Two days after making an exit in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the national squad suffered a major blow as its coach — Alen Stajcic — decided not to renew his contract with the Philippine Football Federation.
In a statement released by the federation, it announced that the 49-year-old Australian and his assistant coach, Nahuel Arrate, declined a contract extension as they want to explore their options.
He walked away following a remarkable stint in the World Cup in which the Filipinas finished with one win and two losses in Group A, a record that was made memorable by Sarina Bolden’s heart-stopping header and Olivia McDaniel’s gutsy saves during their historic 1-0 triumph over New Zealand.
Stajcic is set to return to Australia to call the shots for Perth Glory, which ended the A-League season in ninth place with a 7-8-11 win-draw-loss record.
“I would, first and foremost, like to express my gratitude to (Filipinas team manager) Jeff (Cheng) for giving us the opportunity and entrusting us with the keys to the national team,” Stajcic said.
“There are too many highs to reflect on, all of which were special and memorable and brought much deserved attention to the team. But without question, the two best experiences of my coaching career thus far were the last two World Cup matches.”
PFF president Mariano Araneta expressed regret over Stajcic’s decision.
“Coach Alen Stajcic’s appointment as Philippine women’s national team head coach brought women’s football in the Philippines to new heights and hope,” Araneta said in a statement.
“Coach Alen showed full dedication to hone the Filipinas into a fighting team. He will long be remembered as the coach who trained and dared the team to win at any international competition.”
Stajcic pumped life into the national women’s football program.
After leading Australia to the 2015 World Cup and to as high as fourth in the world ranking, Stajcic moved to the Philippines and immediately turned the national squad into a powerhouse by raising the standards of training and preparation for tournaments.
With his wealth of international experience, the Filipinas made their first World Cup appearance and clinched the bronze medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi to climb to 46th in the International Football Federation ranking.
Stajcic also led the Filipinas to friendly matches against world No. 3 Sweden and four-time champion United States in their buildup for the World Cup.
Stajcic is thankful for his wards, saying their efforts in the World Cup will forever be etched in Philippine sports history.
“To the players, I can only say, you were courageous, passionate, disciplined and loyal to the team, the flag and the country. Your sacrifices should be long remembered by all Philippine sports fans. To give hope and inspiration is the greatest of all achievements,” Stajcic said.
“I wish everyone a great future and look forward to following the next chapters in the story.”
Team captain Hali Long is thankful for the experience Stajcic gave them and for his guidance in helping them reach the World Cup.
“It was an incredible ride,” Long said.
“There’s so many firsts that happened here — our first goal, our first win, our first game, our first card, our first anything, it was all a first for us and you can’t take it away from us.”
“I mean it takes some teams three, four, five World Cups just to win a game, let alone score a goal. I couldn’t be proud of the effort that we gave in this whole campaign and made our group pretty interesting. But yeah, I couldn’t be proud of the effort we gave.”