) managed to catch an express to Cheltenham, and this familiar older South supporting gentleman (whose name I always forget) who was also on the same train shouted us a cab lift to the ground - which was half price because of some sort of magic card that he had. I didn't dare ask any further questions.

Tom Kalas = Wat Tyler. There, that's my analysis of all that business.
Of course, that only partially offset the journey home, which saw a wait of 30 minutes or so for a train to Flinders Street (made only slightly more bearable by a not cold enough Crunch bar), and then for me another 30 minute wait for a train out to Sunshine. But I should be cut some slack - at least I didn't spend the night complaining about wet socks caused by dewy grass, or the giant spider that was apparently somewhere in the Kingston Heath covered seating area.

And considering that we actually managed to earn a point from this fixture for the first time since who can be bothered researching when, it was a case of having to be appreciative of not going home totally miserable from a Kingston Heath game for once. Apart from all of that, I'm not sure what I can tell you about this game with any sort of authority, because for 'operational reasons' which we can't go into because they relate to 'on water' matters, South of the Border was stationed behind the goal ends we were attacking in each half, and thus the view of many of the more interesting things that happened during the game were not exactly clear.

Also, because of our insistence of wearing blue against teams wearing green, even at night - though do have some sympathy in the event that team manager Frank Piccione wanted to avoid a repeat of the green paint fiasco of 2015 - things got decidedly indistinct, becoming a blue-green deep ocean blur.  But despite all of this, the scoreline and the constricted play, the game was interesting on both an emotional and cerebral level.

Leigh Minopoulos was out - reportedly injured - and thus Luke Pavlou was brought into the starting line up, with Matthew Millar being pushed onto the right. By this stage of the season, I think quite a few of us have got used to it being a case of knowing Chris Taylor's preferred starting eleven, with the key variable being whether Minopoulos or Jesse Daley would get the start playing on the right wing.

That set us up for an even more defensive effort than usual, but credit to us on two fronts - for the most part the defense seemed to do very well, and there were times when we did have our fair share of the ball and control of the game swapped between the two sides throughout the night. The decision to use Pavlou was perhaps seen as an error in judgment, as at half time Daley was brought on in his place, with Millar going back into the middle. That seemed to make things work a bit better for us going forward, though Daley - perhaps under instruction - seemed to be sitting much deeper than an attack minded winger should.

Games between these two sides have become notorious for red cards going back several years now. Both teams have been on the receiving end, but in more recent times it has been Bentleigh who have been the instigator, believing that they can get under the skins of some of our players, putting them off their game. To be perfectly blunt about it, despite its underhanded nature, it's been a tactic which has worked for the Greens - especially when targeting combustible players like Iqi Jawadi and Nick Epifano.

And so they tried it again on several occasions on Friday. The worst of these attempts was when their keeper decided to strike Milos Lujic from behind for who knows what reason, causing an all in scuffle which ended up with players rolling around in the net. The officials conferred, and dished out a couple of yellow cards to Bentleigh players, and play resumed. Later on, during the second half, another incident kicked off, with the Greens players seemingly going after the Peoples' Champ; this time a Greens player got sent off.

That was with 15 minutes to go, and of course the fear kicked in that now that we were up a man, we'd find a way to botch the game. I can't say that anyone watching the what happened next would be too confident, because the home side managed to get more the ball, but at the same time I can't say that they looked any more threatening than they did for the rest of the game. And while Matt Thurtell's absence didn't help the home side's cause, it's not like they didn't have a plethora of other attacking options.

For our part, the final pass and transition into the attacking third was decidedly awkward all night. I know I was a fan, but the inability to properly replace Mathew Theodore - and that includes Theodore himself when he was with us at best on a casual employee/temp worker basis - has caused us all sorts of issues. No one's got an issue with the effort being put in by the team, but it's that bit of class that a player like had provided that has gone missing. It's particularly had an impact on Milos Lujic, as despite his own struggles with form and confidence, some of the delivery to him - and especially the fact that so much of it now is aerial balls where he's double marked, instead of through balls for one on ones - has been utter crap.

