In recent days Lucy Zelic used Twitter and national radio to criticise the outrage expressed by those disappointed with the sacking of Alen Stajcic.
According to the SBS presenter, people’s reactions to one of the most momentous days in modern Australian football would be different if more ‘facts’ were available to them.
The natural gut reaction to the sacking was threefold. Initially people wondered why. A fair question. What followed was an also logical: Why now?
Thirdly, and more intriguingly, theories about the mysterious surveys that informed the decision raised myriad questions around the motivations and legality of the move made by Football Federation Australia.
Zelic’s tweet alluded to a level of knowledge possessed by just a few – a knowledge that, once acquired, would alter people’s views and perceptions on Stajcic’s removal.
“Some things that have become very clear out of Stajcic’s sacking: 1. The public’s (understandable) lack of trust in FFA has dictated reactions. 2. Those truly in the know re: women’s football aren’t entirely shocked by this news 3. The ‘actual facts’ are protected legally,” Zelic tweeted.
Aside from my initial and knee-jerk feelings of disappointment at not being “in the know”, the more pertinent question arose of exactly who was.
It appeared clear that there was indeed a significant secret – a second shooter on the grassy knoll if you will. There was, dare I say, a conspiracy theory.
Zelic’s commentary suggested that the pair of player surveys upon which the FFA had acted were indeed laden with facts and evidence that, if accessed, would paint a rather unpleasant image of the coach and the workplace culture over which he ruled.
With confidentiality assured to players and staff, it appeared to me that facts were conveniently destined to remain veiled from the light of day.
Some things that have become very clear out of Stajčić’s sacking: 1. The public’s (understandable) lack of trust in FFA has dictated reactions. 2. Those truly in the know re: women’s football aren’t entirely shocked by this news 3. The ‘actual facts’ are protected legally.
— Lucy Zelić (@LucyZelic) January 19, 2019
The Twitter conversation evolved, with some calling on Zelic to release the information that had helped form her view on the situation.
Experienced broadcaster Tim Gossage enquired, “You seem to be in the know Lucy. Saying a lot but stopping at saying anything. Fuelling the fire maybe?”
Foxtel broadcaster Daniel Garb appeared to be one of those “in the know”, defending the decision with a somewhat inflammatory description of the culture within the Australian women’s football team.
“Would you rather FFA swept an untenable situation under the carpet?” he tweeted.
Over the course of the weekend I had heard the words ‘toxic’, ‘welfare’, ‘workplace’, ‘culture’, ‘untenable’, ‘deteriorating’ and ‘unsustainable’ emanate from a variety of ‘sources’, people and theorists. Frankly, it stank to high heaven.
I realised there must have been an undoubted truth we were yet to learn. Apparently only a select few knew and they weren’t saying – well, not yet!
Amid the breaking news and the disgraceful and logical assumptions formed about Stajcic, the course of natural justice was well and truly set to ‘implode’. People were right to question his character after the clear-cut decision made by FFA was supported by a knowledgeable group of people “in the know”, assuring all and sundry that it was just, deserved and fair.
What followed was astonishing, with the Matildas taking to social media in support of their mentor.
“Today our world turned upside down. Although we aren’t privy to the finer details of Staj’s dismissal, I respect him as a coach and what he has done for the group thus far,” Elise Kellond-Knight tweeted.
“Disappointing news yesterday losing our head coach, especially so close to a major tournament,” Emily Gielnik said, to which Clare Polkinghorne added, “What he’s done for the Matilda’s and football in Aus is incredible.”
“Yesterday’s news was totally unexpected. Staj has done so much for women’s football, which we thank him for.” Tameka Butt tweeted.
“Shattered with what we have found out today.” Chloe Logarzo said.
“The achievements we succeeded in with him guiding us were monumental. The stuff dreams are made of. Thank you doesn’t cover it. I’m still in shock,” said Lydia Williams.
“His dedication to our team was remarkable … I am truly saddened,” Alanna Kennedy said.
I may have missed a few, but the pattern is quite clear.
Disappointing news yesterday losing our head coach, especially so close to a major tournament. I want to take the time to thank Staj not only for the work he has put into the Matilda’s but also the women’s game on a larger scale. https://t.co/WsqiBJCtNE
— Emily Gielnik (@EGielnik) January 19, 2019
When world superstar Sam Kerr was roped into the debate amid a suggestion that her silent response was potentially instructed by the powers at be, her subsequent comment was telling,
“I have not been gagged by the FFA,” she tweeted. “I have not commented because I wasn’t ready to comment while I am still shocked and upset. My trust was in Staj to lead us to the World Cup final & I believe he was the best coach for that. Thankful for everything his (sic) done for me and the team.”
The Matildas are far more than just the players and the coach at the helm. A broader staff and collection of contributors engage on a daily basis to build what has become one of Australia’s most successful and truly international teams.
The players’ comments appear to defy a supposed toxic culture and the untenable situation that David Gallop claimed had been worsening in recent months.
Perhaps the issues lie more with Stajcic’s relationships outside the playing group or with a small number of his chargers. That information lies embedded in the surveys that were completed and subsequently used to inform the FFA’s decision.
It all seems like a funny way to do business.
When something drastic happens in life, twitter is not the first place I go.
— Sam Kerr (@samkerr1) January 20, 2019
Ray Gatt said it well over the weekend when he tweeted, “So now Australian soccer is run by surveys! Great idea. Let’s do a survey on FFA, PFA and Ourwatch. Love to see the results.”
As for the real story and the way forward? Well, the hastily called press conference on Monday afternoon loomed as an opportunity for the FFA to provide answers. Instead we were presented with the most vacuous and pointless ten minutes of fluff that clarified nothing and merely annoyed people just hours prior to a vital Socceroos Asian Cup knockout fixture.
I’d like to tell you more but, sorry, I guess I am just not “in the know”.