The Matildas have battled out a goalless draw with in-form Sweden to boost their morale heading into the Olympics next month.
Axed Matildas coach Alen Stajcic has finally opened the book on his hurt and despair, also calling for an independent inquiry into his ousting as coach of the national women’s football team.
The 45-year-old issued a statement on Monday morning ahead of a media conference, labelling his dismissal as an “injustice”.
“During my time as Matildas head coach (I) never witnessed, never participated in, and never acquiesced to the participation of others in any impropriety or misconduct relating to players or the Matildas set-up,” he said.
“I have always tried my hardest to provide genuine care for all the players within my teams and have constantly battled with administrators to improve conditions for all in our environment.
“The events of the last few weeks have devastated both me and my family. My career is in tatters and my reputation has been ruined.”
The incendiary rebuttal of his departure action sets the stage for a remarkable FFA board meeting on Monday night, when all facets of the Stajcic saga will come under the microscope.
It also paves the way for a civil legal action, with Stajcic saying he has taken legal advice.
Stajcic has his employment terminated on January 19 by the FFA board due to the alleged development of a “toxic” culture under his leadership.
They formed that view after Matildas players and staff filled out anonymous surveys which reportedly suggested an unhealthy environment.
However, many in the football community closed ranks around Stajcic after his departure, questioning the removal of a leader who had brought considerable success.
Senior Matildas – including captains Clare Polkinghorne, Lisa De Vanna and superstar Sam Kerr – all praised Stajcic.
Professional Footballers Australia and the Football Coaches Association decried his axing and the manner of it.
Several prominent coaches called for his reinstatement.
And the other bodies that make up the FFA Congress – state federations, professional clubs and the Women’s Football Council – made their displeasure known publicly and privately.
Incredibly, Stajcic insisted that FFA did not attribute direct blame to him but still showed him the door.
“Up until the day before the FFA terminated my employment I have only ever received praise from (FFA CEO David) Gallop both publicly and privately,” he said.
“The very first time I met with Mr Gallop about these alleged ‘poor culture’ issues were on 18 January 2019, at 9.30am.
“Our discussion about the supposed ‘poor culture’ within the Matildas lasted approximately 20 minutes. Thereafter my employment was terminated the next morning.”
Stajcic said he saw the original PFA-FFA survey as “materially and hopelessly flawed”.
He also took aim at selective leaks from the survey, which he argued were particularly hurtful to his family.
“While it has broken my heart and spirit to think I am no longer on that journey that I shared with so many for such a long time, I will continue to follow the Matildas – both individually and a team,” he said.
“I truly wish to see Australia take its rightful place on the world football stage and believe this team can do it.
“For now, I look forward to the search for truth, honour and integrity in this awful saga.
“I concur with others who are demanding a full and independent investigation.”