Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Soccer? Football? Or is the name of the game now Souvlaki?

There's been a lot of good come out of the FFA Cup, and a few things that can be improved on. A cliche in itself, the magic of the cup has been clouded with an overdose of stereotypes and tokenism. Is the only stat we can get for a lower tier club really how many kilograms of lamb they have ordered for the spit?

The Fox Sports obsession with souvlakis at Kingston Heath has gone more than a tad overboard. I'm told (was at the game) that the commentary even referred to the venue as Souvlaki Stadium last night.. They probably think the SC in Bentleigh Greens SC stands for Souvlaki.Club.

Whilst it has been a boon for canteen sales, it can also be seen as demeaning to the Greens as a footballing entity. When they would rather talk about your food than your football, it has to be seen as a slap in the face. How about pondering whether Andrew Redmayne or Tando Velaphi are any better than Alistair Bray? Or could John Anastasiadis ever be considered for an A-League coaching gig without having to do a Phil Stubbins and go overseas for a few years to wash away the VPL/NPL stigma?

A Fox face eating a souvlaki on air has been a staple of network's FFA Cup coverage in it's inaugural season.. Can't recall seeing footage of the commentators eating a hot dog or a bucket of chips at any of the hundreds of A-League games I've watched. Patronising at all? 

It's interesting to see such culinary appreciation portrayed by some as a healing in the relationship between "Old Soccer" and "New Football". I've yet to see anyone pushing that line address the issue of the FFA's National Club Identity Policy. 

If a group of Afghan refugees decided to start a new club, and wanted it to maintain links to their heritage, they would not be allowed to do so. No tasty treats in the canteen will get you past that. There's more freedom in the detention centres than there is under the FFA in this case. 

During the draws the teams outside of the A-League were referred to as "member clubs". This piqued my interest given the legal battles between Victorian clubs and the FFV over the years. Unlike American Express, it seems membership does not have it's privileges. Who would join a club where your membership fees were spent to benefit others, not on anything you are entitled to? That is what has happened when State Federations have been engaged to run the Youth and Women's components of A-League teams. 

The compromised draw is something a few would like to see done away with. It probably needs to be maintained though, especially if the plan to eventually have the Final played annually on Australia Day takes place. Once the NPL teams go too far out of season, it will be near impossible for any to progress to the latter stages in an open draw. That would mean no souvlaki, cevapi or kebapi fairytale stories for the broadcaster. 

If the draw remains compromised, I'd suggest seeding the A-League clubs to give more prospects of an early upset. Two pots of balls for the A-League clubs, one with the top teams drawn to play each other, and the other for the bottom of the table teams from the previous season to be placed in to face the member clubs.

I also think the week before the A-League season starts to be the ideal time for the FFA Cup Final. It gives member clubs a leg up facing A-League teams in pre-season. It also gives A-League clubs meaningful competitive games rather than training ground friendlies, which is always a preferred arrangement. It would suit teams in the latter stages of the Asian Champions League in dealing with the A-League close season. Like the Charity/Community Shield, it would provide a marquee fixture to lead into the season proper.

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