Thursday 21 February 2019, 10:01

Diacre and Chan, a pair of pioneers

  • Corinne Diacre and Yuen Ting Chan paired as part of FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme

  • Initiative aimed at developing women’s football

  • Partnerships place young female coaches with their more experienced counterparts

While it is routine to find men coaching women’s teams, the opposite is a lot less common. However, that is precisely the common denominator shared by Corinne Diacre and Yuen Ting Chan, one of the pairings of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme launched in October 2018.

Chan hit the headlines in 2015 after taking charge of Hong Kong’s Eastern Sports Club and then leading them to the Premier League title that season. In so doing she became the first woman to coach a men’s top-flight team. Current Bleues coach Diacre had blazed a trail a year earlier by taking up the reins at the men’s team of French Ligue 2 side Clermont Foot, where she was in charge from 2014 to 2017.

Last December, the latter found time between two national team get-togethers to pay Yuen Ting Chan a visit in Hong Kong. “It’s a complete change of scenery,” the France coach said with a smile from the large sampan in which she was given a boat tour of the city. “I know it’ll do my head a world of good,” she added in reference to the particularly intense build-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ that she is experiencing.

Corinne Diacre and Yuen Ting Chan, part of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme

The Frenchwoman was in more familiar territory shortly after when she assisted Chan in taking team training, something she knows all about. “She has a very strong personality, but it works well because there’s a lot of respect,” said Diacre, who clearly admires the work of her Hong Kong counterpart. “Because my own coaching journey is quite similar to hers, she was very happy with the pairing. I hope I can contribute something to her but, from my standpoint, I know she’s already contributed a great deal. She has tactical vision that’s very interesting.”

“It's amazing she was able to come here,” said Chan for her part. “She shared the observations she’d made during training and I got a lot from that. We first met at FIFA’s Headquarters, where she told me about her experience of coaching a men’s team, although I’d already read quite a lot about her in the press. I’m the first woman to hold such a position in Hong Kong, and she was the first in France.”

“Coaching men and women is the same thing; the only difference is the athletic aspect,” Diacre told the local media, who remain intrigued by the peculiarity shared by these two pioneers. Thanks to the work and success of these two strategists brought together by the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme, it is hoped that the age-old question of the difference between men and women in football will soon be a thing of the past.

Corinne Diacre and Yuen Ting Chan, part of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme