‘Look in our own backyard to develop the future’: Sinisa Cohadzic

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South Melbourne Technical Director Sinisa Cohadzic has urged Football Australia to find the right person to be our inaugural ‘Chief Football Officer’ (CFO), to work alongside CEO James Johnson to improve junior development, coach education and revising the national curriculum.

Cohadzic believes the obsession that exists in Australia to go abroad to fix our coaching issues is something we need to reassess, especially in the wake of Technical Director Rob Sherman’s departure in 2020.

“Okay, so we had a great person that was in the system and knew the strengths and weaknesses in Australian Football,” said Cohadzic.

“Rob Sherman had great ideas to change the game and not one of the board members wanted to back him.

“Now that the shit hits the fan, we all of a sudden are looking for who?”

Johnson was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying he wanted a ‘disruptor’ who will overhaul our technical development.

Johnson made it clear FA is open to appointing either a local or a foreigner, with the CFO tasked with the role of getting the world’s best practices and applying it to the local scene.

FFA CEO James Johnson

FFA CEO James Johnson. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

Cohadzic though urged FA to balance the requirement of fixing things in the short run with our long-term goals.

“If a Chilean, Argentinian, Italian, English or whatever other nationality expert comes in and implements some new curriculum, it will take us to another 20 years of implementation,” said Cohadzic.

“Look in your own backyard without nepotism and giving favours to mates, sponsors and so called experts that played the game on high level.

“There is lot of capable people in Australia that have great ideas and never have been given an opportunity to share ideas.”

Australia is actually on the up in terms of world standard coaches. Ange Postecoglou (Celtic), Alen Stajcic (Philippines), Brad Moloney (Malaysia), and Kevin Muscat (Yokohama) are all doing well on foreign soil. Those in assistant roles like Aaron D’Antino (Arsenal Womens), Michael Valkanis (Eupen), David Zdrilic (Genoa) and Ross Aloisi (Yokohama) are also well regarded internationally.

On the local scene, our development coaches are fast gaining excellent reputations. Tony Basha, Robbie Hooker, Leah Blayney, Jake Goodship and Ben Cahn all have outstanding credentials.

Cohadzic urged FA to use a legitimate and proper process to get the best person for the role.

“It has been an era of 20 years where a circle of coaches, players and experts have been looking after each other on many levels, where there has not been a clear and fair process to select the best people for the different positions available,” he said.

“Clear indication and examples is some of the coaches doing two to three different roles just so money can be saved or no one else is allowed in the system.

“We are at a big cross-road now where the next step we make can be critical to the future of the game.

“Have a clear and fair process where the decisions and selections are without any favouritism.

“Our game is suffering and there is problems at all levels, grassroots with poor coaching, junior football with too many teams wanting to be in the top division with no resources, poor coaching and not enough quality players, top level football pyramid non-existent.”

The Socceroos’ 2-0 loss to Japan in a crucial World Cup qualifier now means a tougher path to Qatar later this year. With Australia at risk of missing out on a World Cup for the first time in 20 years, Cohadzic says something has to give.

“Our national team football has no clear playing identity of what we as a nation believe we should present on a football ground.

“Do not make the same mistake and bring a foreigner to fix our mistakes.

“Believe in our own and interview capable people to see what ideas they have.

“Our game needs change and new people on all levels.

“The game has changed in the last five to ten years and the new up-and-coming football people have new ideas.

“Go away from the past and go forward to a new modern way of thinking, where investment is the critcal part to flourish on every level.”

Cohadzic also urged FA to implement a national second division sooner rather than later, with the development of youth players and fringe talent seemingly a missing ingredient in our football pedigree.

Simon Hill, who called the Japan game for Channel Ten, made the point on the coverage that Japan started with ten teams in their J-League in 1993. They now have three tiers with 58 teams.

“Younger players will get an opportunity to play and more professional full time jobs should be created,” said Cohadzic. “We need to get this done properly as that is a key link to our development.”

Australia will now likely play the UAE in June in a one-off playoff, with the winner to take on South America’s fifth-best team for a chance to go to Qatar.

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