Helena Costa, whose father did not like soccer and who often had to go to neighbors’ homes to watch games, will become the first woman to coach a men’s professional soccer team in France.
Clermont Foot 63, a second-division club in Clermont-Ferrand, announced on Wednesday that Costa will take over as manager at the end of the season, which comes later this month.
“It’s a historical day,” Costa said in a telephone interview from Portugal.
“And I think this is about more than Helena Costa as a football coach. I think it’s very good for all the women in sports, especially in football of course. It could have been someone else. And I hope this is only the first step. I opened a door today and more women will walk through on my back. That’s what I hope.”
Arsene Wenger: “It happens to all of us at home that we are managed by women so why not?”
But her new appointment is a major step in terms of competition and visibility.
She will be the first female manager in one of the top two divisions in Europe’s five major professional leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain). Even in the United States, where women’s soccer is firmly established, no woman has been head coach of a top-tier men’s professional soccer team.
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French minister of women’s rights and of youth and sport, said on Twitter, “Bravo to Clermont Foot for understanding that giving women their place is the future of professional football”.
FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, wrote “Great news for women in football today” on his Twitter account.
Costa said: “I always dreamed of this. I coached boys and men for a long time in Portugal and I have had this as my target and my objective.”
Claude Michy, the president of Clermont Foot, said in a telephone interview that he was surprised by the degree of interest in Costa’s hiring.
“It’s surprising because in the world there are lots of women in important positions, heads of government or team managers in Formula One or chief surgeons,” he said. “But because it’s football — something global and still rather conservative — and a provincial French team hires a female coach, it creates a media earthquake.”
— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) May 7, 2014
Although Regis Brouard, the current coach, will finish the season, Costa’s hiring came as a surprise bordering on shock to Clermont Foot’s players, including Emmanuel Imorou.
“Obviously, we all had incredible expressions,” Imorou told the French newspaper L’Equipe. “Afterward we discussed it among ourselves. Some laughed; others a bit less.”
He added: “Honestly, it was cool. There was no big skepticism. We made some jokes. We wondered how she was going to handle a group of men, if she was going to be able to impose her authority.”
Arsene Wenger, lighthearted as always, says: “It happens to all of us at home that we are managed by women so why not?”
Source: New York Times