Farina: I thought I was a God...

HE'S hit the heights in both his playing and coaching achievements but it's been a rollercoaster ride for former Socceroo striker, coach and A-League boss Frank Farina.

And he's the first to admit it, in his fullest, frankest interview ever.

"In football you probably have more lows than you do highs and you just have to learn to enjoy those high's because we are privileged to do what we do," he says.
"Sometimes players - and I have been a victim of that myself - take this opportunity to do what we love as a profession for granted.
"And I have been bitten on the backside for that as well."
Such as in 2009 when he saw his contract with Brisbane Roar immediately - and very publicly - terminated after his infamous DUI charge.
His explanation is simple and remorseful.
"I had gone to bed at 10.30pm after a few glasses of wine, woke up at 6am and was pulled over at 7." Frank explains. "I honestly could not believe I was over the limit.
"It was valuable lesson to me and hopefully others - that you can have a few drinks on a Friday night and take your kids to football or netball the next morning and still have alcohol in your system.
"And I paid dearly for my poor judgement - both personally and professionally."

Farina's lifestyle has been scrutinised - and criticised - by the media and football fans alike.  
At one point he even shared the cover of a newspaper as one of three villains - with Sylvester Stallone after his drug bust, and Jeff Fenech after his alleged theft.
"I felt the black mark through my name became so prominent that I wouldn't coach, or even be involved in the game again," he admits
The incident marred the career of a man whose contribution to Australian football - both as a player and coach - goes back over 30 years, when a 19 year old Frank Farina made his debut as a Socceroo.
"Everything in my career has happened very quickly for whatever reason, luck, being in the right place at the right time", he says.
"I went from never being picked for a Queensland representative side, to being 16 or 17 and getting a scholarship at the AIS.
"And before my 19th birthday, I was a Socceroo."
But while Frank was always very driven, he didn't always dream of being a professional footballer. After his parents split up, he found himself being 13 years old and living out of home.
"I learnt to be independent from a young age, and grew up very quickly," he recalls.
"The first time I thought of football as a profession was when I was playing for Mareeba (Far North Queensland) and after a game, they gave us $30 cash - despite the fact that we lost. And that's when I thought - maybe there is something in this."
The first six years of Frank's professional career based in Australia were hugely successful and saw him win NSL Player of the Year, Golden Boot and Oceania Player of the Year.
After cementing his spot in the National Team, an opportunity to play for a top club in Belgium came his way.
"I have always set goals and challenges and I was ready for a new one," Frank says. "I got on that plane excited. I thought to myself  'I have 60 caps! I've won this, I've won that.
"And reality set in because not only was it just a trial, but I was like a piece of crap over there."
Fortunately, Club Brugge did still sign the 24 year old Frank Farina and the striker spent three massively successful seasons there. The club won the title, Belgian Cup and Super Cup - and Frank was personally awarded Best Foreign Player and Golden Boot.
"Our time in Bruges was fantastic and was the best place for me to start, " he recalls. "It set me up to go play in Serie A - which at the time was the best competition in the world.
"No Australian had ever played there and as there were only three foreigners allowed on the books - it was a big thing."
But Frank's stint in Italy didn't pan out as well as he would have liked, with the move to a struggling team proving to be more difficult than the striker had anticipated.

"The fans were on my case. They told me - not very kindly - that they wanted the Kangaroo to hop back home", he says.
"We started badly, they sacked the coach that brought me there after six games and so there I was - a striker in a struggling team playing in the best competition in the world.
"It wasn't the best time."
It was a reality check for Frank, who had spent the last three years being treated like royalty in Belgium, where due to his success, was close to being a national hero.
"I went from the Penthouse to the Shithouse," says Farina today. "If you are winning, you don't pay at restaurants. You lose, you are a piece of garbage. They abuse you, they crucify you.
"They see it like this: We work all week for little money to pay for our season ticket and you get paid 100 times more than us to play and you play like shit?
"And fair enough." 
Frank was released from his contract at Bari and spent much of the next few years riddled with injury until he and wife Julie made the decision to come home.
"I always said when I am at a time in my career when I am not enjoying what I do, then it's time for a change." Frank says.
Frank is grateful to his wife Julie for going through the hard yards with him overseas.

