THE women’s international soccer team are preparing for their next outing against Greece on March 5.
Manager Vera Pauw spoke recently about the ever-increasing standard of women’s football, especially in Ireland.
At a female coaching conference held in Rochestown Park Hotel, led by FAI coach education manager Niall O’Regan, Pauw gave a two-hour talk on her role as manager, the standards she requires, and she also gave an insight into the progress of women’s football in the country.
Speaking about the importance of coaching conferences, Pauw was delighted to see a mixture of both male and female coaches, however, she was delighted to see that the women was more dominant.
“It is fantastic to see so many men here that are involved in the women’s game. The game started with men only, so there is obviously a lot of experience there but I think it’s fantastic that there are so many women involved because the future of the sport relies always on the former athletes and in this case, it’s women,” said Pauw.
“Today’s conference is a once a year event. It’s a meeting point for all the coaches and an opportunity for all the coaches to meet and discuss development. It’s also an opportunity for us, in the FAI, to see what’s happening locally in clubs in Cork.
“It’s a real busy schedule in women’s soccer and Ireland is so much bigger than I thought,” laughs Pauw.
“I was at a recent general coaching conference and there were 250 coaches and three women, so the fact that this female coaching is on, it gives women the chance to come in numbers, however, I can’t stress enough how women should also attend the general coaching conferences because you then get different content and therefore develop more.”
To many of us it may have come as a surprise to know that from the eight final teams of this year’s Women’s World Cup, there were five of the teams coached by women, but for Pauw, this was no surprise, and in fact she states this has always been the way.
“Yes people were very surprised to hear that five of the remaining last eight teams were coached by women but in fact it’s always been like that. It’s just being highlighted more now because there is new management in FIFA who want to highlight that fact. But it’s always been like that.
“Since 2000, if you take the European championships, the World championships, and Olympic games, there has only been one coach that has been successful that was male.
“We are the best at our game because otherwise we would not coach at that level. Men coming into the game at that level are usually the drop outs of men’s football so usually not the best of managers. Mourinho is not going to coach the women’s national team of Ireland, so it is normal and logical that all those tournaments have been won by female coaches because they are the best.”
Pauw took on the role as manager at a time when the FAI were in crisis. Had she known the situation was so bad, would she have taken the job?
“Absolutely. I knew exactly what I was heading in to and that is why I decided to take the job.
“The FAI have been absolutely transparent since before I took up the job, and in fact, that is the reason why I took the job. I felt I wanted to help.
“I felt the FAI were transparent and honest and I thought here would be a good place to be. Everybody is trying their upmost not to let the FAI’s current financial situation affect the women’s national team. Of course with little things financially it is affecting us, as in we have to do some things cheaper, but, not in the amount of days or activities we need to do.”
Pauw has one focus right now and that is to qualify for the European championships in 2021. She is relying on three Cork girls to play a huge role in the team qualifying.
“My aim is to qualify for the European championships in 2021. It is possible as we have a really good squad. We play Greece on March 5 and our hope is that we can get the stadium full.
“Too many people buy tickets but didn’t attend the games so were hoping this can change. We would much prefer bums on seats rather than ticket sales. Support is much more important to us.
“With regards to the Cork girls. Denise [O’Sullivan] is one of the best players in the world. What she has is great hunger. She leads the hunt for the ball when we are defending. You don’t see that often in the men or women’s game.
“She can create but we hope she’s not overloading herself and hopefully she’ll be fit because as long as she is, she’s a massive player for us.
“Megan [Connolly] is back to her full self, doing really well at the moment. She was injured for a long time so it’s great to have her back. I haven’t seen her play so well so I am very happy with her development.
“Clare [Shine] is a remarkable person who has been through a lot. She is also so brave to share her story and I hope she will develop more as a player because the potential is there and she deserves the support from everybody.
“I hope all clubs get behind us and support us in our bid to qualify for our first major senior tournament.”