The development of women's football in many European countries could be stimulated if leading women's national-team players are encouraged to pursue a coaching career - with Germany a shining example of what is being achieved with former international players at the helm of their women's teams.
Neid and Meinert
Two much-respected and successful former German players - Silvia Neid with the senior women's team, and Maren Meinert with the Under-19 squad - have moved smoothly from successful playing careers into the German Football Association (DFB) coaching infrastructure, and have led their national teams to an outstanding list of recent triumphs. Neid coached Germany to their second successive FIFA World Cup title in China this autumn, while Meinert has been in charge of two successive European Under-19 successes. "There's no doubt that Germany are setting the benchmark in this respect," said UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh at the third UEFA Elite Women's Coaches' Forum in Nyon.
Coaches from Europe's leading women's national and club teams discussed how players might be persuaded to start coaching before finishing their careers. "It would have a major impact on women's football if top players did this," said Roxburgh. "Associations are already integrating the education of women coaches in their normal programmes, but it is felt that there is still a need for targeted courses for top women players."
The prospects for the 2009 European Women's Championship final round in Finland were also on the agenda, with the coaches putting forward the idea of extending the future final-round field to 16 teams if the 2009 tournament - featuring 12 teams for the first time - proves to be successful. Women's football has been moved into the professional sector of UEFA's activities in recent times, and is being given significant support. "The coaches welcomed the fact that UEFA's sponsors will be heavily involved in 2009, as this will bring a major boost in terms of promotion," said Roxburgh. "The changes in women's football in recent years have been dramatic, and the game will continue to develop at a hectic pace. Professional clubs are integrating women's sections into their structures, and their support, together with UEFA's backing, the interest of television and marketing are all driving the women's game forward."
Support for the associations at the lower end of the ranking was welcomed. The mini-tournaments for national teams eliminated early from European championships was felt to be invaluable for the development of players and coaches. At Under-17 level, concern was expressed at some of the landslide victories being recorded in certain matches - however, the need to undergo a difficult learning curve is seen as part and parcel of the development process. In all associations, stability is seen as a key factor in an association's progress in the women's game, with continuity at coaching level often the basis for potential success. As the leading associations have proved, the proper mental attitude on the part of players helps them become more professional in their preparation for match assignments. Coaches with the requisite high-quality training will themselves help to produce good women football players - with the overall women's game deriving the benefit.
Ideas and views
UEFA will take on board the ideas expressed at the meeting. "This kind of session is invaluable not only for UEFA, but also for the coaches - because their exchanges also trigger ideas which they will go away and think about," said Roxburgh. "It is significant, for example, that Mircea Sandu, the chairman of the Women's Football Committee, and Per Ravn Omdal, the chairman of the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee, were both at the forum to hear the discussions and put forward opinions. It means that both the competition and development sides are represented. It's a part of a whole process, with the further development of women's football the ultimate objective."
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