Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Social club artefact Wednesday - Steve Blair caricature, by Jerry Davies

You know, while pondering what to add next for this series, I did a search on the blog and found just one reference to Steve Blair, a throwaway comment in an article about some old Neos Kosmos English Weekly articles I uploaded early last year. Well it was surely time to start rectifying that discrepancy by uploading this photo I took of a caricature of Blair from 1992 by an artist named Jerry Davies, of whom I know nothing. It lead me to do a general search to see what Blair has been up in recent times, and found that he is now in player management. His website isn't very good, but the photo section is just incredible A lot of great photos from his lengthy South Melbourne career (sadly none that I could see from his stint as general manager), but also from his Socceroos and Victorian junior team stints, but perhaps rarest of all, photos from his early days playing soccer in the western suburbs with the old Albion Rovers. Best of all, a lot of the photos are in colour. You can check out the collection here.

Monday, 25 August 2014

One hand on the title - South Melbourne 2 Northcote City 1

After the kick in the teeth that was the Bentleigh Greens - Oakleigh game on Friday night (more detail in 'around the grounds' below), the tension was heightened for our game against Northcote. Northcote, the team that would assuredly not just roll over and take this as just another match with nothing on the line; a club that has caused us almost no end of grief since they were promoted into the Victoria top flight, us having beaten them just once in the league (and once in the cup), while we've been the end of some hideous spankings, not least the 5-0 preliminary final loss from last year. How much that history matters is anyone's guess, but with two lynchpins of Northcote's 2013 championship - Michael Eagar and Milos Lujic - now playing for us, there'll always be someone looking to bring it up

The opening goal though came early enough so as to settle the nerves somewhat. Iqi Jawadi, who has apparently caught the eye of A-League scouts - he played in the second half for Melbourne Heart in their midweek friendly against Hume, and is also rumoured to be on the Newcastle Jets radar - eluded two Northcote players on the sideline, and found Tyson Holmes in space whose cross ended up reaching Milos Lujic perefectly at the back post.

Northcote though would not go down lightly, and at first worked their back into the game, and then became the dominant side as South sat back. The problem with this approach is that I'm not sure that this South side is as comfortable shutting down games once they have the lead as when they decide instead to drive home their advantage. The results may show otherwise, but it's always a difficult decision to make. A good thing then that generally we defended well, though our retreat into relying onto longballs (the last refuge of the scoundrel?) was incredibly frustrating to watch.

Marinos Gasparis' freekick was in a way both inevitable - in that Northcote had being getting closer and had had the general run of play - and telling, in the sense that if South has lacked one thing this year it's been a set piece specialist, someone who could be relied not only to score 3-4 goals a year at crucial points in a match or season (say, when there appears to be no other way to break down a disciplined defence, or you need that sealer to put a stake in the opposition's heart), or even just to force a corner or desperate save.

And while Jamie Reed hasn't been completely awful in that department, neither has he reached the heights of the 2006 vintage Fernando De Moraes, who when all else failed, managed to find a way through via a freekick (I'm thinking the opening goal late in the elimination final against Gully especially). Thank goodness then that we have Milos Lujic, who has become the first South player in probably 29 years - I'm thinking Charlie Egan in 1985 was probably the last player to get there - to score 20 goals for South in a single season.

That he got the ball from a player I've been critical of recently in Matthew Theodore says volumes about our depth, and the ability of Taylor to pick the right player for the right situation, which is why he's potentially the championship winning coach and I'm just some chump on with a keyboard. Still, once we had that lead we had to keep Northcote out for the remainder of the game, and full credit to them they didn't give up. On that note, special mention must go to Chris Maynard in goal, who pulled out some fine saves, and whose kicking was generally excellent. Maynard had not been tested almost at all in the previous two games since replacing the out of favour Jason Saldaris, but he was usually on top of whatever came at him yesterday.

If this post - and probably even the last match report for that matter - comes across as a little weary, it's perhaps because it's been an exhausting season; a longer home and away season than we've been recently accustomed to, a Dockerty Cup campaign in the middle of that, the Lakeside situation, and hell, even attending pre-season games from back in December. The saving grace is that we're this close to securing the title. It must have been hell for the supporters of those teams who weren't going to get relegated or win the title. That's their cross to bear though - meanwhile we've got a title to win, which we're in the box seat to take out.

Next game
A week off for the Dockerty Cup final and assorted catch up games, before we take on Oakleigh at home. We may have already won the title by then if Oakleigh lose to the Knights in their catch up game in 10 days time, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it.

Doing the sums
Well, here's how it stands. South is on 62 points, with two games left. Oakleigh's on 55 points, with three games left. So, in other words:
  • A win for South in either of our two remaining games, and we take the title.
  • A loss for Oakleigh in any of its three remaining games, and we take the title.
  • A draw between ourselves and Oakleigh in round 25, and we take the title.
In any other season it probably wouldn't have come to this. For one, in Victoria a finals series would have taken the edge off the race to what would have been the minor premiership, in much the same way that Oakleigh's clear dominance of the 2006 season was all for nothing once they went out of the finals in straight sets. On the other hand, it's been a weird season for the simple reason that, in any other year, either team with such a record would have clinched the title already, having lost just four games between them. So it goes.

And yes, I'll probably be at the Knights - Oakleigh game, just in case we end up winning the title at that game.
They've been watching us
Around the grounds
Urge to kill, rising
I was just one member of a healthy contingent of South fans who turned up to watch Bentleigh host Oakleigh, hoping first for an Oakleigh loss and secondly for a good game of football. Well, on the latter front there was excitement of a sort, but sadly on the former matter Oakleigh took advantage of relentlessly shithouse defending from the Greens to be up 4-0 during the first half. At least three of the goals looked majorly dodgy, as the Greens gave their opponents far too much space (seriously, who stands 3-4 metres off Nate Foster and dares him to run past you?) and insisted on playing the ball out of the back for no discernible gain. The fourth goal was perhaps the most absurd, as a botched and harmless short corner (and pretty much all short corners at this level fall into that category) was somehow parried by Alastair Bray back into the path of the Oakleigh attackers who eventually finished it off. To make matters worse, the Greens squandered several good chances in the first part of the second half, but whether they were a real chance of a comeback is unlikely. My blistering public transport run to the ground aside - one hour, fifteen minutes from Newport station - this was game was a letdown on several fronts.

