Dr. Carolin Braun has been living in Botswana for around two years
Her tasks include supporting football development, educating coaches and identifying talented youngsters
She is also breaking down barriers in her role as assistant coach with the national men's team
Dr. Carolin Braun has called Botswana home for approximately the last two years. In this interview with FIFA.com she explains how she came to live in the picturesque country in southern Africa, known as much for its Okavango Delta as it for its stunning landscape.
“The Foreign Office, together with the German Olympic Sports Confederation, has been sending sports experts to various countries around the world, such as Botswana for example, for about 60 years through its cultural and sports support programme," Braun said.
“Botswana applied through the National Olympic Committee, and so one thing led to another,” she continued. “I’ve now been here for two and a half years as the director of the German-Botswana long-term football project. Project partners are the German Foreign Office, the German Olympic Sports Confederation, the German Football Association, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and the Botswana Ministry of Youth Development, Sports and Cultural Development.”
Among her main focuses are training coaches and identifying talented youngsters. Moreover, as technical director at the BFA she is responsible for the overall sporting development, and is an assistant coach for the men's national team.
“Having a female assistant coach in a men’s national team is obviously something special,” Braun said. “In my opinion, having diversity on the coaching staff is incredibly important and is beneficial for everyone. At the same time, I want to break down stereotypes, especially those that exist in football, and pave the way for other women in football in Botswana and the world over. For as long as it takes, until we no longer have to explicitly address the issue anymore.”
In order to achieve that aim, women are also part of her focus. One of her first acts was to be present among the women’s national teams to offer advice to the coaches.
“We made history with the women’s national team and reached the third qualifying round for the Olympics,” Braun said. “We lost to Zambia, who were just at the tournament in Tokyo. We beat South Africa during qualifying, which was historic. We also finished as runners-up at the COSAFA Cup.
“I was at the training camps and the matches as technical advisor and I offered support both on and off the pitch. Even after all that success there were still discussions about replacing the female coach with a man. It was sort of saying: ‘now that we’re successful we need someone good.’
"We need to get attitudes like that out of people’s heads. In situations like that I push back and clarify things. At the same time, I want to educate the dedicated women, train them further and improve their coaching licences so that they have something to show on paper: ‘I have an A or B licence, I’m qualified.’”
In that regard it obviously helps that Braun is the first female technical director, and that Goabaone G. Taylor recently became the association’s first female CEO. “It’s obviously something very special and it supports girls and women, who can see that they can achieve something in football too.”
The 35-year-old, who teamed up with Monika Staab on a project in Gambia, only has good things to say about the work within the association, even if not everyone in Botswana was happy about it at first. “All of my colleagues in the association were born and raised in Botswana. Then suddenly someone from a different culture and with different ideas comes along, and not just for a workshop, but for several years. And that person is also a woman and younger...” she said with a laugh.
“Obviously those are the kind of things that could have been difficult initially. It’s like in any other environment. You need a certain intercultural competence, mutual respect and openness. We work together very well. I was well received right from the start and I can utilise my expertise in a lot of different areas.
"My approach is to bring the association together with as many international partners as possible in a beneficial way, and to implement things that didn’t previously exist step by step. For example, a couple of weeks ago we were part of the German Football Association’s (DFB) first digital international instructor course, together with Namibia. Such partnerships and measures are of course excellent.”
She recently joined FIFA's Leadership Programme as a technical expert mentor. "It's a great thing and I really enjoy it."
The path is undoubtedly heading in the right direction. The association recognised the importance of training its coaches and has invested more resources in it. “We’ve facilitated a lot more training camps for the youth and senior national teams and we’re implementing many more,” said Braun, who holds a doctorate in sports science and a UEFA A coaching licence. “When I arrived, I did a situation analysis. I found different plans, different strategies and lots of ideas. Unfortunately, a lot of them were not implemented because there was no budget or manpower."
You just bump into each other in football because there are still just a few women in Germany who tread this path.
“It’s difficult to organise a coaching course, especially during the pandemic. The regulations are continually changing, so you constantly need to be flexible. We’ve just had to postpone two courses because our numbers are through the roof. There’s always somebody in isolation.
"You can’t imagine it. It’s a 24-hour job and sometimes it’s a bit chaotic. Despite the current situation I still try to initiate and implement as much as possible. Of course, I’m already excited to see what it will be like after the project in two or three years, and how things will develop here.”
Whatever comes next for Braun remains to be seen; the project in Botswana is still ongoing. But if there is one certainty in football, it is that you never know what will happen next.
*The FIFA Technical Leadership Department course programme offers training for Technical Directors (TDs). In addition, a mentoring programme has been introduced. Dr. Braun is one of approximately 40 experts who both lead the various workshop modules and work one-on-one with TDs from around the world.