Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The ensuing hilarity - South Melbourne 2 Melbourne Knights 0

It's the day after, and I'm still laughing.

Granted, a lot of that is due to the fact that we won this game. And while I would have liked to have read some more online saltiness from our erstwhile opponents, the win was sufficient unto itself for pure entertainment and joy.

Besides which, Knights fans would be quick to tell you of their belief that they lose to us so often in this manner that it perhaps gets wearisome to harp on about it.

For the first forty minutes, give or take the odd foray down the wings which ended up with a bad cross by one of our players, we were pretty bad. That's not going as far as to say that the Knights were good - because just about every team I've seen in this year's NPL has been ordinary at best - but they were clearly the better team, and should have been 3-4 goals up. Only profligate finishing - Jason Hicks in particular doing his best to not make us rue letting him go - and our man in goals Nikola Roganovic kept the scoreline level.

And then the game was turned on its head by the most unexpected of goals. Having been played off the park up as a team up until that point, Nick Epifano spun out of trouble in midfield, launched a long pass to Milos Lujic who was being marked tightly well outside the area, with the striker deciding to attempt to lob Knights keeper Fraser Chalmers with what could only have been considered the most rank of speculative efforts.Except of course that it went over Chalmers and underneath the crossbar for Lujic's first goal from open play in the league this season.
That this happened after Knights had prematurely celebrated a goal which ended up bobbling on a grass-less bit of dirt near the goal line made it all the more poignant in the context of the game up to that point.

Knights soon had a free kick in a dangerous position, which resulted in a spectacular double save from Roganovic; the counter attack which followed from us should have resulted in a goal, but a poor touch from the Peoples' Champ screwed that up. Somehow we ended up getting a free kick from that sequence of play (though calling it 'contentious', as did one rival media outlet, is a bit of a stretch), which Marcus Schroen scored to make it 2-0 on half time, bringing on a joyous nervousness. Joy for the lead, nervousness for wondering if we could possibly hold on.

The free kick was unusual for several reasons. First, that we scored from one at all. Second, that Schroen, a left footer, took the shot when a right footer would probably have been the more obvious choice. Third, that he was able to score with what was more or less a direct shot, as the Knights wall, already poorly set up, crumpled in on itself at the edge for no good reason.

After the break we dominated play and should have put the result beyond doubt, but didn't. That meant that Knights were never out of the game, and kept coming, but their finishing remained poor, our defensive efforts remained wholehearted, and we held on for our third league win of the season - all against the competition's Croatian teams - and something resembling form if you're inclined to interpret it that way. I'm not.

Exciting as the game was, it was marred by some ordinary play by both teams, which went beyond the usual kinds of mistakes you expect to happen. For reasons which remain unknown to me, the amount of times players tripped over the ball was eminently noticeable. Only some of that can be put down to the real and implied pressure of the game.

The win, and the manner in which it was earned, can't mask the continuing issues that we have, which go beyond the league's promotional motto of 'if they were any good, they wouldn't be playing here' (© Paul Mavroudis). Our forward forays are still erratic in quality and too reliant on long balls; our defensive efforts more down to last ditch desperation as opposed to preventative measures; in both cases, Tim Mala was typical of the very best and worst of our play on that front. All up, we played maybe twenty minutes of passable soccer on the day.

We also continued to earn yellow cards that needn't have been earned. One can make the excuse that these things happen in a 'derby', but Carl Piergianni - who was on the bench and didn't even get on the field - picking up a yellow card for mouthing off at the officials is the tip of the iceberg to some of our disciplinary problems. I get that perhaps being under siege brings out that kind of desire to be more physical or aggressive in order to make up for other deficiencies, but we've got to be smarter.

The refereeing, without being abjectly poor, was to my mind best defined as being erratic. The man in charge did the usual thing - or at least in regards to expected custom - of not dishing out cards until each side had managed to get in a couple of good shots in beforehand. I hate that approach, but it's what 'the people' want, so there's no use in complaining. It did lead however to the situation whereby repeated but non-violent tackles were sometimes treated more harshly than obviously bad tackles.

Which brings us to the yellow-card-which-should-have-been-a-red dished out to Fraser Chalmers in the second half. While taking into account that the rules around denying a clear goalscoring opportunity have changed - and that refs are no longer obliged to give reds out in those situations - the way Chalmers flew out of his area, performed some amateur Bruce Lee Shit™ on Brad Norton, missing the ball by a mile, surely should have resulted in a red card.

But seeing as how any win's a good win the way we've been playing so far this season, it would be the height of proforma miserableness for its own sake to complain too loudly about anything that happened yesterday. It was a 'classic' derby game, the right team won in just about the most hilarious way possible, and we have a social club to celebrate these things in.

Next game
At home on Sunday against Hume City.

FFA Cup news
We have been drawn at home against NPL2 side Box Hill United in the next round.

How quickly they forget
Afterwards in the social club, there was a post-match function of sorts, with current and former South players being interviewed. It was hosted by Brandon Galgano, whose introduction to the segment rambled on about how good it was back to be in the social club. Unfortunately, Galgano repeatedly got the years and dates wrong about how long we'd been away. Once upon a time we had a clock for that kind of thing.

Anyway
It'll sound creepy, and the novelty will wear off soon, but it's interesting being in the social club after a game (more so than before a game) and just watching the way people use the space. There seems to have been a real ownership claimed over the space by our fans already - at least the ones that use it.

There is still the mistaken belief floating about regarding exclusivity vs priority. Maybe that's a tension that will never cease, especially for those who hope to bring in 'occasional' guests into the social club.

In that sense, as I've noted before, the room will be more like an AFL club's social club - priority first for social club members, and then afterwards for everyone else. Confusion about fluctuating capacity will also persist because some people have started using the social club as their exit point from the ground.

Post-game meal service (which now has more variety in its menu than the pre-game service) has settled down a bit more, and the offerings look a notch above what you get prior to a game. There also seems to have been improvement in pre-game options, insofar as it's now clear you can purchase a souv or burger without needing to buy it in a meal which includes chips and a drink. I just wish they hadn't forgotten the aioli for my chips.

Around the grounds
Letdown 
Back in 2009, I saw Altona Magic and Green Gully play one of the most exciting matches in recent Victorian soccer history; a semi-final 3-3, extra time, penalty shootout extravaganza, which at the time interested me more for the penny-pinching ways of the Gully faithful. But times and fortunes change, and while Magic went on to win that year's title, they soon found themselves broke and bottoming out. Now in the state leagues, they've got a new money man, and have splurged with the ambition of going back up. That suggested to me that this FFA Cup game against Gully at Gully had some potential, but apart from the opening ten minutes, Magic were dire, and found themselves 3-0 down at the break. The skill level was atrocious, my lift to the game decided we should early at 4-0. and the best that could be said for the affair is that Gully's lights were turned up to maximum, which for some reason didn't happen in our recent game against them.

Final thought
Some of the chairs in the social club will probably need to be replaced, as they're not as sturdy as you'd like them to be.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Details for today's fixture

As seen on the official website, as re-interpreted by me.

For reasons that I have not investigated in order to remain suitably perplexed, the under 20s are not fixtured as the curtain raiser. In fact there is no curtain raiser. Thus the main gates - from which the general public will have access to the venue - will be open from 2:15, the totality of the situation being such that it seems utterly, utterly bizarre to me.

A good thing then that South members can get there earlier - from 1:00 - and enjoy the social club. Bad luck if you wanted to invite a friend to arrive a bit earlier for a casual pre-game lunch. Maybe you can make it a post-game dinner?

In a deviation from usual practice, the match will also be streamed by the club on its Facebook page, with coverage beginning at 2:55.

Friday, 14 April 2017

SMFCBOARD IS DEAD - December 1998 - April 2017.

A piece which with its straight-faced seriousness, fittingly harks back to the kinds of crap I used to write in my early forum days.