Eight dollars for a Clifton Hill souvlaki is highway robbery
Headed out to Quarries Park on Saturday to see Clifton Hill play Southern Stars. Clifton Hill were third last, but in no danger of relegation. Southern Stars, starting from scratch after last year's betting scandal, started the year on -8 points, and were still in minus territory coming into this game. Nevertheless, they did win their first game of the season last week against South Springvale, so maybe there'd be evidence of further improvement here? Sadly, no. Clifton Hill took a little while to break the deadlock, but once they did this game was as good as done. Only poor finishing theoretically kept Stars in it, but they eventually fell 3-0 behind and even a late own goal to get it back to 3-1 never saw the home team threatened. Stars aren't the first team to have to rebuild after exiting the Victorian topflight, but there's seems an altogether more difficult task. Realistically though, Clifton Hill aren't in a much better position. The Hillmen increasingly appear to be a subsidiary of Heidelberg United Alexander (the 'HUFC' sponsorship on the back of the shirt seems very awkward), which may not be a very palatable thing to have said about a club which would like to assert that it is still an independent entity, but it's not like there were that many home fans there anyway to argue the point.

Quiet time
This blog will be very low key over the next week and a half or so. While we'll still have the Wednesday artefact segment, unless something super drastic happens, don't expect any significant posting from our angle. Enjoy the week off, and I'll see you all on the other side.

Final thought
As Gains I exited via the back gate in between our stand and the 1926 stand, a little kid saw us and said to his dad, 'they're so shifty'. Further reinforcement of my dislike for children.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Social Club Artefact Wednesday - Scandinavian Junior Cup 1966

A trophy of unknown provenance: the 1966 Scandinavian Junior Cup, probably won
by South Melbourne Hellas. Behind it, a Victorian Womens Soccer Association
award, and a Club World Championship licence plate. Photo: Paul Mavroudis.
Can someone, anyone, tell us about the provenance of this trophy? I mean, yes we can ascertain that it says 'Scandinavian Junior Cup', and yes we can see that there's a year on it, that being 1966, and yes we can see that our name is on there. Is it safe to assume that we won? From the limited asking around that I've been able to do - and unfortunately, most of the people I've asked from that era have no idea about this trophy - it was not an overseas junket (how cool would that have been?), but rather some sort of local tournament, probably organised by a local club. But to what does the 'Scandinavian' part of the trophy actually refer to? At the present time, there are no answers, but if anyone has information, we'd love to hear it. it does make me think though, that when we eventually get around to building the new museum area for the social club, the least we could is to give some of these old trophies a good polish, because a few of them looked a little bit worse for wear at the time of packing them away.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Seven points ahead, still - Dandenong Thunder 0 South Melbourne 1

Apologies, but this entry is mostly obsessed with a sports forum I attended on Thursday and Friday.

Frankly, there isn't much to report on from this game. On an uneven pitch, in front of what looked like a South dominated crowd - which is kinda scary considering there weren't that many more of us than usual there - we played well in fits and starts, stood our ground in defense, rode our luck just a smidge, and ground out another win, and got three points closer to winning the title.

The thing that was most striking about the match though, was how few Thunder supporters seemed to be in attendance. The collapse in their home support following the grand final rocket flare fiasco, and the attendant punishments from FFV have really knocked the stuffing out of the Thunder. It's a pity to see. It's a long way from the heady days of that first meeting between our sides at this venue in 2009, and the very large crowd that was in attendance. It all seems like ancient history now.

We started off both halves with the (relative) momentum of a runaway freight train, before Thunder were able to work their way into the game and even fire a couple of shots on goal. During our spells of dominance - where Thunder struggled to get out of their own half - we unfortunately didn't trouble Zaim Zeneli in goals very much. He made one terrific save with his legs when it looked for all money that we were going to open the scoring.

Thank goodness for Jamie Reed then, who managed to get the goal that won the game. Zeneli got his hands on it, but couldn't keep it out, and then we had to hold on for a nerve wracking finish as Thunder tried to get a point out of this match, which would not have been totally unjustified. There were handball calls at either end which weren't called by the referee, and the odd long bit of scrambling defence

Quite what the deal was with the person at the freeway end sitting in their car with their headlights on during the second half, I'm not sure. It made it very hard to see what was going on at that end whenever the ball ended up in the headlight glare, and it took what seemed like forever to actually get that situation sorted out. Security seemed more interested in Clarendon Corner's swearing than actually dealing with a patron who was being a genuine nuisance.

The support behind the goals in the second half was good, even making Zeneli laugh at one moment when someone said something to the effect, we never hated you, it's Gus Tsolakis who fucked you over. The players came over after the match and thanked those supporters, and the vibe seemed very positive. Still I can't be the only one who's still not confident enough to call it, to actually embrace the seven point lead we have and the diminishing amount of time Oakleigh in chasing it down. Eight years of mostly mediocre results has eroded the trademark Hellas cockiness that even I used to subscribe to.

Doing the sums
So the maths as they stand are like this. We're on 59 points, and Oakleigh's on 52. The maximum number of points we can get is 68, and the maximum Oakleigh can get is 64. Therefore, if we win two more games out of our remaining three, we'll reach the magic number of 65, reaching the point where Oakleigh can't catch us.

However, if we beat Oakleigh in our round 25 game, the maximum number of points they'll be able to get is 61, and three points from that game would take us to 62 points. Of course, I'd rather we somehow sorted it all out before that.

