Alen Stajcic’s sacking rocked the Australian football community.
Alen Stajcic’s sacking rocked the Australian football community.

Broken Matildas coach makes scathing accusations

Axed Matildas coach Alen Stajcic has finally opened the book on his hurt and despair, denying he oversaw a toxic environment within the national team set-up.

The 45-year-old addressed the media on Monday to give his side of the story after getting sacked in January, just five months out from the World Cup.

Stajcic started his press conference by reading from a strongly-worded statement he released earlier on Monday morning, where he labelled his dismissal as an "injustice" and claimed he still did not know why he had been dumped.

As he addressed reporters, Stajcic looked like he would break down, having to pause several times to regain his composure.

The former Matildas boss said his main priority was to repair his reputation, which had been "unjustifiably" damaged. He also became emotional when talking about the strain the episode has placed his family under.

"I've come here to clean my name and restore my reputation," he said. "I'm here to repair what I can having spent 20 years coaching the game.

"My kids have had to go to school and read the speculation, the firestorm that's erupted due to the lack of transparency. As a father, that's been the toughest part to take."

Stajcic said FFA CEO David Gallop told him he was sacked because the team had a poor culture and he was responsible for that as head coach. However, he was adamant he was presented with no specifics about what he had done wrong and maintained he was terminated "without cause", denying claims the team culture had deteriorated under his watch.

Stajcic called for an independent inquiry into his ousting and said the first time Gallop made him aware of any cultural issues was just hours before his sacking.

"I still do not know the reasons for my termination other than David Gallop telling me the Matildas had a poor culture," Stajcic said.

"I pressed him on the issue of what he was referring to and he said it was all confidentiality and he couldn't talk about it.

"There were no behaviours or actions attributed to me.

"In five years I've never had a conversation with the CEO or board about the culture of my team.

"Leaving aside the understandable supposition and conjecture in the media and on social media, I remain in the dark about exactly how the FFA arrived at the decision to terminate my employment."

Surveys filled out by players were used in part to justify Stajcic's sacking and while the coach said he endorsed the process when the questions that were to be included were originally presented to him, he doubts the reliability of the results.

"I lost faith when I saw the actual report come out," he said. "I questioned the fact it was an unsecured method of obtaining results."

However, despite the bitter end to his time in charge, Stajcic hopes the Matildas can go all the way at this year's World Cup.

"This is the best chance we'll ever have to win a World Cup," he said.

"This is a precious moment for our country and our code and one I hope the team will capture it.

"I have no doubt they're going to be a force in the World Cup."

Stajcic’s sacking continues to create headlines.
Stajcic’s sacking continues to create headlines.

In his statement released on Monday, Stajcic defended his conduct.

"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 had 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.

Stajcic has defended his conduct.
Stajcic has defended his conduct.

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 in his statement.

"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."

With AAP

News Corp Australia


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