Lower league French side appoint female boss.
French Ligue 2 side, Clermont Foot, have announced that Helena Costa will take over as first team manager at the end of the 2013-14 season, replacing current manager Regis Brouard. In doing so, they have become the first high-profile European men’s football team to appoint a female manager.
Costa, who just turned 36, worked as a talent scout for Celtic from 2008 to 2011 and has coached the Iran women’s national team since 2012. Prior to those jobs, she enjoyed great success coaching Benfica’s male youth teams and also served as the manager of the women’s national team of Qatar between 2010 and 2012.
“Clermont Foot 63 has chosen Helena Costa to be our new coach,” the club announced via a statement on their website. “This appointment will allow [the club] to begin a new era.”
The decision to employ Costa marks the first time a team in the top two tiers of one of Europe’s so-called ‘big five’ leagues has appointed a female manager.
Previously, the most high-profile female managerial appointment came in Italy, when Carolina Morace took charge of two matches for third-tier club Viterbese.
Former England women’s manager, Hope Powell, was briefly linked to the manager’s job at Grimsby Town in 2009, but the club ultimately decided to give the job to caretaker manager, Neil Woods, on a full-time basis instead.
In her roles up until this point, Helena Costa has enjoyed significant success. In 2007, she guided a male Benfica youth team to victory in the Mundialito World Youth Tournament, beating FC Barcelona’s youth team 6-0 in the tournament’s final.
During her time as the Qatar women’s national team coach, she helped the team to secure their first ever win, a 4-1 triumph over the Maldives.
Clermont Foot defender, Anthony Lippini, has expressed his excitement at the appointment during an interview with L’Equipe.
“I was talking with my physiotherapist about the time when the first woman entered the army; a very macho environment. At first, there was a lot of shock. But now, women in the army has become normal. This may be the same in football,” he said.
“I cannot wait to return next season to be a part of it. I’m really curious. It will be a unique experience.”
Costa’s appointment as the head coach of Clermont Foot represents the latest step in the rapid advancement of female involvement in the men’s game.
France previously broke new ground when Nelly Viennot became the first woman to serve as an assistant referee for a major men’s game. She was shortlisted for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and later made appearances in the UEFA Champions League.
In Germany, Bibiana Steinhaus currently referees second-tier matches and became the first female referee to officiate in the German Cup.
Meanwhile, in England, Sian Massey has established herself as one of the top assistant referees currently working in the country, being appointed for both Premier League and Football League fixtures.
Additionally, Eva Carneiro has made a name for herself as a physio for Chelsea.
The quality of Costa’s performance next season may go some way towards deciding whether female managers go on to achieve a similar level of success in breaking through at the top level of the sport.
Clermont Foot are currently 14th in the league table, with two fixtures remaining.
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