Wednesday, 24 May 2017

'Write that', he said...

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

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

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

I hope I have something finished by noon tomorrow. 

But I probably won't. 

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

Sunday, 21 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 11 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Composure - Bentleigh Greens 0 South Melbourne 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 1 May 2017

Is this form? South Melbourne 3 Pascoe Vale 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next game
Bentleigh Greens at Kingston Heath on Friday night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 28 April 2017

Four-Six-Zero - South Melbourne 2 Box Hill United 1

If you wanted to take a glimpse into what it would be like to watch South Melbourne 2017 (or 2016, or 2015) sans its only two forwards of any note, this was the game to be at.

There was no Milos Lujic (death in the family), no Leigh Minopoulos (injury/soreness) and thus there were no recognised strikers on the field for us. I guess you could say Marcus Schroen and the bullocking Matthew Millar were as close as we got on that front. Liam McCormick got a start; Matthew Foschini played at right back instead of Tim Mala; Jesse Daley got a start, as did Luke Pavlou. Carl Piergianni replaced Luke Adams.

Who am I to judge someone's reasons for being on Twitter?
So while we were in some ways undermanned, we were not so drastically undermanned as to be able to use it as an excuse had we lost. After all, Box Hill is bottom of their division, haven't won a league game for ages and is struggling to score goals. But as is the nature of the cup, they came out to play, and did about as well as you could have expected them to have done.

That didn't mean we didn't have a bucket load of chances to score, in a game where if nothing else the lack of usual and very traditional target man meant that our attacks were more ground based and variable in direction, and dare I say it, even a bit faster than usual.

The finishing let us down, but that wasn't necessarily down to the people taking the shots not being forwards - any forward or midfielder should have done better from many of those situations. One sequence of play saw players line up across the six yard box and repeatedly knock the ball across instead of shooting. Matthew Millar shot when he should have passed and passed when he should have shot. Jesse Daley kept lining up the keeper with timid shots.

In that sense it would be misleading to see Nick Epifano's goal as unjust, even if it was unorthodox and unexpected - an over-hit in-swinging cross from out wide over the top of the keeper. Even Marcus Schroen's winner, while well taken, depended on the goalkeeper going to ground instead of holding his position.

Box Hill's goal depended on a quarter-arsed effort in midifield from the People's Champ, some tidy work up the line from the visitors, and abysmal marking in the six yard box. A near miss from a free kick fooled quite a few people - both South and non-South. And we were lucky that Nikola Roganovic remained alert, as he pulled off a good diving save to keep the game from going to extra time.

But that shot was from range, and while we can give credit to Box Hill for fighting until the end, there was a clear difference in class between the two sides and in the overall calibre of the chances created. Many of us wondered why coach Taylor did not make any more subs than he did, especially in injury time - and where did the ref find four minutes of injury time in this game? - if not for tactical reasons than to at least waste time. Perhaps we'll never know.

Nevertheless, when all is said and done it could have ended up a lot worse, as it did for certain other NPL teams on the night. Melbourne Knights lost to Dandenong City (not so much an upset, but still funny because it wasn't us) and Oakleigh being humiliated 4-2 by a Moreland City containing that lovable cripple Trent Rixon, who managed to score a double and do that stupid fish flop celebration.

Just be glad that we got through, unimpressive as it was in times. Be glad that we can disappoint again, perhaps more certainly, in the next round, when we'll probably and belatedly get matched up against a team of merit.

Next game
At home to Pascoe Vale (currently a game ahead of us) on Sunday arvo. It's another double header, with our third placed women's team who are playing the ladder leading Geelong.

Sing us a song, you're a Hellas fan
Some new chants made the rounds, one to the tune of Billy Joel's 'Piano Man', the other pleading for Taylor to make a sub to the tune of B52s' 'Love Shack'. I didn't mind either of them. Disappointing that the rendition of the Chariots of Fire theme didn't take off as much as it should have.

