Vera Pauw makes an impact at every team she manages. The former defender from the Netherlands ensures all her teams give their all and play to win.
In September 1998, Vera Pauw was appointed the Scotland national team coach and technical director at the same time her husband Bert van Lingen was the assistant manager at Glasgow outfit, Rangers FC. She took over at a time when the Scottish Football Association (SFA) took over the running of women’s football in the country, looking to promote it and bring it to the national level.
Pauw brought over 60 organisations to the table at a time when no women’s sports organisations would even sit down with each other. Craig Brown, the Scottish FA director, knew the personality of Pauw commanded respect wherever she went.
She then left in 2004 to take over a similar role at her home country, the Netherlands, in a bid to get women’s football to a respectable level in her country.
The Netherlands called on Pauw to lay the foundations to help put together a team and a good youth structure that would ensure success for the national team for years to come and boy did that work.
After scrapping boys teams and girls teams at youth level, ensuring all clubs were associated with a male counterpart, it paved the way for the superstars of today such as Lieke Martens, Vivianne Miedema and Sari van Veenendaal. Pauw took the Netherlands to the Euros in 2009 leading them to a third place finish and thus enhancing the popularity in women’s football in the Netherlands. However despite that the egos and the greed still left Vera Pauw and her team in the cold.
In March 2014 she became the coach of the South African team replacing Josepha Mkhonza. Pauw explained that she previously had experienced a great deal of involvement with the South African team due to the frequency of friendlies while she was in charge of the Netherlands. Pauw had to deal with a lot of issues including animosity towards the women’s team, terrible playing conditions and an FA that just did not care. Players often had to pay to play football and had no money to feed themselves.
Arguably Pauw’s biggest achievement with South Africa was leading them to the 2016 Olympics after they beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 away in a difficult game. Sure that mightn’t mean much but at the time it meant to much to these South African players, it was a chance to play against the worlds best teams, a once in a lifetime opportunity once again made possible by Vera Pauw.
And now Vera manages the Republic of Ireland replacing Colin Bell. The FAI have put a woman in charge that can take this already talented team to new heights, while also changing football at grassroots level in Ireland. The FAI might be in a terrible state financially but seeing the woman’s game being given it’s true value makes the biggest impact.
Over the passed year women’s football has grown enormously. People are starting to see the potential women’s football truly has and coverage of the Women’s World Cup on RTÉ and TG4 has certainly helped that.
Last November, England had a record attendance of 77,000 at Wembley to see their 2-1 defeat to Germany. Going back 10 years ago not many saw attendances like this possible.
Off the back of a successful FAI WNL and FAI Cup Final, the potential of the Irish clubs is clear to see. When you have superstar player like Katie McCabe, Denise O’Sullivan, Niamh Fahey and Louise Quinn join up with the likes of Rianna Jarrett, Leanne Kiernan and Keeva Keenan, you can see why everyone is excited about the future of the national team.
Pauw and her assistant, Eileen Gleeson, still have a lot of work to do, especially in the defence after a bad display at home to Ukraine in a game Ireland had a comfortable 2-0 lead, they made two errors leading to 2 Ukraine goals. Hopefully the errors can be just down to coaching but I have faith in Vera Pauw to fix that.
The FAI and Irish football fans are incredibly lucky to have an experienced coach like Vera Pauw who is 100% committed to making this Republic of Ireland team the best they can be, and hopefully lead the to their first major tournament at the 2021 European Championships in England in the summer. This Irish team have a long way to go but with Vera Pauw and her assistant, Eileen Gleeson, at the helm the future of women’s football in Ireland is bright.