As I’ve been reading through multiple articles surrounding the build-up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup for the Swedish team, one name has consistently come up: Pia Sundhage. The former coach of the US women’s national team, and now the current coach of the Swedish women’s national team, is revered by both players and fans. Her quirky and open personality has often lead her to make some of the most pertinent and truthful comments in response to many critics of the women’s game.
What I found to be most interesting is that in the past 2 years there has been much talk about her being considered for the position of coach for either the men’s national team (for Sweden), or for one of the top teams in the Swedish league, Kalmar. What a remarkable moment that would be! Tor Krusell comments on this:
“Measured in terms of competence and leadership, as well as in terms of achievements, Pia is thus unique among Swedish football coaches. It’s very difficult to find someone who has a better profile to lead a national team,” – Tor Krusell
“This question may appear to be one related to gender equality, but it is just as much about ambition and achievement. Swedish men’s football team has a greater chance of success by having Pia Sundhage as its head coach. Of course, it remains to be seen if Pia would choose the men’s team ahead of the women’s and isn’t something that should be taken for granted. But she should at least be asked the question,” Krusell said (1).
These comments bring up the highly important discussion about the role of female figures in the sporting world. What would be the difference between there being a male or a female head coach for a top men’s teams? Physical build is a non-issue in this case. Thinking back to Cindy Parlow’s visit to class, she mentioned how for her personally it didn’t matter whether her coach was male or female, but rather it was about respect and a high-level of play. If the coach is a top coach who can motivate the players, get results, and the players respect the coach, and the coach respects the players, then it shouldn’t matter whether the coach is male or female. When asked by a reporter if she would be able to coach men, Sundhage responds in a similar (if not even more wonderfully sassy) way:
“Well, then, let me ask you a question: does it work with a female chancellor in Germany? Angela Merkel [is running an entire] f***ing country. Clearly it works.” – Pia Sundhage (2)
There are of course MANY obstacles still in the way of this becoming a reality in the near future, but Sundhage certainly has a healthy outlook on the whole debate. If men can coach women’s teams, why not the other way around? Ivar Andersen, an editor of Swedish Dala-Demokraten, speaks about one of the issues that still stands in the way of this becoming a reality: the conservative outlook of the National Football Association, which is still very resistant to change (shocker?) (3). What will it take for this mentality to be changed? Or do we have to wait for an entire generation to move on before advances can be made?
1. Pia Sundhage should coach Sweden’s men’s football team. http://www.thelocal.se/20131120/pia-sundhage-should-be-swedens-next-mens-national-side-coach
2. Pia Sundhage as coach of a men’s team. http://www.businessinsider.com/pia-sundhage-answer-coach-men-2014-3
3. Swedish Football Maestro. http://www.thelocal.se/20130711/49006
4. Pia Sundhage http://www.foxsports.com/soccer/story/pia-sundhage-kindly-offers-no-advice-for-her-old-team-united-states-womens-national-team-041115