On Monday smfcboard.com was shut down, after the forum's owner had finally had enough of bearing the legal liability inherent with such a website. Thanks to smfcboard's owner giving everyone two weeks notice of the shutdown, a new forum has been set up at smfcfans.com. While smfcboard.com has been archived by its owner, no one will ever get to see its magnificently dated look again, including the eye-wateringly bad green and white theme that hopefully no-one ever chose as their permanent choice of theme.

[Unless of course, you're one of those sickos that likes visiting the Wayback Machine to trawl through the wastes of the internet's past - in spite of the frustrations of not being able to click further on intriguing links. I mean look at this; and this - pure gold]

When was smfcboard born? This archived bit of magic - linked off from the official site no less, if you can imagine that - suggests it goes back as far as 1998, when a South fan who now apparently lives in Canada started a South supporters website. It wasn't the only South forum or site out there. This was what one old South forum looked like in 2002. Another forum circa 2001 suggested smscboard had emerged as a competitor/alternative to the less reliable pte-existing options. This fan site advocated the safe use of flares. Showing the naivety of the times, the club itself even had a message board of its own.

It's amazing that the forum lasted for as long as it did, considering that for much of the past decade it was blocked to the outside world in terms of registrations, while also being attached to a club of diminishing importance. While other forums of clubs from a similar standing/background disappeared - Preston, Knights, Olympic, Heidelberg, to name but a few - smfcboard somehow kept going. Perhaps it was due to the pre-existing critical mass, with which while it sometimes saw periods of very fallow activity, was still able to keep its head above water for long enough to hit on more prosperous times.

Smfcboard's moderation policies ended up driving some people to create their own forums, such as this one which was rapidly taken over by smfcboard regulars only to be used a gimmick factory. The blocked registration policy saw people attempt to start up forums like this one, but they too, never took off. One way or another, and in spite of its drawbacks, smfcboard remained king.

Over the years, the forum's relative popularity suffered from a number of blows. Chief among those was people losing interest in South Melbourne Hellas, now that the club wasn't in the top flight. But people were also put off by a number of other factors. Those who harboured any sort of sympathy or interest for the A-League - and especially one of its Melbourne franchises - found being on smfcboard an untenable proposition. The irony being of course that that forum's A-League thread continued to pump out the posts regardless.

[One of the forum's last truly great gimmicks occurred when the A-League thread hit 100 pages. Someone made the effort to calculate the top-ten posters in that thread, with their user names being changed to those of A-League franchises for a week.]

Some of the decidedly non-PC views of some people - back when those threads were still allowed - also pushed some reasonable people away. Equally however, when political threads were banned from the forum's general discussion section, those who had swamped the forum only to discuss politics and never anything to do with South Melbourne also moved away. Then there were those who drifted away after the issues with the Hellas Fan Club. And then the forum got locked because o legal issues with certain Victorian soccer identities from other clubs. Sometimes these were temporary measures when a high-profile game was coming up, but then it became permanent.

Basically, if you wanted a reason to leave the forum, it wasn't hard to find one. Even Olympiakos' domination of Greek soccer made the once lively Greek soccer thread a waste of time. The wrestling and heavy metal threads also had only intermittent posts, despite the elevated levels of interests for both those fields among smfcboard's clientele. But if you wanted to find the highest attrition rate for jumping off the forum on a more or less permanent basis, you'd need look no further than those who were tasked with acting as moderators - and who could blame?

But it wasn't all bad. Like any sporting forum worth its salt, smfcboard had a million in-jokes. And like any good forum where forum aliases rather than real names were the norm, the real life person and the persona behind the alias often began to blend into each other. There are still people at South whom I know only by their forum name - but that could also be a South thing, what with there being too many Georges, Cons and Jims to be able to differentiate in any other way.

The forum was viewed and posted on by board members - until they were apparently banned from doing both by the board itself. Occasionally players would visit, but not often, and as time went on increasingly rarely. Of course that didn't stop certain delusional forum members from posting diatribes with way too many capital letters and emoticons in the mistaken belief that someone important was actually listening. That disproportionate sense of the forum's wider importance to the club would have been funnier if I hadn't been a member of said forum since 2005, and thus in no position to be able to treat it as someone else's curiosity.

The forum was not only a force for evil however, nor just a place for people to post nonsense. It led, whether directly or not, to the elevation of two of its forum members to becoming board members of the club itself, through the meetings organised by supporters on the forum. The forum provided a valuable social outlet for South fans. This was especially true for a club both suddenly out of the mainstream news cycle, and one where its fans had little in common with one another other than the club.

For me, smfcboard was mostly a good thing. It helped me reconnect with the club after I drifted away at the end of the NSL. Despite much of the nonsense and vitriol on the forum, it reminded of who were my people. In my first life as a South fan, I had gone with my father or my cousin and my uncle. When I returned to South in 2006, I started going to games by myself, but soon found myself being drawn into the edges of the Clarendon Corner fold.

The first people I saw walking on the way to The Grange for what would be a 3-0 loss were a couple of members of the forum and Clarendon Corner, drunk as skunks and walking in the completely wrong direction. At the game, I saw someone with the name 'Box' on the back of his shirt, a name I recognised as a member of the forum, and I introduced myself - which for someone with what was then an often crippling shyness, was a pretty big deal.

My forum form was at the time as someone who'd write hopefully (and self-consciously reasonable) but also overlong po-faced posts. The hope was to moderate the often hysterical tenor of the discussion on the forum. I can say now with the benefit of hindsight that I only had moderate success with that approach. Still, my posts on smfcboard (and to a lesser extent, other forums) stood out to OzMackem (Ian Syson), who convinced me to take up the undergraduate writing course he was in charge of at Victoria University.

Eventually I got fed up with the forum (though I never left it on a permanent basis), and decided to break out and start South of the Border, after failing to get a prompt enough response in order to takeover Park Life. Ten years later, I have a sputtering university career, a blog with about as large a following as anyone could reasonably expect considering the content, and a reputation as someone who - I hope - can write with humour as well as pathos about this club. It's possible some of these things would have happened without smfcboard, but I have my doubts.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Nothing to write home about - South Melbourne 2 North Geelong 1

After the joys of experiencing the social club, and then watching the women's team steal a win (5-4 over Bulleen) right at the death thanks to Lisa De Vanna, the only thing which could have ruined Sunday would been the men's team finding a way not to pick up all three points. Credit to them though, they gave it a good shake.

No Nikola Roganovic, who missed through injury, replaced by Zaim Zeneli for a rare league start. Carl Piergianni maybe called out as a scapegoat for the defensive implosion last week, replaced by Michael Eagar. Jesse Daley was out also after a hard week trialling in Perth, and coming back with the flu. Thank you very much Kenny Lowe.

We started off pretty well, even took the lead, and then did what we do best and that's let the other team back into the contest. Now after being mauled 8-0 the week before against ten men no less, one guessed that North Geelong might come in with a bit more desire and discipline, and that's what they did, but they also moved the ball around better than you might expect a team on its knees to do so. I'm not saying it was great, but it did threaten to be effective, and some of our shenanigans around the back line wouldn't have discouraged them.

For our part, at times like these we are often our worst enemy. It was rainy and windy and all of that made things harder, but you'd think the way we played the conditions that it was the first time we'd eve seen conditions like that. Not one low hard shot at the keeper, or low hard skidding cross, which would have spilled loose or been bundled in for an own goal. Of course North Geelong scored in more or less that manner - a low hard shot parried back into play by Zeneli (even taking into account the conditions, a continuing weakness of his), and tapped in for the equaliser.

After that the team snapped out of their lethargy, but it took what looked like a controversial penalty at the time - not for the foul itself, but on the question of whether it was in the box - to get us over the line. Not many around where I was standing thought or realised it was in the box except for Gains, and he only thought it was in the box because he actually pays attention to the game. Certainly the North Geelong cohort towards that end of the ground were very disappointed in the decision, but the video proves the referee was right. as I noted yesterday in the aftermath.
Milos Lujic tucked away his fourth goal of the league campaign - all from penalties - and we managed to withstand North's attempts at getting an equaliser, even though it wasn't always pretty. Chris Taylor's refusal to make a sub also confounded many in the ground. The wittiest suggestion as to why that might be was made by Griff of all people, who suggested that perhaps Taylor was under the impression that substitutes were like annual leave, and that he was hoping to roll over unused subs to the next game. Whereas, as Griff pointed out, unused subs are actually more like sick days - if you don't use them, you lose them!

