Helena Costa resigns: Female manager hits back at Clermont Foot 63, saying French football club only hired me as a ‘face’

36-year-old reveals she quit after the club signed new players without her knowledge

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The Independent Football

Helena Costa has finally explained why she walked out of her job as the first woman to manage a men’s professional football team.

Ms Costa, 36, who quit the French second division club Clermont Foot 63 this week, said that she had grasped that she had been hired just as a “face” and had no authority to sign players.

In a statement in her native Portuguese, she angrily rejected comments by the Clermont club’s president, who suggested that she had made an “irrational” decision to quit “because she is a woman” and because she had “lost confidence”.

Ms Costa’s appointment generated headlines all around the world. So did her decision to leave on Tuesday without meeting her players.

The former manager of the Iranian and Qatari women’s teams refused to explain her decision publicly at the time. She now accuses the club of arranging pre-season friendly matches and signing new players without her knowledge.

This was “a sequence of events which no coach would allow as they revealed a total lack of respect as well as total amateurism”, she said. “For any leader in an organisation who is responsible for a team, it’s unacceptable.”

Ms Costa, nicknamed “Mourinho in a skirt”, said that she had asked the club’s technical director, Olivier Chavanon, to keep her informed about the recruitment of players. He had ignored a series of emails over five days and then replied: “You’re tiring me with your messages.”

Ms Costa said Mr Chavanon had “signed players without my knowledge for a team I was supposed to lead and be responsible for, when there were other financially viable possibilities”. She said that she discovered that the players had been signed when she spoke to the club secretary.

It became clear, she said, that she had been hired to be the “face of the club” to attract publicity but would have no real authority. She had protested to the club’s president, Claude Michy, who promised to resolve the problem. He failed to do so, she said.

There was nothing “sudden and unexpected” about her decision to quit, she said. Mr Michy was well aware that there had been a “series of episodes” which had convinced her that she would  not be taken seriously by the club hierarchy.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Michy said Ms Costa had given “no rational explanation” for her departure and made a series of misogynistic remarks.

“She’s a woman,” he said. “They are capable of leading us to believe in certain things and then… She simply said, ‘I’m going.’

“Was she scared? I don’t know. We couldn’t make her change her mind. She leaves with her secret intact. I am not the first man to be deserted by a woman.

“It appears that she suddenly had a crisis of confidence but I have no idea what might have upset her.”

Ms Costa’s decision has also generated an avalanche of misogynistic commentary on the French-language internet.

“A typical woman, clears off without saying why,” one anonymous commentator said. Another suggested that she should be replaced by Zahia Dehar, the teenage call girl who has gone on to become a successful businesswoman after encounters with French footballers.