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Thursday, December 7, 2023

First assistant coach in the Bundesliga: temporary pioneer

Union Berlin is the first Bundesliga club where a woman coaches the male professionals. Her determination helped Marie-Louise Eta.

Marie-Louise Eta in front of the main stand in a Union Berlin tracksuit

Committed to Union’s youth: interim co-coach Marie-Louise Eta Photo: Matthias Koch/imago

In the Corona spring of 2020, Marie-Louise Eta already achieved a wide media reach. A number of sports clubs moved their offerings to the Internet and on Werder Bremen’s YouTube channel, the then U14 coach, together with the professional footballer Claudio Pizarro, showed children and adults how football works in the living room. With her latest coup, the 32-year-old is now making history: since Wednesday she has been the first female assistant coach in the Bundesliga. This was made possible by the Union Berlin separates from head coach Urs Fischer after crashing to last place in the table. U19 coach Marco Grote, who was promoted to interim coach, is now taking his assistant coach Eta with him to the professionals.

She could imagine that in the near future a woman would be given the job of assistant coach or analyst at a professional club, Eta said in a podcast a few months ago Kickers. The fact that she is now this woman herself comes as no surprise to insiders. She has been working towards this goal for years.

The Dresden native ended her playing career, in which she became champion three times with Turbine Potsdam and won the Champions League in 2010, at the age of 26. At Werder Bremen, where she ended up in 2014 after stints at HSV and BV Cloppenburg, she also coached the U15 girls.

“In 2018 I was in the right place at the right time and was able to take over the Werder U13 boys, and a year later the U14,” she says. Her colleague in Werder’s youth center at the time was Marco Grote, with whom Werder’s U17s became German runners-up in 2017. In parallel to her job with the Werder youth team, she worked for various female youth teams at the DFB, where she moved to as assistant coach of the U17 juniors in 2022 – before Marco Grote brought her to Union Berlin.

Learning and communicating

“Loui lives football and not only has a great deal of professional expertise, but also, and this has already impressed me, a high level of self-confidence and clarity in her actions and her respective roles,” says Birte Brüggemann, head of the Werder women’s department at Etas The taz promoted female coaching careers early on. “She is very open to feedback and always wants to develop further.”

This desire to learn, coupled with communication skills and great passion for this job, characterizes Eta’s way of working. “You can take something with you everywhere,” is one of her sentences. It is still unclear whether she will be able to gain the experience of being the first woman to accompany a Bundesliga game as an assistant coach from the bench after the next Union home game against FC Augsburg. In any case, the club wants to take its time looking for a new head coach, who will usually also bring his own assistant coach with him.

When it comes to choosing the interim solution, Birte Brüggemann thinks it’s great that “Union Berlin decided based on professional expertise and didn’t make gender a potentially questionable issue with Loui. There is a head coach after two short regional league episodes Inka Grings and Imke Wübbenhorst not in the first five highest men’s leagues. Eta could soon change that too. “Of course, one of my goals is to get as high as possible in the coaching field,” she once said on Radio Bremen. She has had the necessary Pro license for a few months now.

She was the only woman to be accepted into the course. “It was a long-time wish, a dream,” she says. “There is nothing nicer than spending 24 hours focusing on football.” Eta did her internships at Union Berlin, RB Leipzig and Werder Bremen, among others. During the Women’s European Championship in England she visited Liverpool FC. “Were we just sitting at the table with Jürgen Klopp?” she asked herself at the time, still in disbelief. Today she is coaching a Champions League participant. Klopp’s Liverpool only plays Europa League.

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