Argentine or Greek, PAO coach Rocha is a true Green

Source: Ekathimerini

Few Greeks can boast their contribution to a certain soccer club spanning across five decades, but Argentine Juan Ramon Rocha has been what he calls a “Panathinaikos soldier” since the late 1970s, and after being a player throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s to turn into the coach to lead the Greens to the 1996 Champions League semis, he is back on the club’s bench as the head coach on Sunday in the clash with PAOK, after the resignation of Jesualdo Ferreira.

While no one can doubt whether “the Indian,” as his nickname back home was, has dedicated his life to Panathinaikos, having spent several years as a scout and a youth team coach as well, it has not always been certain to what extent he is an Argentine or a Greek.

Back in 1979, when the then new owner of Panathinaikos Giorgos Vardinoyiannis brought this promising young star of the Boca Juniors midfield to Greece, the law did not allow for foreign players to join the newly-professionalized Greek soccer. That clause had not stopped club owners from signing stars from abroad, bending the law by giving them fake Greek names and pretending they had a Greek origin.

That was also the case with Rocha, who came to Greece with the name Boublis and becoming a citizen of the suburb of Aegaleo. A series of court battles proved that he had no Greek origins, nearly put him in jail and resulted in a ban, but Rocha picked himself up and returned to the field to lead Panathinaikos in 1984 to its first league triumph in seven years.

Boublis or no Boublis, Rocha was among the key players of Panathinaikos who took the club to the semifinals of the 1985 Champions Cup, with Rocha scoring what he thought would be the opening goal at Anfield, in the first leg of the semifinal against Liverpool, only to see it disallowed for what the referee only considered to be offside. The Greens went on to lose 4-0 on the night, and 5-0 on aggregate, but their fans still wonder what would have happened if…

The Argentine, who had played for Newell’s Old Boys during the first six years of his career, formed a formidable midfield force with Yugoslav international Velimir Zajec at Panathinaikos from the summer of 1985 and won the Greek double in 1986 and a total of five Greek cups before retiring from soccer in 1989, at the age of 35 years.

The Greek game lost a player with great vision and skill who had graced the midfield with his tireless imaginative play, but the Santo Tome-born player turned immediately to coaching. His first stints at Paniliakos, Ilisiakos and Kalamata were good enough to secure him the credentials he needed to replace departed Ivica Osim on the Panathinaikos bench in 1994.

His impact on the team was instant. Although he did not possess a “magic wand” which the press said at the time that he had, he led Panathinaikos to back-to-back league triumphs in 1995 and 1996, capped by yet another entry to the semifinals of Europe’s top club competition. Rocha reached the peak of his coaching time when the Greens played Ajax in Amsterdam and against all odds they won 1-0 in the first leg, courtesy of an amazing run along most of the field by Giorgos Donis and a delicate chip by talismanic striker Krzysztof Warzycha. However, the Greek champions lost 3-0 in Athens to miss out on a second European final, after 1971.

A few months later, the decline of Panathinaikos as a club started, from which the team is yet to emerge. Rocha was soon on his way out after a string of poor performances. He had mixed results next year on the Aris bench, but was never far away from Panathinaikos. In 1999 he was called to task again as the head coach, but without any success.

Some brief spells on the benches of Xanthi, Ilisiakos and Olympiakos Nicosia (twice) followed in the decade of 2000, that ended with Rocha working as a scout and then as the Under-20 team coach, leading the club to youth championship triumphs and bringing up a number of talented youngsters for the first team whom he will now be managing again as the club’s head coach. By now it has become clear that it is only Panathinaikos that becomes him, and that he is at heart more Greek than his papers, fake or real, would suggest.

It is no secret that several Greece managers would have loved to have him at their disposal as a player, and might have done so had Rocha not played twice for the national team of Argentina.

With a number of underperforming players in the Greens’ squad at the moment, some of them of Latin origin just like Rocha, it is no coincidence the board of Panathinaikos has chosen “the Indian” to take over from Ferreira. After all, they remember how Rocha transformed the career of another Argentine, the midfielder Juan Jose Borelli in the 1990s, and they will hope he can do the same now.

The irony is that his third debut on the Panathinaikos bench, on November 18, will be against a team coached by the man who gifted him the most glorious night of his managerial career, Donis, who is also the father of two of the Panathinaikos youth team members. Maybe the talented guitar player and merengue singer, that Rocha also is, could pen a song about this momentous encounter for him to hum, while downing one after another the bottles of water he loves to drink on the bench during games. Panathinaikos fans would certainly drink to the success of the man who would be Greek.

Ron Walker’s plan for tallest tower on rail yards in Melbourne

Source: TheAge

MELBOURNE major events supremo Ron Walker has launched a behind-the-scenes pitch to the Baillieu government for a multibillion-dollar development over the Jolimont rail yards, including the city’s tallest skyscraper.

The plan puts Mr Walker in direct competition with construction giant Daniel Grollo, who is lobbying for his vision of a civic and commercial precinct above the rail yards east of Federation Square. Mr Grollo’s Grocon also built the Eureka Tower on Southbank, the city’s tallest building.

The government is believed to be preparing to call for tenders to build over the rail yards.

Revelation of the Walker scheme – and the fact that the former Liberal Party treasurer is already lobbying in Spring Street ahead of a formal tender – is likely to be uncomfortable for Premier Ted Baillieu, renowned as a stickler for process and for his caution in dealing with business.

