On Sunday the Football Federation Australia (FFA) announced that Ante Milicic, the Head Coach of Australia’s senior women’s national football team, the Westfield Matildas, has stepped down from his role due to Olympics delay.
In February 2019 Milicic took over as head coach for the Matildas, one month after the abrupt exit of Alen Stajcic, and less than four months from the start of the World Cup. He then helped the country to reach the Round of 16 stage at the 2019 World Cup in France as well as qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The plan was for Milicic to lead the women in the Olympics, however since the Games got postponed to summer 2021, due to the coronavirus spread, he has been forced to take a tough decision. A decision between Olympic Games with the Matildas and/or a pre-existing three-year contract with Hyundai A-League club Macarthur FC, a contract which he signed already in May 2019 prior to last year’s World Cup.
“FFA respects Ante’s decision to honour his contract with Macarthur FC,” FFA Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson, said and showed appreciation and understanding saying “We would have loved Ante to remain in the role for Tokyo 2020 and beyond, however FFA and Ante agree that overseeing two elite teams is not a workable solution, with both programs deserving of, and requiring, complete focus.”
The 46-year-old ex-Socceroos* striker said that he felt he had to honor the commitment he had made to his new club Macarthur but that he was disappointed to have to resign from the Matildas:
“In an ideal world, we would have been in Japan right now just days away from the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Milicic said and emphasised that the the rescheduling of the Games has created the situation where one team had to be chosen over another. With Milic, also his assistant Ivan Jolic and technical analyst Kate Cohen resigned, and will join him to Macarthur.
FFA has confirmed that they have immediately started the process of finding replacements for the whole coaching team and there are some candidates for the main role which the speculations revolve around:
Arsenal boss and the native Aussie Joe Montemurro is one of them but the questions concern if it’s likely that he would give up his role at the English giants for a national-team position. Locally there are potential candidates in the W-League premiership winner Mel Andreatta and W-League grand final winner Ante Juric. Even former US Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis has been in the speculations, however the English-born Ellis is also heavily linked with the vacant role after Phil Neville for the Lionesses, the English women’s national team.
*Socceroos – Australia men’s national football team