- Silvia Neid won the first FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football award
- The 56-year-old has received the accolade three times in total
- "It’s an incredible feeling to be voted the best coach in the entire world"
Silvia Neid is the grande dame of women’s football – and not only in Germany. She was at the helm of her country’s women’s national team for over 4,000 days, and steered them to the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ title in 2007. She followed that up with third place at the Olympic Games in 2008, two European Championship triumphs (2009 and 2013), and Olympic gold in 2016. Neid has been crowned FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football three times, a feat unmatched to this day.
Ahead of The Best FIFA Football Awards™, we spoke to ‘Queen Silvia’ about special moments, the success of German coaches, and what separates the best players from the rest.
FIFA.com: You will forever be part of the history of the FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year Award having received the inaugural prize in 2010. What feelings do you have when you remember that moment?
Silvia Neid: Indescribably wonderful ones! Those awards are behind me in my office, but there are a couple of advent calendars there too (laughs). I tidied up a bit and the only things here now are those that were especially important to me.
For me personally, it was something very special, even if I always have to say that a lot of people contributed to it. You can’t do it on your own. It’s an incredible feeling to be voted the best coach in the entire world. That’s what it was like the first, second and third time, especially as 2016 was my last tournament and I was voted winner again. I knew that for the time being I needed a break from coaching.
The year 2020 has not been an easy one for anybody. How important is it in a year such as this that The Best Football Awards be presented, so that a little sense of normality returns?
I think it’s hugely important that The Best Awards are also given this year. They’re honours that people have earned. If a winner is voted for, then the prize should also be awarded. It’s a bit of a shame that it can only take place virtually this year. There’s definitely a difference between having an in-person event, where you see a lot of people and can have a lot of conversations, and just holding it digitally. In Germany I won the Walther-Bensemann Prize (a lifetime achievement award) and that was also only awarded virtually. It’s a shame, considering how celebratory, festive and fitting it was last year. Still, I think it’s incredibly important that it takes place.
German coaches are regularly on the shortlists for The Best, both in women’s and men’s football. What do you think are the reasons for that success?
We’ve been successful in women’s football for a very long time now and have placed a great deal of emphasis on educating coaches in the men’s and women’s game. And in Germany we’ve certainly learned a lot in terms of technical and tactical training. The best coaches used to come from England, Spain or Italy. I think we’ve really stepped things up in Germany, and now our training of coaches is among the best in the world. That’s one of the reasons. Maybe it’s also down to the typically disciplined German mentality that we all have.
Dzsenifer Marozsan was among the nominees. You were her coach for a long time and know her very well. What makes her special?
In terms of technique, Dzsenifer is a fantastic player. Everyone knows that. She’s a playmaker, has the vision to find her team-mates and can score decisive goals. I saw that first-hand in 2013 in a game against Sweden, where we reached the final of the European Championship thanks to her crucial strike. She can set her team-mates up perfectly. She’s got something extraordinary that you can’t teach her as a coach. I never said to her, ‘do this or do that at this time’. She’s just got this intuition. That’s what the best players have, both men and women, that they can decide a game through their extraordinary ability.
Do you think the coronavirus has been a setback for the development of women’s football?
The fact that the Olympics weren’t held this year means you couldn't compare the best teams. In March we were still able to see the top teams at the SheBelieves Cup, the Algarve Cup and the tournament in France. At those competitions you can see whether or not coaches are trying to make changes to their style of play and formation, or if they’re switching into pressing zones. Unfortunately, I can’t yet say how things have developed. There was nothing to see over the summer. You can’t analyse trends or developments from qualifying games. You need the matches at a high level at the Olympics. But the good thing is that, as of now, they will take place next year.
Many teams that want to bring in younger players or restructure things have now had a lot of time and could do a lot of preparation. The coaches had time to work with the players, to communicate what they want and outline how they want the team to develop. I’m already looking forward to 2021 to see what happens at the Olympics. What has been worked on, what have the coaches changed, how have the players developed? Coaches have had more time to further their teams’ development.
I think it’s a big shame that youth tournaments aren’t taking place. They’re incredibly important for young players because they learn so much there. I’m curious to see how the players cope with that. I imagine that their development will be lacking in a tournament at the highest level.
How has your work changed due to the pandemic?
Most of the time I sit at my computer watching games in my little closet (laughs), analysing them and trying to work out any distinctive characteristics. It’s nowhere near the same as watching a game in person, and that’s a big shame. When you watch a game at a stadium you can see the mentalities of the different teams, and that’s something you lose altogether when you watch on a laptop.
In spite of everything that has happened in 2020, what positives can you take from this year?
In terms of our work at the DFB, I’d say we’ve all come a bit closer thanks to all the video calls we’ve had. You know all about your colleagues and other departments. In private, it’s led to people becoming more introspective and more closely connected with their families. You hope everyone stays healthy and looks after each other. Next year I hope we can return to our normal lives and meet up with each other normally again. I miss that warmth when you hug or shake hands with someone. I just hope that we all stay healthy and come out of this crisis well.
The winners in all categories, including the FIFA Fan Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award, will be announced in a live broadcast show on 17 December 2020 from 7pm CET.
Who do you think should win this year? Join the discussion using the hashtag #TheBest.