Football: Arsene Wenger says give woman coach a chance

PARIS (AFP) - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Thursday led support for Helena Costa who is set to become the top women's coach in the leading European football leagues.

Costa, 36, was named on Wednesday as the next manager of French second division side Clermont Ferrand. She will become the only woman to coach a men's team in any of the five leading football nations in Western Europe.

"I like it," Wenger said at an Arsenal press conference in London. "There are men managing women, why should women not manage men?

"The only thing I was always a big defender of in my life is to defend competence. If you are competent, you get the job anywhere.

"Having looked at her experience, the only restrictions you could have is she has very little experience as a coach but maybe she has top qualities and will show that.

"It's good that girls have a chance to manage men, so why not?"

Costa's appointment has been widely welcomed from top politicians in France to Sepp Blatter, head of football's world governing body, FIFA.

UEFA president Michel Platini called for football to become more "open" and said "I hope that this news inspires more women to pursue their dreams."

He said women should get more top level opportunities in football, including as leaders and coaches.

In France, the male-dominated football world accepted that Costa must be given a chance.

"A little femininity in a world of brutes, it's not bad," said Jocelyn Gourvennec, coach of French first division side Guingamp.

"It is going in the direction of parity, like in politics and business. It is a beautiful gamble and a good signal to the (football) world," he added.

Other top sports figures also gave support to Costa. "How fantastic! Fantastique!!!" said women's tennis legend Martina Navratilova on Twitter.

Costa has said she has no illusions about the job she is taking on, saying that Clermont had made a "courageous" decision in appointing her.

The former coach to the Iran and Qatar national women's teams told RTL radio she would have no hesitation entering the men's dressing rooms.

"I am a coach who is very close to her players, and for me it is the same thing, whether they are women or men in the dressing room," she commented.