Author Topic: Hope Powell  (Read 1553 times)

Offline Alan

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Hope Powell
« on: September 29, 2007, 12:04:31 PM »
On the ball

Hope Powell, coach of England women's football team, is bitterly disappointed to be out of the World Cup - but thrilled that millions tuned in. She talks to Kira Cochrane about her love of our most popular women's sport

Friday September 28, 2007
The Guardian

Speaking to Hope Powell, a few days after the England women's football team crashed out of the World Cup in China, she sounds tired. Hardly surprising, perhaps. This was the first World Cup that England had qualified for since 1995, and Powell - a former player who has coached the national side for almost a decade - saw her team sail through the group stage, drawing with Japan, drawing with favourites Germany, then storming to a 6-1 win against Argentina.

It was the kind of performance that gets everyone talking - Gordon Brown apparently sent them an encouraging fax, while journalists showered them with praise. In the UK, an estimated five million people sat down to watch the quarter-final against the US - but in the space of 12 disastrous minutes England were bludgeoned. The teams were well matched in a goalless first half, but the US powered in three quick goals in the second, and England's run ended.

Powell initially sounds sanguine in defeat. "We went into the tournament generally unknown, and we've come out of the tournament very well known, so that's good." Later, though, she admits to being "bitterly, bitterly disappointed ... You get into the quarters, and you get knocked out, and you feel it wasn't enough, you know?"

In some ways, it wasn't a surprise - though the US were defeated in a semi-final yesterday by Brazil, they entered the tournament ranked number one in the world to England's 12. "I don't care," Powell sighs, "I don't care. We've been here for weeks and when you're in it, you want to stay in it - I don't care if they're number one."

Powell has a deep commitment to the sport. Growing up with a brother and stepbrothers in south London, she has been playing from "as far back as I can remember, really". By the age of 11, she had joined a girls' side, Millwall Lionesses, and "once I knew there was an England team, it became an ambition of mine to play for them. I was fortunate enough to get selected when I was 16." She went on to win 66 caps for England, scoring 33 goals from midfield.

Keen to make her career in the game, Powell "thought the best way to do it was perhaps to try and get some qualifications. So I started coaching - I got my first coaching badge when I was 18 or 19." Appointed as the first ever full-time national coach of the women's team in June 1998, she became the youngest ever manager - as well as the first female and first black manager - of an English national soccer team.

Powell has worked with football's campaign against racism, Kick It Out, and on its website she describes her own experiences - being called a "black bastard" during a match, and seeing a young boy make a Nazi salute when she was playing for England in Croatia. Over the years, many have asked why there are so few black managers in the game - with the former England striker Les Ferdinand commenting sadly that "there will never be a black, British manager in charge of the England team - certainly not in my lifetime. Never." Does all this talk about the scarcity of black managers surprise Powell ? "No," she says. "It's something that I've been consciously aware of. There are very few in the game." But, she says, she doesn't "want to make it a race issue. I just hope that opportunities present themselves for black managers."

In 2003, Powell became the first woman ever to obtain the Uefa pro licence, the highest coaching qualification in Europe, and there have since been suggestions that she might one day manage a premiership side. "I get asked this question a lot," she laughs. "I am very, very happy with what I'm doing. If someone wanted to make me an offer I couldn't refuse, I'd certainly think about it, but at the moment that hasn't happened."

Powell's success has come in tandem with the rise of the women's game. There are 100 times as many women's teams in England now as there were in 1993, when the FA took over governance of the game from the amateur Women's Football Association. Eighty women's teams then have mushroomed to 8,000 today. In 2002, the game trumped netball to become the UK's top women's participation sport, with 1.6 million women and girls playing regularly.

How does Powell think the game has changed since she played for England? "The whole approach is much more professional. I think players are a lot fitter now and there's a lot more media attention ... Very young girls can look up to [England players] Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey, and try to emulate them, so that's given grassroots football a real push. More qualified female coaches have helped, as well as women refereeing, officiating, coaching ..."

Speaking of referees, what did she think of Luton manager Mike Newell's comments last year about assistant referee Amy Rayner: "She shouldn't be here ... It is bad enough with the incapable referees and linesmen we have, but if you start bringing in women, you have big problems." Do his comments reflect a general sexism within the game? "No, not so much now," she says, ever the diplomat. "I think he apologised, you know, and mistakes are made in both male and female refereeing. I think the most important thing is that those who support women's football keep on moving it forward."

The FA seems determined to do so - it now invests £4.5m a year in the women's game, and there are ongoing discussions about raising the sport's profile, including the notion of the women's season happening in the summer, rather than having to compete with the men's game for airtime on television.

Despite the investment, England's players are still part-timers, juggling jobs as postwomen, teachers and full-time mothers with their football. Compare this with the US national side, who are full-time, earning £850,000 a year, plus bonuses, between them. It's a situation that led the England women's captain, Faye White, to comment: "You look at how well supported [the US] girls are, how it feeds investment, and how used they are to playing with each other. If there was the same support here it would only help to move the sport forward."

Powell is firmly focused on the positive - and given her schedule, she has to be. "We're straight into Euro- qualifiers," she notes. "We've got a game at the end of October." Ultimately, she says, she just wants "to be better, to be able to qualify for World Cups indefinitely. We want to get to the quarter-finals, the semi- finals, and one day, hopefully, win something." If Powell's determination pays off, it will be a case of when, rather than if.
Alltid. Uansett.

Offline Dr Gonzo

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Re: Hope Powell
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2007, 01:14:29 PM »
Doesn't really say very much, certainly nothing about the controversial decisions...

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Re: Hope Powell
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2007, 02:15:25 AM »
maybe they did not ask her about it?
Still reaching the quarters is an achievement and this tournament was a learning curve.