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EDITIONS
World Club Championship Monday, 20 December, 1999, 19:21 GMT
South Melbourne: Raising the stakes
celebrate
South Melbourne celebrate after their win in the Grand Final
By BBC News Online's Hugh Westbrook in Australia

South Melbourne were formed in 1959 through the amalgamation of three local clubs, South Melbourne United, Hellenic and Yarra Park.

They initially played in the Victorian state league under the name of South Melbourne Hellas, and were supported by the Greek community of the city.

Key players
Coach: Ange Postecoglou
Paul Trimboli, skipper in midfield and twice Australian player of the year
Goran Lozanovski and Fausto Di Amicis, wing-backs
Con Blatsis, Olympic team member and stylish defender
Strikers Michael Curcija and John Anastasiadis
Soccer in Australia has always been a sport watched largely by the European immigrant families which flooded the country during the 1950s, and many national league clubs are associated primarily with one particular country.

Football was thus characterised as the preserve of ethnic families and was denied a mainstream audience, holding back its development as a popular sport across Australia.

All this is set to change with the formation of a new breed of non-ethnic clubs which are generating significant mainstream support.

South Melbourne's participation in the World Club Championship will only serve to further this growth.

World Club Championship
The club won the Victorian state championship six times before entering the newly formed National Soccer League in 1977.

They are one of only three clubs to have played in the league since its inception and have won the championship on four occasions, including the last two seasons.

Qualification

Qualification for Brazil was achieved through a series of play-offs. Initially the club had to contest Australia's own end of season play-offs, which involve the top six clubs in the league.

south
South's participation will raise the profile of soccer in Australia
South actually finished second to Sydney United after the league season, but this only earned the Sydney club the title of minor premiers.

One British equivalent of this system are the play-offs at the end of Rugby League's Super League season.

The top two eventually won through to the grand final, where South Melbourne's 3-1 victory gave them the title.

The championship meant a passage into the Oceania Club Championship in Fiji where wins over Malaita Eagles (Solomon Islands), Konica FC (American Samoa) and AS Venus (Tahiti) took them to the final against host club Nadi. South won 5-1 and so sealed their trip to Brazil.

Now known as the South Melbourne Lakers, the club play at the neat Bob Jane Stadium which sits in the corner of Albert Park, surrounded by roads which form part of the track for Formula One's Australian Grand Prix.

Led by experience

The fulcrum of the team is captain Paul Trimboli. The twice Australian player of the year has played over 350 league games for South and they will be hoping he has shrugged off recent injury worries to take charge of midfield.

Current internationals Goran Lozanovski and Fausto Di Amicis are impressive in the wing-back positions, while Olympic team member Con Blatsis is developing as a stylish defender.

nadi
South reached the championship after defeating Nadi 5-1
Olympic striker Michael Curcija may cause problems up front in partnership with the experienced John Anastasiadis.

The club have however been making a disappointing defence of their title in the new season which started in October.

Home form has been good, though when BBC News Online caught up with them they slipped to a disappointing 2-1 defeat by local rivals Carlton, their first home defeat for 18 months.

However, they play with tremendous commitment and will not want for effort when they reach Brazil.

See also:

20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
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