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“Girls, coaches were crying” over Stajcic sacking: Matildas assistant Nahuel Arrarte speaks out

The former assistant coach of the Matildas football team who resigned in protest over the sacking of head coach Alen Stajcic has opened up on the events of the past week.

Stajcic was terminated last Saturday, after surveys of players and staff led the FFA to conclude “the team environment is unsatisfactory and that a change in leadership is required to improve the culture”.

Under Stajcic’s leadership, the Matildas reached the Final of two consecutive Asian Cups, rose to fourth in the world rankings and are considered among the favourites for this year’s Women’s World Cup in France.

Following Stajcic’s firing, assistant coach Nahuel Arrarte promptly handed his resignation to the FFA in protest. Arrarte stands by his decision to leave the Matildas in support of his former boss.

“I strongly believe in being loyal. [Alen] gave me the opportunity to work with the national team and my integrity is very, very important to myself and my family. I know his family, I know his kids… it just didn’t sit well with the whole situation,” Arrarte told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin on Saturday.

“The whole coaching staff work together in different areas. As one of the assistant coaches, I worked very, very closely with Alen in preparation of the squads during the camps and in the tournaments,” Arrarte said.

With the 2019 World Cup beginning in June, Arrarte says the entire Matildas staff were intently focused on preparations for the tournament, but the swiftness Stajcic’s departure left him “very, very surprised” and reduced some members of the group.

“There were girls crying in camp,” Arrarte said. “There were girls literally in tears, coaching staff in tears over this decision”.

Several players, including Kyah Simon, Sam Kerr and Chloe Lozargo, all took to social media to express their shock and disappointment over Stajcic’s sacking.

On Friday, six days after Stajcic was removed from his role, goalkeeping coach Paul Jones also resigned from his position.

Earlier in the week, FFA boss David Gallop said the decision to terminate the head coach came about because of “a range of reasons and a range of information”. Arrarte does not believe those reasons have been sufficiently explained.

“I’m like every other pundit out there trying to work it all out,” Arrarte said.

“We’ve seen in recent scandals in other codes that have serious matter, you’ve got to knock it on the head early, and this hasn’t been knocked on the head,” he said.

“There has always been comments in the past from members of the FFA that – long-term – they wanted a female coach back in… but Alen’s way too professional, and the coaching staff are way too professional to worry about that,” he said.

Arrarte disagrees with the FFA’s view that the Matildas’ environment was “unsatisfactory”.

“It’s a very good environment. The girls have always seemed happy. Obviously, like everything, there are players that aren’t selected, but that is the nature of the sport,” Arrarte said.

“If you look at recent times, the addition of sports psychologists and sports science, extra physios and extra coaching staff members… the support mechanism for the girls has increased,” he said.

“It’s a demanding sport, it’s not for every individual. Hence why elite sports people get there, because they’ve got to push themselves. But the support around the players has continuously increased”.

The FFA has told Macquarie Sports Radio Alen Stajcic’s employment was terminated within the terms of his contract.

In response to questions by Macquarie Sports Radio, FFA says it found the team environment was “unsatisfactory and required addressing through a series of internal reviews”.

“Subsequent conversations with players, national teams staff and the Head Coach led FFA to this decision.

FFA said allegations the desire for a female to fill the role of head coach played a part in the decision to terminate Stajcic are “not correct”.

“Irrespective of gender, it is our role to appoint a coach who understands the cultural behaviours and responsibilities that comes with this position, as well as having the highest football credentials to successfully manage the team on the pitch,” FFA said in a statement.

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