We have a World Cup just around the corner and right now the teams are deep in preparations. The players are getting ready mentally and physically for the biggest tournament in football, and the coaching team is in the closing stages of figuring out the squad that they will bring to France – which players will be allowed to go and who will have to stay home.
The manager is the person that has the most influence when it comes down to the squad, even as they are surrounded by assistant coaches, attacking coaches, goalkeeper coaches and so on. It is the manager that decides what formation they want to play, who will play in what position in order to get the best out of everyone, and what tactics they will use – quite a powerful position in other words. And more often than not, this position is inherited by a man. Times have slowly changed and there are by now quite a few recognised female managers who have gone on to do great things, but there are still so few of them. Not to mention the fact that in the men’s game it is still (more or less) unheard of to have a female manager managing a professional men’s team. (Actually, two of the women on this list have managed professional men’s team but they are extremely rare).
I find it very important to put focus on the women in the game, and the ones on the sideline are no less important. To no one’s surprise, only 37,5% of the managers that will be present at the World Cup this summer are women – a mere nine out of 24 managers. All the more important to get to know them a bit better! So here is a list of the female managers that will do their best to lead their team to success in France this summer:
Corinne Diacre – France
The French coach, who will do her best to guide her team to success on home soil, is a former defender for ASJ Soyaux who also represented France internationally. Diacre became the first woman to coach a professional men’s football team in a competitive game in France back in 2014 when she took over Clemont Foot.
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg – Germany
Voss-Tecklenburg, who coaches her native Germany, is one of the biggest names amongst German female footballers, having won seven national titles and six DFB trophies as a midfielder and striker for club and country during her playing days. As a manager, she has previously coached FCR 2001 Duisburg, FF USV Jena and Switzerland women’s national team, before taking over Germany in 2019, notably after they had already qualified.
Desiree Ellis – South Africa
Ellis has a long playing career behind her, retiring from the game at the age of 38. The midfielder played for Spurs Ladies for 11 years and played over 300 games for the side, and they ended up being the first club that she managed, staying with the London team for 10 years. Then in 2016 she took over the South Africa women’s national team, which she was one of the founding members of. Ellis played in the team’s first ever international match, and in her 32 caps for South Africa, she won 23 of those games, drew two and only lost seven.
Milena Bertolini – Italy
Bertolini is a huge name in Italy who has done a lot for football in Italy. The former defender played for several Italian teams, amongst them Reggiana, Bologna, Modena and Pisa, before then going into the coaching side of things. She ended up going back to her beloved Reggiana, where she stayed for seven seasons, before taking over Brescia for five years, until the national team called in 2017. Bertolini is the only female coach, together with Carolina Morace, that has the UEFA Pro license which allows her to coach a professional men’s team, a step she has yet to take.
Shelley Kerr – Scotland
Michelle, better known as “Shelley” Kerr is a former centre back who captained her native Scotland and played in clubs such as Kilmarnock, Doncaster Rovers Belles and Hibs, racking up every domestic honour that Scotland has to offer, and she also featured in the UEFA Women’s Cup. She went on to become a manager, winning the Continental Cup and FA Women’s Cup double with Arsenal in 2013. She also attained the UEFA pro license and became the first female coach to manage a professional men’s team when she took over Stirling University F.C.
Asako Takakura-Takemoto – Japan
During her active playing years, Takakura-Takemoto was an energetic and decorated midfielder, winning the L.League four years in a row with Yomiuri Beleza, getting selected as MVP two years in a row and getting selected in the ‘best eleven’ seven times. When she was 16 she debuted for the Japanese national team, featuring at World Cups and the Olympics. Her coaching career took off as she managed the Japan U-17 team, then the U20 and then the senior side.
Sarina Wiegman – The Netherlands
Wiegman started her playing career as a central midfielder but ended up drifting into the role of defender, spending her playing days in Ter Leede and was the first Dutch footballer to gain 100 caps for her country. Her managerial career began in the same club she represented as a player, Ter Leede, and from there she went on to have a few assistant and interim positions in the Netherlands Women’s national team until she finally got to take over the senior side as manager. To prove that the federation was right to entrust her with this position, she went on to guide the team to win the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 on home soil.
Jill Ellis – USA
Ellis, who is originally from England, did not play any organised football until her family moved to the US in 1981, as organised football did not exist for girls in the UK in the 1970s, and she went on to feature as a forward for William & Mary, but it was coaching that grasped her heart. She started out as an assistant coach for several universities, before going on to lead UCLA to eight NCAA Final Fours and won six straight Pacific-10 Conference titles. She went on to coach the US national U-20 and U-21 teams, as well as being an assistant coach and stepping in as interim coach for the senior side on several occasions, before becoming the head coach of the team in 2014. Ellis guided her team to glory as they won the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Nuengruethai Sathongwien – Thailand
Sathongwien was the first woman in charge of the national team, and became the first coach to lead a Thailand national team, men or women, to a World Cup as her team qualified for the 2015 Canada edition, despite receiving a lot less funding than the men’s team. She had to step down from her post in less than three months, as her team failed to get any further than the second round in the qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics. But in 2017 she returned to her position and has once again managed to get Thailand to a World Cup.
That’s an account of the nine female managers that will go to the World Cup 2019. What seems to be a common denominator amongst all of these women is the level of success they’ve had. They’re all strong and fierce, breaking barriers and being trailblazers, paving the way for future generations to come. By being visible on the big stage, these women show young girls that they can aspire to one day be the ones, on the pitch and on the sideline, guiding their team to glory.