Overall, it was a pretty lousy performance, but we got the job done, and since avoiding relegation is our main this year, it was an important win in that context.

Next game
At home on Easter Monday against Melbourne Knights. When it comes to the fixturing of big events, the mainstream Christian churches give FFV and FFA a run for their money, but everyone's lucked out this year because everything seems to have lined up nicely, as it does every few years for (literally) God knows what reason. Though of course there's a blockbuster footy clash on the Monday, for people who are easily distracted. Speaking of which...

The most Melbourne thing ever happened
During I believe what was the second half, all of a sudden over the stadium's PA system there was a stream of the television commentary for the Carlton-Essendon slogfest at the MCG. Good friend of the blog, one Mr Cuddles, who works in the control room working the scoreboard and (ergh) music, often has the footy on another laptop if his beloved (ergh, again) Carlton are playing. Something went wrong at one stage and I believe the whole grandstand then heard Bryce Gibbs going for goal or something like that. As one wit noted, 'there goes our A-League bid', which is for the best anyway.

Let there be banter
North Geelong brought along a decent (and seemingly youngish) chanting group, even if they seemed to be singing a lot of their chants to tunes that Clarendon Corner use, and somewhat less tastefully, one of which used the tune from Mousse T's 'Horny'. They didn't limit themselves to supporting their team however, also throwing in banter our way. 'You're not singing any more' was replied to with 'We weren't singing anyway'; 'Your social club is shit' was replied to with 'Our social club, is better than yours'; their sarcastic calls of 'penalty' were responded to with our own sarcastic calls for penalties. It did get a bit less fun when members of that crew stormed down to the players tunnel/race in order to berate the officials with much wild finger pointing. At least it wasn't us for once.

First impressions of Earth/Social Club discussion in multiple parts
2017 Jersey Night
The 2017 Jersey Presentation Night was the first one to be held in our social club since its (still incomplete, but good enough to start using it) redevelopment. Was it held there also in 2010? I can't remember - I think that was the year I missed the event (and Faith No More at Soundwave) because I was having my wisdom teeth pulled out.

My first impression of the social club space was, like many of you would have found, that it was small. The futsal court utterly dominates the senses. But over the course of the night (and much more so on Sunday) I found that the space instead of being small, was instead intimate, social even.

It was a good night overall, and people there seemed pleased with the social club in general, even with the tight squeeze of the tables to accommodate the (I'm guessing) 200 or so guests. A couple of technical hitches with the audio aside, the presentation of the event was pretty good, and if anything when it went drastically wrong or over time, it was because the audience had to constantly be shushed during the player auctions.

On that front, the real bolters were the Queensland pair (and many of these lots were done in pairs) of Luke Pavlou and Jesse Daley. The women's team as a collective fetched a good price as well, but I've stopped being able to keep track of the amounts raised on the night let alone across the years. I'm not even sure if every player was auctioned off. I can't recall if Liam McCormack for instance was called up or even present. The People's Champ, as is the case every year with this event, was not there.

The food was a bit all over the shop. The delays in getting the main meal out were a bit crap, but I think like of lot of things with the new social club we're all happy to be tolerant while everything settles down. The salads were fine, calamari dull, the roasted pulled meats OK, and the desserts - baklava and galaktobouriko which I invited to scoff from another table - warm and rather good.

What's-his-name was at the jersey night on Friday.  Photo : FourFourTwo.
The panel session was Bill Papastergiadis going on about the A-League bid; Lisa De Vanna - new signing for the women's team - discussing her career and drive to succeed; and that bloke off that Nunawading mural (not him, not the other one either, yeah, that guy) talking about how he has very few friends and how most of those few friends he has were made at South. Hey, wait, that sounds like a lot of people left at South right now! Or maybe I'm just projecting.

Anyway, after complaining last week about never winning raffles, I still bought ten dollars worth of tickets, and when the draw was being re-done for the small label boutique handbag prize (because no one had claimed to have the original winning ticket) I pointed to a particular green ticket in my possession, told the rest of the table that I was on that I was going to win it, and lo and behold I won the damn handbag.

Now while many of those in the room who know me had a good chuckle, I was not ashamed to collect my prize (though I'd rather have won the tyre voucher), because it's just a handbag of indeterminate monetary value, and I would have found someone to gift it to later on. As it was, I didn't even get to leave with the prize, as I was made a very generous cash offer for the bag, which I accepted. The buyer's daughter is apparently quite happy with my her new handbag, I was happy with the price offered, and I sought to plough that money back into the club coffers as quickly as I could on Sunday, with three-quarters of it already donated to a better cause; namely a rather nice new home shirt - one in which the badges and sponsors are not ironed on or sewed on, but are like, actually part of the shirt.

Anyway, the highlight of the night for me - apart from watching the last two minutes of the Swans-Pies game on someone's tablet - was being seated near the players (who arrived after completing a training session), who at one point were watching themselves on one of the many screens on the 2016 montage being played on said screens, and partook in some playful taking the piss of themselves and each other. Overall, an enjoyable evening which I wouldn't have missed for the world, and yet that's not all that happened that night.

Farewell, old friend (He's bad - but he'll die - so I like it.)
I can't remember when I first put the clock up. It must have been some time around 2013 or 2014, but who can say for sure without trawling through the archives (actually October 2013, thank you very much to Twitter's searchable archive download service). It was not exactly the most accurate or honest of things. I had as its starting point the end of our last home game at the old Lakeside. That decision was at best only theoretically accurate; after all, people hung around the old social club on that day for a few hours, being either appalled or attempting to justify the carnage of the pitch invasion.

But that wasn't the end either. The social club still got some use from the average South Melbourne Hellas punter. There was a casino night, and there was an 80s themed birthday party for board member Tony Margaritis, which included music by 80s tribute band Powerstryde.

[I didn't wear any stereotypically 80s gear to that party. Collingwood had just won the flag in a replay, and so I was wearing a Pies guernsey, having decided to commit to a friend's celebration and instead of hanging out with the teeming boganity listening to Lionel Ritchie.]

I'd started the clock as a quiet lark, and as a silent protest. People who read the blog - whoever they were - would hopefully have a laugh at the grim situation. As for protest, really, who that was against was less well defined. Was it against the government and their bureaucracy? They probably didn't visit too often. Was it against the board? Probably a bit, but if they could have satisfactorily resolved the issue sooner I'm certain they would have done so. More likely, and typically, it was a protest against the cosmic injustice of the whole thing, and an acknowledgement of the absurdity of it as well.

It took a few attempts to find the right kind of extension, and then to figure out how to fit it in within the blog. Of course, in keeping with South of the Border's design aesthetic of looking like a dog's breakfast, it only added to that overall effect.

After the lark honeymoon period was over, the social club counter gained its own notoriety - first among readers of South of the Border, and later out in the digital realm. Opposition club fans were huge fans, but there was also interest from far flung quarters of what is called #sokkahtwitter, the loose gaggle that could barely be considered a collective that makes up the people who talk about Australian soccer on Twitter. Without going over the top and saying that it was some sort of transcendent Australian soccer phenomenon, among those people who care about such things people knew about it, and kept an eye on it. This is one of the last tweets on the subject of the clock before its demise, which summed up people's feelings on the matter
That notoriety was both fascinating and dispiriting. Yes, all of our fans wanted the issue of the social club resolved. For the pleb fan, this was because we just wanted our social club space back. For the board members, it was because so much of the future prosperity of the club that they were and are responsible for was still attached to it. But for me, there was the added condition of 'I just want to get rid of this damn albatross'. I hated it. When one day late last year I think it was, it mysteriously broke and showed the (all things considered) wrong time, I had to go back and manually fix it.

