To many in football the news of an alleged mutiny by the Australian women’s football team, the Matildas has not come as a great surprise. The players no longer wanting to dance to coach Hesterine de Reus’s tune.
Eyebrows were raised when the FFA appointed former Dutch player Hesetrine de Ruis as national coach replacing the successful Tom Sermanni, who had headed to the United States. It was an odd appointment when there appeared adequate replacements in Australia at the time, namely Sydney FC’s women’s coach Alan Stajic and also Jitka Klimková who had just lead Canberra to the W-League title going through the season undefeated.
De Ruis had coached the Netherlands under 15’s U17’s and U19’s following her charges as they grew older moving up an age group of every two to three years. In all that time her teams failed to qualify for a Youth World Cup. After 16 years working for the Royal Dutch Football Association she took up the position as head coach of the Jordan Women’s national team in October 2010.
Her first competition was the Arabia Cup in which she steered Jordan to victory. They beat Iraq 20-0 in their opening game,Lebanon 3-1 and lost to Egypt 1-0 in the group stages before defeating Bahrain in the semi finals and then avenging Egypt 1-0 in the final. Next up were the Asian Games in November 2010 and Jordan lost all three games in their pool and failed to score a goal. In the April she faced allegations that she was a lesbian and three players refused to play under her leadership. She left the post in 2011 although it is hard to determine in what month.
Jordan was hardly a powerhouse in women’s football, and Tom Sermanni had left a team that was capable of making the semi finals of the Women’s World Cup in 2015, having been knocked out in the Quarter finals in 2011. The team that took the field in that game against Sweden had an average age of 22 years 6 months, with Captain Melissa Barbieri the only player over 30, and Caitlin Foord the youngest at 16. If we include the three substitutes who came on, the average age drops to 22 and four months, as all were 23 and under. So come 2015 they should be hitting their peak and Australia should be a contender.
Based on that fact the performance at the recent Cyprus Cup was more than a little disappointing with Australia finishing 7th. They drew 2-2 with the Netherlands lost 3-2 to France, and 4-2 to Scotland before beating Italy 5-2 in the play off for 7th and 8th at the 12 team competition. At the time only France at fourth was ranked above Australia who were ninth in the World. Netherlands were 14th, Scotland 20th and Italy 12th.
These results saw Australia slip out of the top ten in the World Rankings and down to 11th.
News has since come out that frustrations reached boiling point at that tournament when players were not allowed to leave the hotel unless with the entire squad for training purposes. Some reports claim that some members of the playing squad were left in tears due to the harsh nature of de Reus’ management style.
It is also alleged that some of the younger players were forbidden from seeing their parents while in camps.
PFA general manager Adam Vivian has confirmed that the players’ union would meet with the FFA to resolve the matter.
“The PFA has been in ongoing discussion with members of the Matildas, throughout these discussions a number of issues have been raised. Following this, the PFA will submit a report to the Football Federation of Australia. The PFA will then sit down with the FFA to discuss these issues and will continue to work with them throughout this process.”
The FFA has confirmed it has been made aware of the complaints when the head of national performance, Luke Casserly, recently met with the players in camp. “Football Federation Australia is aware of some of the issues raised by members of the Matildas,” an FFA spokesman said.
When de Reus was appointed FFA CEO David Gallop stated that they had carried out an extensive search – which many doubted due to the Dutch connection – and that de Reus had “all the relevant technical qualifications and an impressive track record working with national Women’s youth teams and elite Women’s professional clubs. She has the right mix of experience and skills for this important position.” The truth is – as stated at the time on the show – she had no success with national youth teams so how can that be impressive?
The FFA need to move quickly on this issue as the Matildas defend their Asia Cup title next month in Vietnam in a group with the host nation, World Champion Japan, and Jordan who have qualified for the first time. This tournament is a qualifier for the World Cup and Australia would love to seal that qualification early.