Wednesday, 1 November 2017

October 2017 digest

Whinge, whine, woe is me, thesis writing is hard, blah, blah, blah. Did you know that I took 100 cases of the word 'not' (from around 600) from my thesis in order to make it come across as more assertive?

Anyway, here's a quick round up of some stuff that has been happening during the off-season. I did not include my trip to the rugby league world cup opener, or the screening of that PAOK doco at the Greek film festival. Maybe some other time, but probably not.

AGM news
No date set yet.

Futsal court news
Well it looks like the club have admitted defeat in running the futsal court themselves and have outsourced its operation in part at least to the Australian Futsal Group. I guess at some point we'll learn more about this arrangement.

Arrivals and departures
Early days. Or late. Whatever.

Anyway, we've made our first signing, 19 year old central defender Jake Marshall from Brisbane Strikers. This is an interesting pick up, because it suggests that one of our many existing central defender options may be on the way out, with everyone who's willing to take a stab it suggesting that Michael Eagar is on his way back to Northcote. Either that, or we're to going to go for a 5-4-1 formation with three centre-backs. 

Apparently Marcus Schroen's knee injury is a full blown ACL scenario, so he'll be out for nine months or however long it takes to get over a serious injury like that. One of the defenders we signed last year, Ajdin Fetahagic, is apparently training again after having done his knee during last year's pre-season.

For whatever it's worth, the following players are assumed to be contracted for next season.
Socceroos vs Honduras screening
The club will be screening the Socceroos vs Honduras World Cup Qualifier Playoff 2nd leg in the social club, so put November 15th in your diary to make a trip down to Lakeside if you're into that kind of thing, don't have a TV at home, or just get really lonely during the off-season. No, I am not projecting.

New sponsor
The ambulance chasers that sponsor pretty much every soccer club in Victoria are now also sponsoring us. Good news I guess.

Children, the times they are becoming quite different
Apart from being busier than usual in my 'day job', things have been moving at a pretty decent clip on the Australian soccer 'will it/won't it implode front'. Frankly anything I'd have written even five minutes ago is likely to end up as out of date as Joe Gorman's end of history magnum opus potentially has. 

The short and sweet of it for those who don't slavishly keep up with the news for whatever reason is firstly that the AAFC has released its proposal for a second division, and before their end of October 2017 deadline no less. 

I've had offers from two different people to write the pro and anti sides based on their own analyses, and hopefully they come through with the goods so we can have a good point-counterpoint session, even if won't be able to match The Onion's classic 'humidifier vs humidifier' piece.

Everyone knows I have severe reservations about the prospects for a viable second division and promotion/relegation set up, but good on the AAFC for getting the ball rolling by getting the framework of a proposal into the public sphere. 

Reiterating the caveats that anything I have to say on this is based on zero expertise, a fundamental slavery to Dr Phil's self-help homily 'that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour', as well as adhering to the rule that all good list jokes should contain three items, my main point of difference with AAFC is a matter of attitude.

The AAFC and those who support them - even those who may be doing so only under the guise of a trojan horse/fifth column initiative - are all dedicated in some way to the idea that Australian soccer still has tangible untapped potential which can and needs to be exploited now, and not twenty years down the track of FFA's Whole of Football Plan roadmap. They believe that their plan can tap into latent investment, crowds and the frustrated ambitions of second tier sides hamstrung by the current state based arrangement. They also believe they have at least the start of a plan that will provide more opportunities for Australian players, especially younger players, and that they have the support of the PFA and at least some A-League owners. 

But here at South of the Border, which is 99.9% me, we prefer pessimism. In this case, I'm of the opinion that rather than untapped markets, we're much closer to a zero sum situation as far as Australian soccer goes, even as far as Australian sport goes. I'd also like to see the states actually come out and, er, state their support for this, and I want to hear about contingencies for what happens if things go wrong, because this is Australian soccer and thing goes wrong a lot. AAFC also claim that they're confident about a broadcast deal, but some of the specifics they've released about how this will run has me very sceptical, especially because it seems that the form of cartel discipline that is being asked of potential second tier participants is dependent on a level of co-operative self-discipline that is quite alien to Australian soccer outside the A-League.

I'm also intrigued that a women's competition is meant to be a part of this second tier, and I'm sure people in that field will be interested in more detail on that also. That, and how promotion and relegation will be worked out, especially if the teams are going to be going up and down while crossing over from winter to summer and back to winter seasons. Don't say it can't happen, because it was a brutal experience for Heidelberg in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

(And the less said about the demand for an AFC Champions League spot for the winner of this second tier, the better. I'm reminded of the Martin/Molloy 'Bag of Sawdust' skit, specifically the exchange 'and bring back semi-automatics' 'yes I think that might've been added by the chap who pushes the wheelbarrow, have you noticed it's in a different handwriting', so I'm thinking that someone stuck in that suggestion surreptitiously)

The other thing which happened relates to the ongoing saga of the mandatory reform of FFA's congress set up. At the moment it's limited to nine state bodies and one A-League representative, with the debate centred initially on which of two proposed reform models - FFA's, or their opponents - will get up, and later on whether FIFA will step in anyway to 'normalise' the situation and make us more democratic, because at this stage our federation's democratic breadth is apparently even worse than North Korea's.

The latest development is that after somehow finagling himself into the position where he had the deciding vote on whether to support current FFA chairman Steven Lowy, FFV president Kimon Taliadoros must have remembered that David Gallop stole his marble rye and decided to opt against supporting the Lowy faction - for now.

Being a pleb like most of you, I've not deluded myself that I can possibly have anything interesting to say on these matters, taking up the rather nihilistic position we're all doomed whichever way things go; indeed, that we've always been doomed. At best it might be nice to be spat on from a great height by a new bunch rather than the current regime.

Even so, this saga and especially the dovetailing of the second division proposal with the congress issues has thrown the cat among some pigeons, and that's been kinda fun to watch play out. There's been the odd person threatening to walk away from the game should 'our types' ever get back in the building, and while that's been a well-worn trope over the past decade, what makes it interesting now is that the claim comes less as an idle threat than one informed by a genuine panic.

And If you'll indulge me a ridiculous flight of fancy, how funny would this all be if it was actually part of some grand South Melbourne Hellas/Old Soccer plan like some people have implied? Get the Knights and Gully to do the heavy lifting for the NPL revolt before coming in and taking most of the credit. Get former board member Tom Kalas to form what appears to be a ramshackle collective designed to proffer pie in the sky dreams more than anything else. Get 'one of our own' into the FFV presidency, and have him maneuver himself into having the deciding vote. And best of all, never get the club talking about a second division or promotion and relegation, focusing instead on winning a licence in an A-League bidding process which doesn't even exist, all while having Bill Paps make up increasingly bizarre claims about our club's ability to function at a fully professional level.

I mean, it wouldn't make the past 13 years in the wilderness worthwhile, but destroying Australian soccer from the inside with such a madcap plan would be funny. 

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