OPINION: After nearly a week of shock, outrage and debate, it boils down to this - comments made by coach Andreas Heraf after the Football Ferns defeat in Wellington have brought the game into disrepute.
It’s that simple.
Heraf got it wrong. He got it badly wrong.
In a week that saw 17-year-old Amelia Kerr score a record-breaking double century for our White Ferns to show young, female cricketers what they can do, Heraf is telling young female footballers what they can’t and will never do - beat the best.
If that’s what you believe, then why are you here?
Football is growing in this country, but it has a lot of growing still to do. That growth is stymied by the negative messages coming from the mouth of a man who is meant to be setting the blueprint - the example - for the future of the women’s game in New Zealand.
Those comments do so much damage - damage to the current crop of Ferns, damage to future Ferns, damage to the game as a whole.
New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin gave his belated view from Russia last night and quite rightly apologised on behalf of NZF for Heraf’s comments, which he described as “strange” and “wrong”.
Yet that was not the message forthcoming from Heraf earlier in the week, when he was made available for a series of one-on-one interviews with various media outlets. His approach to these interviews was to further explain his comments, rather than apologise for them.
It’s apparent he does not comprehend or care for the damage his comments have caused.
That’s why alarm bells should be ringing for Martin and the NZF board. No one involved in the game should make these sorts of comments, let alone stand by them when given the opportunity to retract and apologise.
Anyone who does has brought the game into disrepute, and there should be no place for Heraf and his views as a result.
All of this raises a deeper question about the game in New Zealand.
Why is Andreas Heraf here?
He’s here as the Football Ferns coach, because he essentially appointed himself to the role (another matter that requires explanation from the top).
But he’s here primarily as the national body’s technical director and that’s because New Zealand Football has chosen to outsource its football identity.
In the last four crucial years, NZF hasn’t been prepared to trust Kiwis who care about the game in this country - people who are invested in the game in New Zealand and here for the long haul.
Instead, they’ve looked outside for people with a fancy qualification to set the blueprint, hiring from outside New Zealand for most of its high-performance positions.
The result is a series of short-term fixes from a rotating cast of international footballing identities, who are here only long enough to start implementing their vision, before leaving and being replaced by another.
It’s virtually impossible for Kiwis to be appointed to leading roles, because gaining the qualifications - a pro licence - for these key roles requires such an enormous commitment of time and money.
It’s an obstacle that virtually eliminates Kiwis from the race and leaves us with the likes of Heraf, who arrived in April last year with a glowing CV, loads of experience, but no real idea about New Zealand and how we play football.
The trouble is no-one knows, so New Zealand Football gets outsiders to come in and tell us how we should.
It’s just not right. This is the biggest thing that needs to change if football is to be a sport that truly reflects New Zealand.
Andrew Gourdie is a Newshub sports reporter/presenter and host of RadioLIVE's Sunday Sport.