Ok. So a lot is going on. Little old me thought it would be fun having a frozen pepsi with a late KFC visit on the drive home to my mum’s out in the tassie countryside. Unbeknownst to me would the ABC dropping a midnight Matildas emergency that would keep me up, rather than my late night consumption of that frozen pepsi. The media release more or less inferred Football Australia were going to hold a press conference on Saturday to talk Stajic’s role as head coach of the Matildas. You don’t hold a press conference, on a Saturday, during an important tournament time for the men’s side, to celebrate successes of a team who hasn’t played in a couple months.
As of midday Saturday it was official that Stajcic was to be stepped down from his position as Matildas head coach.
Just to put it into perspective, for a side who are five months out of the World Cup, having had a head coach in since 2014 and sound enough results to not warrant a sacking, has been sacked. During the media presser, where the official announcement was made, Gallop kept referring to two surveys as the key reasons and support for the decision. Reading between these lines, and the immediacy of the decision, there’s a lot going on.
From a football, tactical perspective, I’ve gone on rants before about how one dimensional the Matildas have been and how Staj hasn’t been able to really mastermind anything beyond plan A. Whilst I wish I could sit here and say this is the reason he was sacked, to be totally clear, it wasn’t. The Matildas are without a coach five months from perhap the best opportunity to win the World Cup because of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Being the geek I am about soccer tactics, I don’t take into consideration what is going on off the field when watching a side play. However, with my travels and chats with people who have been around footy for a long time, it’s become inherently clear what goes on off the field is even more important. One example of this can come from Sydney’s 5-1 defeat of Brisbane in round 6. Sydney’s head coach, Ante, was asked how the approach to the match was different to previous games, where Sydney had played similarly but lost. Ante just laughed under his breath and said “actually, most of them have been on holiday this week”. It wasn’t the training ground or tactics that won that match so comprehensively for Sydney, it was what happened off the field, the respite of a mid-season holiday that proved the difference and turning point.
Right now, information about what has happened within the Matildas setup and Staj’s involvement is on tighter lock-down than me protecting my dinner from my thieving, eagle eyed Dad whilst I was a teenager. Which, having a law degree, I get yeah. You can’t put your foot in it until all the legals are dealt with. Especially with high stakes at play. And no I’m not talking the money that might be needed to pay anyone out. I’m talking the mental health and welfare of players, who have made it clear the conditions are bad enough for the FA to step in and sack the head coach at this point in time. Are they the players who will be all over Twitter or commenting on what’s gone on right now? Probably not. I’ve had shit coaches in my time, as most players likely have, and there is no way I’d be outing my experiences on social media. Professional football, with invested media, is just that to a whole other planet.
What now? Now we wait. We hope the players get the support they need and that the next coach’s top priority is to install a culture that is healthy and safe for every player who ever gets close to pulling on the Matildas jersey.
But on the super down-low it wouldn’t hurt if we also got a coach who knows more than a 4-3-3.