Explainer: The curious case of ex-Matildas coach Stajcic's rise and fall


As new Matildas coach Ante Milicic prepares to face the press for the first time ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, we take a look at one of the most controversial dismissals in Australian football history.

Tomorrow morning at 11am (AEDT) in Brisbane, Milicic will face the media for the first time since his official appointment on Monday.

Waiting him for him will be an expected barrage of questions regarding Stajcic's controversial dismissal.

Milicic's rise to the top job follows a firestorm of controversy after Stajcic was sensationally sacked by Football Federation Australia last month, amid claims he presided over a toxic culture.

He staunchly refutes the allegations and has called for an independent inquiry into his termination by the FFA, claiming his reputation is in tatters.  

His replacement, former Socceroos assistant coach, Milicic faces his own trial by fire.

On his shoulders will be a huge weight of expectation on several fronts.

Not only to perform at the upcoming Cup of Nations tournament in Australia, which kicks off later this month, but to deliver on the Matildas' promise as a genuine World Cup threat in France.

He'll also have to vindicate the FFA's faith that he is indeed the right man for the job.

So how did Australian football get here? 

The story broke on the morning of Saturday January 19.

Five months out from the World Cup, FFA chairman Chris Nikou and CEO David Gallop announced Stajcic's contract had been terminated.

At the heart of the decision were allegations about a damning review of the national team's workplace culture.

Gallop said the decision was based on the results of two confidential surveys, as well as discussions with players and staff.

However, several senior players reacted with dismay when learning of the sacking. 

Two days later, the FFA called another press conference as it briefed the Matildas squad of their decision.

It was hoped more information would emerge on why Stajcic was sacked so suddenly. But none was forthcoming.

Instead, Gallop sought a premature end to the questioning and cut off reporters' questions.

Two individuals involved with the Matildas set-up at a senior level - FFA’s head of women’s sport Emma Highwood and FFA’s head of national performance Luke Casserly - remained quiet over the matter.

Over the following weeks, speculation would rage in the football media as to what was actually behind the decision, with some journalists suggesting something more sinister was at play. 

On February 11, came the response from the man himself in front of the cameras.

Stajcic, close to tears, claimed his reputation had suffered irreparable damage and he would fight to clear his name.

The debacle even prompted calls for a Federal Senate inquiry into the incident.

What happens now?

On the eve of Milicic announcing his Matildas squad for the Cup of Nations, the Australian public awaits the final result in the form of a successful campaign in the tournament. 

WATCH the Matildas in upcoming Cup of Nations action on SBS VICELAND and via The World Game website / app. 

Thursday February 28 

Cup of Nations

Matildas v New Zealand - LIVE on SBS VICELAND and streamed via The World Game website / app

1900 – 2130   

Monday March 4

Cup of Nations Football

Matildas v Korea Republic - Delayed on SBS VICELAND

1200 - 1400

Wednesday March 6

Cup of Nations Football

Matildas v Argentina - LIVE on SBS VICELAND and streamed via The World Game website / app

1730 - 2000

Source SBS News