Part-timers of South Springvale epitomise romance of FFA Cup as they seek to play A-League teams
HAVE you heard the one about the part-timers — the “sparkies”, “chippies”, plumber, landscaper, clinic conductors and uni students — making a run at a national title?
The one about the team that has some 188 others between it and A-League champion Brisbane Roar on the Australian soccer matrix?
South Springvale is the Cinderella story of the first FFA Cup.
Tuesday night is the biggest moment in the 35-year history of the club, which plays in Football Federation Victoria’s state league 1 southeast division.
It plays Newcastle-based South Cardiff at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex for a place in the round of 16 and a potential date with an A-League club.
Long-time captain Craig Metcalfe concedes he didn’t even know Victoria’s knockout competition — the Dockerty Cup — this year provided a pathway to the FFA Cup, which pits the 10 A-League clubs against 22 local teams from around the country.
Some 631 clubs were in the running to advance to the competition proper — which will receive national exposure on Fox Sports — and only four from Victoria survive.
To get to this stage South Springvale had to go on a giant-killing campaign in which it beat two clubs in the Victorian top flight — Pascoe Vale and Hume City — in five rounds.
Funnily enough the last time it went on such a run was 20 years ago when the lowly club won the Victorian State League Cup.
All this from an organisation that, when the recent restructuring of state football across Australia took place, its application to play in one of the top two tiers — Victoria’s National Premier League — was denied in part because its home ground of Warner Reserve doesn’t have a players’ race or adequate fencing.
All this from a club that when coach Bill Lambropoulos arrived three years ago had just two junior teams; it now has more than 250 juniors.
President John Argyropoulos has been at South Springvale since was it rebranded in 1980.
He and his band of volunteers devote countless hours to the cause. Nights such as on Tuesday “make all of that hard work worth it — it’s a fairytale”.
The players get paid small amounts for weekend games, but not for weekday cup matches.
They try to train three times a week during pre-season and twice during the season, but Metcalfe says work and school commitments often stop the squad from getting together in its entirety.
And where professional players have uniform off-season breaks, uni students take holidays when they please, so can come in and out of the team at any time.
There are players such as 32-year-old Ricky Diaco — who played for Melbourne Victory in the 2005-06 season — who have come in to help Lambropoulos lend experience to the younger players.
But most are like leading scorers Dean Panagopoulous, 24, and Ali Hameed, 21 — described by Panagopoulous as “probably the smallest strike force in the league” — who play for the love of the game.