NZ Football technical director Andreas Heraf must change his mentality or resign



Sky Sport

Japan’s Mina Tanaka showed her class with a first half hat-trick which helped sink the Football Ferns in the women’s international in Wellington on Sunday.

OPINION: New Zealanders hate being told they can’t do something.

Big mountains. Small atoms. Anti-nuclear. Yacht races. Golf tournaments. Kiwis have a proud history of innovation and imagination to overcome the odds, of fierce stoicism in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

New Zealand Football (NZF) technical director Andreas Heraf needs to adopt this mentality, or resign with immediate effect.

Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf addresses the media after their 3-1 loss to Japan on Sunday.

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Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf addresses the media after their 3-1 loss to Japan on Sunday.

The Austrian stunned football fans in this country on Sunday with both the insipid football he forced the Football Ferns (he is also Ferns coach) to play in a 3-1 loss to Japan in Wellington and his post-match comments where he said New Zealand will “never have that quality to compete with Japan”.

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His reason for the terrible football, in which the Ferns had just 27 per cent possession? He said it was better that than losing 8-0. He said conceding three goals was OK.

Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf demonstrates a move to Katie Bowen, right, and Rosie White at halftime of their loss ...

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Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf demonstrates a move to Katie Bowen, right, and Rosie White at halftime of their loss to Japan.

His reason for thinking New Zealand couldn’t compete with Japan? He said New Zealand is a small country with players not in the same leagues as Japan, or other countries for that matter.

Do they have the same mentality in Panama? Population four million, about to play at their first World Cup. Veteran goalkeeper Jaime Penedo said they are not afraid and want to dance with the likes of England and Belgium. 

Heraf’s comments sparked fury from football fans, and rightly so.

Football Ferns' coach Andreas Heraf listens to a question from a journalist on Sunday.

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Football Ferns’ coach Andreas Heraf listens to a question from a journalist on Sunday.

It was the first time Heraf had made such assertions publicly, but a bad smell has hung over him since he arrived here in August due to what he was said to be saying behind closed doors about football in New Zealand.

Rumours wafted in the air like that from a meatworks on a windy day, but it wasn’t until he pulled back the curtain on Sunday that the source of the stench was revealed: a steaming pile of football excrement.

While it was the worst display by a national team in recent memory, it was even more concerning when you line it up with talk he has been telling the same things to the under-17s and under-20s teams.

The Football Ferns form a huddle before their loss to Japan on Sunday.

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The Football Ferns form a huddle before their loss to Japan on Sunday.

The next generation of New Zealand footballers are being told they’re not good enough, that they will have to play defensive football to achieve anything.

That goes against everything NZF has hung its hat on over the past seven years through the Whole of Football plan. The plan’s curriculum aimed for New Zealand to develop a “proactive, effective, possession-based style of play”.

Academies and clubs have tried to develop players to fit this model. Now Heraf wants to send New Zealand football back to the dark ages.

Football Ferns' coach Andreas Heraf after their 3-1 loss to Japan.

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Football Ferns’ coach Andreas Heraf after their 3-1 loss to Japan.

Some have said he will set the game back 15 years in this country. Some have said 30. More likely, he will take it to a place it has never been before.

NZF should have seen this coming. He showed up with the same negative mindset when coaching the Austrian under-20s at their World Cup in New Zealand in 2015. They lost 2-0 to Uzbekistan in the round of 16. 

NZF chief executive Andy Martin and his board need to be held accountable for this mess. Martin was on a panel which hired Heraf, alongside former All Whites coach Anthony Hudson and former Ferns coach Tony Readings. The input of the two coaches in the process was understood to be negligible.

Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf, second from left, is all smiles before kickoff against Japan on Sunday.

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Football Ferns coach Andreas Heraf, second from left, is all smiles before kickoff against Japan on Sunday.

His appointment had to be rubber-stamped by the NZF board, which, up until last month, has failed to hold Martin accountable or question his decisions.

Thankfully, at the most recent congress on May 24, a small step in the right direction was taken. The seven chairs of the regional federations got together to depose one of the yes men and get Jon Ormond elected onto the board. He has been put there to ensure hard questions are asked. 

But he is only one man.

Unless Heraf changes his ways, or resigns, a rebellion is needed to show he can’t drag the game down.

Former Ferns captain Abby Erceg has already done so, retiring after one camp with Heraf in March. The rest of the senior players need to walk with her. It will be silent protest, given the new collective bargaining agreement prevents them from making any negative comment about NZF or any of its employees, but one which is needed.

Heraf’s staff need to rebel, too. That’s everyone under him at NZF. If they come together and collectively say they’re going to walk, Martin will have to sit up and take notice. If they don’t, they’re an accessory to this crime against football. They will be tainted with what will become a stain on the game here.

It goes wider than that. 

The clubs and academies cannot send their players to his age-group teams. Their development will be affected by it. A mass withdrawal from the under-20s and under-17s teams should be undertaken until assurances are given about the football that will be played there. 

A message needs to be sent to Heraf: change your ways or get out.


 – Stuff



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