But then, as its demise came nearer, I also felt sort of strange about that pending end. It had become an essential part of the blog, the most obvious thing, and the only moving thing on here, its metronomic persistence - except in the one case noted above - was soothing. And the hatred I had for it was revealed, as it sometimes was wont to do, to be tempered with a strange appreciation for its toxic attempt at humour.
On the day of the jersey night, I had mostly overcome my ten day bout with illness. The plan on the day had been settled. I'd go to a free lunch in Fitzroy and the Jersey Night after that, with hopefully two hours in between to get to a computer at uni in the city in order to quietly remove the social club count-up clock. (Blogger's back-end management processes work very badly in my phone's browser). But I got waylaid for several hours in the late afternoon by drinks in Brunswick Street with an assortment of characters known and unknown. By the time I managed to extricate myself from the situation, I was overdue at Lakeside, and the clock was still running.

So, while getting playfully heckled online and at jersey night was fun for about two minutes, I really wanted to just get the damn thing off the blog. So after asking the evening's media operator whether I could borrow his computer to just dump it quietly, discreetly, the situation was engineered - admittedly with my agreement - that at a suitable point in the evening, we would film the process. And thus at some point late in evening, around 11:30 or so, the farce of an amateur blogger deleting a bit of html off a website was filmed and uploaded to the world.
Several years ago when people were discussing how we should inaugurate the opening of the social club, I'd mentioned this as a possibility, but there was no planning for it until the night itself. Usually South of the Border likes to steer clear of anything resembling an official connection to the club, but late in the evening, with the room half emptied, and with the wife of a South of the Border reader (you can hear her in the video's background) heckling her partner, everything seemed to fall into place. Thanks to MC David Henning for his kind words and nimble speech.

That wasn't the end of course, as the witty but topical banter kept rolling on.
But it was finally done - the social club was in, and the clock had to go. Your correspondent typically couldn't help however put forward what was at least a faintly mournful post.
On Saturday morning, looking at the blog, I decided to change the look for the first time in years. A bit neater, and a bit of distance between that bloody gadget and the blog. I thought it looked better, but one of our readers suggested something a bit more appropriate for those sneaking in a read of South of the Border during paid office hours. Not having ever had a proper job of any description, I just did what he suggested and changed the text box a bit. If I had the skills I'd convert the whole thing to look like a spreadsheet, but since I can't even manage even a crappy banner for the top, that might be a bit of a pipe dream.

Museum
I thought the museum was well done. The mix of the wall insets with trophies and photo montages, as well the video screens adjacent, looked very professional, but also appropriately reverential. It is a project that is, like many other elements of the social and office spaces, still incomplete, and I hope that it will improve on that front. There were several glass cabinets insets, with trophies, mementos and photo collages. I am glad that the coloured red vee heritage strip photo from the 1960s got prominent positioning, as well as a very good working of the women's cabinet. There are also still things which are in storage, including trophies, the club honour board, etc, which will be incorporated into the final design.

To give a bit of background on production of the museum, so far as my limited involvement was concerned. At some point during the development of the social club project, I had gone on a trip with two members of the South office/media inner circle out to various AFL club HQs to see what they had done with their museums. Some were very good (Hawthorn's - if you have any interest in these things, go see it, seriously), and some were not so good. I wrote up a sort of summary/discussion paper, wondered ever after if anyone had read it, and waited thereafter to see what those in the club tasked with that area would come up with.

Whoever they relied upon - whether their own gleanings from their own research, or from referencing my internal write-up, it's clear that those behind the museum learned the lessons from that sojourn across Melbourne. They've made good use of the limited space available (Hawthorn, for example, has an entire second floor for its museum), and everything looks fantastic. At the very least, it was good to see some of the old trophies in their proper form, having been given a nice clean and polish; they were almost unrecognisable from those I had packed away several years ago.

Those of you who remember the old social club museum may be disappointed with what's on offer, and asking why isn't everything on show. The truth of the matter is, while we had a lot of trophies, many were from one off matches and minor cups. It looked, in its own shabby way, viscerally impressive, but it told no story. That the club has run with the idea of a at least a basic narrative - state league, national league, women's, intercontinental - means that there is a focus on the biggest things we have achieved.

I would hope that what currently exists as a blank wall between the entrance from the futsal court and the museum can be turned into an extension of the museum idea, incorporating at least something about the three predecessor clubs, and perhaps also something about Middle Park as well. It may be a good chance to use even some cursory written history as part of that. We'll wait and see, but so far I am happy with what has been achieved on this front.

On Sunday
I missed the family day on the Saturday, having procrastinated too long at home playing video games, and so I didn't get to experience the social club under the full force of too many people with too many children. Apparently the wait for food was very long.

On Sunday this did not appear to be an issue. I was there pretty early, and while food was not served instantly, it was prepared in a timely fashion for those looking to eat inside. I was less than happy with the meal deal option - with either souvlaki (pork, chicken, or lamb), burger or kransky - because it seemed to be the only way you could order a main meal, in that you couldn't buy a souv, burger or kranksy just on its own. I'm lead to believe that this, and the very concise menu, were only temporary as bistro finds its feet.

The food - I had a pork souvlaki - was of a very good standard, and judging from what other people said about their meals, I did not hear a bad word about the quality of what was on offer. The pricing on the other hand was a bit steep, as it was for booze. And while a drink was included in the cost of the meal, it was for a soft drink. I hope that in future something can be arranged for alcoholic drinks to be included in meal deals, as is often done at pubs.

It is impossible to extrapolate anything from day one (or day three), but the venue seemed to be doing good trade. After the game came its first real big PR test, when the club's social club member priority scheme was put in place for the first time - or at least general member priority. Those without memberships - including one notably young and loud-voiced terrace character - had to wait until those with memberships got in first, and then whatever capacity was left over could accommodate them. Maybe some signage making that fact could be placed outside the social club, instead of having the president stand outside personally vetting people. (though if I recall correctly,

It would also be good in future to know in advance when the social club will be open from, and I have made that known to people at the club - even on their electronic flyers, it'd be a welcome addition. I'm not sure of the scope of the venue to attract people from the local community, but hopefully it is at least able to attract people who attend events held at Lakeside on non-South match days, especially people from outside those who will use the futsal court. Speaking of which, the futsal court itself is apparently already doing quite well during these school holidays in terms of exploiting leveraging our location in an upper middle class part of Melbourne which full of people with high levels of disposable income.

And in the end, that's what it comes down to. I can understand the concerns of those who wanted something bigger and more expansive, but it is not designed for the 13 odd days where we play at home - it is designed for the other 352 days when we are not playing games there. That most of us will be there on one of those 13 days however means our judgements will be based around that experience, even as the financial security and hopefully prosperity that the other 352 days will bring to the club will be the main focus of the social club. It will take some getting used to. Some may never get used to it. I understand that. I'm going to try and make the best of the situation.

In all seriousness
My warmest regards to any board member past or present who had to work on this project at any time. So far as I can remember, neither the clock nor any of my comments were ever intended as a personal attack on any of you - I get it though if you were annoyed or hurt by either of those however. At least now I can start hammering you for the social club as it is, and not about when we'd actually get it.

Hidden benefits of the social club
The game outside was streamed live into the social club's screens. Apart from being convenient in terms of not missing much of the action if you decide to stay indoors because of the weather or want to beat the half-time rush for food, if you happen to be one of our more combustible supporters, you can use it as a time-out space - as it may have appeared to occur during the game on Sunday.

Subscription feature
Succumbing to further audience requests, I've added a gadget which allows you to subscribe to alerts for new posts via email. It's a little thing on the right hand side of the site.
SMFCBOARD IS DEAD
The owner of the forum finally had enough. Full obituary Thursday or Friday or something like that.

