Skip to main content

Clermont boss Helena Costa says female soccer coaches should be "normal"

updated 4:01 PM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
Helena Costa meets the media after becoming France's first ever professional female coach for a male team after her appointment at Clermont Foot. Helena Costa meets the media after becoming France's first ever professional female coach for a male team after her appointment at Clermont Foot.
Women in football
Women in football: Helena Costa
Women in football: Helena Costa
Women in football: Helena Costa
Women in football: Pia Sundhage
Women in football: Silvia Neid
Women in football: Carolina Morace
Women in football: Hope Powell
Women in football: Eva Carneiro
Women in football: Karren Brady
  • Helena Costa is first female to be given top coaching job in top two tiers of Europe's big five leagues
  • "Look at me as a normal coach," says the new boss of French club Clermont Foot
  • The 36-year-old hopes her appointment "can open doors" for other female coaches
  • The Portuguese coach is dubbed "Mourinho in a skirt" in her home country

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- Helena Costa spent an hour talking about her landmark job as France's first ever professional female coach for a male team Thursday but her message was simple and succinct.

"Look at me as a normal coach," said the 36-year-old as she was unveiled by second-tier side Clermont Foot.

Costa is the first female to be given the head job in the top two divisions of one of Europe's big five leagues -- Spain, Germany, England, Italy and France.

More than 100 journalists -- as well as some of the club's players -- assembled at the Clermont stadium to meet the Portuguese who is hoping her appointment will inspire other female coaches.

"I know it's a big step," said Costa, who left her role as coach of the Iranian national women's team to accept the position with Clermont.

Owen: Van Gaal perfect for United
Could Neymar join One Direction?

"I know because I had a career before in a man's world mainly, so I know it's an important day and it can open other doors, or not.

"I understand your surprise and the quantity of press and the impact but, we are in 2014, it should be a normal thing."

Costa, a sports science graduate, has been rewarded following her work with the Iran and Qatar women's national teams.

She also led Benfica's male youth team to two World Youth titles and spent time as a scout with Scottish club Celtic.

Her reputation has even spawned the nickname "Mourinho in a skirt" in her home country, a reference to Portugal's most high-profile football manager, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.

The football season has just finished in France and Clermont Foot finished 14th in Ligue 2 but Costa already has big plans for her first season in charge.

"I think that as in all leagues, if a club doesn't have a huge budget that doesn't mean that the players should not be ambitious and committed," she said.

We are in 2014 ,so I understand your surprise, but it should be a normal thing
Helena Costa

"Between the team we will define our objectives but winning is the common word that we are going to speak. I'm here to win.

"I'm a demanding person with myself and my team, but especially with myself."

Costa will find herself under extra external scrutiny too as the highest profile female coach of a male professional football team in Europe.

The 36-year-old is also pushing boundaries in France where match official Nelly Viennot previously broke new ground as an assistant referee, also featuring in Champions League games.

Sexist society

French football writer Caroline Bauer told CNN World Sport that Costa's appointment was something of a shock.

"French society is a little bit sexist in sport, really sexist," she said. "So it was a big surprise and a lot of people said it was a bad idea.

"At first in France everybody thought that Clermont just wanted to create a buzz with the appointment.

"But then Helena Costa came to France two weeks ago and she spoke a lot to the French media and she explained who she was.

"Now we understand that she has a real project with Clermont and she wants to prove she can be a real coach like men."

Costa will get her first chance to prove herself when the new French soccer season begins late summer.

Read: French club Clermont make history with female appointment

Read: Sexism in sport

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is provoking huge media interest and the hungry attention of Europe's top clubs.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Last season Jose Mourinho wrote off the title of hopes of his "little horse" -- but now he has a squad primed to dethrone Manchester City.
updated 2:58 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Luis Suarez will have to wait until late October to make his competitive Barcelona debut his ban for biting an opponent was partially upheld.
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Can Louis van Gaal cut it at Manchester United? Will Bayern conquer all in Germany? Is this PSG's year to win the Champions League?
updated 6:12 AM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
It's been a difficult year for Barcelona on and off the pitch, and the signing of Luis Suarez has only increased the prospect of more controversy.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who scored a total of 16 goals at four World Cup finals, has announced his retirement from international football.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Cultural y Deportivo Leonesa line up in their tuxedo kit.
When celebrating an important anniversary, it's always good to look your best. At least that's theory for a Spanish football team's preseason tuxedo kit.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
While many top European clubs are targeting the U.S. market, French football is setting its sights on expanding into Asia -- with China playing a key role.
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Major League Soccer has snared another big name from England with former Chelsea star Frank Lampard committing his future to New York City FC.
updated 12:56 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Europe's top clubs have booked a summer holiday to the U.S. -- but this is business not pleasure as they look to cash in on the World Cup afterglow.
updated 2:28 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Brazil's new coach Dunga won the World Cup as a player in 1994.
Former World Cup-winning captain Dunga is appointed coach of Brazil's national team for the second time, charged with restoring national pride.
updated 10:20 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Colombia's World Cup star James Rodriguez continues Real Madrid's long tradition of signing "Galacticos."
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Germany's World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm has decided to go out at the top by announcing his retirement from international football.