Vera Pauw made her name as a player in the Netherlands but her coaching exploits, in leading her nation to the UEFA Women's EURO 2009 last four on their finals debut, established her as one of the continent's leading technicians. Having previously coached Scotland, she moved on to a new role in July 2010 with the Russian Football Union (RFS), as technical director for their women's team, and she spoke to UEFA.com about the development of the game in Russia and throughout Europe.
UEFA.com: How are things are going in Russia, and what led you take that big challenge?
Vera Pauw: Firstly, why I did it. As you probably know, my husband is Bert van Lingen, he's [Russia coach] Dick Advocaat's assistant coach. But it's not related... well, it's related to that, but on the other hand not, because when they heard that I was his wife, they said: "Well, we cannot let this chance go; if we can get her to structure the game here and to have an input in the future of the game, we should not let it go." So on the same day that Dick Advocaat was signing, they were calling me to sign as well.
And I hesitated, because the country is so big, the culture is so different, and my experience has been international but most of all in western European countries of course. But they made it clear that they really wanted me to be there, and so far it's been a fantastic experience. And I hope they learn a lot from me, but I am definitely learning a lot from them as well.
UEFA.com: What is the depth of women's football in Russia?
Pauw: The professional league was the first [women's] professional league in Europe. And initially Russia was very much ahead of other countries, because they trained more. They were training on a daily basis and it was the player's job to perform. But now all the other countries are developing in a way that they also train every day.
Russia were in the 1999 [and 2003 FIFA Women's] World Cup quarter-finals and now they are 19th in the FIFA world rankings. And so that means that we have to introduce the new, modern ways of developing players, not only as a teaching tool, but also how players train. But to be honest, that's the case in men's football. The new approaches of training-recovery time, that should be brought into the game in Russia. It's tactically very well developed, but the players have lost explosiveness. If we managed to get that into the game again, then Russia will fly. Both the men and the women.
UEFA.com: We've seen throughout the recent senior women's competitions, the FIFA Women's World Cup and the last few years of the UEFA Women's Champions League, that surprises are possible. Does this indicate more strength in depth in European women's football?
Pauw: I think the game is developing very fast in very different countries. If you look back a few years, it used to be just the Nordic countries and Germany. Then France joined in, then England. But you can see now that countries like Holland, where I have worked myself on the whole structure, reached the [EURO] semi-finals; we were just kicked out four minutes before the end of extra time. So that was very close, although the development of the game should go on, and the standard is better already now.
Switzerland have top level programmes, Spain have top level programmes. So there are many countries with top level development programmes, and that makes the competitions more challenging. So it's not just teams that are developing, but it's whole countries, and the demands on the players have increased immensely over the last few years.
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