‘I hope more women start to coach’, says Lionesses chief Sarina Wiegman as she reflects on her managerial journey

SARINA WIEGMAN never dreamed the Women’s World Cup would become a showpiece event after playing in an experimental version.

The experience set the England boss, 53, on a journey that now sees her aiming to lead the Lionesses to glory in this summer’s contest.

GettySarina Wiegman’s England will be begin their campaign to win the World Cup when they take on Haiti in Brisbane, Australia on July 22[/caption]

GettyThe two-time Euros-winning boss has been reflecting on her journey in the game including playing in a Women’s World Cup test tournament in China in her teens[/caption]

In 1988, an 18-year-old Wiegman was part of a Dutch women’s side that battled in a 12-team test event in China during a heatwave.

That competition was a far cry from the 32-team spectacle kicking off in Australia and New Zealand on July 20.

Back then some national players having to cover the cost of their flights and equipment.

Wiegman, whose Lionesses will play Haiti in their group stage opener next Saturday, said: “That experience taught me ‘this is what I want’.  

“As the Netherlands we weren’t great (at the time), but when we got into the tournament we actually did really well.

“I think at that point we could have beaten Brazil, and I thought ‘this is what I want to do’, but there weren’t very many opportunities then.

“I just really loved that tournament, I will never forget it.”

Born in the Hague,  Wiegman, who is a mother-of-two, recalls growing up in an era where there was “nothing for women in football”.

Despite this challenge her parents supported her enthusiasm for the game.

Fourteen years before Wiegman’s birth Dutch Ladies Soccer sides were banned from playing on fields belonging to men’s clubs linked with the Netherlands FA.   

She adds: “When I was six years old or five years old, girls were not allowed to play football, but I just liked it.

“My parents never made any (fuss), they just said ‘if you want to play football, you’re going to play’.

“I knew in elementary school that I wanted to be a PE teacher. I just wanted to be involved in sports.

“I didn’t even know I could be a coach because there was nothing for women in football.

“I couldn’t see it so I didn’t think it was an opportunity.”

It was at Fifa’s invitational contest in 1988 where Wiegman met Anson Dorrance, the trailblazing coach of North Carolina Tar Heels.

The US college side are famous for nurturing elite players including England trio Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy.

GettyWiegman, who led the Netherlands to the Women’s World Cup final four years ago, wants to see more women coaching at football’s highest levels[/caption]

Wiegman spent 1989 playing for Tar Heels under Dorrance who went on to guide the USA to their first Women’s World Cup win in 1991.

She said: “In the Netherlands (at the time), we (female players) were not accepted.

“I’d heard in the US that it was a sport that was accepted, and that the level was high.

“I thought (to myself) ‘that’s where I want to be’.

Following a 16-year playing career including two top-tier titles wins with Dutch side Ter Leede, Wiegman entered management in 2006.

From doing my job I hope more women come into football. I want more females to start to coach.

Sarina Wiegman

She made history guiding the Netherlands to Euros glory in 2017 before doing the same with England last summer.

A Women’s World Cup win has so far eluded Wiegman.

She and the Netherlands endured heartbreak in four years ago when they were beaten in the final in France by the USA.

That result has made her even more determined to win this year’s contest with her Lionesses.

She adds: “I always want to win, we want to be the best.

“We have so many talented players in the team and my job is to get clarity on how we play together.”

Wiegman’s World Cup quest comes in the month Hannah Dingley made history by becoming the first female manager of an English Football League club.

And she hopes to see more women becoming coaches.

The England gaffer adds: “From doing my job I hope more women come into football.

“I hope more females start to coach or take the next step and go to the highest level.

“If I can push (this) a little more doing extra things, then I will.”

The next few weeks will see the Lionesses face their biggest challenge to date under their boss just a year on from lifting a Euros trophy at Wembley.

While the Lionesses’ success on the field made Wiegman proud, she takes even more pride in her players campaign.

PAWiegman says the social consciousness of England’s players makes her proud[/caption]

In particular England lobbying politicians to introduce equal access to football for girls in schools.

The head coach said: “I’m incredibly proud of their social consciousness. 

“They really want to have a positive impact on society and a positive change.

“Now what we try to do is keep performing, keep being visible and keep using our voices to also sustain and make positive changes.”

While there has been much change in the Women’s World Cup since the Fifa test tournament three decades ago, Wiegman acknowledges there is still much to do. 

Squad pay, poor training facilities and lack of financial support for teams were among the concerns flagged by scores of players competing in this summer’s contest. 

PAThe Lionesses drew 0-0 with Canada in a practice game eight days before their World Cup Group D opening match against Haiti on July 22[/caption]

They includes WSL stars competing for sides such as Jamaica and Canada. 

Of the World Cup’s evolution she added: “Twenty years ago I would not have expected to be in this situation or women’s football would be where  it is now.

“I’m grateful things have changed, but there’s still a long way to go.”

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