Marie-Louise Eta is set to become the first female assistant coach in the 60-year history of the Bundesliga when Union Berlin plays on Saturday.
Union appointed Eta as assistant to interim coach Marco Grote following its dismissal of the popular Urs Fischer during the international break.
Fischer led the team to unprecedented success over 5½ years, but Union is last this season after nine consecutive defeats.
Grote and Eta were promoted from Union’s Under-19 team, which was third in both its domestic league and UEFA Youth League competitions before the senior team came calling. Their first game in charge is the home match against Augsburg, which is unbeaten in four games.
Despite the fact Eta will be the first female member of a coaching staff in the league since the Bundesliga was formed in 1963, Union, as a club, only wants to focus on its precarious sporting situation.
“It’s not a conscious decision for a woman. I think that almost discredits this decision,” Union president Dirk Zingler said of Eta’s appointment. “For me she is a fully qualified football coach and that’s exactly how I see her, whether it’s a woman or a man. This decision was not a question for a woman, but a decision for a football
coach who works with the team.” Grote and Eta led their first training session on Monday, though many players were still absent on international duty. Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci was unable to take part because of a thigh injury sustained in the 4-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen before the international break.
The 32-year-old Eta, a former defensive midfielder, ended her playing career at the age of 26, when she turned to coaching with Werder Bremen’s Under-15 boys’ team.
Eta had played for Turbine Potsdam – winning the Champions League in 2010 and three Bundesliga titles with the team – before spells at Hamburger SV, Cloppenburg and Bremen. She also played for Germany’s youth teams, and later worked as a coaching assistant for Germany’s youth teams.
Eta received her pro coaching license at the German football federation academy in Frankfurt this year and joined Union from Bremen in the summer.
She looks set to become the first female assistant coach in the top divisions of Europe’s “big five” leagues.
In France, Corinne Diacre was hired as coach of second-division club Clermont in 2014. She replaced Helena Costa, who was initially hired but then quit before the season claiming she was sidelined by male colleagues and used as a “face” to attract publicity.
Costa had been the first female coach to be appointed in the top two divisions of any professional European league. Instead, Diacre became the first woman to coach a men’s professional football team in a competitive match in France.
Italian third-division side Viterbese hired Carolina Morace in 1999, making her the first woman to coach a professional men’s football team, but she resigned after two matches.
Fourth-division team Forest Green Rovers became the first professional club in England to appoint a female head coach in July this year when it appointed Hannah Dingley on an interim basis. Dingley was already in charge of its academy – also a first for English football. But her coaching tenure was brief – she was quickly replaced by a male colleague.
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