Saturday 21 September 2019

Pauw facing big challenges with domestic game as she takes reins

Newly appointed Republic of Ireland women's national team manager Vera Pauw. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Newly appointed Republic of Ireland women's national team manager Vera Pauw. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

The FAI's decision to go Dutch, yet again, in the hunt for an important role within the association has been labelled both as a game-changer and a kick in the teeth for domestic coaches.

That's a real welcome to the politics of Irish football for Vera Pauw, a much-travelled coach from the Netherlands, who is today starting her first full day as manager of the Irish national team, on a contract which keeps her involved as long as there is Irish interest in the Euro 2021 finals.

Pauw has vast experience in the game, having managed the women's national teams in Scotland, Holland and South Africa, along with other roles in the USA, Russia and Thailand.

But there have been grumbles within the game here that home-grown and qualified coaches have, again, been overlooked for an import to replace Colin Bell.

"A serious undermining of our home-grown coaches" was one online comment from a former League of Ireland manager and others have wondered about the sway that the Dutch now have over Irish football, with Ruud Dokter also in his key post as high performance director.

Godfathers

But Pauw is proud of her links to one of the godfathers of the game, Rinus Michels, as her husband, Bert van Lingen, worked closely with him.

"Michels was the third most important man in my life after my husband and my father. He was the coach of the century," she says.

"Football-wise he and my husband developed back then the new way of teaching which has now been adapted throughout the world, game-related coaching."

Pauw feels the transformation of the Dutch women's team has set a precedent for Ireland. The Netherlands are ranked third in the world, Ireland way down in 33rd place, but she claims that when the Netherlands began their revival a decade ago, their side was in a worse position than the Republic are now.

Qualification for the Euro 2021 finals is a clear target. But bringing the domestic game up to a level where players can develop here, instead of going to the UK, Europe or the USA to make a living, is one of the main problems Pauw faces.

"To change that you need money. You need to pay salaries or at least pay loss of earnings," she says.

"That is a crucial discussion in itself but one we're already having. We're trying to be creative.

"If the gap between the home-based players and the professionals abroad is getting too big, you do not have a future in the game."

Irish Independent

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