Portuguese manager Helena Costa joined the tiny group of women who have been hired to coach men’s professional football teams on Wednesday when Clermont Foot announced she would be its head coach next season.
Clermont may only be 14th in France’s Ligue 2, but it will be the biggest men’s club ever coached by a woman.
Carolina Morace, a former Italian international, took over Viterbese in Serie C in Italy in 1999 but, under intense scrutiny, lasted just two matches. She has since coached the Italian and Canadian national women’s teams.
In 2012 Nelfi Ibanez Guerra took over Hijos de Acosvinchos, a financially troubled Peruvian semi-professional team, but lasted just a few months.
Costa, 36, has worked in men’s football for some time. She coached the Benfica youth team and has been a scout for Glasgow Celtic since 2008.
She is currently employed as head coach of the Iran’s national women’s team. Before that she set up and coached Qatar national women's team.
“Football people are surprised, but there are many women leaders in business or politics,” Claude Michy, the Clermont president said. “In Germany, the Chancellor is a woman!”
Clermont Foot lives in the shadow of the town’s far more successful rugby club which has won the French title and reached European finals in recent years. In contrast, the football club has enjoyed a few good cup runs but never finished above fifth in the second division and has spent long spells in lower regional leagues.
The statement that announced that "Helena Costa will coach Clermont Foot next season," added: "It should help the club enter a new era."
“It’s important to be provocative,” said Michy, adding that he wanted people “to talk about Clermont.”
"When you choose a coach there’s no guarantee it will succeed, be it a man or a woman,” said Michy, who promotes motor sports events. “I'm a macho guy. That’s the first thing I told her.”
Michy pointed out that Costa’s nationality was also a bonus.
Costa will bring attention but that could be a mixed blessing. In June 1999, before she had even coached a game, Morace talked about the reaction to her appointment with the UK Independent.
“I have discovered in the past few days that the Italian male is scared of women. I realise this from the questions I am asked," she said.
"I realised that everyone would be watching me closely but not that they'd have their guns cocked. And it makes me angry to be judged before I have even started. I might fail but that has nothing to do with my sex."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-05-07