Mon, 11/09/23, 11:21
Francisco De Sá Fardilha: I never get tired of winning
Since March, the Portuguese Francisco De Sá Fardilha (36) has been the FC Bayern Women technical director. A job as diverse as his CV. A conversation about family, the hunger for success, and diversity.
Francisco De Sá Fardilha - the interview
Before we look at FC Bayern, let's talk about the recent World Cup. What do you think about the football played in Australia and New Zealand?
"That many supposedly small nations have caught up - and that established nations are suddenly threatened with not only being caught up, but even overtaken. I watched every game, that's my job. Basically, I think it's good that women's football is becoming more diverse, more global and also more challenging. You can see how rapidly the sport is developing - on and off the pitch. Football offers women all over the world an opportunity to change their lives."
„You can see how rapidly the sport is developing - on and off the pitch. Football offers women all over the world an opportunity to change their lives.”
What's your verdict on Germany's performance?
"The World Cup was a wake-up call for established nations at the top of the world rankings: It's becoming increasingly important to have a clear identity and for it to be recognisable on the pitch. Despite the disappointing results at the World Cup, there are many outstanding players in Germany, there's a lot of potential - in the senior national team as well as at youth level. England, for example, has shown what you can do with what you have - in both the men's and women's teams. It's not as if the English teams have suddenly become good. There was a clear plan behind it, which was implemented step by step and at every level."
What does that mean for your work here?
"When [FC Bayern head of women's football] Bianca Rech talked to me about coming to the club, I asked: When can I start? FC Bayern matches my views, my values perfectly. The most important thing for me and my work is to have the backing of the club. That's what Bayern offers me. What I like: There's a tradition here, a stability that we combine with innovation - "Mia san mia" means believing in your own strength without being closed off to new things. We have to be like that to maintain our level."
Have you studied the history of FC Bayern extensively?
"Yes, I read everything I could find on it. I also looked into the history of the city. That was important to me. FC Bayern was not born as a winning club, but fought for its current status over many decades. I think the FC Bayern Museum is fantastic. If possible, I go there with all the new signings so they understand the dimension of the club. I always tell the players that we want to achieve the dominance in women's football that the men's team has. That's what we're working on. The club's success story is a great inspiration."
You were born in France, grew up in Portugal, studied in Scotland - do you feel at home at Bayern now?
"I also lived in Italy and the Seychelles. I like diversity - the history of FC Bayern has also been very diverse from the start: very early on there was a foreign president, a homosexual president. We're not a club that talks about diversity because it's en vogue at the moment. Diversity is part of FC Bayern's DNA. I'm proud to be a part of this club now."
You also participated in the club's 'Red against Racism' workshop a few weeks ago and visited Diversity Mountain. Why?
"It goes without saying that I and the women's department also support FC Bayern's social initiatives. That's why I enjoyed visiting Diversity Mountain and learned a lot about projects like 'buntkicktgut'. Participating in the 'Red against Racism' workshop was also inspiring. The way the club deals sustainably with the topic of diversity with its employees is exemplary."
You already mentioned 'Mia san mia'. What do you understand by it?
"We have to make many decisions every day, sporting as well as financial and strategic. This motto is a guiding principle and a point of orientation. It helps us to keep our values in mind so that the club stays the way it is while constantly renewing itself. It's like cell biology. In our bodies, cells constantly renew themseves, so we're different every day - and yet we remain the same. You can transfer that to the club. The club is the same every day, but is constantly renewing itself."
„The way the club deals sustainably with the topic of diversity with its employees is exemplary.”
Let's look to the future: Where do you see FC Bayern Women in five years' time?
"Of course, I would love it most if we won the Champions League, five German championships and five DFB Cups in the next five years. But for us it's mainly about continuous development. Because success is a consequence and not the goal itself. It's also about our youth development, which we attach great importance to. We're here in a very populous region of Germany. If we do our work well, there's a high probability that even more Bavarian home-grown players will make it into our first team - which brings us back to the topic of DNA. And there's a third point where you can measure success: the number of spectators. The board is very supportive of us being able to play in the Allianz Arena even more often."
What does your normal working day look like?
"Alongside our head of department Bianca Rech and coach Alexander Straus, I'm responsible for the squad composition and scouting, but also for analysing our team in order to fully exploit its potential. What I like about my job is that it's also about developing talent. With our youth development strategy, we want to identify players who have the potential to play for FC Bayern and work out individual development plans with them. I watch a lot of games, two or three a day. We always keep an eye on what's happening in Germany and overseas, and follow national teams all the way down to the lower youth divisions. Before we sign a player, we want to have as much information about her as possible."