Next game
Northcote at home.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, but if someone else pays for it, it's close enough
I managed to score a free ticket* to Victoria University's 'Sport in Victoria - Who's really winning?' forum, which is a good thing because the cost of a ticket to the entire thing would have set me back over $300. Movers and shakers from a range of sporting interests rocked up to discuss issues such is 'Melbourne the world's sporting capital?', 'Is it possible to win fair?', and 'Is hosting major sporting events worth the effort?'. The forum ran over Thursday night and Friday, and was run out of the MCC, which was a great thing to keep in mind when people tried to hint towards the egalitarian and communak nature of Australian sport and avoiding trickle down economic style solutions to our sporting problems.
Thursday night was a dinner thing, so lots of suits except for the odd western suburbs bum like me who rocked up in jeans and a hoodie. Entree was some fancy poached chicken, main was some sort of meat that was, by my standards, still mooing, and dessert was some sort of attempt at a custard tart, and I had two of those because frankly I was still hungry after the other two courses. Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon, Kate Roffey, CEO of Committee for Melbourne, Mike Clayton, Principal, Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Mead (something to do with golf) and  John Jacoby, Race Director of Rapid Ascent (some endurance thing) were the panel for the dinner, discussing "Is Melbourne the sporting capital of the world? As the world’s most liveable city, does Melbourne promote recreation and active living enough? Is promoting professional sport and community health in conflict or complementary?"

Peter Gordon aside, who made tremendous sense as well as being affable and charming, the rest kinda put me to sleep as we somehow sauntered into discussion about whether Melbourne should bid to host another Olympic Games, and a debate from the floor with Australian Grand Prix chief Andrew Westacott about whether Formula 1 (and motorsport in general) was a sport or not. My thoughts turned more to this however.
I'm also sick of this idiotic obsession of being the world's most livable city, when those metrics seem inherently to apply to the experiences of the people who live within the confines of the inner city. And as for active participation, let's not forget this gem of an observation by yours truly:
Why were the panelists (across both days) so obsessed into getting people into sports or activities that could be leveraged commercially? While a rhetorical question, the opening session on Friday, "Major Events and The Economic Impact of Sport: Is this a key driver for the economy?" went some way to answering it. It was chaired by Radek Sali, Swisse CEO, who also put forward what sounded like a ten minute sales pitch on his company, frequently using the irritating and almost meaningless buzzword 'wellness' (and by frequently I mean enough times that I noticed and became irritated by it, so at at least twice). On the panel were Andrew Westacott, CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, John O’Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia, Brian Morris, CEO of the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust and Professor John Madden of the Centre of Policy Studies, Victoria University.

Apart from Madden, I generally felt that the other three panelists tried to justify the existence of a major events oriented sporting direction. Madden went the other way, pointing out that realistically, hosting major sporting events (mostly referring to one off things like the Olympics) doesn't really boost economies - what it mostly does it redirect funding and investment into those areas necessary for hosting the relevant event, at the expense of other services and areas of the economy. Madden argued that theoretically there were ways exacting a profit from such events, cost cutting, having already existing infrastructure, something Melbourne would have an advantage in; but he also hedged his bets, by adding that people were willing to pay a certain amount for intangible benefits, such as the prestige of hosting the event, increased national pride etc. Quite why an economist was talking about the intangibles, without even providing a method for accurately measuring them (and who knows how you would even start with something like that), I don't know. But it did remind of the words of a panelist at a public transport forum I went to last year, a PhD student who argued that governments (in part due to the need to conform to the whims of the electoral cycle) the world over seemed to become entranced with building expensive, flashy, big ticket items at the expense of smaller, incremental and more cost effective improvements, a phenomenon noticed by at least on other person at this conference:
I suppose though, that if the electorate keeps falling in love with these leviathan projects, and get taken in by the associated hype, then what can those who object do?
After morning tea, the next session was "Can You Win Fair? - Sport, Drugs, Ethics and Science", with Richard Ings, former Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, ASADA, David Grace QC, president of Athletics Australia, associate professor Dennis Hemphill, College of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University, and Caroline Wilson from The Age. Since prettuy much everyone in the room agreed that you can win fair, and that it's ideal to win fair, the discussion turned to what we could do to stop cheating, and some people pointed out that too much money was the cause. Thankfully somebody pointed out the bleeding obvious - that people in sport cheat all the time, at all levels, at all ages. Success is the key motivator; money is sometimes a reward for that success, but not always.

I was disappointed that the discussion never really went in hard as to what is and isn't classed as fair, and more importantly just who gets to decide. The closest it seemed to come was the idea that fairness was a construct, but there was little in the way of why we cared so much for sporting fairness, when fairness in the rest of society is getting such short shrift (my opinion, thought author and academic Michael Hyde wondered out loud to me, why wasn't anyone talking about class?), and why did we demand higher standards of fairness in sport than in other areas of public life? Why are sporting leagues allowed to, even encouraged to be run as cartels seeking evenness in competition, while the rhetoric about what kind of society we want as a whole goes the other way?

Because this session featured Caroline Wilson, it naturally threatened to turn into an Essendon saga special; unfortunately the fun police intervened, and thus the most interesting thing to happen at the conference got nipped in the bud - though you can read Samantha Lane's version of events on that and the wider panel discussion here.

The lunch session (chicken and potato, walnut and date poudding with salted caramel - whatever happened to unsalted caramel?) also had a panel discussion, "The Way Forward for Victoria – Cause and Effect: Elite Sport or Community Participation?" with Colin Carter, president of the Geelong Football Club, Professor Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health from The University of Melbourne, John Bertrand, president of Swimming Australia, Kate Palmer, CEO of Netball Australia, and chair of Victorian Institute of Sport. and John Wylie chair of Australian Sports Commission.

Though the discussion, when it turned to the issue of getting kids to be more active, the fact that there seemed to be obsession with getting Phys Ed and sport back into schools was worrying to me - the fact that the American example of playing school in sports as opposed to at clubs also annoyed me. I was worried because the former is a bureaucratic response to a deeper problem - why aren't kids being active in their own spare time, of their own volition? You know, doing the things kids used to do because they wanted to do them - run, cycle, skip, hop, jump, kick a footy with their mates. Why do all these solutions focus on supervised and structured forms of increasing activity? Annoyed, because in the latter, the ritual humiliation of the weak and puny along with the concurrent idolisation of the teenage sports star in America seems just as idiotic. What happened to be being active as a kid because it was fun? 'Where are the parents?' your correspondent shrilly cried.

