French Soccer Team Hires Woman to Coach Men’s Division

French soccer made history on Wednesday by deciding to hire a woman to coach a professional men’s team. Helena Costa will be the woman making history by coaching second-division, professional team Clermont Foot 63 in France. Costa is set to take over the team as coach at the end of the current season, which is due to end later this month.

Costa was interviewed over the phone from Portugal, during which she called her hiring on Wednesday a historical day. She also added that the moment was not about her being good enough to coach. It was more about women in sports. She ended her statement by saying that she believes she opened a door for women and hopes that many of them will come walking through it.

Thirty-six-years-old Costa has history with soccer throughout Europe and the Middle East. She was manager of the women’s national teams for Iran and Qatar for a while. In Europe, she was a scout for the Scottish giant club team, Celtic. In Portugal, she was a leading manager for Benfica’s boy’s team, one of the best known clubs from Portugal. As far as coaching experience with men, she has some when she coached a men’s team in Portugal, but at the regional level. With all this under her belt, Costa does have experience and seems to know the sport of soccer rather well.

Not only is Helena Costa going to make history by taking over as coach of a men’s professional team, she is also going to be challenged and will be under pressure. Yes, she is taking over a second-division team, but it is a coaching job in one of the best divisions in Europe. France, Germany, Italy, England, and Spain are the top five leagues in Europe, and even the second divisions in those five countries are considered to be tough.

So, as a female coach, Costa will have it rough. Not only because she is a female, but because the league she will be coaching is challenging. It will be rough for Costa only because many sports analysts will be observing her, as Costa will, fairly or not, be representing women in general. The best that could be said here is to wish the best for Helena Costa. It would be nice for the soccer audience to see a woman succeed as a coach in a men’s league. Costa could bring a new flair to the game or even new tactics that could add to the world of the sport.

Women coaching the sport is nothing new really. In the United States, womens’ leagues are established with women coaches. In the U.S., however, no woman has ever coached a men’s team. Now with Costas crossing the other side of the fence, things could change in the U.S. as well. Perhaps, from there, the rest of the world could follow suit.

Helena Costa has made history in the sport of soccer by being the first female to coach a team from one of Europe’s top five leagues. Back in 1999, Caroline Morace, coached a third-division team in Italy but only lasted two games. The media was citing too much pressure on her, and she abandoned the position. For her sake and for the sake of the sport, this will not happen to Costa in this historical moment for soccer.

Commentary by Jose Herrera

The New York Times

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