Clermont’s female boss ‘not afraid’ of landmark challenge
CLERMONT-FERRAND - Agence France-Presse
Clermont coach Costa has already made history but she wants the media not to focus solely on her gender. REUTERS PhotoPortugal's Helena Costa was unveiled as the new coach of French side Clermont on May 22 and said she was “not afraid” of becoming the first woman to take charge of a men's professional team in a leading European nation.
“I am not afraid. If I didn't think I was capable of this, I wouldn't be here,” the 36-year-old said at a news conference. “If I didn't think the players would accept me, and if I didn't believe in my work, I wouldn't be here.”
Clermont, who plays in France's second tier, appointed Costa as coach earlier this month in a move that created headlines worldwide. And the unveiling attracted journalists from many different countries.
“I understand your surprise, but we are in 2014! Look at me as a normal coach, not a woman who is a coach,” Costa added.
Clermont is a modest club from a city where rugby dominates, and it came 14th in Ligue 2 in the season, playing to average crowds of less than 4,000.
Costa said that she should be judged like any other coach and would not last in the job if she failed to get results.
Clermont president Claude Michy has dismissed suggestions that his move for Costa was a publicity stint and said that he had “chosen a coach first and foremost, not a woman.”
“Despite all the interest that this appointment has generated, we will remain true to our values. We will not become superficial,” Michy added.
Fans of the club, who has never graced France's top flight, spoke positively of the appointment.
“It gets people talking about our club,” said fan group member Gerard Guardiola, while Veronique Soulier, the president of the same fans group, added that she hoped Costa would impose “a bit more authority” on the team.
Costa, who was latterly working as a scout with Scottish giants Celtic, She previously worked as a youth coach at Lisbon giants Benfica before winning a regional league title with Portuguese amateur club Cheleirense. Since then she has coached the women's teams of both Qatar and Iran.