‘More than a good coach’

Dad leads tributes as Hayes scoops prestigious FIFA ‘best’ gong

Thursday, 20th January — By Catherine Etoe

Chelsea Ladies v Manchester City Women - Women's FA Cup Semi Final

Chelsea boss and former Arsenal assistant manager Emma Hayes has been named FIFA women’s coach of the year

FROM a childhood spent playing football on a north London council estate, to being crowned the best women’s coach in the world, Emma Hayes says she is living the dream.

The Chelsea boss received the ultimate personal accolade this week when she won football’s equivalent of the Oscars as women’s coach of the year at FIFA’s “The Best” awards. And Hayes told the New Journal how, when she heard the news, memories of kicking a ball against the walls of the Curnock Street estate in Camden Town instantly came flooding back.

“Whether I was commentating to myself about scoring a goal in a cup final or leading a team, as a little girl I dreamed about these things,” she said. “I just had a dream turn into reality.”

The latest gong tops a standout year for former Arsenal assistant Hayes.

The first female coach to reach the Champions League final in 12 years, she steered Chelsea to a domestic treble and European silver.

The former Parliament Hill School pupil was also inducted into the new FA Women’s Super League Hall of Fame and named an OBE for her services to the sport.

The 45-year-old insists she is “uncomfortable” at the idea of individual awards and her FIFA honour is down to teamwork. Yet Hayes has clearly earned her spurs in the game since stepping out of her comfort zone to realise those childhood ambitions.

She first featured in this newspaper after boldly deciding to leave her home and job as a sports development officer in West Euston and the Bourne estate to chase her coaching dreams in New York.

Fast-forward 21 years and Hayes has managed professionally in America, helped Arsenal to European Cup glory as assistant to Vic Akers, and secured a trophy haul of 11 domestic titles in her own right with Chelsea.

According to dad Sid, her bravery in moving to America and subsequent award-winning spell there, alongside her determination to advance the women’s game in this country, are key to understanding her success.

“This is recognition from the industry of all she’s achieved,” he told the New Journal.

“Just look at her record – she’s not just a good coach, she’s taking the game forward at 100 miles per hour.”

There were only a few female coaches for Hayes to look up to before she quit Camden to try her luck Stateside.

Today, she is chief among a raft of role models, and the Chelsea boss believes everyone in the sport has a part to play.

“All of us will influence the next level for the game in terms of making sure those that are involved in it, invested in it, influenced by it – that base is even bigger,” she said.

“The fact that we are more front and centre across the board and that there is more regular coverage, more back-page stories, whatever it might be, is helping.

“I’m just one of those parts to that, and that movement for me is far more powerful than any individual or any individual award, because that for me is what will have the biggest impact on the legacy.”

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