CLERMONT, France — Players from French second-division club Clermont welcomed the appointment of Helena Costa, the first woman to coach a men’s professional football team in France.
Clermont announced the hiring for next season on Wednesday on its website, adding “this nomination should help Clermont enter into a new era,” and that she will work closely with developing the club’s youth team players.
Costa, a 36-year-old Portuguese, previously worked with the youth setup at Benfica, and coached the women’s national teams of Qatar and Iran, as well as scouting for Scottish club Celtic.
She will replace Regis Brouard, who has Clermont in 14th place with two matches remaining.
“She has already worked alongside men in the professional world (of football) so she knows how it works,” Clermont striker Remy Dugimont said. “No one has any experience of this, sure, but if it’s worked elsewhere, why wouldn’t it work here? Of course it will feel a bit strange at first, but that will only last a few days.”
Defender Anthony Lippini said it was a natural progression to see women coaching in men’s football, and he was looking forward to the first training session.
“You have to look at things the right way. There are women in F1 (Formula One) and also in politics,” Michy told L’Equipe’s website. “When you take up a sport, the objective is to do as well as possible.”
Bruno Bini, the France women’s coach, says competence always should come before gender.
“I’m surprised by the name, but not by the fact a woman can coach,” he said. “Besides, I don’t see why a woman can’t coach a team in division two or division one.”
Italian third-division club Viterbese hired a woman in 1999, Carolina Morace, a prolific striker in women’s Serie A during the 1980s and 90s. But she resigned after two games.
Many women have worked as administrators and match officials in the men’s game, including in Germany, France, Italy and England. Most have faced sexism.