All in all, we created two good chances, one which their keeper did well to save - though aimed higher it would have caused him more problems - and a through pass which Lujic stumbled over. Seeing as how we struggled to execute passes in open play in the final third, it was exceptionally disappointing how poor our delivery from set pieces was - from a variety of suspects. So many corners and free kicks, and yet so often the ball never rose above ankle height.

Being the wide-eyed optimist that I am, I am going to go with it being one point gained rather than two points lost. This is not only because we have a terrible record at that ground and against this team, but because our sputtering increase momentum has not been stopped. Disappointing as it was not to create more and better chances, and to see the persistence of our attacking structural problems, the team by and large kept its composure

Boring and irrelevant facts
This was our first 0-0 league match since Pascoe Vale away in 2015. Hellenic Cup fixtures aside, this was the first time we've kept a clean sheet against Bentleigh since 2010.

Just on the refereeing
Look, on the big issues that arise in a game - bad tackles, spiteful play etc - I get it ghat there's a lot of pressure on refs and their assistants, with a lot wrong ideas about how much power the latter in particular actually have. But part of Bentleigh's approach to this game was to perform persistent fouling, and why that wasn't punished I don't know. I'm just glad that, for the most part, our players kept their composure.

Next game
Kingston City away at the Grange at some point during the next century. OK, maybe a little earlier than that, but still on a Monday night and therefore stupid.

In the meantime, our NPL women are playing against Heidelberg on Saturday afternoon, at Lakeside, Definitely worth a look I reckon.

FFA Cup news
We have been drawn as the home team against NPL2 contender Dandenong City. Dandenong knocked out an admittedly vulnerable Melbourne Knights 3-2 to reach this stage, and have players the calibre of Mate Dugandzic, David Stirton, Steven Topalovic, Nick Kalmar, Shaun Kelly and - maybe - Ljubo Milicevic. Also, there's a few ex-South players in that list. Anyway, writing off these players as mere journeymen doesn't do them justice; many of the aforementioned players are still more than capable of playing in NPL1, and are part of City's ambitions to get promoted and become a mainstay of the division that we're in.

Having said that, out of the seven possible match ups available, only Moreland City and probably Northcote could have been better for us, and the fact that we'll be the home team is pleasing.

Me? Easily distracted?
From time to time I have had requests from people to burn copies for them of the fan made season review DVDs spanning 2005-2007. Rather than burn disc after disc, I thought I would perform the painstaking task of ripping the footage off those discs, and uploading them to YouTube instead. I'm starting with an ad hoc approach to the 2007 season - which as you may recall, mostly sucked, but had some OK moments - then working my way backwards. My internet speeds at home are OK as long as I don't have to share my bandwidth with anyone else, which is often, so it these won't be released overnight. I may have to do some at uni.

You can find them on my personal YouTube account, not the account some of you may have subscribed to in the past which actually belonged to one of my brothers, and which became a pain the arse to keep using once Google started merging all your different service accounts into one. More match programmes coming up during the week.

Victorian state budget news
The State Sport Centre Trust Trust - the body which, among other things, manages Lakeside Stadium - has been allocated $9.6 million in this year's state budget.
$9.6 million for the State Sport Centres Trust  to help the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, State Netball and Hockey Centre, and Lakeside Stadium provide improved services to encourage more people to get active and healthy
I have no idea how that money will be allocated across the different venues. The hock if they people probably need it most, even if they play such a silly game.