Around the grounds
Restricted view ticket
I had intended to to go Lakeside for 'family day', but procrastination caught up with me. Thus we (me and three other blokes) agreed to attend Moreland City vs Brunswick City. After an energetic first half there was no score, because neither team could shoot properly. Moreland took the lead through old mate Trent Rixon, but then Brunswick, who had done nothing in the second half, got level via a penalty and then took the lead with ten to play. Almost all the second half was watched from a a ridiculous vantage point (see right) because of the weather. Campbell Reserve's sight lines are bad enough on a good day; when it starts pouring down, there's nowhere to hide, and fewer vantage points to watch a game from. At least we got to see Moreland's equaliser for 2-2 because the player scoring the goal happened to be in that one part of the field where we could see him score a goal. In the 92nd minute, the home side pinched an equaliser. One felt bad for Brunswick, even though they had not really done enough to earn their lead despite scoring two goals. One felt uneasy about Moreland winning the game, even though on the balance of play they deserved it. But maybe that's the complimentary plastic cup of scotch talking - a complimentary plastic cup of scotch I suspect was earned because of only half playful hostile questioning of a member of the Victoria Patriots A-League bid team. And I don't even really like scotch.

Final thought

Monday, 10 April 2017

What, how dare you disturb us during nap time!



Some people are waiting for a new post, even at this late hour. Well, it's not coming. I'm tired. Maybe sometime on Tuesday morning, but even then... also this is a neat way to test the subscriber email function gadget.

Monday, 3 April 2017

All over the bloody shop - Green Gully 4 South Melbourne 4

Let us begin with some wisdom gleaned from a psalm.
Blessed is the one
    who arrives with low expectations
or who does not expect sudden turns of form
    or who can endure the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the wondrous absurdity,
    and who meditates on this day and night.
That person is the one sane person left at this club,
    who can go home unburdened knowing
that if these blokes were really any good —
    then they would not be playing here.
Dear readers, I spent most of the previous week sick, and was therefore so looking forward to getting out of the house and watching some soccer. More fool me, because here I am two days after the fact and I'm now sicker than I was before the event. It would hardly do to blame the team - after all, it's only a hypothesis at the moment, and we still have to do some longer term studies and get them published in peer reviewed journals - but why blame my feeble constitution for failing me when I can point the finger squarely at those men dressed in blue on Saturday.

After that loss draw, I have found it incredibly difficult to muster the courage to approach this keyboard. How could I explain with my only modest eloquence the disaster of those frantic fifteen minutes? I could try and step back from it I suppose. Did the Gully comeback come out of nowhere? Well, not really. One could blame Chris Taylor for the subs he made, taking off our two best attacking threats in Jesse Daley and Nick Epifano, but Gully had been threatening throughout the game - it was just that when push came to shove, they were rather inept in the final third for 75 minutes.

At 3-0 and 4-2 up, things should be secure, but that's why matches keep going instead of being called off at those score lines and at those times, because stuff like this can happen. It happened to Gully last week, copping three goals in seven minutes when 2-0 up against Heidelberg. And while I'm not absolving Taylor for his role in making the initial team selections, placements and subsequent substitutions, at what point do the players have to bear some of the responsibility? Who of them stepped up during that time to wrest back even nominal control of the game?

We also seem to have no idea about tempo. If the game slows down and needs to be sped up, or is getting out of hand and needs to be slowed down, we don't seem capable of taking the necessary action independent of the coaches making those decisions... or maybe the instruction went out there and no one was able to implement the necessary action? The feeling of the second goal we conceded - and I can't bear to go to the video to watch and confirm - felt like something from my days watching the Altona East reserves.

Pseudo-psychologically, especially with such a deficit to make up, the intention of the team that's just pulled a goal back is to storm the barricades and pile on both actual and implied pressure. The job then of the team seeking to maintain the lead, or at least not let things get worse, is to suck the life out of the potential momentum before it even gets out of hand for at least the next three minutes. That didn't happen, so here we are, having robbed ourselves of what could have been called momentum and goodwill.

One can go on and on about the negatives, but in this rather truncated match report, I will close by noting some of the things I liked. I liked the return of the People's Champ. Two assists, a goal, and generally good attitude. I liked Jesse Daley, our best outfield player in 2017 keeping up the good work. Matthew Millar offered polish as well as effort for the first time this year. Notwithstanding the fact that scored four times, we also actually looked like scoring on a regular basis. We even scored off a counter attack.

Things are not as bad as they could be. In part this is because of...

Next game
At home, at last, against the struggling North Geelong on Sunday prevening. They copped an 8-0 beating against a ten man Bergers. Look for your own omens and portents.

Soccer, soccer, soccer is the real football! Soccer, soccer, the greatest game of them all!
Sometime during the second half I think it was, I somehow got dragged into a childish back and forth discussion with a Gully fan about what the name of the game was. I prefer soccer for all sorts of arcane, regressive, and recalcitrant reasons and some of what Ian Syson says here about the naming conjecture applies here also. Now the discussion didn't end up in a punch on or anything like that (could you even imagine such a thing?), but it did bother me that someone would choose that to become (relatively) upset that issue of all things. Having made some nonsense response by referring to an SBS soccer jingle from the 1980s, I was more upset by the fact that, some time after the incident and either on the way home or already there, I figured out the perfect comeback - that being if that our friend felt so strongly about the matter, he should take up the issue with his club first.

If you like football so much, why do you go to the soccer?
For you see, unlike many other clubs of our level which have tinkered with their names by getting rid of the word 'soccer' and replacing it with 'football', or the nonsense 'FC' (and I only partly excuse our club for doing it, because there was the comical coincidence of upsetting Sydney Swans fans, who came to understand that their club hadn't copyrighted 'SMFC' or 'South Melbourne FC'), Green Gully remain steadfast users of 'soccer' and 'soccer club'. They've even added a whole bunch of new banners along their fences proudly telling everyone that they are the 'Green Gully Soccer Club'. So you know, maybe tackle the problem at its source if it means so much to you.

The world revolves around Hellas, Part ∞
Apparently Perth Glory's coach Kenny Lowe was in attendance at our game. That obviously means he was there to look at our players. I mean, they've all been playing so well, who wouldn't want them?

This week is a big week, just quietly
Jersey night on Friday. Family Day on Saturday. Home game on Sunday. And at the centre of all those things is the newly refurbished social club. More comment on that next week.

Mesorouni found alive
Call off the search parties, rein in the dogs, cancel the Soul Asylum gig; the milk carton campaign worked.

Around the grounds
It's too late for it now, but I really wished I'd collected every failed soccer club raffle ticket I ever bought
Went to Westgate vs Western Suburbs before our game, because the food is nominally better there than at Green Gully Reserve. While not even close to being as good as the overpriced Altona Magic, Suburbs were still about .5 to 1.5 classes above Westgate, and won the game 3-1. I missed Westgate's goal, which came directly from a corner, because I was looking at my phone for some reason. I like to think that them scoring wasn't to be expected, but you've got to keep your eye on the ball. Goal of the day was Suburbs' third, the low corner not being dealt with in any way by the Westgate defense, and the Suburbs striker finished it off with an outrageous flick volley, which I did see and wish that I could see again.

Final thought
I was going to post some salacious gossip that I heard during this game, but I'm trying to build a reputation of being a man of the utmost taste and character.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

We won! How awful! Monbulk Rangers 0 South Melbourne 4

Mongol General: What is best in life? 
Conan: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.
Conan the Barbarian (1982) 
Fun fact! That movie stole that dialogue from something purportedly said by Genghis Khan! No matter, we came, we saw, we conquered, and we stole another famous phrase coined by another famous general. Though the scoreline suggests otherwise, this game was not quite the slaughter one would have hoped for; neither was it seemingly effective in playing anyone into any sort of form, on a synthetic pitch described by coach Chris Taylor before the match as 'a lot like Buleen's'.

