Every managerial hire is a risk regardless of their experience. Even Alex Ferguson’s appointment at Manchester United from Aberdeen looked doomed to failure before a late goal by Mark Robins against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup held the dogs at bay and gave Ferguson the time he needed to turn the clubs fortunes on its head. But for first time managers, the transition from playing to coaching often comes too soon and results in failure in the long run.
For Tihana Nemcic, a 24-year-old former Croatian internationalist, becoming a head coach has always been a dream. Her appointment as head coach of 5th division side, NK Viktorija Vojakovach in Croatia has grabbed the headlines across the world, but for all the wrong reasons. The press have focused on the fact that she is a woman, and occasionally model, and have questioned whether she is going to be able to control a team of men, most of whom are the same age or older.
Few have ask if she possesses the skills, experience or qualifications to be appointed manager in the first place. Those who know Tihana are positive that she does. After gaining her degree from Croatia’s Sporting University this summer and having played as a professional for the past 10 years for club and country (Dinamo Zagreb’s women’s team as well as the Croatian female national side), Tihana has the necessary cv to make the next step into management. However, Nemcic has already had to defend herself to the media over her own appointment:
If a woman and a man have the same professional qualifications for a coaching job, I see no reason why I should not get into male football… The players listen to me and make no problems… I am the head coach and I have full liberty to create and plan the team’s tactics.
The players have taken to their new coach and in particular her coaching style. Goalkeeper Tihomir Jagusic, one of the club’s players, described Nemcic as ‘very good, focused and serious during training’. Nemcic takes charge of every training session despite living in Zagreb and having to make the 120 kilometre (75-mile) round-trip twice a week to Vojakovac for training sessions and Sunday league matches. Her style is commanding on the training ground and during matches often shouting order’s to her team “Set your pace! Don’t stop! Pass the ball precisely!”
The players are receptive and confident in their coach, sharing her ambitions for the future. “We are a great team and we all want to improve and reach the top of our league,” Nemcic said.
The jury is still out on whether this was a bold move by the NK Viktorija Vojakovach director Vitomir Mijic. or a masterstroke but only time will tell. Nemcic will be judge on results on the pitch as well as NK’s final league position, and nothing more, just as every other manager in the game is.