Can what unites us also divide us? Prominent expansion bids Team 11 and South Melbourne couldn’t be more different, and yet also, more alike.
“I virtually grew up at the club, spending many days and nights there. We would train on the outside grounds next to Middle Park Stadium and some afternoons after training coincided with the seniors, I used to stop and just watch in awe as they walked off the pitch. To me, they were gods. I watched them play every Sunday home and away.
“They inspired me to work harder, run harder, tackle harder, try tricks, mixing ambition with ability in the hope that they would see me and notice me. An excitement rushed through my blood. A club should be more than just a club, more than just football. It’s a deeper meaning for everyone that’s part of it.”
- Michael Valkanis
Despite both A-League bids emerging from the same state and passionate fervour for football, it’s nigh impossible to compare South Melbourne and Team 11 like for like. One is are a club with 59 years of rich history, the other doesn't really exist yet.
But there’s a lot more to the Dandenong club, and this discussion, than meets the eye. Not least the over saturation of the Melbourne sporting market, not most the – at times – divisive effect of South’s fervent fan base.
What brings these two bids closer together than almost any other is a desire that borders on necessity. Both bid spokesmen elicit a passion that borders on desperation; not for themselves, or even their clubs, but their communities.
South have been both dynamic and polarising throughout the extended campaign leading up to today's FFA decision, but bid spokesman Bill Papastergiadis remains supremely confident in his side’s suitability.
When he gets the opportunity to espouse his club’s values, he does so with the reverence of a preacher.
“We think we have a world class boutique stadium,” he begins. “We recently built a $3 million social club and a futsal centre to create 24 hour experience at a football game. We have 30 accredited coaches, 90,000 social media followers, a million views of our YouTube channel.
“We set most of the attendance records in the NSL and some of them are still standing. When we played Sydney FC in the FFA Cup, we out-rated 70% of the A-League games that season.
“We believe we’re the most successful club in Australian history. We’re a men and women’s club. We were awarded the Oceania Club of the Century. We do a fatality Friday fundraiser for the police, walking soccer for pensioners, we’ve been recognised by the FFV for blind and female football leagues.