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Monday, December 4, 2023

Coaches in men’s football: You continue to be a man

The men at Union Berlin will be trained by a woman until further notice. Is this perhaps the beginning of a new era?

Coach Eta with a ball in her hand sitting in front of a board with the inscription 1. FC Union

Marie-Louise Eta, provisional assistant coach of Union Berlin in the men’s Bundesliga Photo: Sabine Gudath/imago

Football Germany is electrified. The very idea that a woman could be standing on the sidelines of a men’s Bundesliga game on November 25th in a supporting role for a head coach makes many people feel like they are witnessing a very special revolution.

If 1. FC Union Berlin has not found a replacement for the actually irreplaceable Urs Fischer by the next game, Marco Grote will be the interim U19 coach with his assistant coach Marie-Louise Eta prepare the team for FC Augsburg.

There has never been a woman in this position in the men’s Bundesliga. The excitement about this, you could say, is normal. After all, this is the case with many things that happen for the first time.

In this case, the excitement comes primarily from the huge discrepancy between what people might want to try out at Union Berlin and reality. Union President Dirk Zingler’s attempt to give the decision the appearance of complete normality was honorable but absurd. The decision was simply based on competence, he explained. As if this criterion had ever played any role in men’s teams when it came to female coaches. Women were out of the question because they were women.

Football is already an almost impregnable fortress of the remaining patriarchy. The position of the trainer plays a key role. A man telling 20 women how much and where to run is an everyday occurrence in women’s football. Eleven of the twelve first division teams are coached by men.

On the other hand, a woman who goes to court with 20 men because of their perhaps deficient physical performance will probably remain taboo in the professional world for a long time. The structures in German football are designed accordingly.

Participants, but no women

Even at the youth level, there is little demand for women on the sidelines. With the highest coaching license that the DFB has to award, only one or two women have been included in the courses in recent years. The DFB currently lists on its Homepage completely gender-conscious “16 participants” who are currently being trained. However, there is not a woman among them. This is built into the structures.

The incentives are, of course, low when the doors in the men’s area are almost boarded up and in the women’s area it has recently been observed that trainers are switching from the men’s area to the women’s area because a new market seems to be opening there that also requires a certain income and attention promises.

Conversely, the path is much more difficult. You have to go all the way down to the Regionalliga to come across two short episodes. Inca Grings and Imke Wübbenhorst each trained a men’s regional league team, who lived in a state of media emergency for a few months.

With the promotion of Marie-Louise Eta, 1. FC Union Berlin has also attracted attention. More attention is needed to the structural problems that are currently making it difficult for trainers to find a place in the women’s field. Even 72-year-old Horst Hrubesch had it easier. Before he was appointed national coach, there were no candidates who were being discussed.

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