Seeing as the next session was going to be about the Olympics again, this time about our diminishing medal returns, I finally cracked and left this parting shot (there was another Simpsons quoting one which you can dig out yourselves)
Checking the forum's Twitter feed later on, Nicole Livingston seemed to make some good points about the Victorian situation in particular, especially how the AFL's media dominance takes away any and all attention away from other sports (and not just women's sports). But by that time I was at Newport station and completely jaded by the general thrust of the discussions which rather than seeking to improve the sporting experience of Melburnians for the sake of it, was rather always on the lookout for a way to leverage it for a commercial gain of some sort - whether that was a corporate sponsor promoting their products, an event manager trying to explain why their event was really important for Melbourne (and worth the cost), or different sports trying to claim recreational participants as part of their own official fiefdom.

*the ticket was paid for by Victoria University, but the version of events as discussed above has nothing to do with them.

Commit to community TV
I've been a big fan of Channel 31 for years (even donated money to the crowd funding effort for the third season of the quiz show 31 Questions), but unfortunately the future of community TV is apparently up in the air because the federal government has not yet renewed Channel 31s broadcasting licence, which is due to expire at the end of the year. Therefore, if you can spare a moment, I recommend heading to Commit to Community TV to add your name to the petition. For those that are cynical about such internet campaigns, a similar grassroots effort helped reverse funding cuts to community radio a year or two ago.

Hopefully the club adds its support to this campaign as well, because being on Channel 31 has been something which has kept us in the broadcasting limelight, however marginal that might be compared to the past. It's also worth remembering that our present show is not the first time we've produced a show for Channel 31, with older heads no doubt remembering the old TVH produced South Melbourne Soccer Show, which was launched all the way back in in 2002.

By the way, there must be a way to get a hold of the tapes from those people, because chances are that it contains rare footage of not just the club, but of an era of Australian domestic top-flight football which got a serious lack of broadcast coverage. Make it happen SMFC media team.

Final thought
Who's up for a night out at Kingston Heath for the Bentleigh vs Oakleigh game on Friday?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ethnic past artefact - 1985 Knox City All Nations Cup Greek team book

Scroll down to the bottom of the article for the download link to the full document.

This is the front cover to the book. The back cover is the other
half of this photo, which I can't be bothered adding to this piece.
I shared this a few weeks ago on Twitter and a couple of forums, to a staggeringly muted response. These things happen, but I still would have liked a few more people to care not for my sake, but for my brother who doesn't even like soccer, but who scanned the whole thing and made it into a PDF as a favour to me (my tech skills are crap, and my Linux machine and scanner don't talk to each other).

Former Socceroo and 1960s South Melbourne Hellas player Ted Smith gave this book to me during an FFV history committee meeting. It's a 49 page book all about the Greek team that would play in the Knox City Soccer Club's world cup tournament, which is better known as the All Nations Cup.

Some twenty years after the Laidlaw Cup - a similar tournament which seemed reasonably popular for awhile until the early 1960s - the All Nations Cup saw local players play for teams allocated to their national/ethnic heritage. It's interesting to read in this book the different perspective of multicultural influence on Australian soccer by the chief organiser Tony Kennedy, which considered the different teams playing alongside each other as a strength, and not a weakness. The problems with this approach however are evident a little further down in his piece - that the VSF's attempt to take over and run the competition ran into trouble when they starting including nations that were at that time unrecognised.

Despite all the Greek language material in the book, the player profiles are all in English, and there are plenty of South players, former South players, and would be South players in the squad. There are so many that I can't fit all their names into the label facility on the blog because it only allows 200 characters to be used. Damn over long Greek names. There are also photos of South coaches Manny Poulakakis and John Margaritis, and even a couple of early era red V wearing South Melbourne Hellas photos.

A photo of an early 1960s South Melbourne Hellas team, as found in the book.
The Greek caption reads: The great 'Hellas' of the 1960s.
There are a heap of sponsors as well, and you have to wade through a fair portion of the book to get to the actual content. Still, these things are just as important for showing demographic changes in the Greek community in Melbourne, as it applied to employment, social interests, and even where the main commercial centres were at the time. The Lonsdale Street stereotype for example is nowhere to be found, but neither is the present Oakleigh dominance. It's majority inner city and inner northern suburbs.

Rather than having me upload each of the 49 pages individually, I recommend that you head to this link to get access to the entire document, which you can download to your own device.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Still seven points ahead - South Melbourne 4 Werribee City 0

This report was late due to a game of Pathfinder being played at my house (and in Singapore and London), and afterwards supposedly meeting people for coffee, neither of which I participated in directly; it's a long story.

The sun shines, but the rain falls down over Lakeside
prior to the under 20s match. Photo: Gains.
While watching the under 20s yesterday, I did have one eye on what was going at Oakleigh vs Pascoe Vale via Twitter, even as my phone battery rapidly declined. The 3-0 result to Oakleigh cut the margin between us back to four points, so as has been the case for most of the second half of the season, it was time for us to respond to whatever result Oakleigh threw up at us.

It was important though to also respond to the poor performance we put in midweek against Bentleigh, and Chris Taylor seemed to throw caution to the wind with some of his selections. Jamie Reed coming in for Leigh Minopoulos and Iqi Jawadi coming back from suspension for Matthew Theodore were kinda obvious; but the replacement of Jason Saldaris with Chris Maynard in goals was a daring move this late in the season.

Saldaris, who has recently been the recipient of a form of bronx chanting from Clarendon Corner, who have been applauding him for completing even regulation goalkeeper actions, seems to have finally lost the confidence of Taylor. Thus Maynard, who as far as I can remember has played just one match this season - the 4-1 Dockerty Cup win away to Berwick City - was starting his first league game in quite some time.

Would he be as alert as a keeper who'd played week in, week out? Would he stuff up his long awaited chance at the no. 1 spot? We'll have to wait at least another week for the answer to those questions, because he had very little to do in this match, as Werribee struggled to even get one shot on target during the game. While this made it easier for us on the day, it also had the effect of making me doubt that they could get a point against Oakleigh in the next round. And while those who say our destiny is in our hands are correct - three wins from our four remaining games will seal the title - it wouldn't hurt our cause if Oakleigh dropped some points along the way.

South came out of blocks looking pretty fired up creating, several chances and breaking apart Werribee's defence if not quite at will, then relatively comfortably, but in echoes of the midweek game there had been no goal in the opening half hour and my thoughts started to head towards the possibility of Werribee pinching a goal from somewhere. That turned out not to be the case however. First Reed scored from a penalty just after half an hour, after Nick Epifano had been felled, then Milos Lujic scored twice just before halftime as the visitors' defence crumbled. The game was as good as over.

