French soccer team Clermont Foot 63 announced today they have picked Helena Costa as their next coach.
Costa will be the first ever female to manage a men’s soccer team in France. Her hiring also marks the first time in history a team in the top two divisions of Europe’s five major leagues – which include Spain, England, Germany, France, and Italy – has hired a female manager.
"Clermont Foot 63 has chosen Helena Costa to be our new coach," the team announced today. “Helena Costa came through the ranks at Benfica before taking charge of the women's teams at Odivelas, then the national teams of Qatar and Iran, in addition to working as a scout for Celtic.”
To fully understand what a big deal this hiring is, consider this: European soccer didn’t even see its first female referee until the late 1990’s – and even that move was widely protested. In 2011, for example, British broadcasters Richard Keys and Andy Gray were forced to resign after remarks they made about female referee Sian Massey.
“Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule,” Gray said.
“Of course they don’t,” Keys replied.
Such has been the typical attitude towards women in soccer. Clermont Foot’s players seem to be breaking this tradition by embracing Costa’s hire.
"She has already worked alongside men in the professional world (of football) so she knows how it works,” 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."
Marienne Spacey, an assistant manager for the England Women’s Team, applauded the club’s decision.
“People are saying that it's a 'brave' decision by the club to hire a woman, but they believed in the person,” Spacey said. “They did not see the gender, but the qualifications. I think we get a bit blinkered with the thought that there has to be a man in the men's game and a woman in the women's game. I think it's got to the right person in the right game at the right time."
Congrats on putting a huge crack in your industry's glass ceiling, Helena.