Midweek social club musings
More changes to the menu. Open souvs, a reduction in the range of burgers, and more of a Greek flavour to parts of the menu. I have the feeling that we're close to a more final version of the menu.

Back on the horse (match programmes and such)
Many promises have been made by me on this front, almost all of them broken. But we are trying to make amends.
There's much more stuff to come. Thanks to The Agitator, Todd Giles and Marl Boric.

Final thought
There was no good reason for this coming out this delayed.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Making up ground - South Melbourne 1 Hume City 0

Leigh Minopoulos had a good game on Sunday. Photo: Hume City.
Such has been the season thus far that I don't know what to expect from South Melbourne in any given game. Most surprisingly, in this game we actually played pretty well. It was an open game, but while we gave Hume the first good chance of the game via Nick Hegarty, after that there was little doubt that we were the better team - at least until about the 60th minute or so.

Shaking off last week's mediocre performance, Leigh Minopoulos looked particularly good on the right hand side. Matthew Millar continues to frustrate, but in the past few weeks he's managed to be more effective. His effort never drops below a high level, but his skill level lets him down too often - to my mind, it's almost like watching an Aussie rules player playing soccer - remarkable endurance and desire for the contest, but lacking the kind of proficiency.

Nevertheless, he was skillful enough to control the rebound of a Nick Epifano cross, slotting the ball into the corner and giving us a deserved lead. While we continued to press for another goal, the game then became mired in sloppy tackles and bad officiating. Before we'd scored, Milos Lujic - who seems to be slowly coming back to form, even though he didn't score here - should have been awarded a penalty after LITERALLY BEING WRESTLED TO THE GROUND.

I cannot fathom how it wasn't given. Amazingly, that was the least of the ref's stuff ups, as he then started letting retaliation go unpunished, and we all know what happens when you do that - players start taking that as a license to act like dickheads. You give some of those blokes an inch, and they'll take a mile. It didn't end up with people coming to blows, as can happen in the worst case scenarios, but it did up becoming a tit-for-tat affair in that regard.

Matthew Millar's placement for the winning goal was pretty precise.
Photo: Hume City.
Former South defender Brian Bran got two yellow cards (both justified, and oddly enough both for fouls, not irrelevant nonsense), and then, for who knows what reason, the team started playing as if we were down to nine men and needing to preserve the lead at all costs. It wasn't that Hume played particularly well, though like many sides down to ten men but still only a goal down, they lifted their intensity accordingly. It was more the fact that our side had lost the plot completely.

Those last 25 minutes were bizarre in how frantic our play was, being unable to make our numerical advantage count either in terms of fitness, or in tactics, or in psychology. While some have chosen to single out the People's Champ for having an especially poor last half hour or so after having up to that point played quite well - the whole midfield basically disappeared, and the defense was able only to to give the ball back to our opponents.

To their credit, for the most part the South defense did very well in keeping Hume from creating meaningful chances. Watching the highlights, Attila Offli's late chance looked much more dangerous than it probably was in real time, with Nikola Roganovic cutting down the angles well, forcing Offli to shoot over the top and over the bar. Set pieces were the only other major threat presented by Hume, and for the most part they were not up to scratch despite an array of options (OK, at least two) they didn't do very much with any of their set pieces.

Perhaps the circumstances were such that direct play was considered their main chance at scoring, but it's been a while since I've seen a Hume side play that direct. I suppose if you have a big body like Liam Boland up front, there are worse plans, but considering our defensive weakness continues to be primarily against teams who play the ball on the ground, it was a strange choice to be so adamant on that singular approach. That they had any say in the matter is the disappointing thing. A second goal - and we still managed to create chances - would have killed this off properly. (see Knights vs Oakleigh in 'around the grounds' for an example of what happens when you do this)

Whatever happened, the result went our way, making it three wins in a row, and four games unbeaten in the league. It's a step closer to the top six, just two (!) games away from the top of the table, and just as importantly, three points away from the playoff relegation spot. While one can obsess about the largely self-inflicted near self-destruction, we shouldn't forget the first hour or so, where we played our best football of the season against a side that will be near be there or thereabouts come season's end.

Extra-curricular activities
The game was marred - I don't know if that's the right word to use, but let's go with it for the time being - by a sort of competitive 'trumpet off' between South's own Harry and some of the visiting Hume fans. Now in the interests of less inaccuracy (rather than old fashioned and rather dull 'accuracy'), we should note that there were no trumpets used. As Harry has made clear in the past, he does not play a trumpet, but rather a bugle. As for the relevant Hume persons, they were playing what sounded like prerecorded tunes through a megaphone. Why they were allowed to use a megaphone I don't know, but for those who find one messily played bugle too much to handle, it was beyond the pale so to speak.

It created a sort of carnival of horrors vibe, albeit in broad daylight and without all the trappings necessary for the full effect to take hold, such as rides which I wouldn't go on if you paid me, dodgy games of skill (notwithstanding the team's efforts in the last 25 minutes), and an overwhelming sense of impending doom which could just be nausea from eating way too much junk food. However, one did as one is forced to do in many things Australian soccer, and just put up with it.

Unfortunately at the end of the game near the players race, some rather more distasteful scenes reportedly happened. As I was keen to get in and out of the social club as quickly as possible so I could go home, I didn't see what happened; thus I'm not going to repeat specific allegations of what allegedly happened. I will note that the overwhelming consensus seems to be that the blame for whatever occurred should rest on a minority of Hume's supporters, and not with the South fans in the vicinity, who were there to celebrate with our players after a win, as has become the custom at the reconfigured Lakeside.

Next game
At home this Wednesday night against NPL 2 side Box Hill United in the FFA Cup. Entry for all patrons will be via the social club entrance. Prices for non-members are $10 adult, $7 concession. I was a bit surprised to see that the club chose to stream the game against Hume City live on Facebook - I'm not sure if at this stage they'll be doing the same for this match, but I suppose it's possible.

For those wondering about entry in general
It seems to be that for most games the club will be employing only the social club entry. For games likely to have a bigger attendance, Gate 2 will be opened for non-South members. If you're in any doubt about what the arrangement will be for any given week, your best bet is to keep up to date with the club's social media accounts. This is likely due to cost saving in not needing to employ several State Sports Centre Trust staff members for a superfluous gate on fixtures not likely to draw too many people; of course the club would also see the benefit of, where possible, funneling people through the social club.

While I've found the service in the social club to be improving week
 on week, our mate Dave had a bit of trouble getting his
 chicken burger delivered in a timely manner.
Continuing social club musings
One of the more unforeseen happenings - especially considering that even though it's a new social club, it's still in the same location as the old one - is how disorienting it feels coming out of the social club and all of a sudden having a game about to start.

Anyway, in line with the advice of one of the board members, along with a bit of common sense (I know, I know), my approach on critiquing the social club operation has been to give the people running the social club a solid month or so to settle into their rhythms, before one goes into a more delirious mode of criticism.

Not that I would ever be anything other than meticulously fair in my criticism, of course.

As the social club meal service begins to settle down, things are beginning to gently hit their stride. This week for example the full menu was available throughout the day. Thus one could go 'traditional' and go for a souv - which seemed to get larger and larger each time I looked at one coming out of the kitchen - or one could go a bit more nouveau riche and go for something like the salmon. I had the plain burger this week, and I was not disappointed. There's talk also that there'll be further tweaks to the menu as a whole; even this week, the meat platter that was served to patrons differed from the one that was served last week.