Around the grounds
I complain, but nobody listens
I WOULD LOVE TO TALK ABOUT THE ENTERTAINING FFA CUP ENCOUNTER BETWEEN AVONDALE AND GREEN GULLY WHICH I SAW AT SOMERS STREET DURING THE WEEK. I WOULD LOVE TO REGALE YOU OF ITS EBBS AND FLOWS, ITS HIGHS AND LOWS, ITS TRIUMPHS AND TRAGEDIES. UNFORTUNATELY, THE AVONDALE GIMP IN CONTROL OF THE KNIGHTS STADIUM GRANDSTAND PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM PLAYED MUSIC THAT WAS FAR TOO LOUD FOR ANYONE TO BE ABLE TO ENJOY. THIS HAS BEEN A PROBLEM WHICH HAS BEEN GOING ON EVER SINCE THEY STARTED PLAYING GAMES THERE, BUT MY MANY COMPLAINTS HAVE COME TO NOTHING. IT'S SO LOUD I CAN'T EVEN CLAIM TO BE PRIMARILY ANNOYED ABOUT THE PA GIMP'S TASTE IN MUSIC, WHICH IS ALSO BAD. I thought Green Gully's winning goal was better than it actually was, because it turned out to have deflected off an Avondale defender.

Final thought
While there was a decent if unspectacular crowd at our game, I predict that by the year 2030 that the only people that will be at NPL games in Victoria will be relatives of the players, university students roped into slavery internships, and people providing Dodgy Asian Betting commentaries.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Is this form? South Melbourne 3 Pascoe Vale 0

OK, so just about no-one was there to see it for who knows what reasons, but those who were there saw it and were pleased by it. Well, maybe - but who wants to go deep into the hearts of Hellas fans?

You can't say there wasn't a plan, and that it wasn't carried off with aplomb. Do people still use that word, aplomb? Seems like the kind of word that was long ago destroyed due to overuse by sports broadcasters. South let Pascoe Vale, with their much vaunted attack led by Davey van 't Schip come to it time and time again, and survived most of what Paco threw at them. Us? Why not. for the time being it seems we're mostly on the same page.

In return, we went up the other end the bare minimum of times, and scored three goals. The first two were hardly pretty - the first of which saw a ball headed forward, then headed forward again, ending up with the flatfooted Paco defender being out sprinted by Matty Millar who proceeded to chip the ball over the keeper. For all the flak I've given him, I keep forgetting that Millar won the NPL's young player award last year.

The second goal was almost as bad, a free kick from out wide by Nick Epifano, headed sideways by Milos Lujic, which the commentator on the South Melbourne produced video will say was deliberate but to which I will disagree, and not just for the sake of being a contrarian. It found Luke Adams unmarked at the back post, who tucked the ball away well. So after having signed Carl Piergianni as some kind of English non-league superstar defender - with his penchant for scoring goals the added bonus of the acquisition - it's the same old faces doing the business.

Adams popping up at the back post to get his one goal a year ('he scores once a year) and an injury free Michael Eagar playing something like his old self. Of course that's no slight on Piergianni, like everyone else who isn't Milos Lujic and at a pinch the People's Champ, he has to earn his position, and with Adams coming off injured he may get a starting get on Friday. Oh, and credit on the defensive front also to Tim Mala, whom I've had in the 'sack him' crosshairs for some time now, and yet who has improved significantly in the last few weeks or so. Maybe he took the news of Kristian Konstantinidis' reduced suspension as a motivating factor in order to lift his performance?

But back to the main thrust of the game. We sat back, absorbed pressure, hit on the counter and scored from set pieces. That won't work against every team, but it did work this week because while Pascoe Vale have a potent attack, or at least one potent attacker, them not being allowed to shoot from within the 18 yard box made things harder for them, as did former South man Joey Yousseff trying to score with anything other than his head.

They were also a bit of a shambles at the back - and a bit slow, too - and we were right to take advantage of that. Marcus Schroen's clever and perfectly weighted pass to the People's Champ, who scored with a class finish was a very nice sequence of play, but it also depended on exploiting the opposition defense being slow and out of position. And there's a lesson in that for everyone - we watch our team every week, and because of this and because we are South fans, we get to know all our weaknesses on a very intimate level.

