Sunday 16 July 2023, 00:30

Women’s national teams benefit from stalwart Sermanni’s support

  • Tom Sermanni is about to embark on his sixth FIFA Women’s World Cup™

  • The Australia-based coach will assist fellow FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme mentor Bev Priestmann and Canada

  • Over the last 12 months he has also been mentoring Venezuela’s head coach, former Italian international, Pamela Conti

Few boast a longer and more intertwined history with the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ than Tom Sermanni. The popular former Australia, USA and New Zealand coach has been involved in all bar three tournaments over the 32-year history of the premier women’s football jamboree. It is a mutual affection that will continue at Australia & New Zealand 2023 with Sermanni set to serve as an assistant coach for Canada, just as he did in 2015. The Canucks third match next month will be against the Matildas – the team Sermanni coached for ten years over two spells and three World Cups. That match, and the fact the tournament is being co-hosted by both Australia and New Zealand, brings together a remarkable moment of circularity for the Scottish-born, Australian resident.

While Sermanni may be Women’s World Cup royalty of sorts, he is one to both eschew the limelight and be generous by nature. Along with other well-known veteran coaching names from the Women’s World Cup’s rich history - including Norway’s Even Pellerud, Germany’s Tina Theune and Brazil’s iconic Swedish coach Pia Sundhage - Sermanni happily lent his expertise to the next generation of coaches at the recent FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme. The most recent edition in Lisbon saw 39 mentors and mentees from around the world gather with the former passing on their knowledge and experience to a new generation of female coaches. Sermanni was paired with Venezuela national team coach Pamela Conti, the highly experienced former Italian international who embarked on her first major coaching role with the South Americans in 2019.

“The benefit is being able to offer advice and experience about dealing with various situations,” said Sermanni. Conti’s La Vinotinto were only a penalty shoot-out away from reaching the Play-Off Tournament for Australia & New Zealand 2023. “The big benefit and important thing is the relationship and being there as a sounding board. Obviously, there are different levels of each relationship with the mentees because everyone has a different level of experience. “Pamela is very thorough, very professional, and very focussed and dedicated to seeing the job through [with Venezuela].

Mentor Tom Sermanni and Mentee Pamela Conti speak at the FIFA Coach Mentorship programme workshop in Lisbon

“For some relationships, and depending on the particular situation of the mentee, there might be discussion about pre-season approach or playing style and technical side. For others such as mine, it is more the management side and the things that might happen in national team structure, so all the relationships are a little unique." Sermanni, who coached Australia at the 1995 Women’s World Cup in Norway, said the game off-field is almost unrecognisable compared to those earlier iterations of the tournament. “I distinctly remember we had 14 pieces of team gear [in Norway], which is less than one tenth of what you have now,” he said.

“We have something like 24 staff for this World Cup but thinking back to 1995 we had six staff with the assistant doubling as goalkeeper coach, and an injured player acting as Head of Delegation. “The game has certainly moved on, but that also applies for men’s football in terms of off-field management.” Sermanni is looking forward to the tournament which kicks-off on the Australian side of the Tasman Sea at Stadium Australia where a full house is expected. “We would have been ecstatic with a five-figure crowd when I was coach only ten years ago. 80,000 for any sporting event is phenomenal.

Matildas squad photo in 2011 including Tom Sermanni

“No other sport can pull together 32 teams in a World Cup in women’s sport, or even men’s sport. The fact that a highly competitive tournament - one that features 32 teams - says so much about where our game is at now. “For me six to eight teams can genuinely win it and that is rare or even unheard of in any World Cup in any sport. Then there are other teams that on their day can beat any of those six or eight teams. “This is truly a global event now. This tournament is an outstanding testament to women’s football.”