From Monbulk Rangers' Facebook page: And at the end of a
 tough night, we've gone down 4-0 to South Melbourne FC. The team
 had read the scouting report, but it seemed that they didn't
 take account for Unknown, who just wreaked havoc on the
 Monbulk defenders. What a great experience for our boys
 in the Westfield FFA Cup  though, and now it's time to
focus on the important stuff! All the best to South
 Melbourne for the rest of the Cup, and their NPL season.
This game was hard to watch, but before that, it was hard to get to. Not for me so much - my trip was long, rather than difficult - but others had to contend with peak hour traffic and going to Monbulk Rangers' old ground instead of the new one. But like I said, this game was hard to watch. This new football development is quite nice for soccer participants up in those mountains, with two synthetic pitches, a new social club/pavilion, and apparently more grounds yet to come. But for spectators, it is a less than stellar experience. Granted, most of Monbulk's matches will be played in the daylight of a Saturday afternoon, but so far as the lighting was concerned, it was one of the more poorly lit night matches I've ever been to. When play was on the outer side in particular, it became hard to keep track of play. That fact wasn't helped by the decision to use green balls which blended in to the background and the surface.

The design of the main field insofar as spectator amenity goes is also bizarre. Granted, this game would have been an unusual case for Monbulk, as they probably don't get crowds of this size (and it wasn't a huge crowd, although it was inflated by training night attendance) for most games. The fencing situation, understandably created to prevent stray balls flying off into neighbouring houses, adjacent grounds, and down ravines, means a very poor view for anyone not fortunate enough to be on the sideline along the pavilion side of the ground, There was an elevated area on the other side of the field, with a massive and all encompassing fence blocking anything resembling a decent view of the ground. I and a few others tried out that section early in the second half, before getting fed and resolving to stand behind the goal we were attacking (southern end?), which also had a massive fence but which was at least less oppressive when it came to providing a view of the whole ground.

Finally, the game was also hard to watch because, in spite of the several divisions worth of difference between the two sides, we just weren't very good. If the aim, apart from getting through to the next round, was to find a bit of form, things didn't go quite to plan. To be sure, we dominated proceedings from almost beginning to end, being camped in the Monbulk half of the ground. But our attacks were plagued by the kind of crap that happens when nothing is going right for you. The odd poorly hit shot, whether a grubber or skied into the fence above the goal is acceptable, as is an unknown keeper having a quasi-blinder. But you could actually see the gears clicking over in some of our players' heads. I'm not averse to players thinking their way through situations - indeed, we'd like to see more of it - but when it came to the final third, where there was a need for decisiveness, there was an unfortunate sense of equivocation.

As expected, Zaim Zeneli replaced Nikola Roganovic in goal. Michael Eagar returned to the starting lineup for the first time since round 1, in for Carl Piergianni. Brad Norton slotted back into the side for the suspended Luke Pavlou. Leigh Minopoulos also came back into the starting lineup, replacing Marcus Schroen, while Andy Kecojevic also got a rare start in place of Liam McCormick. Josh Hodes came on as a substitute, as did Gavin De Niese. Zeneli was subbed off late on for youth keeper Amir Jashari. Of everyone who was out there yesterday, Jesse Daley was best by quite a ways.

The way we're going, you take the win, hope no one got injured or pulls up too sore, and hope that we get a kind draw for the next round, while in the meantime trying to find some sort of form in the league.

Next game
Green Gully away on Saturday evening. This winning streak was fun while it lasted.

Banter, Monbulk style. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Hospitality!
The locals were very welcoming. A bit of friendly banter directed Jesse Daley. A banner directed at our mothers. And loud cheers for everything their team did, whether that was winning a corner, forcing Zeneli into a rare save, or just stopping us from scoring another goal. The biggest cheer was saved for the final whistle, as their side was congratulated heartily for their efforts. They assumed they were going to lose - and they did - but it didn't seem to be the end of the world for them. They even seemed to be having fun. How I pity them and their naiveté. Thank goodness we support a team where enjoyment is, at best, only a secondary concern.

The home side went all out on the catering front. For those that drink beer, the prices were apparently quite reasonable, and included commercial craft beer for those into that kind of thing. Not me, mind you - I was happy with a Pasito. Along with the standard burgers and chips, there was also the 'gyro for the visit of the Greeks' phenomenon which we have spoken of before, served here in either a roll or wrap (which was definitely not a pita), and which in the latter case was served almost like an open sandwich. It looked like they were a bit stingy with the meat though.

But there were also several left-field options. These included dumplings, a number of sweet offerings, and what the specials board called 'Dutch croquettes'. Being adventurous or difficult, I asked what the Dutch croquettes actually were, which no one working in the canteen quite seemed to be able to answer. One of the workers in the canteen even said 'they're croquettes, and they're Dutch', which was no help whatsoever. Anyway, of course I ordered them (they were allegedly to come in a roll), and it took forever to get them, as I watched several people who ordered food after me get their burgers and gyros before. Anyway, it all worked itself out in the end, even if I had to ask for salad (actually the best, freshest, tastiest salad I've had in a roll - no rock hard tomatoes here) with my Dutch croquette roll.

Their TV reception was not so good, as the Socceroos match being played on the TV inside had some serious signal problems. I'd say that's what you get for living so far out from civilisation, but glass houses and stones and all that.

It's almost here...
I booked my ticket for the jersey night this morning, during a phone call in which you could construction going on in the background. I had considered giving it a miss this year, but the lure of the event being hosted in the social club was too much to resist.

Final thought
Thanks to Dave for giving me a lift to and from the ground.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Life During Wartime - Oakleigh Cannons 1 South Melbourne 0

It was a week that started off badly, and ended much, much worse. In between those things, there was a soccer match of a moderately pleasing quality, at least in the first half.

The whole of the ball? Impossible to tell. Oakleigh goalkeeper John Honos
 manages to scoop out Liam McCormack's effort on goal, to the satisfaction
of the official - which is the end, is all that matters. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Oakleigh came into the game with players the calibre of Goran Zoric, Dimi Hatzimouratis and Shayan Alinejad sitting on the bench. It also looked like Adrian Chiapetta and Steve Pantelidis had played in the 20s game beforehand. Meanwhile for South, there was no Brad Norton (injury), no Nick Epifano (still suspended), no Kristian Konstantinidis (suspended for six months), and no Leigh Minopoulos (work commitments). Added to that was Marcus Schroen coming back from injury, and not looking exactly right, and things looked grim from the outset.

And yet we almost pinched the lead, after an error by John Honos in goal for Oakleigh saw Liam McCormack's (necessarily rushed) shot from range hit the crossbar. From a distance it looked like it was going miles wide or over, only to fall at the last second - but not by enough. McCormack also had the misfortune of having his header near the goal line scooped off the line - or from behind the line - by Honos, denying him a goal and South the lead. It was rather reminiscent of McCormack's late effort against Avondale earlier this season, where he was denied dramatically by Chris Oldfield.

They were our best chances for the game. Not that we didn't get into dangerous areas - especially in the first half - but that killer cross or final ball let us down - which is as much a sign of poor confidence as it is skill. For their part, even though they hadn't won a league game up to that point, Oakleigh's confidence was very high, and they had shots rattle off the bar from range as well as shots cleared off the line. Overall, Nikola Roganovic had the more serious interventions to make of the two goalkeepers.

The South Melbourne women continued on their winning ways, defeating
Southern United 3-1 out at Langwarrin. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
While several people have commented that the standard was poor, especially by us, I thought the first half was the most skillful and entertaining half of soccer I'd seen all season. It was open, end to end stuff, with daring play. We relied more on the counter, and looked good until the final ball, and sometimes the one before that - the absence of Norton and Minopoulos on the left being keenly felt.

The second half from our point of view was not as good. What were in the first half long balls sent into space and promising numerical situations, subsided into long balls because of no idea what else to do. Or so it seemed. And then Oakleigh's goal came, from Dean Piemonte in the most frustrating manner possible. Well known for his long range thunderbolts, Piemonte was lining up for such a shot, and with South hearts in mouths, a South defender rushed up to block. Unfortunately, because that defender slid down to make his tackle, Piemonte deftly evaded the challenge and chipped the ball over Roganovic and under the crossbar. It was an outrageous effort, and demonstrative of the difference between one team with four points and another team with four points up to that point.

