Perhaps the worst thing about the ongoing Matildas crisis is the fact that Football Federation Australia once again seemed to think that nobody would care.
There’s a standalone W-League grand final between Sydney FC and Perth Glory at Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah on Saturday afternoon.
That was a good decision.
And perhaps we’d all be talking about it if it wasn’t for the fact that almost a month ago the FFA made what is turning out to be an increasingly inexplicable one.
Want to know what I think has happened? I think FFA has made a sudden, knee-jerk reaction to sack Alen Stajcic under the mistaken belief that only a few diehard Matildas fans would care.
I suspect they’ve done it on the basis of an ill-conceived, barely legitimate survey it appears practically anyone could fill out.
And I reckon they’ve painted themselves into a corner by constantly citing ‘confidentiality’ as the reason they can’t divulge any specific details on why Stajcic was actually sacked.
The reality is a coach who dedicated his life to women’s football has been sacked and we still don’t know why.
And if Stajcic has been forced to suffer the shame of a public humiliation, then a few others have done well to avoid the spotlight.
Starting with Chris Nikou.
By all accounts the new FFA chairman is a pretty switched-on character, but you’d hardly know it since Nikou has barely stuck his head above the parapet during this whole sorry saga.
After Stajcic’s emotional press conference on Monday during which he claimed “my career is in tatters and my reputation is now in ruins,” FFA released a statement signed by Nikou refuting Stajcic’s claims.
“We disagree with many of his assertions and were surprised by a number of his comments,” the statement said.
“Nothing Mr Stajcic said today changes the facts, that built up over time, that informed the FFA’s decision to legally terminate his employment as coach of the Matildas.”
What would those facts be again?
And what of some of the others implicated in this mess who have now gone to ground or been conspicuously silent throughout the entire affair?
Don’t think it hasn’t been noticed.
According to a report by Tracey Holmes that went live on the ABC website last night, Stajcic himself called the Matildas team environment “dysfunctional” and “cancerous”.
And he was also reported to have been involved in the development of the Wellbeing Audit that ultimately cost him his job.
So that’s the FFA’s story and as fans of the game, I suppose we have to trust it.
As it stands there are now less than four months until the Women’s World Cup kicks off in France.
It was a tournament many of us dreamed the Matildas had a genuine chance of winning – even those of us who aren’t lifelong followers of the women’s game.
And it should be acknowledged that as sympathetic a character as Stajcic came across in Monday’s press conference, the team’s performances under his watch had been waning for quite a while.
But on the eve of the biggest W-League game of the season, it seems the only thing all anyone can talk about is the sacking of Alen Stajcic.
It shouldn’t be this way. The FFA’s focus should be on highlighting the very best of the beautiful game, not kicking cans along the gutters of its absolute worst.
This is a public relations disaster entirely of the FFA’s own making.
There’s much to look forward to this weekend – the W-League grand final, a huge crowd in Auckland and Sydney FC’s first game at Leichhardt Oval among them.
But to focus exclusively on the football would be to ignore the elephant in the room.
The Matildas crisis isn’t going away. And the only thing that can resolve it now might be some actual leadership.