Portuguese Helena Costa has been named the new manager of French second division club Clermont Foot, making her the first female manager of a French men's professional club and also the first in any of Europe's top two tiers. Costa, who previously worked as the coach of the Iran women's national team and as a scout for Celtic, will be introduced after Clermont's final match of the season.
"This appointment will allow Clermont Foot 63 to begin a new era, relying on a group of 17 players currently under contract, which will be added young players from the club," Clermont said in a statement announcing Costa's arrival. The club currently sit 14th in Ligue 2.
Though Costa's appointment represents a new level of achievement for women on the men's side of the game, others have also worked their way up in different areas. Sian Massey has been an assistant referee in the Premier League for several years now, Bibiana Steinhous became the first female referee in German professional football and regularly works in the country's second division, and team manager Kathleen Kruger has been credited as an important part of Bayern Munich's success in recent years.
Several Clermont players have already expressed positive feelings on the historic announcement, giving hope that Costa won't be subjected the gender based animosity that might have been expected in such a situation in the past.
Says defender Anthony Lippini (via the Guardian):
"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," Lippini told L'Equipe.
"I cannot wait to return next season to be a part of it. I'm really curious. It will be a unique experience to be the first professional football team to be managed by a woman France. It is good. It creates a buzz."
Striker Remy Dugimont made similar comments. From the Independent:
"I'm not macho. She has worked in the profession and all the boys know how it works," he added.
"At first it will be a little weird but it will only last a few days. We don't not know how it will happen but if the president has chosen to bring her, we hope it will be okay and I think there are no problems."
Once this season ends, Costa will begin to work towards achieving an unprecedented promotion to Ligue 1 for Clermont and possibly becoming the first female manager in Europe's top flight. But even if promotion doesn't come, this is still a big step in recognizing talent over irrelevant things like gender.
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