Our chance to get back in the contest went badly wrong towards the end of the game, when a blocked long range shot inadvertently sent Oakleigh's Nate Foster into space, and threatening to go one on one with Roganovic. Luke Pavlou, playing in the left back role, did well to keep up with Foster, but got tangled up with the star striker, receiving a red card for his efforts. It seemed a very harsh decision on first glance, as if Foster had initiated the contact. The replays have not convinced me of Pavlou's guilt, and that at best it was an unfortunate tangle of legs that was no one's fault.

While giving up chances on the counter in our quest to go forward and try and snare an equaliser, it's not like we didn't have the Oakleigh defense scrambling, pressing right until the end. Last year something may have come off - this year, there's no way it would. It wasn't helped by sloppy attempts at play by substitutes Andy Kecojevic and Gavin De Niese - the latter's late attempt at goal was poor in both execution and decision making, being a very long way out and taken while being completely off balance.

In the current situation, with losses mounting up - especially considering our difficulty to put goals on the board - even well fought losses are little consolation. Suspensions and injuries haven't helped, but if that was all that was wrong with the team, you'd just ride out a difficult period and move on. Some have suggested that playing so many games away has hurt, and while it probably hasn't helped, most of those grounds have been in good nick as befits the early part of the season. I'm wanting to believe that there's a way out of this mess, and that it will come soon - but each week that passes, whether we put in the hard yards or not, sees us fall short, with the exceptions of the St Albans and Eastern Lions games.

My frustration is gradually becoming disconsolation.

The lowest common denominator
After the game, there was the usual hyper-negative banter being made by a small minority that the team 'should take their shirts off' and that they 'hadn't even tried'. Whatever one's thoughts on the usefulness of such commentary, on Friday night it was daft in its own right because the team had clearly busted a gut. It was half a team out there, with Schroen on one leg, down to ten men, fighting until the end. I get that people have different points of view on a game, but I can't for the life of me see how one could come to the conclusion that the team didn't put in a huge effort on Friday night.

Unfortunately, the situation moved on from mere banter to a brawl among our own fans. Despite being in the vicinity, I couldn't tell how it escalated so quickly and after that, who was doing what to whom. There has been discussion about what kicked things off properly and who did what in other places - but I am not going to speculate on that. All I will say on the matter is that apart from being disgusted and distraught watching the scene unfold, I give credit to those involved who tried to deescalate the situation, and those who tried to restrain those who were intent on violence.

Because of the seriousness of some of the allegations, I will not be allowing any comments on this post, nor any further comments on this issue in any other comment section of any post. This is especially so because most people choose to post here anonymously, and I have no way of verifying who is who. If you did witness the events and wish to make your view of it known, the best thing for you to do is contact the club directly and provide a statement.

Next game
After being drawn at home in the FFA Cup against Monbulk Rangers, some of our supporters were looking forward to both a relatively easy passage to the next round, and the chance to see a home game with the newly finished social club as an added attraction.

Then the club decided to reverse the fixture, which will be now hosted by Monbulk on Tuesday at their recently redeveloped ground. That did not go down well with South fans, including the self-appointed nomarch of the South Melbourne Hellas Public Transport Faction.

But once one calmed down one could, even if only begrudgingly, see why the club had done this. My guesses are:
  1. Avoid mucking up carefully laid social club launch plans. 
  2. Get the game out of the way.
  3. Get the Peoples Champ's five game spitting suspension over quicker.
  4. Have one day where the team don't have to look for a training venue.
  5. Goodwill gesture to lower league club.
It's not an ideal situation for our supporters, but if this is the worst thing that happens this year, we'll be counting ourselves lucky.

This week's annoyances - wobbly kickoff times
The Oakleigh game started twenty minutes late. I do not know why it started twenty minutes late. What is the point of having a scheduled kickoff time if it is going to be wantonly disregarded? This is of course especially bad for people like me who depend on public transport to get to most matches, and for whom a delay of such magnitude can lead to cascading delays in getting home. it's also not the first time this has happened this year, with me personally experiencing significant delays at five games already this season. Twice at South games (Heidelberg and Oakleigh), twice at Chaplin Reserve, and once yesterday at Castley Reserve. I don't understand what's made this most basic of requirements an issue all of a sudden in 2017.

This week's annoyances - the passive offside rule
Just get rid of it completely and go back to the hard and fast offside rule. This newest interpretation of passive offside is a nightmare for everyone involved.

The dialectics of terrace banter
Former South championship player Iqi Jawadi was playing for Oakleigh, which created debate among some as to whether he should be booed or not, including whether he was worth it. The situation was resolved by people booing him and then shouting 'worthy!', which seemed to be the best solution.

'Bumgate' - Konstantinidis banned for six months
Kristian Konstantinidis has been banned for six months for sticking his finger up a St Albans player's arse. That means his season is effectively over. I don't know if the length of the punishment is warranted - how do you even make a judgment on something like this? - but comparing it to a bad tackle or a fight or any one of the many other things that may happen during a match doesn't help clarify things.

Apart from losing one of our most important players due to a completely unnecessary act - one which I think most would struggle to justify - I have been disappointed by another aspect of the fallout, and that has been the targeting by some of our fans of Dion Fountas, the photographer who captured the moment. The justifications for targeting Fountas have been bizarre. A match photographer takes a photo of something that happens during a match, a match being played in front of hundreds of people - and somehow he's been targeted under some nonsense idea of censorship, and even been threatened with being banned from Lakeside.

Mind you, many of those same people targeting him now were happy to make use of Fountas' photos from the Victory game last year, praising him for taking and uploading his photos. Those same fans were happy to send videos to the commercial networks of the Victory hooligans. The same thing has happened in regards to radio broadcasts of games. When MFootball narrated the Victory incident, and made it abundantly clear to the audience that it was Victory fans at fault, our fans were stoked. But if the shoe is on the other foot, will some of us take umbrage of coverage of our own bouts of misbehaviour? Is it the act that is the problem, or merely the perpetrator? If it's the latter, it becomes hard to legitimately take the moral high ground on anything afterwards - you've effectively made it an issue of self-interest or self-preservation.

Aside from all of that, the idea that it was a brain fade by Konstantinidis doesn't seem right to me - this doesn't seem to be the kind of thing you do on a whim. If it was, he was horribly unlucky to be caught in the act in the only time he had ever attempted the maneuver. Of course, when the story was published by some major media outlets, the comments went through the roof. Probably not the kind of metrics the club was looking for though.

Social club news
Put it in your diary: 2017 SMFC Jersey Night, April 7th, 7:00PM. Venue...

THE SOUTH MELBOURNE HELLAS SOCIAL CLUB.

Contact the club directly if you wish to go. If you can't make it or choose not to, there'll be a family day the day after.

Around the grounds
An orange ticket for the man with the orange hair.
Westgate's pavilion is being torn down and replaced with a new one, so in 2017 they're playing their home games at Castley Reserve, which probably hasn't senior soccer for a very long time. Nevertheless, it's good for me, because it's within two minutes walking distance of my place. Yaraville took a 3-0 lead into the break, and looked to be cruising past a borderline inept Westgate. The second half saw Yarraville take its sweet time finishing the game, waiting until Westgate had pulled two goals back before making sure of it with a 4-2 win. I didn't win the raffle.

Final thought
This was one of those weeks where I regret having part of my self-esteem attached to the fortunes of this club.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Fanatic of the Week no. 5 - Marshall Sayer

This is the last one of these I could find that was still in working order. Maybe some more digging another eight years time from now will unearth some more of these. 

If you would like to add your name to the gimmick, I'm happy to receive emails answering all the questions below.



Welcome to our sixth 'Fanatic of the Week'. This week’s fanatic is Marshall Sayer from St. Kilda who hasn’t missed a South Melbourne match in Victoria for three seasons.

