The best – and worst – of SA soccer in 2019

As another year winds down, Spiro Karanikos-Mimis reflects on the best – and worst – South Australian football stories of 2019 and details his wishlist for 2020.


Dec 20, 2019, updated Dec 20, 2019
The Matildas returned to Adelaide in November - one of our columnist's highlights of the year. Photo: AAP/Kelly Barnes

The Matildas returned to Adelaide in November - one of our columnist's highlights of the year. Photo: AAP/Kelly Barnes

The year has thrown up some amazing soccer highlights – a few lowlights.

Elizabeth Downs’ FFA Cup Run

 The Downs are a well-loved and respected club who have been part of the northern suburbs community for decades.

They were the feel-good story of the FFA Cup SA Preliminary Rounds this year, making it all the way to the semi-final of the SA section before being eliminated (only just) by Adelaide City.

The highlight of their run was knocking out MetroStars in the quarter-final in front of a huge crowd at Argana Park.

Adelaide City’s dominance

The Adelaide City women’s team swept all before them in season 2019: Premiers, Champions and Cup winners, they played brilliant football and were a joy to watch.

They were a team full of talent.

That makes it very hard to praise a few players over others but if you haven’t been to see the Sasaki sisters play yet, do yourself a favour and get out to watch them.

Adelaide United’s FFA Cup Win

 There’s nothing better than a cup final in Adelaide.

We’ve been blessed with three (all wins) and I’m not sure which one has been my favourite.

This year’s stands out for the shellacking Adelaide United gave Melbourne City – a result not predicted by many, if any.

The victory also went some way to vindicating United’s decision to make changes during the off-season.

The club had been criticised by experts, media and fans for its new direction but winning the FFA Cup made many of those critics eat humble pie.

Also, who will forget Al Hassan Toure crying after setting up Adelaide’s second goal?

The Matildas play in Adelaide

The last time the Matildas played in Adelaide, Port Road was still being considered as a canal.

Okay, that’s not exactly true but it had been 13 years.

It was great to see them here and hopefully it won’t be so long before they’re back.

Nearly 10,500 people turned up to watch arguably the best Australian national team of any sport over the last few years.

They truly deserve plaudits for their efforts and here’s hoping it lasts for a long time.

Honourable mentions

  • The rise of SA young guns Al Hassan Toure, Louis D’Arrigo and Lachlan Brook.
  • Charlotte Grant and Emily Hodgson playing regularly for the Young Matildas.
  • Marcos Flores’ return to South Australia with Adelaide City.

The lowlights

  • Ken Ilso’s positive drug test and subsequent ban.
  • The mass walk-out of players from Salisbury United.
  • West Adelaide: eliminated from the FFA Cup by amateur side Tea Tree Gully, relegated to State League 1 and complications with finishing their new stadium on Churchill Road.

Hopeful predictions for 2020

And so, with 2020 on the horizon, here are some things I hope occur in 2020.

Some are realistic, others are not  – but you never know.

Promotion play-off for State League 1 and 2

I would love for Football South Australia to announce next year that, from 2021 onwards, the Grand Final for State League 1 and 2 will be scrapped in favour of a promotion play-off.

Allow me to indulge.

Right now, the team that finishes first in the regular season (the Premiers) achieves promotion to a higher division.

If the Premiers make the Grand Final, which often occurs, their opponents in the decider are promoted.

That arguably makes the semi-final the bigger game – as the winner achieves promotion.

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Right now the Grand Final only serves as a promotion match if the Premiers do not make it.

It just seems logical that the Premiers do not play in the post-season.

Rather: second plays fifth and third plays fourth (in an elimination match or over two-legs), with the winners playing in a promotion extravaganza at Hindmarsh.

This obviously doesn’t work for the NPL as there is no higher league to be promoted too, so the Grand Final stays for that competition.

A proper round-robin schedule for the W-League

This has to be one of my biggest bugbears.

Why the premier women’s soccer completion in Australia doesn’t get a full home-and-away set of fixtures is baffling.

It would require some work but I can’t see anything wrong with, for example, three rounds over a Saturday – Wednesday – Sunday.

It is way beyond time to make this happen.

The Socceroos are crowned champions of South America

 Before you accuse me of taking some illicit substance, just remember that our national men’s team is playing in the 47th edition of the Copa America as a guest team (along with Qatar) in 2020.

We have been drawn in Group A alongside:

  • Argentina (who haven’t been great at international level for ages now);
  • Bolivia (we have more World Cup appearances then them and their last was in 1994 when Marco Antonio Etcheverry was a thing);
  • Uruguay (our bunnies);
  • Chile (we let them win in 2014); and
  • Paraguay (we are ranked 42, they are ranked 40).

One we make to the knockout stage – the top four teams from Group A and B have that honour – then anything is possible.

Look at Greece in the 2004 Euros!

And when Australia pull this off, I doubt very much any national team has been a champion of three confederations – Oceania and Asia being the other two.

…let me dream okay.

Adelaide United makes a Grand Final

Adelaide United has been the best South Australian sporting team of this decade.

It’s not even an argument.

Three FFA Cups, a premiership and a championship, means an average of a trophy every two years.

No team in any other major code – AFL, cricket, netball, basketball – has done as well as our beloved Reds.

So what would be better than another crack at a Championship to start the new decade? Not much I say!

And another thing…

Thank you for your support of Manton Street Tales in 2019.

I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have loved writing it.

This is the final edition of Manton Street Tales for 2019. It will return in 2020.

Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.

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