Magicians of the Cup: Football Federation Victoria

Magicians of the Cup: Football Federation Victoria


With the draw completed and the details set, the FFA Cup’s Round of 32 is almost upon us.

At present, the FFA Cup presents the only opportunity for clubs from outside of the Australian top tier to mix it with A-League sides; presenting an intoxicating clash of styles, culture, and histories as the Australian footballing community experiences the magic of the Cup.

In this preview, looks at the sides from Football Federation Victoria that will be competing in this year’s Cup.

Bentleigh Greens:

Without a doubt the most well-credentialed of all the member federation sides to advance to this year’s national stage, Bentleigh has been to the FFA Cup national stages on three previous occasions, including trips to the semi-final of the 2014 edition the quarterfinals in 2016.

Last year, the Greens were defeated in the Round of 16 by A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers; the Red and Black overrunning a Greens outfit juggling the FFA Cup with an NPL VIC final’s campaign on their way to a 4-0 victory.

Founded by members of Melbourne’s Greek Cypriot community in 1986, Bentleigh has quickly risen through the ranks to become one of the most celebrated sides in NPL VIC in recent years; winning the NPL VIC championship in 2015 and 2017 seasons, the Premiers Plate in 2016 and the Dockerty Cup in 2016.

Based at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham, Bentleigh will enter the FFA Cup as one of the most in-form sides in any of the NPL leagues; having shrugged off the loss of almost a dozen players from their 2017 championship winning side to currently sit in second position on the NPL VIC table.

The Greens began their campaign to return to the FFA Cup’s national stages when they defeated NPL2 side Box Hill United 4-0 at Kingston Heath in round four of Victorian preliminary qualification. A 3-2 victory over State League side St Kilda SC followed in round five, before the Greens traveled to regional Victoria to knock the Goulburn Valley Suns out of the Cup with a 3-1 triumph at McEwen Reserve

Qualification for the Round of 32 would then be secured in thumping fashion away to Kingston City, the Greens putting four past the relegation-threatened NPL VIC battlers at Grange Reserve.

The Greens will be led into the national rounds of the FFA Cup by the man many consider to be the best coach currently without an A-League contract in Australia, John Anastasiadis.

Starting his career with Heidelberg United, Anastasiadis spent close to a decade playing with PAOK in the Greek league in his playing days, Anastasiadis eventually returned to Australia in the twilight days of his playing career; winning two NSL titles with South Melbourne and representing Hellas at the FIFA World Club Championships in Brazil in 2000.

Taking the coaching reigns at South Melbourne in 2005, 49-year-old Anastasiadis won a VPL title with the Victorian powerhouses in 2006 and also had a stint at the Oakleigh Cannons before moving to Bentleigh in 2011 to usher in their golden age.

Round of 32 Fixture: vs Wellington Phoenix, Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, 7 August, 7:30

Heidelberg United:

With its origins in a Clifton Hill Social Club founded by migrants from the Greek municipality of Florina, Heidelberg United is one of Victoria’s most historic and loved clubs.

Founded as Alexander the Great football club in 1958, Heidelberg’s long history in the game was the subject of a feature ahead of their 60th anniversary game in April. They will be seeking to add to that proud history in this year’s FFA Cup.

Alexandros – unlike the rest of the member federation clubs that have qualified for the Round of 32 – didn’t have to come through their local federations preliminary qualifiers. They instead earned their place on the national stages by virtue of winning the 2017 NPL National Championship.

Representing Football Federation Victoria thanks to their status as Premiers of NPL VIC, the Bergers were taken to extra time by Football West premiers Bayswater City in the first round of the national playoffs, before eventually triumphing 3-2.

A 2-1 home win over NPL NSW premiers APIA Leichhardt Tigers followed in the national semi-finals before the Bergers traveled to Perry Park in Queensland and defeated the Brisbane Strikes 2-0 thanks to goals from Adrian Zahra and Sean Ellis to become National NPL Champions.

2018 will be the Bergers third trip to the Round of 32, having previously experienced this stage in 2015 and 2017.

Heidelberg advanced to the quarterfinals in the 2015 tournament, going down 5-0 to A-League side Melbourne City in front of 11,372 fans at the Bergers home of Olympic Village.

Coming up against A-League opposition once again in the Round of 32 in 2017, a star would be born against the Perth Glory when “King” Kenny Athiu netted the game’s only goal as the Bergers claimed their first A-League scalp in the competition.

