Explainer: The curious case of former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic's rise and fall


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

Tomorrow morning at 11am AEST in Brisbane, new Matildas coach, Ante Milicic will face the media for the first time since his official appointment earlier this week.

Waiting him for him will be an expected barrage of questions regarding one of the most controversial dismissals in Australian football history.

Ante Milicic
Ante Milicic (L) and FFA CEO David Gallop

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

Stajcic 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 FIFA 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? Enjoy the trip.

The story broke on the morning of Saturday, January 19.

Five months out from the FIFA World Cup, FFA chairman Chris Nikou and CEO, David Gallop announced Alen 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. 

The Matildas, the world No.6, are expected to perform well in the upcoming home matches.
The Matildas, the world No.6, are expected to perform well in the upcoming home matches.


Two days later, FFA called another press conference as it briefed the Matildas squad of its 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 Luke Casserly, FFA’s head of national performance - 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.

Former Matildas' head coach Alan Stajcic
Former Matildas head coach Alan Stajcic

 Stajcic, close to tears, claimed his reputation had suffered irreparable damage and that 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. Or an own goal.

* A reminder you catch live and delayed action of the Matildas' Cup of Nations campaign on SBS VICELAND.



Thursday, February 28

Cup of Nations Football

Matildas v New Zealand

1900 (AEDT)



Monday, March 4

Cup of Nations Football

Matildas v South Korea




Wednesday March 6

Cup of Nations Football

Matildas v Argentina

1730 (AEDT)

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch