Matildas coach Tony Gustavasson insists allegations of harassment and abuse within the national set-up have not threatened the build-up to their first game on home soil in close to two years.
The Matildas have not played in Australia since March 2020, but will take on Brazil in the first of two fixtures on Saturday in Parramatta.
But their return to these shores have been overshadowed by allegations from former captain Lisa De Vanna of sexual harassment and abuse during her decorated career in Australian women’s football.
Football Australia has promised an independent review into the claims, via Sport Integrity Australia, with Gustavsson using the opening of his first press conference in Australia to address the issue.
“I want to be really clear that the wellbeing of players and staff in the team is the number one priority for us and we need to create a safe and inclusive environment,” Gustavsson said.
“We need to face this head on and be willing to get better. We welcome the independent review that is coming up.”
The coach claimed the magnitude of the De Vanna story had not been a distraction for Australia preparing to face the Brazilians for the first time since the ‘Miracle of Montpellier’ comeback win at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
“I’m really impressed by the professionalism of these players,” he said.
“Their mindset is always about getting better at one day at a time.
“Getting home to Australia for the first time in 600 days, I feel there is a bubbling within the players for the game to kick off and to get out there and represent their country and the badge on the chest.”
De Vanna’s allegations are not isolated, however, with swathes of female footballers across the globe detailing similar claims.
Gustavsson, who previously worked with the US women’s national team, said he was encouraged by the willingness of players to speak out but put the onus on coaches to cultivate a healthy environment.
“The women’s game has grown and grown really fast,” he added.
“There is going to be more interest.
“I’m a teacher by degree. I am a dad with two kids and I’ve been coaching for 20 years.
“I try to focus on being the best version of myself and do everything with my staff to create the best high-performance environment possible but with wellbeing at the centre of everything we do.
“For me that zero-tolerance (approach), we have to live by that. No bullying, no harassment, no sexual abuse and I’ll do everything I can to control my environment in that sense.”Internet Explorer Channel Network