Someone please inform German soccer that coaching women is not a 'punishment'

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Shalise Manza Young
·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·3 min read
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A male soccer coach, after launching a tirade against three match officials (two of them women), is suspended by his team's regional governing body and — gasp! — forced to coach a women's or girls' team for a whole six sessions.

The story reads like a cringeworthy television pitch. (Like this one.)

But that's what's happening in Germany, where Heiko Vogel, coach of Borussia Monchengladbach's Under-23 men's side, has been suspended for two matches, fined about $1,800, and commanded to train a women's team as punishment for "unsporting behavior" toward officials during a game in January.

It is possible, we suppose, that the intention is to show Vogel that women and girls deserve his respect.

But really, it's showing the women he deigns to spend those six practices with (and female footballers all over) that coaching them is punishment for behaving badly, and disrespect of their abilities lingers in too many corners.

As Nicole Selmer, a journalist with Frauen im Fussball (Women in Football) told ESPN, "This punishment for the Gladbach coach puts coaching a women's team on a level with social work."

And if Vogel doesn't approach those sessions honestly, it will be a waste of time for the women he's supposed to be coaching, punishment that they didn't deserve.

Borussia Monchengladbach U-23 coach Heiko Vogel is being
Borussia Monchengladbach U-23 coach Heiko Vogel is being "punished" by being forced to coach the club's women's team. In 2021. Seriously. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

It's somehow a little more surprising that this kind of sexist thinking persists in Germany, where Angela Merkel has been chancellor for over 15 years and a global leader for the last several years.

That aside, West German Football Association, the subdivision of Germany's broader FA which handed down Vogel's penalty, isn't alone in belittling women who play the game. Former Manchester United player Phil Neville had several lower-level coaching gigs before being named as manager for England's women's national team in 2018 despite his glaring lack of credentials. Neville saw what would be considered a prestigious job by many as a mere "stepping stone" to opportunities to coach men's club teams.

But it didn't exactly pay off. Neville was named coach of MLS' Inter Miami, which isn't quite the same as Inter Milan, in January. And it likely helps that one of Neville's former teammates and friends, David Beckham, is a co-owner and president of Miami.

It happens here too, the continued denigration of women's sports, usually by the same people who will use their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers for performative outrage. (You know, the "as a father of daughters ..." guy.) Those people are clueless to the fact that those same women can see their tweets or Facebook posts or hear their "jokes" putting down women in general or women's sports in particular.

Oddly enough, as organized women's sports began to gain traction in this country, men jumped at the chance to coach. For years, stories have been written about the sharp decline of women coaching women's teams. In 2019, the University of Minnesota published a report that said only 42 percent of female student athletes at NCAA Division I schools were coached by women, a number that was above 90 percent in 1974.

Some of those men likely feel as Neville does, that coaching a women's team is just a stepping stone to some "better" job coaching men. Many have realized that girls and women love the challenge, love the process, love being competitive, things that have no gender.

Coaching women isn't a punishment, and it's a shame that the West German FA is sending the message that it is to a manager who behaved unprofessionally.

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