Monday, 16 September 2013

Well, What Can You Say?

Seriously, what can you say after another black day in one of the blackest years in Victorian football history?

It's not everyday someone you know is arrested for alleged match fixing. It's not every day Kevin Bartlett Reserve gets mentioned in the mainstream media, including making the SEN promos all day as Robert Walls recycles the old comb-over grass gag.

On SEN, issues like these do show up how little their supposed experts know about the game beyond what is shown on Foxtel or ESPN.

Seeing as I was there, and this is the one article to focus on the game, I'll take a closer look:

As the final whistle sounded over a patchy pitch in a unregarded corner of outer suburban Melbourne, a nil-all draw seemed a fitting result.
If Burnley is outer suburban Melbourne I wonder what Nino would call Dandenong or Epping?

The game on Friday night was unlikely to linger in the memory, a scrappy match between two sides seemingly so hopeless they were no longer even capable of losing.
Can't dispute that.

But thousands of kilometres away, an international criminal syndicate was counting its winnings after betting up to half a million dollars on the hapless Southern Stars drawing with Richmond in the Victorian Premier League.
And as the players who allegedly fixed the match were getting changed, they had no idea plain-clothed police, sitting alone in cars parked behind the city-end goals, were plotting their arrest.
In the GE Carpark at the Heyington Bridge End, site of many a wrong-doing I would suspect.

There was little in the game that roused the small crowd. Apart from the occasional shout of ''c'mon Southern'' and Richmond's reserves heckling behind the Stars' goal, the small crowd stayed silent. Passing traffic on the Monash Freeway drowned out the occasional shouts of players. An elderly woman with a Richmond scarf sold $2 raffle tickets, and the canteen had a well-stocked bain-marie.
Nice to see Annie get a mention, hopefully he bought a ticket. The loudest calls on the night, in a bit of an indictment really, came from some workmates of Andrew Viola who provided more vocal support for him than anyone else did for either of the two teams combined.

Less than 48 hours after the final whistle, police swooped. Those arrested include players who may have once held aspirations to play first-class football in Europe but whose last match may have been on Kevin Bartlett Reserve.
          How these football journeymen lost their way remains unknown.
Last year, Nicholas McKoy debuted in England for Tamworth in a third-round FA Cup match against English Premier League side Everton at the famous Goodison Park. Even though his club lost, he and his teammates were met with a standing ovation from the Everton fans as they walked from the pitch.
Another Stars' player, suspected of involvement in the match fixing but overseas when arrests were made on Sunday, had previously trialled for Arsenal.
          A the start of the season, Southern Stars coach Zaya Younan was upbeat: ''It would be silly of me to say we 
             want to win the league, although I'd love to win the league.'' On Sunday, he, too, was arrested.

It's interesting that the police would have the media on hand to record the build-up to the bust. What I recall was the man identified in other reports as Reiss Noel was very vocal on the sidelines. For a team with no chance of avoiding relegation, he was taking it very seriously and encouraged every Stars tackle and appealed for every decision from the referee. It was something that stood out even before the subsequent stunning revelations.

Already the debates are raging. There is the line that the club should have suspected something was up when players were offered with only accommodation and local transport costs expected to be covered. If that's the case, surely the FFV should be considered slack in allowing a broke club to sign so many imports (reasonably well-credentialled for "amateurs") during the mid-season transfer window. Even Tom Waterhouse copped a whack, though it is bookmakers in far away lands on internet sites that will be impossible to ever regulate that would be at the heart of this scandal. 

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