Meet Helena Costa: The 1st Female Coach Of A French Male Soccer Team

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Look out boys, soccer is no longer run by the patriarchy! This badass woman is Helena Costa. Sure, many soccer fans around the world have never heard of her, but that hasn’t stopped her from slowly ascending the ranks of the European league.

For the first time ever, a French male soccer team will be managed by a woman, and there’s a good chance she’s the first woman in the world to do this! She has been appointed as the coach for second division team Clermont.

The 39 year-old Portuguese woman isn’t exactly new on the scene, despite her young age. She currently coaches the Iran national women’s team and has previously coached Qatar. She was a scout for Scottish club Celtic, and worked with the youth division at Portuguese club Benfica, joining while she was still a teenager, and eventually led them to two world titles.

Helena is already winning fans as some of the Clermont players are saying it is a natural progression to see more women coaching in men’s soccer.

“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.”

“I’m not macho. She has worked in the profession and all the boys know how it works,” he added.

“It was a shock at first but, now, women in the army has become normal. It might become the same in football. I can’t wait to start the season to discover this. I’m really curious,” said defender Anthony Lippini.Clermont president Claude Michy spoke about the appointment on L’Equipe’s website.“You have to look at things the right way. There are women in F1 (Formula One) and also in politics,” Michy said.“When you take up a sport, the objective is to do as well as possible.”Bruno Bini, the France women’s coach, says competence should always 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.”

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It’s not for lack of ability that the soccer world hasn’t seen more women in all aspects of the sport, but the sexism and heavy patriarchal culture of the game that still exists.

This year, Swedish journalist Johanna Franden from Aftonbladet reported sexist comments made to her by Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc when she asked him a question about tactics. In widely reported comments, Blanc responded, “Women talking football tactics, it’s so beautiful,” before adding, “You know what 4-3-3 means, don’t you?”

Three years ago, Sian Massey ran the line in an English Premier League game and was on the receiving end of sexist comments from two TV analysts: Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray was fired, and presenter Richard Keys resigned.

Helena’s former club Celtic have publicly sung her praises offering their congratulations for Clermont for picking such a viable candidate.
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The news was also welcomed by Najat Belkacem, France’s Women’s Minister, who said on Twitter (in French): “Bravo Clermont Foot for understanding that giving a place to women is the future of professional football.”

Elsewhere in Europe, women are slowly making their mark in various leagues. In Germany, referee Bibiana Steinhaus officiates in second division games. She is the first woman referee in the second Bundesliga and the first to have been a referee in the German Cup.

In Spain, Maria Jose Claramunt is the director of the national team, responsible more for marketing than sporting issues.

Helena has certainly learned from the best, studying under legendary manager Jose Mourinho at Chelsea FC in the UK in 2005.

This is pretty big news for female soccer fans and players alike. It opens up a world of opportunity showing other women in the sport that they don’t have to just be categorized by their gender. Talent knows no gender boundaries.

Now let’s see how long it takes for the rest of Europe, and even the rest of the world to open up their doors to more women in their respective leagues!

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