See below for full fanatic profile:
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NAME: Marshall Sayer

AGE: 17

SUBURB: St. Kilda

INTERESTS: Soccer, music, socialising with friends, footy

FAVOURITE CLUBS:
South Melbourne, Arsenal, Fiorentina

ARE YOU A SOUTH MELBOURNE MEMBER?
Of course

WHAT AGE DID YOU EXPERIENCE YOUR FIRST MATCH?
14 years old

FAVOURITE SOUTH MELBOURNE MEMORY?
The two Grand Final wins in 1997/98 & 1998/99

MOST MEMORABLE GAME WATCHED?
Against Melbourne Knights in 1998 (2-2), when Bill Damianos hit a beautiful 40 yard strike into the top corner

FAVOURITE CURRENT PLAYER?
Michael Petkovic

BEST SOUTH MELBOURNE PLAYER EVER?
Paul Trimboli

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SOUTH MELBOURNE?
The team performing the best in the country, development of complete multiculturalism amongst supporters, the complete turn around from last season, and the boys in the administration offices

WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT SOUTH MELBOURNE?
Nothing

WOULD YOU EVER SUPPORT ANOTHER NSL TEAM?
No way

WHY?
I could never support any other team simply because I love South Melbourne just that little bit too much!

THANK YOU MARSHALL FOR YOUR TIME!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Typical - South Melbourne 2 Eastern Lions 0

Even with a four o'clock kickoff, the heat of the day tended towards being oppressive. Quite why anyone was dumb enough to spend any time out in the sun, including but not limited to Clarendon Corner and quasi-affiliated persons, is a mystery. At least CC decided to move into the grandstand in the second half, which helped preserve certain persons' pale skin from getting burnt. The two teams required to be out there were not so fortunate - but they are nominally there for our amusement, not their own.

What can one say of the various performances yesterday? Milos Lujic seemed to just cruise through this game, putting in the bare minimum of effort - more worrying is the state of his finishing, with two first half headers he'd normally at least get on target being sent wide being particularly troubling. Jesse Daley's wonderful crossing exploits from last week went down the tube yesterday (relatively), but he was still one of our better players. Kristian Konstantinidis again played well - but for how long he'll be a free man remains to be seen. Leigh Minopoulos did OK, Matthew Millar provided little more than a physical presence, while the defence overall handled itself well, even playing out of the back with more confidence - although the opposition's tendency to sit too deep did make things easier on that front.

We didn't use a photo of Brad Norton avoiding a tackle in last week's post,
because we just knew there'd be another one this week. Photo: Cindy Nitsos.
Skipper Brad Norton seemed to find his crossing range in this game, sending in some decent balls into the box, including one in the lead up to our first goal. A good switch of play from Carl Piergianni to Norton, who in turn sent an early ball which found Minopoulos deep in the box, who in turn cut a low ball in front of goal which could have been raffled by two South players, Lujic getting the crucial touch. Lions' defensive efforts weren't great in any part of this sequence, but credit must go to the decisive and accurate passing efforts of our players to make something happen here.

That goal saw Lujic became the first South player other than Minopoulos to score from open play for us this season, unless you're counting Lujic's goal in the Community Shield, which doesn't change the argument in any meaningful way - it's still Milos and Leigh doing all the heavy lifting on the goal scoring front. One could not possibly credit Jesse Daley with the second goal yesterday. His harmless free kick - not a cross, not a shot, not anything really - was heading safely towards the grasp of the Lions goalkeeper, when a Lions defender intervened to slice it spectacularly into his own net. That just about sealed the game. Nikola Roganovic had to make one low save, after our defence went to sleep from a free kick, but not much more than that during the second half.

Our finishing let us down again. After withstanding the best that Eastern Lions could throw at us, we should have won by more than the two goals that we did. But when you start from the low base that we have this season, you take the win and move on. One thing we seemed to do better in this match, and to a lesser extent last week, is move the ball around quicker than we have been doing. After watching the highlights of a certain higher profile fixture which took place last night, and the speedy ball movement in that game, clearly we have room to improve on that front. But it is getting better.

Looking forward to the next round of the cup, and while the draw hasn't been done at the time of writing, the odds of us being put up against an NPL team seem pretty good. Despite a couple of close shaves, every NPL team progressed except for the strugglers North Geelong (see this week's 'Around the grounds') and St Albans. As per Chris Taylor's post-game interview (complete with over the top gesturing in the background), we're going to have to play a lot better to make the inroads we're expected to in both the league and cup.

Next game
Oakleigh Cannons - who didn't seem to have any trouble putting away NPL 2 West's Brunswick City - away on Friday night. Just two away games to go before we head back to Lakeside. Speaking of which...

It is worth noting...
That this pending return to Lakeside is not only a matter of playing at home - but also the small fact of the players being able to train at Lakeside, instead of cutting a nomadic trail across Melbourne looking for any scrap of passable dirt on which to practice. It has not been an uncommon practice over recent years for the team to be away from Lakeside in the early part of the season, but this year has been particularly bad on that front. It's not the be all and end all of our struggles this season, but it's not not a factor either.

Social club rumours
No photos this week, but apparently progress is still going well. It's been suggested to me that the launch will effectively be a three day affair - the jersey night on the Friday before our first home game, then a family day on the Saturday, and our first home of the season on the day after.

Great moments in 'I guess you just had to be there'
The hill behind the western goal at John Cain Memorial Park is gone, flattened to make room for a new pitch. The mess of a scoreboard that was on the far corner of that hill is also gone. The bandwagon that attached itself to Northcote circa 2011 is, as we're all aware of, long gone. But the lemon tree out the back of the grandstand is still there. When they get rid of that - and the 'no smoking' signs in the grandstand which no one seems to pay attention to - that's when Northcote City Hercules should just fold.

'Pull your finger out' sweeps
Around about the 80th minute. Let's be honest, someone had to say it at some point.

Little lamb, you're lost in the great big world / Runaway, findin' streets so cold. 

Around the grounds
Before
There were a lot of goals in this game. It was 2-2 at the end of the regulation ninety, 3-3 at half time of extra time, and 4-3 to Northcote over North Geelong at the end of the game. I was entertained. I was bored. I was distracted. In other words, it was an above average game of football entertainment wise, which fluctuated wildly quality wise. The truth of the matter is that Northcote should have won this in regular time. They had the better chances and looked more conistently promising in attack. If they were more intent on playing the through ball early instead of watching a teammate stray offside, they wouldn't have needed the extra 30 minutes to make sure of things. As it was, North Geelong weren't bad, but they created less and relied on two free kicks - one well placed, one stunning - to keep them in the game. Eventually North Geelong ran out of gas and ran out of time.

After 
If nothing else, going to Olympic Village after our game proved that there is a such a thing as too much soccer. Heidelberg United vs Moreland Zebras - if not the chance for an upset, then perhaps at least the chance for a competitive game? Nope. Heidelberg controlled this game from beginning to end, and two goals in each half did the business for them. Crowd? Maybe 200 at a pinch, but not much more than that. Atmosphere? Flat as a tack, except for 10-20 Zebras fans who were more intent on blaming the ref than their own team for doing so badly; one chant of 'A-A-Lexandros' late in the game; and Heidelberg Harismidis running up and down the outer wing. All of which goes to show that, unless it's a marquee affair, the FFA Cup is hardly a panacea when it comes to resuscitating interest in the lower leagues. Still, like FFA and its friends in social media circles when they count the same participant three times for their participation metrics, my attendance at three games yesterday did its bit for artificial inflation of the metrics of spectator interest in Australian soccer.

Final thought
South of the Border was saddened to hear of the death during the week of Paul Henning, the father of SMFCTV host (and friend of ours) David Henning. It was always a pleasure of mine to have even the shortest of chats with Paul at a South game, whether the topic was footy, the vagaries and minutiae of teaching at a tertiary level, or even (gasp!) rugby union. My deepest condolences to 'Dubs' and all those close to Paul Henning.