Tuesday, 29 January 2008 6:21 PM
By Paul Mavroudis and John Kyrou
If you have ventured out for a midweek session at the Hellenic Cup out at Kingston City’s The Grange Reserve recently, you may have noticed some familiar faces kicking the football around in the Veterans competition for an outfit called Panserraikos. Those familiar faces are none other than former South Melbourne legends Ulysses Kokkinos and Jim Pyrgolios, who are still kicking around on Victorian soccer fields some 30-odd years after their proper playing days.
Currently, some South fans are attempting to put together a website dedicated to collecting and presenting information dealing with as many players, coaches, games, and ephemeral information as possible . As part of the process of clearing up the names, positions, and even existences of some players (primarily from the 1960s), a visit was made to Spyro’s Souvlaki in Oakleigh before South’s Hellenic Cup match against South Springvale, which was convincingly won 2-0.
Although a humble souvlaki restaurant, upon entering one could not help but notice a South Melbourne FC vase, as well as seeing the walls filled with framed articles and pictures of an era long gone, with the jewel in the crown being a copy of the South Melbourne FC Team of the Century painting.
After a delicious meal, Jim invited us out to the back porch, where we sat under the thundery skies and went through old players and photographs, in an attempt to preserve as much of our great club’s history as possible. Appropriately, there was a football lying right near him! Jim’s memory was magnificent. Forty years on, after numerous championships as a player with South, and coaching stints as disparate as a minor premiership in NSL season 1992/93 and coaching Floreat Athena to a league and cup double, he remembered the first names and club origins of so many players, as well as their positions on the field and the clubs from which they came before joining South.
As he was handed picture after picture to help to identify players, officials and grounds of yore, the most frequent comment was “kati omada” (what a team!), and who would be game enough to argue! Going back inside (he was meant to be working after all!), he pulled out one scrapbook and one photo album from behind the counter. Inside were well preserved photos similar to the ones that had been brought to him, as well as dozens of articles, including one which reported on him winning the 1971 Bill Fleming Medal. The standout item was a rare early photo from the 1960s, with the team clad in the club’s original strip, with the photo in full colour.
Throughout our time with Jim, one thing stood out. Here was an individual who had played for a top club in the top flight in Greece, at Panathinaikos no less; was a legendary striker in the glory days of 1960s and 70s Victorian soccer; who had been assistant coach under no less than world footballing legend Ferenc Puskas, and yet his humility and generosity was pervasive. It was thoroughly humbling to be in his presence, and we were incredibly appreciative of the time Jim took out to help us out with our research. In another country, and perhaps another era, Pyrgolios would be feted as the legend that he is.
Spyro’s Souvlaki is located near the corner of North and Warrigal roads in Oakleigh. It is well worth dropping in to catch up with a former South Melbourne great. If you are lucky, you may also be able to see that vintage full colour 1960s team photo.
Jim Pyrgolios’ Record with South
As a Player:
Seasons: 10 (1963-1972)
* 4 VSL championships (1964, 1965, 1966 & 1972)
* 2 AMPOL Cups (1969 & 1970)
* 1971 Bill Fleming Medal winner (the media’s player of the year)
* Equal leading goal scorer for South in 1968, along with Frank Micic (8 each)
As a Coach:
Seasons: 3 (1973, 1992/93 & 1993/94)
Games Coached: 58 in the National Soccer League
* NSL Minor Premiership 1992/93
* NSL Coach of the Year 1992/93