Helen Nkwocha – the first female coach of a European top-flight men’s team

Reading time:


Helen Nkwocha was fired by drive and determination when she sold her home and decided to live on a houseboat to fund her dream of becoming a professional football coach.

Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined she would become the first female coach of a top-flight men’s team in Europe.

Tvoroyrar Boltfelag are one of the oldest clubs in the Faroe Islands.

But as they approached the end of a poor season – which has brought them only three points – they turned to Nkwocha, who had been working at the club as a youth coach, to guide them through the final six games.

“I didn’t think twice,” the London-born former police officer tells BBC Sport.

“People’s reaction is not the same as mine because they are reacting to my gender. But I am used to being a female. It is nothing new to me.

“And the fact I am working with male players? I have worked with more male players than female ones. To be working at this level, yes, that is different. But working with male players is not different to me.”

When BBC Sport spoke to Nkwocha in 2015 she was at the start of a journey that has taken her to varied places, including China and the US, looking for work.

For someone whose origins are not at the elite end of the game, opportunities are not easy to come by.

“It’s been quite challenging because coaching is so competitive,” the 45-year-old says.

“You have to be persistent and the houseboat was the best way to save money for the courses I needed to go on and then to be available to coach because you don’t get a lot of money at this level.

“It’s taken a lot of financial sacrifice and then in terms of geography, you move around because you’re looking for an opportunity to grow and develop and learn.”

Nkwocha was working in Chicago when a friend told her about the job in the Faroe Islands.

With Covid just about to make its presence felt, she decided the security and the scope of the role was too good to turn down.

She had never been to the Faroes before.

“It’s like a fairytale land,” she says. “It’s so beautiful, possibly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

“There’s not a lot of people – our population is 2,000 – and a lot of the games that we you have to get onto the ferry, then a car to get to the venues. It’s also very windy and the ball is in the air a lot so it is a challenging place for football.”

In her two matches so far as caretaker boss, Nkwocha has failed to halt TB’s losing run. However, they only lost 1-0 at the weekend, despite having a man sent off.

Nkwocha will keep working at it, putting off any thoughts about what the future may hold beyond the end of the year.

In any case, it is not as though she has much spare time to mull over her future.

When BBC Sport spoke to her, she was just finishing her ‘day’ job – coaching some of TB’s younger age groups.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola does not have to teach kindergarten kids as well as adults, I say.

Nkwocha breaks into a wide smile.

“Well I’m not being funny, but if you see the sessions, you might say Helen doesn’t either,” she says.

(By Simon Stone, BBC Sport, 10.10.2021)

Translate »