Friday 15 March 2019, 02:14

Spielmann and Serneels: Hand in hand and island to island

  • Spielmann and Serneels paired up as part of FIFA’s Coach Mentorship Programme

  • The Tahiti coach joined Belgium’s coaching staff for the recent Cyprus Cup

  • Pair set to meet again in Tahiti in June

In the men’s game, Belgium and France fought mano a mano at the top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in late 2018. But in the women’s game, the two countries have been working hand in hand since the start of the year.

In taking part in the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme, Tahiti’s France-born women’s national team coach Stephanie Spielmann and her Belgium counterpart Ives Serneels have been working in tandem. Just as Thierry Henry did in forming part of Roberto Martinez’s coaching staff at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, Spielmann teamed up with the Red Flames at the Cyprus Cup on 25 February-7 March.

“Ives made me an integral part of the coaching team,” the Frenchwoman told “The day would begin with everyone having breakfast together, and then we’d move on to tactical and mental preparation for training sessions and matches, depending on the timeframes. It was a very rewarding experience.”

Spielmann has seen for herself the impressive progress the Belgians are making. The team placed third in a competition featuring no fewer than five sides that will be taking part at the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™ (Italy, Nigeria, Mexico, Thailand and South Africa).

“I hope Stephanie got a good grasp of the way we work,” said Serneels. “Five years ago we weren’t as good as we are now. The goal is for her to take things away with her and use them in her job with Tahiti. They still have a lot of work to do, I guess, but that was the situation we were in five years ago.”

Currently lying 97th in the FIFA Ranking, the islanders do have room for improvement, though they can take inspiration from the Belgians, who have climbed nearly ten places over the last four years to reach an all-time high of 21st.

“A few years ago Belgium were not what they are today and they’re an excellent example of the progress that can be made,” said Spielmann, who is equally admiring of the qualities of her “mentor”: “I have a lot of respect for Ives. He’s highly respected by his players and his staff, and he’s found the right balance. And I also really appreciate the feeling he has for women’s football.”

While Spielmann benefitted from Serneels’ experience over the few days they spent together, the feeling was mutual, as the Belgian explained: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to go back to grassroots football. There are no shortcuts in our sport. As a coach, you’re always looking to introduce new tactical or technical concepts to your team but you simply can’t do that if you don’t have the basics. Working with Stephanie reminded me of that. And that’s essential for a coach.”

Their Cyprus liaison over, the pair will meet up again in Tahiti in June. “I’m going to show him the ins and outs of Tahitian and Oceania football,” said Spielmann. “Between now and June, I’ll be introducing the new things that I saw at the tournament.” Wrapping up, Serneels said: “I can’t wait to see the impact that our collaboration will have on the Tahiti team. I’ll be following their progress closely.”