A white curtain of rain pours down on Lakeside during the
second half of the senior match. Photo: Gains.
That we could only manage the one goal after halftime (by Epifano) was disappointing, because it just may come down to goal difference at the end of the campaign, and this was as good a chance as any to start closing the gap to Oakleigh's superior goal difference. Every little bit counts.

The crowd at the game was also poor, which can partly be blamed on the weather, but I think is also due to the late kickoff time. Where once I had no specific preference for one kickoff time over another on a Sunday, I'm kinda getting over the 5:00pm starts. Is it the general malaise affecting crowds across the board in the NPL, and even state leagues games (the Eastern Lions - Mornington game [see below] also got a lower attendance than I had anticipated)? Whatever the cause of the low attendance - and it's not like I'm expecting miraculous attendances ten years after the end of our NSL heyday - it's disappointing that we can't pull a few more people to games now that we're actually doing half well. It also means dinner gets eaten much later than I'd like now that I'm almost halfway to being a senior citizen, but it also means that I miss out on listening to one of our club representatives on 3XY, especially now that we're all friends again.

So, after all that, still seven points clear. Four games to go for us, five games to go for Oakleigh.

Next game
Dandenong Thunder away on Saturday night. After a good start to the season they've fallen down towards the bottom end of ladder, but they did manage to win away at Ballarat on the weekend to all but make sure they'll avoid relegation. Alan Kearney got red carded in that game though, so that will be a useful out as far as we're concerned, unless his replacement comes in plays a blinder.

Did you know?
That under 20s defender Sammy Kagioglou is apparently the grandson of 1960s championship goalkeeper Sam Kagioglou? That's pretty cool.

Looking forward to the final round
It's still over a month away, but people are already starting to look forward to our final round match against Goulburn Valley Suns in Shepparton, still very much a potential title decider. In particular, people are thinking about travel arrangements. Since the trains are a manifestly inconvenient option for this game, I've asked the club about whether they'll organise a bus - their initial response is that they're not sure at this stage, but will inform everyone closer to the date of any arrangements.

I am so precious, it hurts
At the Bentleigh game the other day, I had it out (in typically mild fashion) with the person behind the @smfcmike Twitter account, initially asking him to just ease off the caps lock as a starting point. I even half joked that I was *this* close to blocking him. But that's why they call it a half joke, because I actually followed through with it. It's meant that some Twitter discussions I follow are now distorted, but it's a price I'm willing to to pay for a little bit more sanity.

The actor leaves the stage, but the play continues
It's weird seeing Shoot Farken still going after my involvement. How can this be? What I mean to say is, that despite the Heavy Sleep world cup articles I'd written for them, I forgot to add their link on the side panel. So, there it is now. At the moment they're looking at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Around the grounds
Junk Dilemmas Round 22 (with apologies to Irvine Welsh)
I could sit at home and do nothing, just like most of the Friday nights of my life. Or, like the addict who can't stay away from their one vice, I could go to a lower league soccer match, again. The choice tonight is between Richmond hosting Avondale Heights, or going to Port and watching them take on the Knights. Informed by an irrational hatred of Avondale Heights, I choose the latter. The universe tries to conspire against me getting to the game on time. The parking at Newport station is packed, so I end up parking some distance away. The train I want to catch is delayed because of a VLine train. The myki gate at Flinders Street station reckons I haven't touched on, but there's no staff member at the Elizabeth St exit to help me exit the gate, and my lack of athletic ability and my acquiescence to effects of the implied panopticon prevents me from jumping the gate. After I circle around and exit via the platform 1 exit, I walk past the Elizabeth Street exit towards Banana Alley, and notice that the fat woman I saw walking up the stairs as I began doubling back was actually a staff member. Her black uniform, which I afterwards described thusly,
and her lack of urgency in climbing the stairs fools me into thinking that she's merely another pleb public transport user. Still, when everything else can go wrong, you can trust Port Melbourne's gate attendant crew to provide speedy and fuss free entrance to the venue for those like myself who possess the appropriate paperwork. The game itself is a bore. The most exciting to happen is watching a couple of blokes from MCF attempt to punch on with each other, with their mates in the middle copping collateral damage as they try to separate the pair. Security try to calm the situation, and it seems to do the trick. There are many possible lessons to take out of this situation. One is the slightly coarse, 'talk shit, get hit'. Another lesson might well be that if you keep pushing someone's buttons, they may eventually snap. Perhaps don't be involved in spreading pernicious rumours, which is all well and good except for the fact that I was doing much the same yesterday. Many other observations were also made about contemporary young male Croatian-Australian social identity, but I haven't gone through the Victoria University ethics department to get clearance for any of that. Knights won the game 1-0. The bus goes past five minutes earlier since the timetable reformat, so I miss it, and I get home at midnight instead of 11:30.

Burwood or Balwyn or Bentleigh or Boronia
Several weeks ago I agreed to go to Eastern Lions vs Mornington with Ian Syson, in anticipation that these two sides would be first first and second on the State League 1 South-East table. That's the way they came into this game, with the Lions being four points clear at the top. First time out at Gardiners Creek Reserve, and it's a nice set up with several grounds and nice seating in the shed, but they must have one of the largest budgets for match balls in the state with the creek being so close by. Now it must be noted that I was in a surly sort of mood, (though to be fair, I've been in a surly sort of mood for a while now), and I was therefore determined not to enjoy this game. The first half helped in that in ragard, in that it failed to live up to expectation with few if any chances, let alone quality passages of play. The visitors, who had edged proceedings in the opening 45 minutes, managed to jag a goal late to take lead at halftime. I got to meet Steven Gray of Football Chaos fame during the break, though of course he had to rush off to film the second half. The second half saw the Lions equalise early, though not without some controversy, with there being uncertainty about whether the ball had crossed the line. The game then continued in much the same way as the first half, but eventually Mornington got on top with the Lions barely being able to get out of their own half of the field - including from goalkicks - though it was almost all half chances. Then shock of shocks, the Lions managed to score a late winner - after having played for the draw, they managed to get the win. These things happen.

Final thought
A fellow supporter and I agreed yesterday that Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has completely gone down the toilet. I don't care about the detectives' personal lives, just give me 35 implausible twists, more 'can you enhance that' moments than you can poke a stick at, and the usual cavalcade of sickos that get their comeuppance while I shake my fist at the TV.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A good day ends badly - Bentleigh Greens 2 South Melbourne 1

After the euphoria of the Lakeside lease announcement earlier in the day, this result was a massive let down. Full credit to Bentleigh though, who deserved their win last night.

Having said that, we started like the proverbial house on fire. Aside from James Musa's speculative shot which hit the crossbar, Tyson Holmes probably should have done better with his headed effort, but also should have been awarded a penalty after being tripped by the home team's goalkeeper. I could not tell why the ref did not award the penalty, though after speaking with others later on it appears the ref may have paid the advantage. If so, then I don't think any South fan thought there was any advantage to be taken in that situation.

Anyway, after we had the upper hand for the best part of 30 minutes, Bentleigh worked their way into the match, and scored the opening goal which really messed us up. Now I don't know what Jason Saldaris and the defence were doing for that goal, but what I did see was that at the beginning of that sequence of play, Matthew Theodore chasing a player towards the middle of the field, only for the ball to head back out wide to a loose man, from whence the Greens launched their successful attack.

The second goal early in the second half was the killer. From that point onward, we got progressively worse, to the point where we became inept, looking like the worst of the Gus Tsolakis coached sides before Chris Taylor took over. Our structure collapsed, in particular the midfield; the crossing, especially from corners, deteriorated exponentially; any semblance of a game plan other than bombing it long to Milos Lujic went out the window. When Holmes ended up actually scoring our one goal right at the death, it stung even more for the fact that it all looked so easy, and that perhaps we didn't have to reinvent the wheel.

With Oakleigh's round 20 match against Melbourne Knights postponed until early September, we're still seven points ahead, though now we only have five games left to play, while Oakleigh have six. The equation remains the same though - win four of those remaining five games, and we're home.

Next game
The relegation threatened - whatever that means these days, what with increasing internet pundit speculation that FFV will find a way to save the regional teams any which way - Werribee City at home on Sunday.

A passing thought on making a house a home
I'm sure I've mentioned this somewhere else, and to be fair, it's not only been said by me - but now that our long term tenure at Lakeside has been secured, it's time to claim a bit of ownership over the venue. The return of the social club will be a huge part of that, of course, but there's opportunities outside of that to also make our mark. For starters, there's scope for getting together with the athletics people, and working with them to get the each of the gates and the stands named after respected personalities from the respective sports. I reckon it'd be great if Theo Marmaras had 'our' stand named after him, even if it was called the Marmaras-Papasavvas Stand, as it was reputedly called by some ancient South AGM. Likewise, boring old 'gate 2' could become the Jimmy Armstrong Gate, in recognition of the man's long service to South in many capacities, but also as a reminder of the old side gate/player's entrance before the Lakeside remodeling took place. And hopw about naming the proposed futsal court which is being built as part of our complex after Fernando De Moraes, contemporary South legend but also a futsal player of some note by this country's standards, and the closest thing we've had to a regular national team player for years.

And now it's time for Mr Know-It-All
Hmm. Our Pascoe Vale match report from last week received a surly sort of response from one reader, going by the name 'James', who claimed, among other things, that I was biased, that I should open my eyes next time I watch a game, and that I would have no idea what it takes to be successful in competitive sport, having never played it. Unlike those seeking to defend me on these matters in the relevant comments section, I would like to agree with James on all those points. Biased? Absolutely. Opening my eyes? One of my eyes is a complete write off, and the other one is this close to seeing me (rofl) not being allowed to drive anywhere, so close enough. Never played a competitive sport? Well, apart from some hard fought CC Blue vs CC White battles a few years ago, the last remotely competitive game of anything I participated in was probably a primary school (Which primary school you ask? It no longer exists) Aussie rules lightning premiership tournament played out at Point Gellibrand back in 1995, where I even got pinged for a throw in one of the games. Therefore the evidence should be clear to all that if you want fair and unbiased match reports, from someone who can actually tell what's going on, and who has some first hand knowledge of the stresses undertaken by the semi-professional Victorian soccer player, you're probably not going to get that at South of the Border. I'm sorry if you were lead to believe otherwise.

On the plus side, at least this whole thing managed to get someone to bust out the word 'crunts' again. That takes me back.

Library updates
There have been a couple.

Final thought
I beat the vending machine at Cheltenham station after the game, but I still lost my bonus king size Snickers to my brother who just assumed that because it was in the fridge, it belonged to him. No one to blame for myself, I suppose.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Praise Jah! The deal is done, 40 years won

The news is in - South Melbourne's 40 year tenure to Lakeside has been secured. South president Leo Athanasakis has given much credit to Bill Papastergiadis, the club's lawyer throughout the process of securing the lease, as well as thanking his board for their work on the matter, and the club's supporters for their patience.

The media release supplied by the club does not mention any details about what concessions, if any, to the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the various parties several years ago. There was no detail provided about any possible compensation forthcoming to supplement the lost income due to the delays in finally agreeing to the deal. The assumption - and it really is only an assumption based on the last section of the media release - is that the forty year tenure will begin as of the signing of this agreement, and will not (for example) be backdated to December 2011, when we resumed playing out of Lakeside. For the precise details, I suspect one will have to wait until the AGM later this year.

There will, no doubt, be those who will not be happy about this outcome. Those who come from hostile clubs are of no concern, really, because that's their right to wish for our downfall. More distressingly, there are a small minority of those from within our ranks who perhaps would have wanted this effort to fail to suit their own political ends. When the negotiations with the government delivered what appeared a club saving and club revitalising deal, their focus was on the poor on field results. When the results improved, the focus then turned to the stalled lease situation. While seeking to improve the club's fortunes on and off field is of course the desire of every South fan, the malice that sprouted around this issue sometimes crossed a dangerous line.

This is not to entirely excuse the actions of the South board, however, in their handling of a particular aspect of this issue. While the desired outcome seems to have been secured - though of course the proof will be in the pudding - their approach in dealing with the memberships' concerns was at times less than admirable. Now I acknowledge the fact that the board and I work under very different parameters when it comes to communicating with the broader South Melbourne Hellas public. But there's something disturbing about the fact that more people came to this site - a site run by a too much spare time, no important contacts kind of person - than to the official site for news, or even vague updates about what was happening with this situation. When the members, whose club this is, are kept in the dark in this way, it sets a poor precedent for future board/member relations.

Having said all of that, my sincere thanks to the board, and of course massive kudos to the legal team for getting the job done - and can we please not squander this opportunity like we did the last time? Like you, I can't wait for the work on the social club to finally get started, so we can have a place to eat, drink, socialise and show off our history. In other words, it's time to make our house into a home.
Now let us remember the good times, and look forward to the better times we've been promised will come
There were a lot of farewells and milestones we covered even before the bulldozers moved in - the idea back in 2004 that we should be the ones initiating a ground sharing model at Lakeside; the first hint of something actually happening; the first step to my becoming a bone fide senior citizen by watching Stateline; the visit to the Parks Victoria info session; the MOU vote itself; the scratching around to find any sort of information; farewelling the Valkanis family.

Up to this point, in over seventy articles tagged with 'Lakeside redevelopment', I've followed the destruction and reconstruction of our home from the air, from inside the ground - until I was effectively banned from the area - and of course from outside the building site, like most of you had to do, as well as sourcing information from other sources such as Athletics Australia. For the lack of a place to show off our history, I've attempted to provide glimpses into some of the well known and lesser known artefacts that we have at our club.

I covered the fact that nothing had started yet by June 2010 even though we'd played our last game in April, though by July 2010 the terraces were gone. It was in December 2011  when we moved back in to Lakeside, and we looked forward to getting back into the social club, even if we had to wait for it a little while longer with a slew of away games to start the season. By November 2012  though, nothing had happened, and the lack of progress became another point of mischief for our then enemies (and now frenemies) in the Greek press, though it helps when (removed by legal team). By March 2013, it appeared there were serious issues with the entire process. By August 2013, overt cynicism about the entire thing had started creeping in. By January 2014 I was fed up enough to start a letter writing campaign, which some of you also joined in on.

In March 2014, I posted the response I received from Hugh Delahunty, the Minister for Sport and Recreation, which explained the government's position. The public display of that letter did not go down well with some members of the South hierarchy, but their displeasure was outweighed by the support of those at our club who could see that what I had done had no malicious intent whatsoever; that it was not about self-aggrandisement, but about adding to the information that South fans should have had - in this case, information that for whatever reason the club had decided not to provide any of us with. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for any sort of response to the two letters I sent to the shadow minister, John Eren. I guess that's a moot point now.

Oh, there was also the time I was told at Berwick that the agreement was' two weeks' away; then the more recent time that I was told it was 'two weeks' away. And of course the many times we were all told that the finalising of the agreement was imminent, only for it to turn out not to be the case. Who had it worse? The people who were behind the scenes and knew intimately what the problem was? Or those of us outside the sphere of influence and privileged information, who looked on more often than not feeling helpless and increasingly hopeless because of the lack of information and apparent progress?

While we're not yet at the end of journey, this is a significant step in the right direction - I hope. I'll continue to follow and present the latest developments as much as I can. More than almost any other issue affecting the club, I hope my reportage on this matter up until this point has been of some use to you, the South Melbourne Hellas supporter. The opaque match reports and the myriad digressions? I can understand if they don't tickle everyone's fancy. But even though I know I've squibbed on a few occasions, not dug deep enough when it's been necessary, maybe not gone in hard enough (or perhaps gone in too hard - anyone? didn't think so), I still hope you've got something out of reading these reports. My main goals on this front were to where possible, inform you of things that I felt you had a right to know, to inform you of things that you should know, and to inspire you to take a more active interest in how our club is being run, whether you agree with whatever positions I hold or not. Lastly, until we walk through those newly renovated social club doors, the counter on the blog will stay.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

It was cold last night - Pascoe Vale 0 South Melbourne 3

Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
It was cold last night - cold like being told by a former contributor that he hasn't read the blog since round 3. The Hosken Reserve pitch was wet, too, but there was plenty of grass on it at least, and no under 20s curtain raiser meant that we could spend more time eating the wonderful wood-fired pizzas (and the olives off Pavlaki's pizza because he apparently can't stand olives) and in my case a chinotto, too, which made the experience go up a notch from last year's already classy dining experience.

It was cold last night - cold like being the self proclaimed star of the show, but being benched by the coach for being a dickhead. Nick Epifano was reputedly dropped for disciplinary reasons, while Jamie Reed and Shaun Timmins, possibly due to injury concerns, also dropped out of the first eleven. Tim Mala was back in after serving his one match suspension, while Leigh Minopoulos also came into the starting eleven following a vacation related absence. Matthew Theodore rounded out the starting lineup. For their part, Pascoe Vale had five former South players in their starting lineup - Stefaan Sardelic, Carl Recchia, Marco Santilli, Joseph Youssef and James Stefanou. It was another one of those bizarre reunions that happen in the VPL/NPL, because that's how many players we've churned through over the past decade.

It was cold last night - and almost incessantly rainy, too, so much so that I spent the first half using my umbrella not only for my own protection, but also as impromptu shelter for South's official photographer Cindy Nitsos. It was the least I could do considering how many of her photos I've used this season. In the second half, the umbrellas behind the goal South was attacking formed an impromptu terrace roof, albeit probably blocking the view of the people standing in the only covered area available at the ground. At least we weren't playing in Ballarat.

Leigh Minopoulos slips the ball past Pascoe Vale 'keeper
Stefaan Sardelic to open the scoring. Photo: Cindy Nitsos. 
It was cold last night - so cold that at one point in the match Brad Norton asked me to fetch a ball that had gone over the perimeter fence, because he couldn't feel his hands. Hey, at least I got two separate people praising my sterling effort of jogging five metres to my right. The players from both sides struggled in the conditions, but schoolboy errors didn't help either. Theodore's lack of movement towards a ball passed to him while we were in attack with plenty of numbers committed forward saw Pascoe Vale fly up the other end, and we were lucky not to fall behind. Leigh Minopoulos opened the scoring after receiving a through ball from Iqi Jawadi, picking his spot relatively early to give us the upper hand.

