Last month Australian football took another step in their journey of football development by hiring Belgian, Eric Abrams as Australia’s new Techincal Director. The FFA found Abrams while working as the head coach of Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli’s U15 side.
Previously Abrams worked for the Belgian FA as coach of the U15-17 sides. In 2007, the Belgian U17s finished an impressive third in the 8-team European U17 Championships held in Belgium which remains their best performance at the competition.
The other candidate for the job was Romeo Jozak. A UEFA technical instructor, former Dinamo Zagreb youth academy director, and Chairman of the Croatian FF technical committee with a Phd in physical education, the Croatian ended up declining the role after negotiations brokedown over the role of the Technical Director.
Talking to Damir Posavac of SBS Radio Croatia, Jozak describes how he came to be a front runner for one of the most crucial jobs for Australian football.
“Somewhere around the start of June I had a phone interview with the agency that was charged with finding suitable candidates for the FFA,” he explained.
“After that interview a good month and a half worth of communication went by where I was intrigued by the serious nature of their questions and wants.
“We talked also about conditions, not just financial but the complete life oddities that I could expect.”
Jozak was then told that he was one of two candidates who had made it to the final round of discussions with the other being of course, Abrams.
“I had the privilege and honour of speaking to David Gallop and some other officials from the federation who gave me the information that I was one of two final candidates for the position,” revealed Jozak.
“When we began talking about concrete things, the part that disappointed me a little bit and pushed me towards not taking on the role was the fact that my role in the Croatian Football Federation is very serious.”
In Croatia, Jozak’s responsibilities extend to every aspect of football development and strategy from the senior men’s and women’s national teams right down to grassroots and this is what he would’ve liked in Australia too as opposed to the limited role on offer.
“When they began talking to me about my role within the Australian federation, they were primarily after someone that would be responsible for the development of players up to the age of 16, which to me where I am now and to move to the other side of the world, it pushed me towards declining their proposition,” Jozak told SBS.
“The financial aspect of it wasn’t so important to me, the competency of the role that I thought I could fill and all of that, I had to weigh up.
“I was going from being responsible for the complete development of soccer to a relatively lower profile position where I wouldn’t be able to execute my job to the best of my abilities.”
Jozak gave a successful presentation on the direction he believed Australian football would benefit from based on the success and experience he’s had with the Croatian system.
“I had a presentation for my proposed direction which went really well until we began talking about restrictions in my responsibilities in the role, what I was and wasn’t responsible for.
“I’m not saying that this person, whether it’s me or not has to be the absolute boss of everything, but simply, if I’m responsible for something we need to know who is doing what. This is the only part of the talks I was dissatisfied with.”
Upon the appointment of Abrams, Head of National Performance Luke Casserly confirmed the limited role of the new technical director who interestingly enough will have to defer much of the responsibility to the managers of our men’s and women’s teams, Ange Postecoglou and Alen Stajcic.
“He (Abrams) will be responsible for elite players up to the age of 16 and then work closely with Ange Postecoglou and Alen Stajcic as the national team head coaches, who will play a broader role to ensure consistency through all of our national teams from through U17s through to the Socceroos and Matildas,” explained Casserly.
Whether or not Australia is heading in the right direction is something we won’t be able to know for a few years now, or as is a popular time frame in Australian football “in ten years.”