Wednesday, 27 February 2008

First silly season signing

Only days into the beginning of the silly season, Melbourne has made its first signing with the announcement today that Tom Pondeljak has signed with the Victory for the next two years. Pondeljak, a former Melbourne Knights player, returns to his home town to probably finish off his long career. His signing coincides with the excellent news that Nick Ward has also agreed to a one year extension on his previous six month contract. My only concern is that of recent times, Pondeljak has been a tad injury prone, but if he stays fit he should provide great support for a midfield that already contains the aforementioned Ward, Hernandez, Celeski and possibly Patafta.

In other firsts for the week, my indoor soccer team won its first ever game; I had my first crack at football journalism with a match report for a Victorian Premier League match; I bought tickets to see the Victory in its first Asian Chamionps League campaign; and not for the first time this season an A-League match was surrounded in controversy as the Newcastle Jets took out their first A-League championship. The events of Sunday have been already been well covered here, here, here and here, so there is no need for me to add my bit at this late stage.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

A change in scenery

Last night I finally got round to checking out a Victorian Premier League match. I had given it thought around the same time last year but in the end I never got round to it. Probably too many other distractions - it may have been when I started taking up golf. Anyway back to the matter at hand, the match I went to was the first of the new Foxtel Cup season between Richmond Eagles and last year's champions, Preston Lions at Kevin Bartlett Reserve.

Having never supported a VPL team before, I went through and long arduous selection process in order to choose one. In fact, it boiled down to a club that had a stadium that was easily accessible by public transport from my house in Kensington. So in the end it basically came down to Richmond and South Melbourne, and I couldn't support the latter due to not liking them during their NSL days, so Richmond it was. Reading through the club history and discovering that it was origins were in the local German community and myself having the surname, Zimmerman it seemed like it was preordained.

To the game itself I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as I stood (no seats or stands here) with the small but loud supporter group based at the Heyington Bridge end of the ground. As the game progressed I slowly joined in more and more with their chanting that was in a mixture of English and German and got talking with some of the supporters. The home support was severely outnumbered by the visiting fans which was clearly evident when Preston scored their only goal for the game. Highlights of the night in no particular order for me were:

- The result, a 5-1 win to the home team over the defending champions was a good way to start the season;
- Some well taken goals - one free kick stands out;
- The availability of German beers from the club bar;
- The raffle ticket seller and her warning for us not to set off any flares as any money she raised would have to go paying the fine;
- The announcement of the winner of the match day raffle by a person carrying around a piece of cardboard with the winning ticket number written on it (unfortunately I didn't win); and
- The barman after the game giving myself and another supporter the "special" German beer, in his words something you would get at the opera. Maybe it was something you would drink at a Wagnerian opera.

After my first taste of the VPL I definitely will be back for future games, both home and away. Its an experience completely polls apart from that at an A-League match and one that has whetted my appetite, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Reflections and musings on a week in football

The end has almost come on what I said earlier would be a big week of football and I have finally got round to write and muse about it.

The footballing week started off with a visit to the Telstra Dome to see Australia vs Qatar. As everyone knows the result went out our way and we all went awat very happy except maybe for the contingent of Qatari fans that were in attendance. There has much analysis from my fellow bloggers, so I will only add a small analysis of my own. The first half was great with the home team playing free-flowing, attacking football and were duly rewarded with three goals. Second half wasn't as great as the first and it was something to be expected as the jet lag kicked in for our overseas players. Standout players for me for the Socceroos in no particular order were McDonald, Emerton, Wilkshire, Carney and Moore. Was disappointed to see Thompson not get a run. I think his pace and trickery would have been useful against a tiring Qatari team in the second half, although maybe that is my Melbourne bias showing.

I was a little disappointed with the crowd, not the numbers, but the atmosphere. There was little or no atmosphere and I could barely hear the Green and Gold Army from my position on the third level. Maybe it was to do with the fact that the lure of an international game brought out a lot of non-footballing people. If Melbourne is to host more qualifying games we need to create a more intimidating atmosphere for opposition teams. We have the numbers but not the noise and atmosphere - something that is quite prevalent at Victory games. Anyway I went home happy and that's the main thing. Sad to here after the game that Craig Moore had retired from the international arena but now is a good a time as any and we thank him for his efforts for the national team.

In other news, it was disappointing to hear that Adrian Caceres would be leaving the Victory after our ACL campaign and heading north to Gosford to join the Central Coast Mariners. Obviously, he believes he is not getting the game time that he deserves under Merrick and its time to move on. It will be also disappointing for my girlfriend's dad, with whom I watch most home games, who won't get to see a player that reminded him of himself in his playing days back in Chile. On the plus side we have gained the services of Billy Celeski, who returns to his home town after a stint with Perth Glory. It will be interesting to see how he will fit into the squad. Now that Caceres is leaving will that mean more game time for players such as Berger and Patafta (that's if he stays after the loan period), let's hope so.

Finally, my indoor soccer team, Max Power made its debut during the week and we lost 14-2 in a grading match. The less said about the game is probably best although we were complimented on our team name and shirts. I did score one of our two goals and it was a bit of a golazo if I do say so myself.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Big week of football

This week promises to be a big week of football. You may think that taking in the spectacle of Australia vs Qatar on Wednesday night at the Telstra Dome would be enough to make it a big week of football. But no, there is another big football event this week. My new indoor mixed football team, "Max Power" will be making its debut on Thursday night in some grading matches all kitted out in our Barcelona "knock off" away shirts (the blue ones). In fact that night I will be playing three matches as an outdoor five-a-side team I play with will be also playing that night.

In truth this Wednesday night's match for the Socceroos vs Qatar is definitely the big football story of the week. Everyone is waiting with baited breath to see how the team will perform in their first match under new coach, Pim Verbeek. With concerns raised after their 1-1 draw with a Melbourne team that was missing a lot of its stars, will the gamble to rely on our overseas-based players pay off, even though most will only be here 48 hours before the game. This will be the first World Cup qualifying match I have attended and am looking forward to it immensely. With the likelihood that roof will be closed due to forecast rain here's hoping that the atmosphere and noise generated by a crowd close to 50,000 will both inspire the home team and intimidate the visitors.

Let's hope that this week there is victories for both the Socceroos and "Max Power".