On the 7th of May 2014 a 36yr-old Portuguese woman made history by becoming the very first woman ever appointed as the manager of a football team in either of the top two tiers of European football. Her name is Helena Costa.
A remarkable precedent had been set (never mind the fact that one month later she un-made history by resigning due to personal reasons) and the beautiful game showed us once again just how powerful and all-inclusive its reach was. Football is one of the most traditional but progressive sports in the world – and surely the very best.
You see, football may not have mixed-gender teams anytime soon – or ever, for that matter – but it is a sport that is very much receptive to new things and new ideas, and it is a sport that was made to unite everyone in a symphony of glory. How would it be able to do that without integrating women firmly into its sprawling family of billions?
Female football fans are just as garishly dressed as males, and are as enthusiastic about the football as the men. Female football players serve up some terrific football. Female referees are even officiating at the highest level now. Football even has female administrators. But there was always one alarming gap – where were the managers?
For a game with that much equality, for a family that large, it seemed virtually impossible that not a single female manager was worth a mention. Swede Pia Sundhage and Brit Hope Powell are two names that stand out, but surely that couldn’t be enough? And both of them coached women, which is natural. But whereas the women’s game had male managers aplenty, almost no man’s team had a female manager.
So when Helena Costa was given that job, she not only showed the world that the time had finally come for men to win something under the tutelage of a woman, but also that with hard work and dedication, even a woman can win major trophies.
That means you too – if you’re good enough. So many women today are passionate about football but still approach it with a little bit of trepidation. This is often because they believe that they know slightly less than their male counter-parts, or because they have better things to do than zone out when the transfer window comes and track the movements of players in the bottom leagues (guilty)!
But that doesn’t mean anything.
Nobody is born knowing football well, and nobody knows football perfectly. The experts of today were children when Maradona and Pele lit up their barely-coloured screens. The kids of today can’t comprehend the achievements of men like Alan Shearer and Zinedine Zidane. The next generation of football-crazed boys will also not know what Frank Lampard & John Terry represent. But they will find out. Because its all out there.
Women have space in football, just as anybody does.
Fenerbahce recently took their 19thleague title in front of a crowd that was made up of about 50,000 women and children. The Arsenal ladies team is one of the most stylish teams in football, and everybody knows it. Almost every team these days has an important female figure in the backroom staff, and Chelsea FC’s Marina Granovskaia is one of the most powerful women in football. West Ham and Southampton both have female chief executives running them in Karren Brady and owner Katharina Liebherr.
All that women need to do now is capitalize on these chances and turn themselves into major players in the game. Its never going to be as easy as that, just as it wasn’t easy for Jose Mourinho or Brendan Rodgers to become such prominent figures in the modern game without ever having kicked a ball professionally.
But its worth a try out of love for the game, and the spoils of are football are so incredibly glorious. If you make it to the top as a football coach for a man’s team, not only will you engrave your name in the annals of history, you’ll also be one of the few women to ever do it. That’s a pretty big achievement!
But for now, the best thing to do if you’re a woman who’s got major footballing aspirations but not much experience – watch it! This World Cup is probably one of the best ever, and it’s a great way for everybody to see the passion, skill, strategy and emotion that top-notch football has to offer. Every team is giving its all, and the ones that aren’t are all losing.
Someday, maybe by the next World Cup in Russia or in the hotly-debated Qatari edition, female managers will be amongst the very best in the world, and they could be formed in this World Cup, right here, right now. Your gender won’t stop you getting a top job, as Mrs. Costa has shown us, and your knowledge of football won’t be a problem if you delve into the annals of history and overdose on the achievements of history’s greatest players.
One day, the World Cup will be won by a female manager. That’s the nature of the beautiful game – its for everyone!