MANILA, Philippines – Alen Stajcic could have easily pursued other coaching stints, but he chose to stay with the Philippine women’s football team as what he calls a “decision of the heart.”
The Australian mentor turned down other offers as he inked a new deal with the Philippine Football Federation that will keep him as the Filipina booters’ head coach until the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“It definitely was a decision of the heart,” said Stajcic, who received offers to call the shots for a European club and a men’s national team, on Friday, March 11.
Stajcic added he also drew interest from the men’s pro league in his home country Australia.
“But you know, just being around such wonderful people, the players and the staff, it was really a joy to be a part of that group.”
“We started the journey, so now is the process of really getting into the fun part and working hard to get to that World Cup. It definitely was a decision of passion and heart.”
Even Philippine women’s football team manager Jeff Cheng saw how dedicated Stajcic is to the squad that he led to a breakthrough semifinal appearance in the AFC Women’s Asia Cup, which merited a World Cup berth.
Cheng knew international teams kept their eyes on Stajcic owing to his caliber and success, but said the 48-year-old tactician extending his contract with the Philippine women’s football team is a testament to his commitment.
“I can see that his heart is with the Philippine national team and I respect him greatly for that. I think that was what made him decide to extend the contract,” Cheng said.
“We’re very fortunate to have coach Alen and his team with us because I could see they are the right coach and the right team to bring us through to the World Cup.”
Real hard work starts
While some are still at a high following the Filipinas’ historic World Cup berth, Stajcic said now is the start for “real hard work” with only one and a half year to go before the quadrennial showpiece.
The Philippine women’s football team will compete in the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam in May, the AFF Women’s Championships here in July, and the Asian Games in China in September.
“Making it to the World Cup was unique, it was phenomenal, it was extraordinary. It was real hard work. But now, the real hard work starts,” Stajcic said.
“I think it was 500 days, just the other day, to the World Cup so we have to make sure we use every single one of those 500 days to the best of our abilities to give this team the best possible chance of representing our country the best way we can.” – Rappler.com