Chiefy secures coveted pro licence

Three Wellington Phoenix coaches now hold football’s highest coaching qualification.

Men’s assistant coach Giancarlo Italiano has joined men’s head coach Ufuk Talay and men’s reserves head coach Chris Greenacre in securing his pro licence.

Italiano, nicknamed Chiefy, has completed the AFC professional coaching diploma, run by Football Australia.

“It was a lifelong ambition when I started coaching that I wanted to reach the highest qualification,” he said.

“I didn’t think it was possible because coming through the New South Wales system it’s very hard to get on the pro licence course.

“Everything went my way with getting the job here at the Phoenix and then being accepted onto the pro.

“I enjoy working with Uffy and I’m learning a lot. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be in this position.

“I’m really thankful to Uffy and the club for supporting me through this journey.”

Giancarlo Italiano and Ufuk Talay at training. Photo credit: Photomac.

Italiano first applied for the pro coaching course after finishing his A licence in 2018. He missed out and the Covid pandemic delayed his plans further.

“Getting on to this course was literally impossible.

“Professional coaches are given priority. A lot of New Zealand coaches will know it’s hard to get in unless you’re in the system, so I’ve been really fortunate.

“The course was good. It was quite challenging and the candidates on the course were great. There was a lot of knowledge that was shared, especially in the downtime that we spent together.

“It also had a very good leadership component which was really beneficial for working towards a head coaching role.”

A self-described “nobody”, Italiano is an example of what you can achieve with hard work.

He built extensive coaching experience at the grassroots level in NSW before joining Sydney FC in 2017 to work with their NPL and National Youth League teams.

Italiano was appointed the Wellington Phoenix’s head analyst and second assistant for the 2019-20 A-League season and has served as Talay’s lead assistant for the past three years.

Giancarlo Italiano watches over the team’s warm-up ahead of their round 19 A-League match against the Newcastle Jets. Photo credit: Photomac.

“I’m a nobody really. I don’t have a playing history, but I stuck in there for a long time.

“I believed I was good enough to get to this level, but I didn’t really have the encouragement that a lot of people need.

“A message for aspiring coaches: just work hard, people will eventually see your good work. As long as you have good processes and you’re about the game first, there’s always a possibility you can do well.”

The pro licence is now more achievable for New Zealand coaches, with OFC starting its pro diploma earlier this month, with Phoenix women’s head coach Natalie Lawrence and academy technical director Paul Temple amongst the first intake.

Italiano believes the course “can only enrich football in New Zealand”.

“If you want to have good players you need good coaches.

“I’m not saying that just getting the pro licence makes you a good coach, but you go through the process. Because you go through the process means that you have to put the work in.

“If you have more capable people that have the qualification that’s only going to be better for New Zealand in general.”