Despite that high, the Bergers would once again fall against another A-League side in the Quarter Finals, Adelaide United coming to Melbourne and defeating Alexandros 3-0.

The Bergers, who play out of Olympic Village in Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg West, will be lead into the Round of 32 by Head Coach George Katstakis; one of the longest tenured of any of the coaches on the national stages.

Katsakis well and truly has Heidelberg United running through his blood: the 52-year-old won the National Soccer League Under-21 Player of the Year and earned a call-up to the Young Socceroos squad as a part of the Bergers’ 1985 NSL squad before a badly broken leg forced an early retirement in his 20s.

Katsakis took over as coach of the side when they were struggling in 2007 and, with a brief intermission due to health issues in 2012, has overseen the Bergers ever since.

Alexandros enter the Round of 32 as the in-form side of the member federations, sitting on top of the highly-competitive NPL Victoria with a game in hand on the second-placed Bentleigh Greens.

Enough said 🙌🏻 #thepeoplesclub

— Heidelberg United FC (@HUFCWARRIOR) June 6, 2018

As well as having the real potential to knock off an A-League side, Heidelberg United are also primed to add to the “Magic of the Cup” thanks to their unique choice in penalty taker.

Goalkeeper Chris Theodoridis, in the vein of Paraguayan legend Jose Luis Chilavert, has taken on the responsibility of spot kicks for the Bergers during this NPL VIC season, with his season tally currently sitting at four.

Round of 32 Fixture: vs Charlestown City Blues, Olympic Village, 1 August, 7:30

Avondale FC:

One of the fastest rising – and ambitious – sides in NPL VIC, the Avengers of Avondale will be making their first appearance in the Round of 32 in 2018.

Founded by Italian migrants in 1984, Avondale began life as Keilor United before taking on the name of Avondale Heights in 2000 and shifted to its current title in 2015.

Avondale was playing in the Victorian sixth tier as recently as 2009, an infusion of capital enabling the club to go on a run of promotions that eventually achieved promotion to NPL2 in 2014 and the NPL a year later.

Adopting the Avengers moniker for their second year in the Victorian top flight, Avondale have experienced a nomadic existence in their time in NPL VIC; playing out of their traditional home of Avondale Heights Reserve, Knight’s Stadium in Sunshine, Paisley Park in Altona and recently moving into a new permanent home at the Reggio Calabria Club in Parkville.

Despite starting the 2018 NPL VIC season at a cracking pace Avondale has slipped on the table as of late, only collecting two wins from their last five matches and falling to third place on the table: seven points behind league-leading Heidelberg.

Avondale began their run to the national stages in the fourth round of Victorian qualification, defeating NPL2 side Werribee City 2-0 on the road in their first Cup fixture.

A 5-0 demolition of NPL side Bulleen Lions and 4-0 display of dominance over State League side North Sunshine Eagles then followed, setting up a meeting with highly ambitious – and former VPL winning club – Richmond SC at Paisley Park with a spot in the Round of 32 on the line.

Despite fielding a team with almost a dozen visa players, Richmond was easily brushed aside in the fixture, with goals from Liam Boland, Yitay Towns, Stefan Zinni and Elvis Kamsoba propelling Avondale to a clinical 4-1 victory.

Featuring familiar names such as Green Gully FFA Cup hero Boland, Hume City FFA Cup hero Chris Oldfield and former Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar player Joey Katabian, Avondale are to be led into the national stages of the FFA Cup by manager Anthony Barbieri.

Previously a player with Bulleen Lions and Sunshine George Cross SC, Barbieri is a bit of a fashionista off the field; serving as the director of Melbourne show store 124 Shoes when not leading the Avengers.

Round of 32 Fixture: vs Marconi Stallions, ABD Stadium, July 25, 7:30

Northcote City:

Another side making their first appearance in the FFA Cup Round of 32, Hercules has shrugged off poor league form to qualify for the national stages in the hopes of becoming the latest side from NPL VIC to stage a deep Cup run.

Hercules was founded in 1960 by Greek migrants and, in the tradition of many European clubs, has in its past not only fielded football sides, but also basketball, volleyball, and table tennis teams.

