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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Countdown to Women’s World Cup: Low in numbers but female coaches thrive at major tournaments

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Women's Finalissima - England v Brazil - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - April 6, 2023 Brazil coach Pia Sundhage talks to Brazil's Kerolin Nicoli during the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/File Photo

From Pia Sundhage to Sarina Wiegman to Bev Priestman, the ninth Women’s World Cup will be a glittering showcase of some of the game’s most successful coaches but 20 of the 32 teams will still have men barking the orders from the touchline.

Twelve female coaches represents a record number for the global showpiece, and is a significantly higher proportion than in most other sports, but some are questioning why it is still not greater.

Vicky Huyton, founder of the Female Coaching Network, said a lack of success was certainly not a factor.

Since 2000, all but one of the major women’s football tournaments – the Women’s World Cup, Women’s Euros and the Olympics – have been won by female-coached teams, she pointed out.

Norio Sasaki, the man who coached Japan to World Cup gold in 2011, is the sole exception.

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“It’s a stat I find fascinating – and it’s a trend across many different sports, but particularly in women’s football,” Huyton said.

Football’s female coaching landscape is a good news/bad news scenario.

Women coaches make up 37.5% at the World Cup, which kicks off Thursday, the same as in 2019 and slightly higher than 2015.

“It’s one of the better sports for female coaches,” Huyton added. “Which is kind of like saying it’s the best of a bad bunch rather than necessarily a positive thing.”

At the other end of the scale are athletics, rugby and tennis. Fewer than 1% of athletics coaches at the world championships or Olympics are women, Huyton said, and only 4% of the top 200 women on the WTA Tour are coached by women.

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Huyton also worries about the lack of new faces among the women who have a top job in international football.

“We now know that female coaches can be successful – how novel,” Huyton said with a half-hearted laugh.

“So the narrative has changed to, ‘Well, how do we get more female coaches?’ Because if you look at the list of women at the World Cup, they’re all the same group of women mostly.”

Sundhage, who coaches Brazil, led the U.S. to back-to-back Olympic golds.

Wiegman coached the Netherlands to the 2017 Euro title and World Cup silver in 2019 before leading England on a 30-game unbeaten streak.

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Germany’s Martina Voss-Tecklenburg also coached Switzerland for six years.

‘VISIBILITY IS HUGE’

FIFA expects the World Cup to reach a global TV audience of two billion viewers, which would be a 79% increase over the highly successful 2019 tournament.

Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt said the mere sight of a dozen female coaches pacing the touchlines Down Under could be a big boost to young women looking to take that career path.

“This visibility is huge for inspiring others … it allows people to see the possibilities,” said Schmidt.

“In the past, it’s been predominantly men. But we have very amazing, talented, gifted female coaches out there and I think the opportunities are there and once you start seeing it, you start believing it.

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“That’s the beauty of having so many female coaches in these head roles.”

Among the biggest barriers to coaching, Huyton said, is certification. The top-level UEFA Pro License course costs close to 10,000 pounds ($13,090) and applicants must have a full-time coaching position at the senior level.

“So where does that woman go to get that experience to then get the qualification?” Huyton asked.

England’s Women’s Super League has helped pave the way for female coaches, with 20 of the 50 total managers over a span of 10 years being female.

The WSL has boasted some of the best in the game, including Hope Powell, the first woman to be awarded the UEFA Pro License in 2003, and Emma Hayes, who has coached Chelsea to seven of the last nine WSL titles, including this year.

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While players’ union FIFPRO does not have an official view on the gender of coaches, Sarah Gregorius said diversity was critical.

“There should be inclusive policies in the way in which coaches are recruited and searched for,” said Gregorius, who directs the union’s global policy and strategic relations for women’s football.

“There needs to be pathways for people from all different backgrounds, genders, identities, whatever it may be, to reach those positions.”

-Reuters

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Dominican Republic 2024:Flamingos land in the Dominican Republic!

