ARTICLE: With a playing career spanning a decade, Kimon Taliadoros reached the heights for both club and country. But it was his efforts off the field where his legacy remains everlasting.
Between 1987 and 1992, Taliadoros played 100 games for South Melbourne in the former National Soccer League, including the 1990-91 Championship winning team coached by the legendary Ferenc Puskas.
His 45 goals, long hair, and exuberant playing style not only endeared him to the fans, but also saw the Greek Australian striker go on to play nine games for the Socceroos.
But with Puskas leaving South at the end of the 1991-1992 season, Taliadoros moved to South's major NSL rival Marconi and during the negotiation brought along his friend Brendan Schwab. It was here Taliadoros discovered that even though his contract with South Melbourne had ended, Marconi still had to pay a 'compensation fee' to his former club.
"Brendan was an industrial relations and employment lawyer by trade and I was being trained as an accountant and the circumstances governing employment relationships in football were quite different," he tells Neos Kosmos.
Brendan was a schoolmate of mine and also my advisor. It became apparent that the rules that regulated the movement of players between employers were highly inequitable and weren't fair, and reasonable, to the players.
"We came to understand that the problem was widespread and simply reflected the poor standards of employment conditions of players generally across the country. We also came to realise that many players had suffered [under] those rules and regulations unfairly and unless we sought to address that many more players would continue to do that."
In his book The Death and Life of Australian Soccer Joe Gorman revisits this moment which features Remo Nogarotto the soccer director at Marconi.
"I'd spent eight years negotiating contracts with players and Brendan Schwab was the first third-party, other than a wife or girlfriend, in the room negotiating," Nogarotto said.
By the time Taliadoros had hung up his boots, he had won two NSL Championships and scored over 80 goals in 244 games. But Gorman believes what Taliadoros did after moving to Marconi would became one of the seminal moments in Australian football history.
"In the book I write about how Kimon is perhaps the most influential player of his generation," he tells Neos Kosmos.
"That seems to be on the face of it quite a controversial statement. He wasn't a player who went overseas or scored a huge amount of goals although he did that in the early part of his career. But I say he is influential because in 1993 he and Brendan Schwab and some other players began the Players' Football Association (PFA)."
Taliadoros acted as the PFA's inaugural chief executive from 1994 to 1995 while he was still playing in the NSL. He then served as the PFA president from 1995 to 1998 and became the PFA's inaugural life member in 1999.
Through the work of Taliadoros and Schwab the PFA won a standardised contract for footballers, and through the then Australian Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) worked to abolish the transfer system. The timing of the ruling coincided with Europe implementing the Bosman ruling; this meant that players could move to a new club at the end of their contract without their old club receiving a fee.
Taliadoros says these changes allowed players in Australia to move freely and fairly from club to club and that it transpired with fate lending a helping hand.
"The issue that led to the formation of the players' association was serendipity more than anything," he says.
"It wasn't necessarily that it was deliberate, it was a circumstance that arose simply with working through my personal circumstance in transferring from South Melbourne to Marconi. For us it was an anathema to deal with the framework that was inconsistent with the common understanding of employment rights in Australia."
While Australian players were now able to move freely between clubs inside and outside Australia leading to greater pay, Gorman believes Taliadoros paid a price for forming the PFA.
"By doing so Kimon became the enemy number one of almost all the clubs involved in the game," he says.
"The PFA ended up becoming the most important organisation in the game because in the late 1990s and 2000s it forced the industry of soccer to become professional. A lot of people hated Kimon because he was pushing the clubs to become more professional so they could provide Australian-based players a domestic career path."
After Marconi, Taliadoros then moved to Sydney Olympic, Collingwood Warriors, Sydney Olympic again and then ended his career at Parramatta Power, and Gorman feels this period was a consequence of his PFA advocacy.
"The other thing you have to remember about Kimon is that his career suffered from this," he says.
When he was at South he was the top goal scorer in 1991 and then he moved to Marconi and started the PFA very soon after. Since then he jumped from club to club to club and his performances on the field suffered because he was basically fighting the good fight for the rest of his professional players.
Taliadoros doesn't fully agree with Gorman's assertion but the 48-year-old does admit that his time with the Australian national team did end abruptly.
"I still enjoyed a very successful career and clubs were still happy to sign me as a striker and pay me accordingly as a first choice striker in their squads for many years after," he says.
"Certainly, as far as the national team is concerned I didn't play any further part in that but it's impossible to know if it may or may not have been related. That will be the only comment I make."
Gorman believes there is a bitter irony of Taliadoros creating the PFA because he did not benefit from the changes that the players' union brought to the game.
"In the current era of professionalism there are A-League players who in most cases probably aren't as naturally talented as Kimon and who are getting paid five or 10 times what he was getting paid," he says.
"I write this in the book, that he actually didn't really benefit a hell of a lot from the conditions that he helped create. He never signed a full-time professional contract with any NSL club at any point of his career.
"He helped full-time professionalism come to the NSL and later to the A-League. That's why I classify him as one of the most, if not the most, important player in the that era. Because he helped other players become full-time professionals.
"The current era of Australian players don't quite understand just how much of a huge thing it is. These things just don't happen overnight, but because of years and years of hard work by people like Brendan Schwab, Kimon, Francis Awaritefe, Craig Foster, John Kosmina, and the list goes on."
However, Taliadoros struggles with the plaudits Gorman offers and believes there are many who have helped improve the game for the better.
"Perhaps my contribution has been more so off the field than on the field," he says
"I'm just one of many that also contributed to the game's greater good. You'll find them every weekend marking the lines or cutting the oranges and not for personal gain but for the great love of the sport and because of what the sport gives us as individuals and the community."
[This article was first published in Neos Kosmos on 2 November 2017 at the following link: http://neoskosmos.com/news/en/How-Kimon-Taliadoros-changed-Australian-football]