The first woman to manage a professional football club but who quit on her first day in the job had a sudden change of heart ‘because she’s a woman’, the club’s president has said.
Helena Costa, 37, whose appointment last month made headlines around the world and was widely seen as a breakthrough for women in the sport, told a press conference at Clermont Ferrand in central France that her decision was “purely personal”.
She then walked our without any further explanation.
The Portuguese coach, who has worked with women footballers all over the world, had not even been introduced to the squad at the French second division club, Clermont Foot 63.
The club’s president, Claude Michy, said he had no idea why Ms Costa had changed her mind.
“She’s a woman,” he said. “They are capable of leading us to believe in certain things and then…She simply said ‘I’m going’.”
“We couldn’t make her change her mind. She leaves with her secret intact.”
“It appears that she suddenly had a crisis of confidence but I have no idea what might have upset her.”
Ms Costa’s appointment last month made headlines around the globe. Clermont 63’s decision to become the first in the world to appoint a woman to manage male professional players was variously greeted as a leap forward for the women’s game and a publicity stunt.
Sonia Saouid, the beauty queen turned football agent who helped recruit Ms Costa, said that she was “sad and angry” – especially for other would-be female coaches of male clubs. She accused her former protegee of making a “selfish deision”.
“I don’t recognise the Helena Costa who turned up for press conference last month,” she said. “We were just confronted with a wall. Her mind was made up. I am sad and angry for all the women who would like to have been in her place. I am angry because she has made a selfish decision.”Mr Michy said that he had already had 45 calls from other would-be managers of Clermont 63 since the news leaked late last night. None of them were women, he said.
At a press conference to confirm her appointment on 22 May, Ms Costa said: “The impact of my appointment was huge, but I want people looking at me like a normal person and judge my work as if I were a man.”
“It is a pleasure to take this position but, like men, if I do not have results, I will be fired like any other coach. This is normal.”
Ms Costa’s decision to leave before her first season began provoked a storm of comments on French social media today. One Clermont fan said that she would go down as the perennially struggling club’s finest ever manger. “She is the only one never to have lost a match,” he said.