But we (in the general sense, you know, those South fans who have lives or who don't turn up to non-South NPL games other than to do Dodgy Asian Betting calls.) don't watch other teams, and don't get to see how bad they can be or learn their general and specific weaknesses. And a variation of the old (new) adage applies - if they were really any good, they wouldn't be playing in this league.

So, just on that, Nikola Roganovic's goalkeeping efforts ranged from the expected - full length diving saves; to the not so good - where a regulation catch somehow went through his legs and almost into his own net; to the sublime, a triple effort to keep out van 't Schip and one of his buddies from scoring when it should have nearly been a given. But, there's that other lesson: all goals count the same no matter how pretty they are or aren't, and all no goals are worth exactly diddly squat regardless of the effort applied into achieving that diddly squat.

So a slightly flattering 3-0, another home win, another step further away from the relegation, another step closer towards the top six. The injuries to Millar and Adams on a short turnaround aren't good news, but Luke Pavlou did OK filling in for Millar, Piergianni wouldn't mind another chance to prove his worth.

Next game
Bentleigh Greens at Kingston Heath on Friday night.

FFA Cup news
The draw for the next round is on Friday. Still a few games to be played in the current round at the time of publishing.

Desserts
I saw last week somewhere that 'desserts' backward is 'stressed'. Coincidence? Probably, but there was some stress in the terraces about the lack of loukoumades. Where are the loukoumades people? Are they ever going to turn up? Why can't they shoot them out of novelty cannons into the crowd? What would the liability insurance be like if a loukoumada with peanuts hit was shot by a cannon into the crowd and hit someone with a nut allergy?

Maybe this problem is confined to three of four people, but for all the good cheer and service that the social club has provided, where are the desserts? And no, I'm not going to come into the club on my day off just because you have pancakes on those days.

More document uploads
Super thanks to Todd Giles for several Newcastle KB programmes from the late 1970s and early 1980s; glad that South of the Border could help fill in with some of the gaps in your collection. Thanks also to Ian Syson for the 2006 home game against Heidelberg. You can of course find those things here.

The jewel in this week's crown is the Vic Soccer '88 annual. Borrowed from Mark Boric, it took me way too long to scan considering its magnificence - as Boric has noted, it's what every season summary or yearbook should aspire to. Team photos of NSL, State Leagues, Amateurs and Victorian State Representative Junior teams. An amazing document.

I've also scanned some old Carlton programmes. I haven't linked to them anywhere, because it's all getting a bit unwieldy, but if you want those I can send you the links. Really need to set up that separate Oz soccer library site.

This photo of an Apex gang member wearing a South jacket
while being interviewed for A Current Affair has been doing
 the social media rounds. For those confused by the jacket's
colour scheme and provenance, it's apparently from the long
 defunct affiliation with the Piranhas academy set up. The
more pressing concern is that people are apparently
still watching A Current Affair.
Around the grounds
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Pumpkin Seeds
Another Saturday afternoon, and another trip around the corner to Castley Reserve, because Westgate seem to have received an inordinate number of home games - in their home away from home - to start the season. No complaints from me, except to note that they play some pretty rubbish soccer. This time Westgate's opponents were Keilor Park who were apparently having a very good season; Hard for me to tell from watching them plod around this match. In the first half, Keilor tried to pass their way into the 18 yard box, which didn't work well because they're not that talented and because Westgate were sitting pretty deep. Having limited the effectiveness of their opponents, and managed to eke out the only two chances of the first half - at least of which they should have scored from - Westgate decided to change their setup in the second half. They conceded a goal from a corner and never looked like they could get that goal back. At least the cevapi roll was decent. The small Altona Magic contingent in attendance would have learned nothing from this game.

Final thought
My blogging celebrity only goes so far, with last week another Paul receiving misdirected credit from a club legend about the things he writes on the internet.