Provisional things that I learned from this week included:
  • While it's self-evident to a degree, the earlier you get there to order a meal, the better. This seems to go for everything except souvs, which seem to be done pretty quickly no matter what time of day you order one. I haven't stayed behind for long after a game yet, so I can't comment on the speed of meal service after a game.
  • Probably the worst time to order food would be around the time the kitchen is preparing the post-match feed for the curtain raiser match, which also coincides with when the majority of people rock up to the venue.
  • If something's taking a bit too long or isn't quite up to your satisfaction, don't be shy in taking it up with staff in a respectful manner. They seem to be pretty keen to impress and make people feel at home.
  • Be prepared for the occasional bout of confusion between sit down and take away meals.
  • The in-house music is at best only marginally better than what's played outside. Still, if they include naff retro gems like this every now and again, I'm not going to complain too much.
  • Do not lean back on your chair, do not twist your body such that you twist the chair, and basically do not sit on any of the chairs in any way that would be classified as improper chair usage. 
A social club suggestion
This wasn't my idea, but it's worth a mention - a hall of fame for everyone who has accidentally broken one of the chairs in the social club. 

A little something about the rules of the game (something which will come back to haunt me)
Here's a decent video from FFV - which I wish had been promoted a bit harder - explaining changes to certain rules that have been implemented this season, including denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity, or what is colloquially (and incorrectly) known as the 'last man' rule. It's certainly worth a look for any follower of the game.

How appealling!
The club appealed Kristian Konstantinidis' six month ban and somehow got it reduced to a 16 match ban, which could see Konstantinidis return to action sometime in July instead of a week or two before the grand final. Something to do with the difference between a single photograph and a video.

It's not easy being a South fan these days, but there are moments which are
more spiritually alienating than others. One of those involves finding
 yourself wearing your South scarf or other merchandise in a crowd of footy
 fans, as is often the case for those like me who use public transport. After
 the Hume game I found myself at Southern Cross Station inadvertently
 mingling with  the mainstream masses who had just left the St Kilda vs
 Geelong game at Docklamds. At least no one mistook me for a
 North Melbourne fan.
Around the grounds
If Jason Hicks played for Bentleigh, he'd be scoring those sitters, ala Tyson Holmes
Having waited until almost the latest possible moment to see if Knights had put up their video from last week's game, I admitted defeat and decided to head out to Somers Street for their match against Oakleigh. I geared up for my usual attempt to hustle my way into the car park for free courtesy of my media pass, but there was no one manning the gate. The reserves game had been called off due to the state of the pitch, but the senior match would go ahead. While the ref had decided the senior match could and would go ahead, both teams were apparently more than happy for the match to have been postponed. Five minutes into a game that would be affected by uneven and dead bounces and unsure footing, Knights would have wished that the ref had called it off. Knights goalkeeper Fraser Chalmers, who should've been sent off last for Bruce Lee antics, got sent off for fouling Nate Foster - who I am always shocked to learn is back in Victoria - who was through on goal and sure to score. So Knights were down to ten men, and down a goal courtesy of the resulting penalty. And yet they proceeded to produce three great chances, at least one of which should've ended up in an equaliser. None of them did, and Oakleigh got a second before halftime, another just after halftime, and three more for good measure to inflict a pretty demoralising defeat on the home side.

When it rains, it pours, metaphorically speaking
The next day, I was at Westgate vs Banyule, looking at the sky and wondering why I hadn't brought my umbrella - and whether it was worth going home to get, and whether I'd bother to return if it started raining. As to the game itself, both defenses were pretty ordinary, but Banyule had a plan going forward and Westgate didn't. That doesn't explain everything that went wrong for the home side, but it's as good a start as any. Banyule were also more skillful than their opponents, and didn't get a man sent off for threatening to rape the 'mum, dad, brother and sister' of an opponent. All up it finished a ridiculous 8-3 to Banyule - a scoreline so absurd, and a margin so comfortable, that one of the Banyule players was able to periodically receive updates on the Footscray-Brisbane match from a mate on the sideline. How very Melbourne.

Final thought
While Lisa De Vanna is clearly a class or two above the WNPL, she's still a joy to watch. It's well worth making some time to watch her play while she's with us. And that's not a slight on the rest of the team either - there's some good up-and-comers in the squad, many of them surprisingly young and with improvement yet to come.

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.