It was cold last night - so cold, that when Clarendon Corner's spit roast 'Ellas, ole!' chant failed to gain any traction, my response from the corner flag to the call from the other side of the goals was greeted with 'that doesn't count'. The weather was so bad, that when someone mentioned that only the brave had turned up, only the true supporters, I sabotaged the moment by saying only the stupid had turned up.

Former South keeper Stefaan Sardelic kicks out at
 Tyson Holmes. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
It was cold last night - cold like a soccer scoreboard which doesn't reflect the ebb and flow of a game, only the trouncing that eventuated. Pascoe Vale were more than competitive in this game up until early in the second half, when Sardelic had collected the ball but also decided to apparently lash out at Tyson Holmes. I was right there next to the goals, but I'm going to go with being unsighted and only half paying attention, because when a keeper collects the ball isn't it the natural inclination of the spectator to switch off for a few seconds? Lujic took the penalty, slamming it down the middle. The substitute keeper got a hand to it, but there was no way that he was going to keep it out. Probably only Peter Zois playing an absolute blinder as he did in this game could have stopped it (and here's the video version, with legendary commentating and awful background music).

Sardelic gets sent off for kicking Holmes. Photo: Cindy Nitsos
It was cold last night - but not so cold that at 3-0 up, Lujic's death stare at not receiving a pinpoint cross from Minopoulos didn't drop the temperature even further. At 2-0 up Lujic had provided a neat cross for Minopoulos to score his second, but Leigh could not quite return the favour. Me, I blame Milos for not running to the right spot, as Leigh had done for his goal. At 3-0 up and now cruising, Jawadi managed to get himself a second yellow card and a sending off in a fracas of sorts near the benches. Whatever the cause of said argle bargle, it means Iqi will miss the next match. But by my calculations, they were also his fourth and fifth yellow cards for the season - so does that mean he'll miss an extra game on top of that? Someone said today that there is a provision for this which could see the two yellows converted to a red card, leaving Iqi on three yellows as before, and missing the one week. But it all depends on the ref's report and it's best for the club to investigate this thoroughly lest we do something stupid like play a suspended player.

It was cold last night - so cold that that car alarm which went off in the local neighborhood rang out for ten minutes towards the end of the game, and yet no one, not the car's owner, not a cranky neighbour, nor even a local street punk bothered to come out of their homes to silence it, either by either legitimate or dubious means. Missing the train back from Merlynston station by a minute, and hiding inside the bare passenger cubicle they call a shelter for 30 minutes didn't help alleviate the chill, my hands losing all colour, the glory of the win and being one step closer to a championship warming me up, at best, on a theoretical level.

Next game
Bentleigh away on Wednesday. At the time of writing, we were ten points ahead of Oakleigh with six games to play, though Oakleigh had not yet played their round 21 match away against Northcote.

New project - Victorian and Australian soccer library
I have no idea what the hell I'm doing with this, and how popular it may or may not be. But for the moment my frustration at the hoarding tendencies of some Australian soccer collectors, combined with the difficulty in sourcing much material readily for the non-academic Australian soccer fan, as well as finally being taught how to use my scanner without needing to go through Photoshop or associated programs (white space editing be damned), has prompted me to get started on this 'thing' which I've called a library for want of a better term.

At the moment it is of course a pretty sparse cupboard, but with your help I hope to be able to expand the collection. So far, I have some Victorian Soccer Federation yearbooks, a couple of annual reports and some miscellaneous items, but I'm hoping to add some club histories as well. My pseudo-anarchist leanings mean that my intention is for people to download and share the materials as widely as possible.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, or so they say
For an explanation of what's going on here, refer to my 'final thought' from a couple of weeks ago. I really don't know what to make of this, especially since it's not in blog format yet. A classic case of the unheimlich if ever I saw one.

Around the grounds
Two mysteries solved
I had been coerced into agreeing to go to Hoppers Crossing vs Bell Park, but the coercer eventually coerced himself into doing some work (or something), so I was gloriously (or terrifyingly if you're into Sartre) free to choose my own entertainment. And thus I ended up at Altona East once again, who were taking on Westgate.

When last we caught up with Altona East, their coach had resigned after leading the team into the relegation zone. Despite not playing a game last week, a points deduction to Altona Magic for some indiscretion or other saw East' next door neighbour take their place in second last. Still, that was small relief when Westgate raced to a 2-0 lead early in this game, with the home team struggling to get anything going at all. But then thanks to a Westgate a keeper error - he dropped the ball - and a deflection from a speculative effort, East went into halftime level at 2-2. A backheeled goal made it 3-2 to East, and that's how it's ended up.

Now, as to the mysteries. While flicking through the 1985 Victorian Soccer Federation yearbook, I saw that East Altona were described as wearing yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow socks. How could this be? How could the club known as PAOK not be wearing black and white? Well, as it turns out, when the club started in 1979 - ostensibly as a junior club, playing out of Altona North Primary School - the folks who kicked things off didn't really have a very strong idea of what they wanted the club to be. PAOK was eventually adopted as a formal name, but it was a fairly informal name for a long time. The colours were chosen based on the fact that, 'Well, what colours should we choose?' 'Well we're in Australia, let's choose the Australian colours' and that's how it came to be.

Apparently the green and gold colour scheme lasted up until about 1985. Certainly by the late 1980s, East Altona is a black and white team. But what happened to Altona East in 1988? Apparently they bought out a mob called St Kilda, and played the second half of the 1988 season under that name. St Kilda (a post Hellas-Hakoah merger offshoot of St Kilda-Hakoah people?) disappears in 1989 before re-emerging briefly afterwards. So, a couple of questions answered and good win to PAOK to boot.

Also learned some info about the relationship between Yarraville Doxa (Glory), the demise of Melbourne Hungaria, and Hawksburn, which is probably best left to another occasion.

 - with thanks to Fred Dimitriou for the historical information.

Final thought
Even though I didn't get to meet him, a big thank you to Pascoe Vale president Lou Tona for his hospitality, it's very much appreciated.