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Nigeria’s U17 girls, Flamingos, have secured their ticket to the 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals to be staged in the Dominican Republic later this year, after a 2-0 defeat of their Liberian counterparts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

Victory took the aggregate tally to 6-1 in favour of Nigeria, with extraordinary poacher Harmony Chidi setting a record of 13 goals in a qualifying series that will be difficult to equal in years to come. She had 11 goals before kick-off, but netted the two goals of the evening to take Nigeria’s total of the series to a whopping 25. Central African Republic fell by a dozen goals while Burkina Faso fell 1-7 on aggregate.

Her first came after only four minutes when she sped past the Liberian defence to toe-poke the ball beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Makula Konneh from a cross by Shakirat Moshood.

A goal feast was expected, but this did not happen, as Peace Effiong had a close call in the 17th and Moshood rocked the crossbar a minute after from 20 yards. Moshood also missed from close range with 10 minutes left of the first half.

In the 56th minute, Moshood blasted beyond the goalpost when faced with Konneh, but Harmony Chidi made sure of her brace seven minutes later when she lashed the ball beyond Konneh’s reach as Nigeria seized the ball from a defensive slip-up by the visitors.

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The 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will be staged in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, 16th October – 3rd November.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

‘It shall be showers of goals’, vows Flamingos ahead of Liberia clash

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Head Coach Bankole Olowookere is confident that the Nigeria U17 girls, Flamingos, will not take their feet off the pedal when they take on their Liberian counterparts in a FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying match in Abuja on Friday.

“We are battle-ready for the match on Friday. The girls are raring to go because they want to go to the World Cup. They are already dreaming of flying to the Dominican Republic.

“There is so much excitement in camp, and they are self-assured. However, I have warned them that it is never over until it is over. There should be no display of over-confidence on the pitch. We must approach the match like the first leg was a drawn game.”

Nigeria won the first leg 4-1 in Monrovia on Sunday, with 11-goal qualifying series revelation Harmony Chidi, Shakirat Moshood, Peace Effiong and substitute Blessing Ifitezue banging in the goals for the Flamingos. The hosts got their consolation goal off a penalty awarded with five minutes left of the encounter at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.

The Flamingos will take part in the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup for the seventh time once they cross Friday’s hurdle.

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They featured at the inaugural edition in New Zealand in 2008, and subsequently at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, Azerbaijan 2012, Costa Rica 2014, Jordan 2016 and India 2022, where they won the bronze medals.  

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Flamingos hammer hosts Liberia 4-1, put one leg in World Cup finals

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FIFA World Cup bronze medallists Nigeria routed Liberia 4-1 in a fast-paced FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying round, first leg encounter in Monrovia on Sunday.

The Flamingos got off to a pretty quick start at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex at the Paynesville, but the Liberian girls, who shocked Senegal on the away-goal rule to reach this final round, warded off the early threats.

Nigeria got the ball into the net after 14 minutes, but Chadian referee Lare Lamngar ruled it off. Not to be deterred or discouraged, the Flamingos poured forward once again, and in the 19th minute, Shakirat Moshood opened the scoring from a sweet solo run.

Peace Effiong, who got a brace in the 6-0 defeat of Burkina Faso at the MKO Abiola National Stadium last month, scored in the 29th minute to put a wedge of respect between the two teams.

Usual suspect Harmony Chidi, scorer of six of the 12 goals that sank the Central African Republic, and who equally netted four in the 7-1 dismissal of Burkina Faso in the last round, headed home her 11th goal of the qualifying series in the 36th minute to put daylight between both teams.

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On resumption, Nigeria continued to dominate, and substitute Blessing Ifitezue made it four with 16 minutes left.

Liberia scored a consolation goal with five minutes left, from the penalty spot, through Yassah Gwaikolo, after substitute Onyedikachi Ekezie was adjudged to have committed a foul in the area.

The Flamingos will return to Nigeria on Tuesday, and immediately commence preparations for the return leg encounter scheduled for Friday at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

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