Helena Costa explains her reasons for leaving Clermont
Helena Costa walked out of her job as France’s first woman to lead a professional men’s football team after male colleagues sidelined her and left her convinced she was just a “face” to attract publicity, she claimed on Wednesday.
In a statement in her native Portuguese, Costa said she arrived at the second division club Clermont Foot 63 to discover new players had been signed and “friendly” matches arranged without her knowledge. Costa claimed that when she questioned this in emails to Olivier Chavanon, adviser to the club president Claude Michy, he at first failed to reply, then sent an email saying: “You’re tiring me with your messages.”
Costa said: “There were a series of events that no trainer would tolerate and a total lack of respect as well as amateurism.”
She said Chavanon – who she describes as the sporting director of the club in Clermont-Ferrand, central France, had “signed players without my knowledge and for a team I was supposed to lead and be responsible for, when there were other financially viable possibilities”. She also claimed that despite repeated requests for information, she only found out about the signings from the club’s secretary after the deals had been done.
“When I tried to get in touch with Olivier Chavanon, he declined to reply to emails and messages. In the five days before I was due to begin the job, he didn’t come back to me. By the time he did, I already had the information from the club secretary. I disagreed with the players being signed, but the only answer I got from him was that he was ‘fed up with my emails’.”
Costa, who was reported to be furious about how she was treated, said that even before she started the job she was being pushed aside, and that it was clear to her that she was expected to be the “face of the club” without any of the power or control.
The debacle is a reversal of what had appeared to be a huge step for women in football. Costa’s appointment brought the second division French team international headlines and many hoped it would mark a watershed in women’s involvement in the game.
After she walked out on Monday, Michy said of her sudden 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.”
Costa, who previously ran the Iranian women’s national team, was nicknamed “Mourinho in a skirt”, after a period of work experience at Chelsea when her compatriot José Mourinho was manager. She said she was disappointed that Michy did not back her up. “I called the president (Michy) who said he would take a decision and come back to me. He didn’t,” she added.
Costa announced she was resigning and decided to return to Portugal on Monday. She was due to oversee the team’s first training session on Tuesday, but walked out after a terse press conference.
“Until now I’ve totally honoured by commitments, but after a discussion with the president, I’ve decided to leave. It’s my own decision,” she said on Tuesday morning.
Her statement in Portuguese concludes: “Nothing was sudden and unexpected about it. It was more of a series of episodes along the way.”
Rejecting Michy’s claims that she had suffered a crisis of confidence, she added: “I still feel the same confidence in my work, the same confidence I had when I agreed to take the job of manager of Clermont Foot. I feel ready!”
From the Guardian