The first ever FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women's Football was announced at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala, with three top female coaches in the running. Silvia Neid (Germany) took the inaugural award, ahead of Maren Meinert (Germany U-20s) and Pia Sundhage (USA).
Silvia Neid was already big news during her playing career, winning plenty of titles with Germany. The success continued when she became Tina Theune's assistant coach, and again in 2005 when she took over the reins in her own right. In 2007, she took the German women's team to China and steered them to their second FIFA Women's World Cup in a row.
Neid gave an exclusive interview to FIFA.com after the ceremony in Zurich to explain exactly how she felt.
Silvia, you have just been selected as the first ever FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women's Football. How do you feel?
I'm delighted. I really wasn't expecting to win this trophy today. There wasn't a lot that I could do in 2010 – we didn't take part in any tournaments and we only played nine matches, winning seven and losing two. I actually thought that Maren Meinert would take the award, having won the U-20 World Cup. But in the end it was me, and I'm over the moon. Perhaps the award was made based on the last couple of years, since if it was only for 2010 then I didn't deserve it.
Would you describe this moment as one of the highlights of your career?
I wouldn't call it a highlight. It's a wonderful award, but highlights for me are always when you win something with a team – something that you can't win on your own. You always need the support of your players, the national association, your colleagues and the rest of the staff, but this means that you can reach even greater heights. As a coach, you have to have success all the time, and to achieve that it takes much more than just being a good coach.
2011 has got off to a good start for you – is that a good omen?
I don't think so. Birgit Prinz said in an interview earlier that I will have to earn this trophy over the course of the year, starting now – and of course she's right. I'm going to take this trophy home with me and put it in a display case, but I know that it won't help me win the upcoming World Cup that's going to be held in our home country. What we need now once again is to work hard, remain focused, show some passion and relish the challenge ahead of us.
What do you like best about your "competitors" Maren Meinert and Pia Sundhage?
Pia Sundhage has already coached a number of different countries and faced a lot of different challenges. For me, she's someone who lives and breathes football. And she doesn't just live it, she loves it and you can see that straight away. All three of us are former players, and I think that makes us a similar kind of coach.
For example I really like technically gifted players and so does Maren. We were both midfielders and as coaches, we try to implement the kind of football that we would like to watch. Maren Meinert and I work very closely together and I know that I can always trust her instinctively – and that's wonderful. She always has loads of great ideas and you can always talk things through with her and argue both sides, which helps you to make progress.
Which people have had an influence on your career or gave you particular support? Is there anyone you would like to thank?
There are plenty and it's difficult to pick people out. Back when I played, women's football certainly wasn't the "in" thing and we had to fight battles on a number of fronts. My parents never stood in my way and they were always there to support me. Then there are coaches like Gerd Neuser from my former club TSV Siegen, who gave me the chance to coach lots, not have to work very much outside and still earn money.
And then there's Gero Bisanz – he's the one who taught me all about tactics. Tina Theune also gave me a great deal of help – there were times when she threw me in at the deep end, but other times when she helped me and explained lots to me. And of course there is also the president of the German FA Dr Theo Zwanziger.
Without him I would never have become coach of the women's national team. When Tina stepped down, I didn't want to take over. I was happy enough with what I was doing and liked the age-group that I was looking after (the U-19s). But Zwanziger pretty much talked me into taking over the national team, saying: "we need you and we believe in you". I know exactly who I'm grateful to, and what I would love to do is have a miniature version of the trophy made for everyone I've been able to count on. But I think that might be a bit expensive (laughs).