Times they are a-changin’

by Darren Holland

Today marks not only a monumental day for football but for society in itself as French club, Clermont Foot, have announced that Helena Costa will take over as manager next season.  Making the Ligue 2 outfit the one of  highest profile clubs in Europe to appoint a woman as manager of a male team.

An official club statement reads, This appointment must allow Clermont Foot 63 to go into a new era”. One could argue that the club already has gone into a new era after overcoming such a social boundary.  

Costa, 36, will arrive in central France with a wealth of experience. She has been heavily involved with Benfica at under-age level since 1997, eventually taking the role as head coach of the u-9 and u-10 boys teams.  In the following years she gained recognition at the club for her training methods and achievements and by 2005, was the assistant manager of the u-17 side that challenged for the National League title and European silverware.

The following year she concentrated on developing the women’s game in her native Portugal after being appointed manager of Sociedade União 1º de Dezembro where she led them to numerous titles, progressing to the Women’s Champions League in the process.

In 2008, Celtic Football Club, sought Helena Costa, not for managerial capabilities but for her potential to recognise potential of young footballers and the calibre of foreign opposition.  The Scottish champions recently congratulated Costa on her new role; “She did an excellent job for us and we know she will give her new position the same high level of commitment and dedication which she gave to Celtic.”

After a stint in Britain, Costa went to the Middle-East to become the first ever head coach of a female national team in Qatar.  Iconic in the fact that it is a country which has struggled with gender equality in the past.  Most recently, the Iranian FA asked the well-respected Portuguese coach to guide the national team to the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.  One of the few tasks that she has been unsuccessful in so far, having failed to qualify for the upcoming Asian Cup.

Helena Costa training with the Iranian womens team

Helena Costa training with the Iranian womens team

The appointment at Clermont Foot will not only send a ripple effect through football but society as well. When Susan B. Anthony submitted a proposed right to vote amendment to the U.S constitution in 1878, many would have scoffed at the notion of women being able to vote or even hold office; 11 years later Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote.

Clermont Foot defender, Anthony Lippini, offers another example to L’Equipe;

I was talking with my physiotherapist (he is recovering from a knee injury) and we talked about the time the first woman had entered the army, a very macho environment … At first, it had to make an impact. But now, women in the army is spent in customs. This may be the same in football. I can not wait to return next season to discover it. I’m really curious. It will be a unique experience to be the first pro football to be directed by a woman France. It is good, it creates a buzz!

Just as society has changed since those days mentioned above , we may look back at 2014 as the year that it became acceptable within society for a female to manage a professional mens team.

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