The Hairdryer

Was hiring two female managers just a publicity stunt by Clermont?

The Hairdryer

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Congratulations to Corinne Diacre, announced as the new manager of Ligue 2 Clermont Foot.

She replaces Helena Costa, who resigned from the post after six weeks in the job.

Club president Claude Michy professed surprise at Costa’s departure: “She's a woman so it could be down to any number of things…it's an astonishing, irrational and incomprehensible decision. She's developed a confidence problem, but I don't know what it was that caused this.”

And yet despite his scathing opinion of “irrational women”, he has now opted for another female manager.

It seems a very swift selection and recruitment process, wouldn't you say?

Perhaps Michy is a firm believer in positive discrimination, and sees these appointments as a way to correct the historic invisibility of women in football.

Or perhaps he is simply a misogynist wolf in a benevolent president’s clothing, hoping that a female face leading his club will attract publicity.

On that latter point, he is of course right. Clermont Foot have received more international coverage in the past two months – since Costa’s initial appointment – than they have maybe ever in their history.

I remain unconvinced that Diacre will receive any more autonomy than Costa.

It’s possible that she thinks that now she’s in post, she can work to organise her squad and her backroom staff as she wants – changing things from the inside.

And Diacre is certainly qualified to manage a team, after a distinguished playing career and roles as manager of Soyeux and then assistant coach of the international side.

But it’s easily argued that Costa was even more qualified: she managed Benfica’s youth team to success as well as men’s and women’s sides in Portugal before coaching Iran and Qatar and then scouting for Celtic.

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Helena Costa at her first press conference. She quit Clermont soon after. (AFP)

It’s no surprise that she was not happy about the limits placed on her authority at Clermont Foot.

"There were a series of events that no trainer would tolerate and a total lack of respect as well as amateurism,” she said this week, explaining that she had spoken to Michy about it and had hoped he would support her.

She’s also declared that friendlies were arranged and signings were made by the club’s sporting director and without her knowledge.

“I disagreed with the players being signed, but the only answer I got from him was that he was 'fed up with my emails'," she added.

Costa’s experience is much like that of Carolina Morace, appointed as manager of Serie C1’s Viterbese in 1999. The club owner there was Luciano Gaucci, who also owned Perugia, and no stranger to courting publicity, with exploits on his resume such as signing Colonel Gaddaffi’s son and sacking a South Korean player after he scored against Italy in the 2002 World Cup.

Morace lasted a pre-season plus two competitive games before resigning – and since then the popularly accepted myth has been that she simply couldn’t handle the media pressure.

It's been repeated and regurgitated in this week's reports about Costa, implying that the heat is just too intense for a female manager in men's football and they should get back to the kitchen.

Yet Morace has been unequivocal in stating the reasons she left the club, telling the Times in 2011: “The club’s owner wanted to replace part of my coaching staff. I refused and that was that.”

There is no question that Diacre, Costa and Morace are all extremely capable managers and coaches. Their CVs prove that.

The question is, though, when a female manager of a men’s club will be given the same authority and autonomy as her male equivalent.

One has to admire Diacre’s optimism that it will be imminent.

Carrie Dunn | @carriesparkle
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