Vera Pauw is a fountain of football knowledge and experience. As a player and a coach, she has had success at the highest level in the game.
In 1988, Pauw became the first female Dutch player to play professionally after she signed for Italian side Modena. She also amassed 89 senior caps for the Netherlands. As a coach, Pauw has overseen the development of the women’s game in the Netherlands, Scotland, Russia, South Africa and Thailand.
Now, her mission is clear - Lead the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team to their first ever senior international major tournament. Key elements of the strategy to take them there, are already in place such as Pauw’s aim to replicate the actions of her home country with the introduction of “mixed teamed football”.
“It's simple – training with boys means automatically that you have highly qualified coaches, you have more training sessions, you have higher pressure, and you have a better teaching environment. The introduction of mixed team training sessions has already seen improvements, the talents of the players are so high and we’re getting better and better and better,” explains Pauw.
For Pauw, the recent efforts towards equality within the FAI have been welcomed, such as equal pay for national teams, but it is the changes she is implementing in her programmes for players and training that will make all the difference in achieving the main goal of major tournament football.
“I study a lot. Any research that comes out I want to know; I want to see. I bring in new things to help us grow and make sure we keep developing. Improvements in preparation for the team means that players can train more at this higher level but, more importantly, rest more – that was the biggest issue before”.
Pauw is pleased by the FAI putting their commitment into practice such as the recent introduction of a second physiotherapist for the WNT, made all the more urgent by the fact that the team’s current physiotherapist is pregnant and workdays with the team could be eight in the morning to 11:30 at night.
“We celebrate and we take care of them,” said Pauw, “but in order to facilitate women working and looking after themselves properly while pregnant you need different solutions and that costs money - the FAI has done it and I’m proud of that”.
In a sport derided for its reliance on talking in cliches in the media, Vera Pauw is a breath of fresh air. Pauw clearly has the self-belief and drive to boldly go where no other senior Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team coach has gone before and achieve qualification for a major tournament. She won’t be found wanting when it comes to support.