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Opinion

The Filipinas love coach Alen Stajcic, so why didn’t Football Australia?

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Expert
18th July, 2022
28
2034 Reads

We are still yet to hear a full explanation from Football Australia as to why Alen Stajcic was removed from his Matildas post just prior to the 2019 World Cup in France.

At that time, Australia’s national women’s team were riding high on a wave of ever-growing interest that had many believing they were near certainties to advance beyond the group stage, with the ceiling on their ultimate place in the tournament only restricted by what they themselves believed was possible.

Yet, astonishingly, a manila folder of surveys, reports of toxicity in culture, and rather vague references to Stajcic’s comments and behaviour as having been inappropriate at times, were rustled together as a weak reasoning for the coach’s removal, with most that knew him mystified and suspicious .

Subsequently, a series of voices alluded to the stunning awareness we would all come to after the true details behind the decision were released.

To this day, I have yet to read, sight or hear them from anyone in an official capacity.

After suggesting that people “would be shocked” after learning the ‘truths’ behind FA’s decision, former board member Heather Reid back-tracked, saying in a statement, “I regret making these statements. I apologise also for pain and suffering that I have caused to Mr Stajcic’s wife and two young children.”

With the advantage of retrospect and FA’s failure to produce the evidence that led to a collective board view “that the Matildas would benefit from a new coach for the FIFA World Cup in France”, two clear realities exist.

Firstly, there is still not a shred of credible and concrete evidence that explains the reasoning behind the decision to remove Stajcic.

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Secondly, it was a mistake of the most enormous proportions.

Matildas coach Alen Stajcic directs two of his players

Alen Stajcic when in charge of the Matildas.

After laying low in the aftermath of a turbulent time and with the World Cup he had planned for and dreamt of just six months away, Stajcic eventually resurfaced as the caretaker coach of the Central Coast Mariners in early 2019.

With the club in turmoil, the challenge was immense and after taking the reins permanently for the 2019-20 season, positive results were few and far between. However, by the time the 2020-21 season rolled around and Stajcic had overseen a decent period of recruitment and adjustments to game style, the Mariners finished third on the ladder, in their best effort since the 2013-14 season.

After proving himself as a competent and effective coach of the women’s national team, Stajcic had done precisely the same with an A-League club, before departing the Central Coast in search of a new challenge.

And now, after taking on that challenge in the form of the Philippines women’s national team, the 48-year-old has proven his credentials for a third time, guiding the nation to victory in the AFF Championship on home soil.

With a 3-0 win in the final against Thailand, the team known as the Filipinas continued a recent run of brilliant form that saw them stun Asia with an appearance in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup semi-finals in February. Now, with AFF silverware in the trophy cabinet in Manilla, the team heads to the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia/New Zealand eyeing competitive performances.

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After assembling what appeared to be something of a rag-tag group of women from across the globe prior to the Asian Cup tournament, Stajcic moulded them into a competitive unit, despite fitness levels and experience being obvious concerns.

He assembled a crew of trusted people to share the journey, with that path now reverberating right across Asia and his team seemingly improving from match to match. To where that improvement ultimately leads is anyone’s guess, yet form suggests there will be few teams in the world feeling that a match-up with the Filipinas will be an automatic three points at the World Cup next year.

All the while, the Matildas’ climate is laced with concern and dissatisfaction around the results being achieved and approach being taken by current mentor Tony Gustavsson.

Bluntly, the wheels appear to have fallen off, their public image has soured, and the disparity between the quality of their play and that of the best-performing European nations appears to have widened significantly over the last 18 months.

I would suggest that the Matildas would be travelling far better under a man who knows them well, one who shaped their performances and development over a long period, and someone who might also have been able to extract even more from the host of players learning and improving every day while playing in Europe’s biggest leagues.

Alas, we will never know.

Football Australia jettisoned Alen Stajcic, thinking there was something better or for a reason of which we are yet to be fully informed.

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The Matildas’ loss is the Filipinas’ gain.

The big question is: will we ever be told exactly why this brilliant tactician and player manager was removed in the first place?

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