Friday, 23 May 2008 4:44 PM
By George Kouroumalis
Photo courtesy of Neos Kosmos
In a season defining round 14 contest, South Melbourne will take on Heidelberg United in another instalment of this famous derby. But there is more to this game than three points, it is a game that will write yet another chapter in one of the most famous rivalries in Australian sport.
As with many football derbies across the globe, these two famous clubs share a rivalry spanning almost fifty years, with the Warriors celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, whilst the Blues will celebrate the same milestone in 2009.
The first recorded game between both clubs occurred in January 1960, when Heidelberg (known at the time as Fitzroy) provided South with their first ever opponent as a club. At the time Heidelberg were not playing in any formal competition either, so the game was the starting point for both clubs.
In this fixture, Heidelberg ran out 3-2 winners in a game that was described as a hard fought and passionate contest. Many past fans who remember that game continually remind the younger generation that this was the start of a special era in not only Victorian Football, but Australian Football in general.
Since that day both clubs have played each other regularly, however South Melbourne made up for the initial loss to their arch rival by beating them on every occurrence throughout the following 12 year period. Despite the one sided nature of these results, crowds flocked to Middle Park, Olympic Park and Olympic Village to view a game that was regarded as the showpiece of football in this state.
This one-sided trend continued throughout the 1960’s and the early stages of the 1970’s, with the Bergers able to wrestle the dominance from their Albert Park based rival throughout the latter part of the 1970’s and the early stages of the 1980’s.
In 1984, both clubs were having stellar seasons and subsequently both won through to the NSL Southern Division Grand Final. In what was a highly memorable game, South ran out convincing 4-2 winners, with a double by Oscar Crino securing the trophy for the Blues.
This further intensified the derby, with the 1980’s being remembered as a period where interest in the fixture was at its highest. Crowds and fans crammed into every possible vantage point inside the grounds and the game regularly attracted over 10,000 people.
The derby momentarily ended in 1995 when Heidelberg were no longer a part of the now defunct NSL, falling back to the Victorian Premier League (now Foxtel Cup). In the meantime South Melbourne continued to win national championships as the glamour club of the state and nation.
With the changing football landscape in Australia, South were denied a place in the national competition and were forced to also joined the VPL for the start of the 2005 season. Football Federation Victoria welcomed South back to the state leagues by giving them a round 1 derby fixture against the old foe in Heidelberg United.
In what was dubbed as the “re-birth of the derby”, the match attracted over 12,000 people to Bob Jane Stadium, an astonishing crowd for a state league fixture. The game finished 0-0, but the spirit and the passion between both sets of fans was re-ignited once again. Since that day, both sides have shared the spoils in terms of games won, with the Warriors having the most significant victory in the 2005 preliminary final. On this occasion they knocked South Melbourne out of the finals on route to a grand final birth against Green Gully.
In the opening round of this season, Heidelberg recovered from an early Goran Zoric goal to run out 2-1 victors at home, with Daniel Jones stepping up and slotting home the winner late in the game to send the enthusiastic Heidelberg fans into raptures.
On Sunday South will be looking for revenge on their home soil, in a game which will be this week’s Match of the Round.
Both clubs are approaching this game in great form, with the Bergers undefeated since Round 7, whilst South have won their last three games, including a resounding home win against Frankston last week.
The key to this contest will be in that midfield area. South will go into the game with Rama Tavsancioglu potentially matching up against the experienced Eric Vassiliadis in the centre of the park. Vassiliadis was a thorn in the side of South in the opening round, producing a man of the match display to lead his side to victory. South coach Michael Michalakopoulos will be quite keen for Tavsancioglu to try and negate the influence of Vassiliadis, a role in which he has dominated in throughout the last four weeks.
Joining Tavsancioglu in the heart of midfield will be Brazilian maestro Fernando De Moraes, who returned from Fustalroos duty by scoring one of the goals of the season last weekend. South will be keen for the midfielder to push forward and attack the Warriors whenever possible.
The other key aspect of the contest will be whichever team can capitalise in front of goal. Both sides are more than capable in this area and will be looking to get on the front foot and attack from the opening minute.
Since recovering from a groin injury, Ricky Diaco has been inspirational for South, with the former A-League player showing his class in recent weeks with some outstanding performances. He will be partnered up front by Gianni De Nittis, a player who has scored on four occasions this season since returning to his favoured position in the forward line.
At the other end of the park, Heidelberg will be reliant on the consistent and quite dangerous duo of Mark Tsiorlas and Graham Hockless. So far, Tsiorlas has managed to score on four occasions as well as provide the Heidelberg side with a strong presence inside the attacking area, whilst Hockless has had an impressive season, producing a hand full of man of the match performances to date.
The other major battle will take place in the technical area between two excellent coaches. George Katsakis will be taking charge of the Heidelberg side and the experienced coach will go into the contest confident as Heidelberg have not lost to South since the 2006 season. Trying to out-smart Katsakis will be Michael Michalakopoulos. Michalakopoulos is no stranger to the big derby, having played for both South and Heidelberg in the early 90’s and causing considerable pain to both camps along the way. His experience and passion for such a contest should not be underestimated and he will be keen to get in the way of his former club.
All football fans are encouraged to get along and experience the most famous Australian football derby first-hand on Sunday. Heidelberg sit in 5th position and are just 5 points ahead of South Melbourne. A win for either side will help strengthen their campaigns for the finals later this year.
Kick off is at 4pm.
South Melbourne FC vs Heidelberg United
When: Sunday, May 25th
Where: Bob Jane Stadium
Kick-off: 4pm (Under 21s at 1.45pm)
Projected Starting line-ups
Dean Anastasiadis (GK/C), Sam Poutakidis, Rama Tavsancioglu, Adam Van Dommele, Steven O’Dor, Shane Nunes, Goran Zoric, Tony La Verde, Gianni De Nittis, Hamlet Armenian, Ricky Diaco
Peter Gavalas (GK), Blair Ameti, Daniel Jones, James Stefanou, Eric Vassiliadis, Josip Kozic, Graham Hockless, Anthony Ouliaris, Jim Drossos, Denis Alilovic, Mark Tsiorlas
Head to head
Played : 83
South Melbourne : 42
Heidelberg United : 23
Draw : 18
When: Sunday, 15 February 2008
Where: Olympic Village
Score: Heidelberg United 2 defeated South Melbourne 1
Form in 2008 (last 3 games)
South Melbourne: Win, Win, Win
Heidelberg United: Win, Draw, Win