Mr Walker, a former lord mayor, confirmed that he had spoken to Mr Baillieu about his Jolimont scheme.
”Like all things in life, if you have an idea and it’s a good idea for Melbourne, it’s behoven upon the individual to take it to the government to see what they think about it,” he said.

”We’ve got great ideas for how Melbourne’s front yard can look.”
Last month The Sunday Age revealed the government had revived the idea of building a deck over the rail yards – a civic dream of premiers dating back to Henry Bolte – with Planning Minister Matthew Guy describing the project as the ”second phase” of Federation Square.

Mr Walker, Mr Grollo and other major construction industry players are already preparing proposals for the site.
”Bolte talked about it for years. Kennett talked about it,” said Mr Walker.
”It’s been the chatter of many premiers throughout the decades.”

Mr Walker is a towering figure in Melbourne’s civic and business life. He has also been a controversial one, no more so than 20 years ago, when the government of his friend Jeff Kennett picked his Crown consortium out of 23 bidders to build and operate Victoria’s first casino.

Mr Baillieu will be acutely aware of the sensitivity of Mr Walker’s involvement in any bidding process. That sensitivity will be heightened given that – according to a source familiar with it – Mr Walker has spruiked his scheme’s commercial tower as Melbourne’s tallest.

Another source said the Walker tower was problematic because of overshadowing of the Yarra River. The government has announced tough new planning controls along the river, including the stretch adjacent to the rail yards, to protect it from encroaching development and overshadowing.

It is understood the Walker scheme also includes new space for the National Gallery of Victoria, which is squeezed at its locations at Federation Square and its home on St Kilda Road.

Mr Walker refused to discuss his tower proposal, describing his plan as a ”community” project. An industry source said the Walker scheme would cost about $1.5 billion to build and employ up to 4000 in the process.

Mr Walker is also in serious negotiations with a cashed-up potential development partner for the rail yards project, the $18 billion building industry superannuation fund, Cbus.

Adrian Pozzo, chief executive of the Cbus development arm Cbus Property, confirmed discussions had been held with Mr Walker and other potential bidders but said the super fund had not committed to a partnership.

Last month Mr Grollo confirmed he had met Mr Guy about the project, describing it as an ”iconic opportunity for Melbourne – at little or no net cost to government”.

Both Mr Walker and Mr Grollo learnt much when they worked closely together over construction of this newspaper’s new home, Media House, over rail lines on Collins Street next to Southern Cross Station. At the time Mr Walker was the chairman of Fairfax, the owner of The Sunday Age.

”We built that [Age] building on time and on budget,” said Mr Walker. ”The technology is there and if I hadn’t have been able to prove it firsthand I wouldn’t have touched it [the rail yards project] with a 40-foot pole. We know how to do it and we know how to do it economically.”

Last month Mr Guy said the government was ”very interested and excited” about building over the rail yards. ”We’re now looking to expand on that success and we think this could also become a significant Melbourne landmark and community meeting place,” he said.
Mr Baillieu’s office declined to comment.

GEORGE Calombaris is closing his flagship restaurant The Press Club

Source: TheAge

Stop Press: Calombaris switches Clubs

GEORGE Calombaris is closing his flagship restaurant The Press Club and setting himself a new ”pressure test”: to reinvent fine dining in Melbourne

The demonstrative Greek-Australian of television’s MasterChef fame will close the high-end, 90-seat Flinders Street restaurant in March, but has reassured customers that in its wake he will create ”the best Greek restaurant in the world”.
It’s name will be – wait for it – ”The Press Club”. But it will be fancier than its predecessor, and in a much smaller space, in what is now the restaurant’s adjacent bar, Little Press, with room for only 30 diners.

Challenging the likes of Vue de Monde, and with prices travelling in the same stratospheric $300-a-head zone, it will aim for ”conceptual” cuisine that is close to Calombaris’ Hellenic heart.

Most of the existing restaurant will be carved off for a lower-budget souvlaki bar, called Gazi.

Calombaris dismisses rumours that his restaurant empire is in financial strife, stating the motive behind the changes was chasing his ”culinary dreams” by returning to his small-kitchen roots.
With the economy staggering and fine dining falling out of fashion, has Calombaris gambled too much on the reinvention of his celebrated restaurant, awarded two chefs’ hats in The Age Good Food Guide?

Hospitality consultant Tony Eldred thinks the upmarket move is brave.
”I wouldn’t advise anyone to open a restaurant like this in Melbourne,” he says. ”There are already too many restaurants at the top end. If this one is successful, it will knock one of the others off.”

He points to a basic axiom of hospitality: ”Feed the poor go home rich, feed the rich go home poor.”

Calombaris is undaunted, inspired by memories of his culture and childhood. One dish will be ”Smashing Plates”, a dessert where staff will shatter a meringue ”plate” directly onto the dining table, then build a newfangled pavlova among the shards.

Another is inspired by the constant threats of Calombaris’ mother to wash his mouth out with soap.

Now, he hopes to clean up with an edible facsimile of a cake of soap, garnished with mastic suds and olive-oil exfoliant.

”I want to fuse my cultures like never before,” says Calombaris of the cuisine he calls ”Gringlish”.