How does the cooperation with Bianca Rech work?
"As Karin Danner's successor, Bianca has her eye on the big picture. She's involved in all sporting decisions, we work very closely together here. Bianca is one of the most respected figures in international women's football, who also plays a big role in the ECA, among other things. For a few months I also experienced Karin Danner here - a real legend. Just one example: I watched the Champions League match away at Real Sociedad with Karin and she was so passionate! I quickly felt that I was in exactly the right place at Bayern. Because we all share the same passion here, have the same aspirations."
You have a doctorate. Does the academic background help with the work here?
"I've always been able to combine theory and practice well, I see myself as a "practical academic" (laughs). I also wanted to answer practical questions with my doctoral thesis. It was about the fact that we lack creativity in football. I wanted to understand how we can change that. Creativity isn't magic - it can be stimulated by the right influences. It's about nurturing what you bring to the table rather than what you lack. I've witnessed players who were brought in for their special qualities become unintentionally homogenised in academies. That's why it's so important to give players space and opportunity to try things out."
„Creativity isn't magic - it can be stimulated by the right influences. It's about nurturing what you bring to the table rather than what you lack.”
Are creative players something that's in demand more than ever?
"It's not just about players who can dribble well and have some individual magic. You can also be creative as a team collectively. Our team often did that well last season. I always liked it when the opposition coaches said before the game how difficult it was to play against us. Because we were so flexible. To allow that creativity, you have to give the players responsibility and confidence. It's the same in normal life. When you have children, you always want to control everything and tell them what to do. But how can they make their own decisions and find solutions?"
How creative do you have to be as a technical director to strengthen a team who have just become German champions?
"We're very open and at the same time very careful in selecting new players. It doesn't matter if they come from a big or small club, a big or small country, you have to feel a hunger for success in the conversations. I have the same demands on myself as I have on the players and coaches. I try to convey consistency. And fun, that's also important. You mustn't take yourself too seriously. We have to know that we'll make mistakes, too."
Pernille Harder and Magdalena Eriksson, top internationals, have now been brought in: Is this the next, necessary step?
"Yes, these players come to us because they're convinced by our project and by the way we play football. Because they sense that Bayern is serious about women's football. And I can only confirm that. I've never seen a president like Herbert Hainer who attends so many women's games."
Hainer also regularly sent messages to the World Cup participants.
"Yes, just like before our decisive game in the championship last season. We got a lot of messages from the whole club. The players can feel that people at the club are interested in them. Besides Herbert Hainer, Jan-Christian Dreesen, Michael Diederich and Uli Hoeneß are always interested in hearing about the women's department. People often talk about family, and at many clubs that's just marketing - but here at FC Bayern it really is a family. You can feel it."
How do you build a team for success?
"It's about putting the pieces of the puzzle together. We need top players with outstanding playing quality on the pitch and also with a leadership mentality. But we're also always looking for players who are a little under the radar and have the potential to grow in our environment, like Sam Kerr or Inès Belloumou, for example, who we signed this summer. It's important for us to have stability in the team, and that players stay with us for a long time. That's always been a hallmark of FC Bayern."
Is it true that you yourself have a futsal coaching licence?
"Yes, and I also have a refereeing licence. As a player and as a coach, I was very temperamental towards the referees, so I wanted to get to know the other perspective. I also studied law for two years, have a degree in journalism, film studies, sports psychology and coaching. I was also a lifeguard and worked in the restaurant business. Now at Bayern, all my knowledge and different experiences come in handy. Ultimately, the most important thing for me is the basic attitude of always giving your best. No matter what you do."
„It's important for us to have stability in the team, and that players stay with us for a long time. That's always been a hallmark of FC Bayern.”
You read up on FC Bayern before you came here. Now you've been here for six months. Has anything surprised you?
"The friendliness of the people here. From the outside, FC Bayern looked to me like a well-oiled machine running at full pressure. I grew up in Porto, FC Porto was my club - and I was always afraid of FC Bayern, despite 1987 and Rabah Madjer. But now I'm part of FC Bayern, and from the inside it feels very different, much warmer. People deal with each other in a very constructive and appreciative way here. And of course everything at FC Bayern is about winning. Our championship win in the summer was fantastic, now it's about doing it again, again and yet again. Believe me: I never get tired of winning. You have to have that in your DNA when you work here."
Illustrations: Studio MUTI
The extended interview (in German) can be found in the September issue of the FC Bayern members' magazine "51".
Two young talents from FC Bayern Women have been awarded the Fritz Walter Medal