Helena Costa Appointed First Female Manager in France by Ligue 2 Club Clermont

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

Footballs on empty pitch (Image Source via AP Images)
Image Source/Dean Northcott/Associated Press

Helena Costa has made football history after becoming the first female manager to be appointed in the top two divisions of any professional European league.

Costa, who leaves her post as the head coach of Iran's women's team, is the new boss of Ligue 2 outfit Clermont Foot, as reported by the club and via Yahoo! Eurosport:

The 36-year-old is an experienced professional who has spent successful stints with both male and female teams. She led multiple Benfica boys sides to various youth titles across three years, won Portugal's Regional Lisbon League Serie B with men's side Cheleirense and thrust Qatar's female international squad to their first ever victory during her time in Asia.

Costa also spent time scouting for Celtic between 2008 and 2011. The Portuguese manager will be joined by Olivier Chavanon—the former Clermont and Bourges player—who has previously acted as sporting director and manager for the club, per Transfermarkt.com.

As reported by Reda Maher of Yahoo! Eurosport, Costa's academic background and achievements make her one of the sport's top prospects:

Costa is one of the best-qualified coaches in the game, boasting a Masters degree in sports science, UEFA A license and authorship of several articles and seminars on coaching and sports. She has also commenced a PhD in Sports and PE in Lisbon.

The new coach's previous work certainly lends itself to what Clermont are trying to achieve. Currently 14th in Ligue 2, the club wishes to "begin a new era," according to the official statement (h/t The Guardian). This will centre around an improving manager who can bring new ideas to a minimal squad of 17 professional playing staff, who will be joined by members of the youth setup.

Clermont's last taste of success came in 2007 when the Auvergne side won France's third division. This repeated the triumph of 2002, but with their second division status now stabilised, the club is ready to continue progressing under Costa's tutelage.

Notable former Clermont players include Rennes' Romain Alessandrini and Aston Villa's Yacouba Sylla. Both players continue to develop away from the club that has some decent talent on its books. French duo Idriss Saadi (22) and Yanis Salibur (23) are the team's top scorers this season, both of whom have scored seven, per WhoScored.com.

Carolina Morace is the only other woman to have coached a professional team in Europe, but as noted by Maher's report, her spell with Italian Serie C side Viterbese lasted just two matches after the media spotlight proved too intense. Widespread reaction on Twitter, noted by 101 Great Goals, suggests Costa can expect the same level of focus:

Costa certainly has the potential to be a major success. She has proven herself across multiple levels of the game and possesses the strength of character to excel in a predominately male sport. Her appointment as Clermont manager should be seen as a watershed moment for a European football community that currently lacks significant female influence.

She will ultimately be judged on footballing success. While Costa has worked extremely hard to reach her new position, the hard work is just beginning.

The Clermont job is sure to throw up a plethora of challenges, but Costa's track record indicates she is more than ready for the task.