Could women be the new future for football?

French men’s football club Clermont Foot 63, from the Centre region of France, issued a statement on 7 May 2014 from their official website that Helena Costa, the first female in French football history, will coach their team for the next upcoming season. The 36-year-old, was a former scout for Scottish Premiership side Celtic between 2008 and 2011, as well as having previously coached the Iranian women’s team since 2012. Helena Costa and Clermont Foot 63 have both been at the centre of trending topics, spreading like wildfire across social-networks just minutes after the club’s announcement. Although Costa is already well accustomed to coaching football teams, the newly appointed Portuguese coach will make history in French football as she takes the club into a new age.

As states the French newspaper Le Monde,“women are rarely seen coaching professional football teams”, yet in 2012 it was Bolivian Nelfi Ibáñez Guerra who led the way by coaching the second Bolivian division team, Hijos de Acosvinchos. In 1999, Italian Carolina Morace had also managed the Italian Serie C1 team Viterbese. Now France has followed suit by making Costa their first ever female coach, a step forward not only for the club itself, but for women in French men’s football as a whole. Costa will replace Regis Brouard, a former Montpellier midfielder, whose contract as head coach expires at the end of the current season.

Many have taken to Twitter to congratulate the new coach, including the French minister of sport, Najat Belkacem where she posted: “Congratulations to Helena Costa who will be coaching Clermont Foot next year”.

Costa’s past success comes from having coached Portuguese lower-league men’s team Cheleirense, where she won the Lisbon regional championship back in 2006. Her experience and skill have benefited from 13 years spent as a youth coach with Benfica, while also leading Sociedade Uniao 1 Dezembro into the Women’s Champions League by winning two Portuguese national women’s league titles in 2007 and 2008. Before Helena Costa, Audrey Zitter had been the only female coach known within French sport. Since November 2013, she has coached the Montpellier rugby team Diables Rouges.

While the French women’s football team ceases to progress since their semi-final during the World Cup, the sport remains the least feminised discipline. A woman’s place in football has been a battle which has lasted many decades, and despite excellent results from such teams as Olympique Lyonnais, the female footballer is no stranger to the common clichés. We often hear the classics such as “it’s not a little girl’s sport” and that “they should return to the kitchen.”

It is without a doubt that sexism exists within the world of football, as seen before with such misogynistic comments made by two ex Sky Sports commentators concerning a female presenter in the UK at the beginning of this year. Sexism within football has become such a delicate subject that women who are asked to take part in interviews are often hesitant to the idea. The sport having been male-dominated for so long, many women now find it difficult to take part or even talk on the subject freely. A certain number of women working in football have already had their share of crude and sexist comments said to them, comments that would simply not be found in any other industry.

Another example of sexism found in football comes from no other than German public broadcaster ZDF’s advert of a female player kicking a muddy ball into a washing machine back in 2013. The 22 second clip was in fact made for the Women’s Euro 2013 soccer tournament where Germany were to take to the pitch in Sweden. The Ad had also sparked a frenzy of angry posts on Twitter and Facebook, where many described it as utterly disrespectful. As already stated in the German newspaper Der Spiegel, ZDF’s chief editor, Peter Frey pointed out that the Ad was not intended to be misogynistic and that he underestimated the reaction.

Already Helena Costa has faced some sexist clichés made by one of the team’s players Emmanuel Imorou, where the subject of who showers where was brought to question. This may be the first comment made but it will certainly not be the last, however Helena Costa has already set the mark high for future coaches to follow, irregardless of whether they are male or female. The president of the team’s supporting club, Veronique Soulier was also lost for words when he first read the club’s statement, but now believes that taking on Costa as the team’s new coach will be beneficial for them.

However, since many women’s football clubs are coached by men without a blink of an eye, a new female coach will hopefully mark the beginning of a new era of tolerance in such a male-dominated field.

 

Sources:

 

Huffingtonpost.fr, May 2014 :http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2014/05/07/Helena-costa-entraineur-clermont-foot_n_5278739.html

Le Monde, May 2014 – http://www.lemonde.fr/sport/article/2014/05/07/la-portugaise-helena-costa-va-entrainer-clermont-foot_4412811_3242.html

BBC, May 2014 – http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/27306106

Daily Mail, January 2014 – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2549249/Shamed-football-commentators-new-sexism-storm-video-emerges-chanting-Get-t-s-female-presenter.html