The Clermont Foot soccer club has hired the first female coach in the Ligue 2 French professional league. Helena Costa will replace current head coach Regis Brouard starting next season. Brouard has coached Clermont to 14th place in the second tier of the French premier league this season and has two more games remaining before Costa takes over the team.
Costa comes to the Ligue 2 team after an interesting career in soccer. Clermont’s new coach comes to the team after scouting for Celtic of the Scottish Premier League and coaching the national women’s teams for both Iran and Qatar. The 36-year old from Portugal also coached for a time in the youth program at Benfica.
The fact the Costa is a woman is expected to draw criticism from the European soccer community. European men’s soccer has a torrid history with sexism against women. There have been sexism reports from women who have worked as officials for men’s games and in team office positions throughout the European leagues. One prominent example is that of English soccer official Sian Massey. The 25-year old official who was running women’s premier and international gamer, made the move to officiate men’s premier games in 2011. Being a female official made her a target of sexist remarks from two Sky Sports Network television analysts during a match between Liverpool and Wolverhampton.
Costa becoming the first female coach hired by a French premier club has brought praise to Clermont. Celtic was one of the first to congratulate their former scout on the team website. The players for Clermont have expressed their happiness about the news that Costa would take the helm next season. Many of the players see the hiring of a woman to coach as a natural progression in the sport. Defender Anthony Lippini is looking forward to Costa taking over and getting to know her coaching style when training for the 2015 season begins.
Clermont has never been promoted from the second tier of French soccer to Ligue 1. The hiring of Costa is a transaction hoped to help move the team forward. With a new direction from the new coach, over the next couple seasons, both the club and the new coach hope to make the tier 2 team more of a threat and move toward the upper level teams and Ligue 1. It will be a difficult battle for Costa to earn the respect of her peers in the league and fight off any of the anticipated sexism that may come her way. That respect will be won with victories by the team and Clermont improving and becoming a feared by their league opponents.
With the French club choosing Costa as the first female coach hired in Ligue 2, Clermont has made a good step forward in women’s equality in men’s soccer. The soccer world will be watching with great interest as the next season starts to see if a female coach can be competitive in men’s soccer. Costa has the background through her time scouting for Celtic. The French league, even the second tier, will test Costa as a coach. The game will be a lot more intense and faster than the games Costa has coached with Iran and Qatar in the past.
Commentary by Carl Auer