"She found it difficult overseas, more so than me," he admits. "The different cultures, language barriers, being homesick.
"And she has always trusted the decisions I made and supported me through them - and I credit her for that."
The decision to come back home was an easy one for Frank, who had already been in touch with Brisbane Strikers about the opportunity to come back and play while still at the top of his game.
"I had to find that passion that I had lost," he explains. "And it was the best decision I made."
Frank's first season back in Australia in the old NSL proved successful enough to earn - surprisingly - an offer to become player/coach for the following year.
"I hadn't actively decided I would go into coaching and I was definitely surprised," he says. "But it was another challenge I wasn't willing to pass up, and so I accepted and told them I would give it a go."
The Brisbane Strikers went on to win the 1996/97 Championship in Frank's debut year as coach - in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium - which he figures wasn't ideal in hindsight.
"I thought to myself, well this coaching gig is just easy. I thought I was God," he says. "And just like it always does, reality set in and the only way to go from there was down."
Frank's second year as coach of Brisbane Strikers saw the team come third-last and although disappointed, he saw it as the wake up call he needed.
"I fell into coaching in a way that wasn't planned but again, like throughout my career, it was another challenge," he said.
Remarkably, it would only be two short years since winning the Championship with Brisbane Strikers that the ultimate challenge in football presented itself and a 35-year-old Frank Farina was unveiled as National Team Coach.
"It was probably politically motivated, my appointment," he reveals.

At a time where Australian football was at its most volatile, in the six years he held football's top position in the country, Frank reported to seven different Soccer Australia chairmen and the same number of CEO's.
"If that was to happen in business, it wouldn't be stable," he says.
But just as it is now, the expectations from the national team coach were huge.
"The difficult thing back then was that we weren't in Asia so we had so few competitive games, " he explains.
"We'd have year-round friendlies until we got to the qualifiers every four years and it was then we were expected to be battle hardened against top South American teams."
Frank reveals the pressure to select certain players was also applied, regardless of whether he chose to listen or not.
"It was one of the main reasons I lost my job," he says. "I got pressured to pick two players for a certain game and I didn't.
"But I always had the philosophy that I was going to do it my way, so if I got cut, it was on my own back."
June 2005 saw Frank and the FFA terminate his agreement to coach Australia by way of "Mutual Consent".  The inverted commas speak volumes and Frank has no hesitation in clarifying this.
"I was sacked. It was just in a nice way," he says.

It came just two games before the World Cup Qualifiers, where Guus Hiddink famously steered The Golden Generation to a place in the World Cup.
"Hiddink was a high profile coach with an excellent record, he refreshed the place," he says.
"I had a good run, it may have even been too long. I have never harboured any bitterness about it and still don't.
"I was privileged to be in that position."
Frank admits to many disappointments as the Socceroos coach, but the Ned Zelic affair stands out as one of them.
After Frank - in his second game as Australia boss - dropped him from a game against an U23 Brazil side, Ned Zelic controversially quit the Socceroos proclaiming he would never play for Australia while Frank was coach.
But was it as simple as not being picked for a game?
"Absolutely, it was," Frank says. "Our results in the last two games were poor and I wanted to look at some other players.
"And I told him that without a doubt was he still in my plans, but I wanted to try something else for this game."
Frank is adamant that while he holds no hard feelings towards Ned for his stance - in fact he tried twice to persuade him to return to the Socceroos - he still feels it was a disappointing decision for not only Ned but Australia.
"Playing for your country is an honour and should be treated as such," he says.
Having this very public dispute played out in the media was not easy for the new boss.
"It definitely caused furore - he was the best player in the country in terms of standings," admits Farina. "But it was my first two games in the job and I needed to take a stance that I didn't agree to it."
And even though the controversy wasn't the greatest start to his tenure, the next six years saw Frank hold his position and he singles it out as his biggest career highlight.
"I came through the ranks being virtually unrecognised to playing for the National Team - I never thought it could get better than that," he says.
"To go through that and being named coach of your country was priceless."
While some call Frank Farina "Cranky Frankie" - a moniker that started way back in 1986 at Sydney City after a training scuffle - many would say his most endearing trait is his honesty, however brutal it may come across.
"I don't leave you wondering, that's for sure," he laughs. "Some people may see that as rude or arrogant but those that know me know I am just direct."
After finishing up with the Socceroos, Frank never had any doubt he wanted to return to coaching at club level.
"There were only eight teams in the A-League at the time and no positions available so I had to bide my time and stay involved in football where I could," he says.
As Brisbane Roar struggled in their second year under a notoriously mercurial Miron Bleiberg, Frank was approached by the club to take over the reins with nine games to go.