Also known as Princes Park Hercules and Collingwood City before its move to John Cain Memorial Reserve in Northcote in 1980, Hercules were champions of the Victorian Premier League in 2013 – the year prior to the nationwide introduction of the National Premier League format.

Promoted to the top flight of Victorian football after winning the NPL2 Western Conference in 2017, Hercules nonetheless struggled in their return to the Victorian top flight, currently sitting second-bottom of the 14-team NPL VIC table.

Despite their top-flight status, Hercules’ path to its first national FFA Cup appearance got off to a shaky start, relying on an own goal to defeat State League Mazenod Victory on the road in the fourth round of preliminary qualifying.

A 2-0 defeat of much more convincing opposition in NPL VIC foes Green Gully would follow in round five, before Hercules defeated regional NPL2 side Murray United 1-0 thanks to a goal from former Melbourne City youth prospect Lucas Derrick; who was having a breakout season in NPL Vic before being lost for the season with a knee injury.

A brace from Danny Dixon would propel Hercules past ambitious NPL2 side Altona Magic at Paisley Park in the seventh and final round of preliminary qualifying, sending Eric Vassiliadis’ men into the final 32.

.@NorthcoteCity are into the #FFACup Round of 32 for the first time!

— FFA Cup (@FFACup) May 30, 2018

A regional manager with BT Investment Solutions when he’s not taking charge of Northcote, Vassiliadis will likely be banking upon the talents of cult hero Gerrie Sylaidos if Hercules is to make a run deep into the cup.

Sylaidos, like Derrick, is a former Melbourne City youth prospect that has set NPL VIC alight since his arrival at John Cain Memorial prior to the 2018 season.

A diminutive winger with a deft touch, Sylaidos was one of a handful of Melbourne City youth prospects that trained with the Brazilian national side when they toured Australia in 2017 and is instantly recognizable on the field thanks to his trademark bandanna.

Round of 32 Fixture: vs Devonport Strikers, Veneto Club, 7 August, 7:30

Port Melbourne Sharks:

Founded in 1968 by members of Melbourne’s Greek community, Port Melbourne have only truly become a fixture in the Victorian top flight in recent years; a period of success in the 90s giving way to a 00s spent in the wilderness before finally making a return to Victoria’s top flight in 2013 where – despite a number of close calls – they have been ever since.

Playing out of JL Murphy Reserve in Port Melbourne, which is five km from Melbourne’s CBD, the Sharks will be making their first appearance in the FFA Cup’s Round of 32 in 2018; their previous high-water mark in the competition an elimination by the Melbourne Knights in the seventh round of Victoria’s 2016 preliminary qualifiers.

A 2-1 home victory over NPL VIC side Pascoe Vale opened Port Melbourne’s journey to this year’s Round of 32 qualifiers, before successive victories over the NPL2’s Sunshine George Cross and State League side Whittlesea United would set up a date with high flying NPL2 side Moreland Zebras with a spot in the national stages on the line.

Meeting at JL Murphy reserve, it appeared that the Zebras had done enough to steal an upset victory and advancement to the Round of 32: leading 2-1 as the game entered stoppage time.

However, a heartbreaking own goal by the Zebras Daniel Petrov in the sixth minute of injury time would send the game into extras.

Despite re-taking the lead through Jakob Williams in the early stages of the extra periods, the Zebras were unable to hold on; Sam Smith – a member of Gold Coast City’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2017 FFA Cup – equalising in the 99th minute and Daniel Clarke putting the Sharks through with a goal in the 111th minute.

Smith, who made the move to Victoria following his heroics as part of Gold Coast City’s cup run and winning the NPL QLD golden boot, initially signed with South Melbourne in the most recent offseason; making the jump to Port Melbourne following Chris Taylor’s departure from Hellas.

He is joined at Port by another new signing with FFA Cup heroics in their past: Japanese import Yuta Konagaya having joined the Sharks in the most recent offseason after starring as Blacktown City made their run to the quarterfinals of the 2017 FFA Cup.

Port Melbourne will be led into the Round of 32 by 33-year-old manager Adam Piddick, who like Smith made the move to Victoria down from Queensland in the most recent offseason.

Formerly the Technical Director of NPL QLD side Moreton Bay United, Piddick will potentially be staging a family reunion this FFA Cup; his brother Grae currently in charge of Gold Coast Knights.

Round of 32 Fixture: vs APIA, JL Murphy Reserve, July 25, 7:30