Jens Scheuer: What men can learn from women

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The FC Bayern Women have been no less brilliant than their male counterparts this season, with 20 wins from their 20 competitive matches. To mark International Women's Day on 8 March, head coach Jens Scheuer has spoken about the development of women's football, what men can learn from women and what male footballers can learn from female footballers.

Interview with Jens Scheuer

Jens Scheuer, hand on heart, what does International Women's Day mean to you?
(smiles) "As part of equal treatment, it should actually mean as much as World Men's Day -- although to be honest I don't even know if that exists..."

There is actually on 3 November.
"You see, I didn't know that. If I'm honest, such special theme days aren't really for me -- as good as the idea behind them is. What they appeal to should actually be lived every day. It's certainly good to create awareness for an issue, but the goal in a society should be that such issue days aren't needed at all. In my opinion, it's similar with the discussion about women's quotas. It'd be much more important for companies to create family-friendly jobs. But you also have to say there are countries in the world that still need to make some progress on the status of women. On days like this, the focus is sharpened, and that makes sense."

You've been working with women for many years -- what's the big difference to your previous coaching work?
"You always have to say you should never make generalisations, and I don't want to make any cliches. I can only answer such questions from my personal perception. I think women are more sensitive, for example also with regard to the coach. Men want to play football first and foremost. For them it's secondary whether the coach is quiet or not. It plays a part but not to the same extent. I hear this again and again in conversations with our players, that they reflect my attitude much more. In my experience, they have finer antennae for charisma."

A provocative but striking question: Do women tick differently?
"I'd say it'd be too easy to say in general that women tick differently than men. My image, as I've come to know women, especially in my work, is that women act more thoughtfully and are perhaps sometimes more willing to compromise than the majority of us men, including me."

How do group dynamic processes work in a women's team?
"Women want to understand the processes much more and seek understanding among themselves. That's why in a women's team you rarely find the structure that men have, with one, two or three leaders setting the pace. In my experience, women are more concerned with the big picture. That's why it's important that the harmony in a women's team is right. Everyone wants to feel involved."

What about conflict resolution?
"In my opinion, women generally communicate more between the lines than men. When a man is angry, he speaks out. A woman carries it out on a different level. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Some men would benefit from more sensitivity, some women from a bit more directness. In my eyes, dominance behaviour is more pronounced in men. That can go as far as open conflict in a training session. With women, on the other hand, it would be unthinkable for a woman to deliberately knock down her colleague. That doesn't happen. There is much more going on in conversation."

What did you think about the Germany Women's team sensational TV advert with the line "We don't need balls -- we have ponytails"?
(smiles) "From which point of view? In which role? As a coach or as a man?"

Both. Ultimately, what's more decisive is as a coach.
"I asked myself what the purpose of the video was. If it was to get attention, then they did that because everyone spoke about it. Personally, I'd say just let footballing class speak, because that's what we have."

Are the days gone when a female footballer has to pose in Playboy to draw attention to her sport?
"Yes, definitely. Such actions are certainly aesthetic, but no longer necessary. We've long since reached the point where we can push our development without having to rely on provocative effects that ultimately don't achieve our goals."

What can men learn from women?
"Oh, there are many things. We men can certainly learn something from them in terms of communication. Also the ability to multitask. A woman can do three things at once -- I can't do that. I have to concentrate on one thing, that's it. And I admire the robustness of women. For one thing, perseverance, with their frustration threshold much higher than for us men. On top of that, women are more resilient overall. If I have a cold, I'm deadly ill. When my wife has a cold, she makes breakfast, takes the children to school, does her work and is still there for us in the evening. Men are more whining, we have to be honest about that (grins)."

And what can male footballers learn from female footballers?
"I think discipline. I actually have zero concern that one of us might go overboard. For women, it's also important that the group is doing well, that the team is doing well, and also that each individual in the group is doing well. Compassion is extremely strong. That pays into the team spirit."

Wages in women's football are far below those of men. How realistic are demands for convergence for you?
"The same level is utopian. One goal should be that every female footballer, if she pursues her sport as a profession, can make a living out of it. That's still not the case here in Germany, and if we want to take women's football to the next level, with secure structures and optimal opportunities, there's basically no alternative to all-encompassing professionalism. It's not a question of whether we at FC Bayern, for example, could perhaps earn more, but rather that everyone else should be able to follow suit, because they invest just as much in their passion and have to put up with many hardships."

Would reforms in women's football make sense, with talk of smaller pitches, bigger goals, shorter playing times?
"No, that would only make sense if the physicality of the players was seriously weaker. But the physicality is continually improving. Women's football has made quantum leaps in the past 10 years. The quality has increased enormously."

Your team has had a flawless season so far. What's the key?
"Our team unity and our high quality. And when I think about our game against Wolfsburg, against the team that's the measure of all things in German women's football, we were on a par in terms of quality, and the desire was more clearly visible on our side. Our team wants to show this season what they're capable of, how good they are. They want to show we're ready!"

Where does the team rank internationally?
"In the Champions League, we're on a par with everyone else except Lyon, Chelsea and maybe Paris Saint-Germain."

What's the team capable of this season?
"We're competing in all three competitions. To be honest, I didn't follow the cup semi-final draw last week because I was on my way home from a trip to Tegernsee with my family. My wife then told me that after Hoffenheim in the quarter-finals we could possibly get Wolfsburg in the semis. They are currently third and second in the table, so difficult jobs. That evening I spoke with our sporting director Jay Rech about what we have coming up in the next weeks. But we think about things one game at a time, and I know if we play our best in every game, we can win every game."