"The greatest quote I have ever heard Miron say was - in answer to a question about his job - was, 'all I can say is, when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror, I see Frank Farina," he laughs.
"I thought it was quality. He thought I had lobbied for his position when it couldn't be further from the truth."
Frank talks about his time at Brisbane fondly which is why he was so disappointed to have it end so abruptly.
"It was tough on my whole family, " he recalls. "We had every television station parked outside my house for three days until I called a press conference."
"People were knocking on my door when I wasn't home asking for me, and my wife had to call the police. They told her if they were on the footpath, there was nothing they could do."
All too often, when those with a profile have their personal lives played out so publicly, the people most affected become the family - and quite especially, the children.
"I'm a strong character, I can take it," says Farina. "And of course there were the smart-arses at school that would taunt my kids and tell them I was a drunk.
"I felt absolute guilt knowing that my mistake - something I could have avoided - caused my family such pain."
Frank's controversial dismissal from Brisbane Roar also made it brutally clear to him that while he had many colleagues - he only had a few friends.

"My phone stopped ringing for three years, while I was out of the picture, " he reveals.
"I remember just after it was announced that I would coach Sydney FC, I turned my phone on after the flight back from Papua New Guinea and I had 150 voice messages, and 130 text messages."
"People who hadn't contacted me since I was 'shunned' had wanted to catch up.
"I deleted many of those messages."
Of the few friends that had remained, one important relationship had given him the opportunity to get back into football, as coach of the Papua New Guinea national team.
"The President of Oceania had asked me to do a three month stint and I ended up being there 18 months," he says. "They saw me as a PNG boy, having lived there from 2 to 11 years old."
In what Frank describes as a 'different world over there', the class divide among people - and even players in his team - means that Papua New Guinea still faces issues that many of us in Australia have never experienced.
"I would have players that came from wealthy families that were educated in Europe or Australia," he says.
"And on the other scale I would have players that could barely speak English, don't have electricity or running water and their shower is to go into the creek and wash."
And as for the football talent, Frank emphasises a lot of it comes down to opportunity.
"There is definitely great talent over there but they don't get to play at a high level or challenge themselves," he says.
Frank recalls the exact moment when he saw he could perhaps be a candidate for the Sydney FC head coach position after then coach Ian Crook resigned.
"I was sitting in the hotel restaurant in Papua New Guinea and heard my name as the favourite for the position," he recalls.
"At that time I hadn't heard anything but sure enough, not long after, I received an email telling me to call this number.
"And a phone call later, the deal had been done."

For Frank, it was a no brainer, as he puts it - he was never going to say no to his chance to get back into the game.
But was the decision as easy for Sydney FC given the controversial circumstances he had left the game three years before?
"We knew the team needed confidence, and someone to take charge", Sydney FC CEO Tony Pignata explains.
"We were sitting last, we knew we needed someone with A-League experience, knowledge of the dynamics of the league and the players."
Known for his man management skills and strong character, Tony emphasises that they thought Frank could be the one that could grab that dressing room and get the players believing again.
"He's always been a great motivator - he is known for doing this throughout his whole career," adds Pignata. "And overall, we think he did a good job at turning the season around."
But Frank is under no illusion that he wasn't a popular choice among the fans.
"I reckon 80 percent of fans didn't want me, " Frank says, classically matter-of-fact.
"And rather than engage in the criticism, which a great deal of it was personal, the only way I was going to change anyone's mind was through results."
It was obvious to anyone watching Sydney FC's remarkable turnaround last season that Frank been a positive influence on the side that he took on at the bottom of the table - so much so that they had only missed out on finals football by two goals on goal difference.
"Players don't lose ability - they are there because they are good players," he says. "But what they can lose is confidence and form, both of which I told them we could change."
"And they responded to it. It's not rocket science, or magic. I'm not going to tap you on the head and suddenly you are a champion.
"Soon enough the players knew the only way to turn the season around was through hard work."
Once Frank had impressed the board enough to warrant a contract extension, Frank insists the show of faith didn't make him any more comfortable.
"Sydney FC is a tough gig, " he says. "The expectations are high from everyone - the board, the owner, the fans. They want to win every year.
"So I know despite of what my contract says, I need to keep performing."
Regardless of the vast experience Frank Farina has gained as a player or coach, he insists there is never a day he stops learning.
He adds: "A wise man once told me that the day you stop learning, is the day you retire.
"I've been to the Penthouse, to the Shithouse before - and I am halfway back to the Penthouse...but I'm not there yet."

  •  Kat Caravella is a journalist and wonderWAG as the other half of Newcastle Jets star Zenon Caravella, who gives au.FourFourTwo.com her unique insight to the lives of A-League families. In addition to her own blog at mammasvida.com.au, she is also co-owner of online wine merchants www.redwhiteandbubbles.com.au. You can follow her on Twitter on @KatCaravella