Emma Hayes is the first woman to coach a UEFA Women’s Champions League team

Written by Staff Writer at CNN, Daniel Nasaw, Special to CNN

A woman is the first European coach to take charge of a women’s international soccer team.

Emma Hayes joins Sweden women’s team after her last match with Arsenal.

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In these 2017-18 season, there are nine all-women’s clubs in the EPL

Daniel Nasaw: What are your top three sports and where do you get your inspiration?

Emma Hayes: I’ve been lucky to be a lifelong fan of women’s football, and football in general. My wife is a coach at a women’s team in the Lower Lea Valley in London and the great thing about football is that it brings people together. The fact that the women’s game is particularly popular and is bringing families together – I grew up in that area – is really amazing. It’s a unique thing, how it grows these communities.

Before I got into coaching, I was a researcher at Amnesty International (in the U.K.). So being able to bring a human rights perspective to a sport and being on the front line is really energizing.

When I was preparing for my [Sweden Women’s team debut] I said to my girls: “What is it that you love about football?” and they all came up with the same answer, which was playing against the best players in the world. When we talk about equality in the men’s game, we often overstep and push the wrong buttons with “the best.” But when we start talking about the best in women’s football we can see that there’s an enormous amount of competition to get your hands on the ball and to put in the hard yards to be the best that you can be.

Why do you believe women’s soccer is growing in popularity compared to the men’s game?

The club game has become more competitive. In France, this time last year, we had four teams [in the French first division] who were a couple of years younger than the men. Women are now competitive from an age perspective with young players being recruited in 14, 14, 16.

What does success in the women’s game mean for the men’s?

It’s about the more we make the game competitive and the more you see female coaches in the men’s game, the more successful it will be. I saw a lot of mistakes in my first time coaching in the men’s game and I’m very much a fan of things being done different. If you think about what you can do with your voice when you can get coaches to actually champion the women’s game, things will change, and that’s exciting.

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What impact do you think increased attention is having on women’s football?

A woman is not likely to take up coaching in football when they see no female coaches. So we need to shift that mindset. It would be wrong of me to say “I want this!” when I didn’t see somebody else doing it. It’s not about girls feeling that this is going to be an easy step. It’s about people seeing that it’s really hard work and having to put in long hours to coach, so that’s what we need to see. I don’t think it’s a minor league, I think it’s the main league.

What are your future ambitions?

If I’d been on stage at Wembley, discussing what my dream would be for myself, when the time came to say I wanted to coach at the women’s national team, I’d have said: “Do something fantastic.” I wouldn’t have thought: “I want to be coach of the England national team.” That was just not me. I hope to maybe land a role with the FA (Football Association). But, the bottom line is: I’m still at the start of what I want to do.

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