A team in the French second division, Clermont Foot, have made history by appointing their first female coach in a huge step forward for the men’s game, which has been universally welcomed.
Helena Costa, who was in charge of the Iranian women’s national side up until the appointment was announced yesterday, has worked in football for a long time, and has experience in various leagues around the world, having previously worked as a scout for Celtic and coaching at youth-level in the Benfica set-up. She also has experience coaching a male team in her native Portugal, as she led Lisbon-based Cheleirense to the title in 2006 in their Regional League.
With her being named as manager, it marks a new dawn for women in the men’s game, as this is the highest level that a female coach has achieved. Previously, an extremely short stint by Carolina Morace at Serie C1 side Viterbese in 1999, where she lasted just two games, was the benchmark, but Costa looks set to fare much better.
French sports paper L’Equipe spoke with Remy Dugimont and Anthony Lippini of Clermont, who both agreed that it would be a change, but a positive one. Dugimont said "it will create a buzz and will be a unique experience", while Lippini added that, similar to the army, football has been a ’macho’ environment for too long, adding that he "can’t wait for next season to discover what it’s going to be like. I’m very curious".
The reaction to the appointment has been positive, with respected coaches like Arsène Wenger stating that they think it’s a great move, and according to The Independent Najat Belkacem, France's Women's Minister, said on Twitter: "Bravo Clermont Foot for understanding that giving a place to women is the future of professional football."