Ives Serneels gives everything to improve women’s football in Belgium: “We struggle with a little potato peeler”

If the Red Flames have again qualified for the European Championships, it is thanks in part to their coach, Ives Serneels (49 years). Federal coach since 2011, he will train his 129th match against Iceland on Sunday. The former league record holder was Guy Thys with 114 matches. “As long as I have fun and the League will keep me, I will continue”said the former Lierse player.

In 11 years, you should have received several suggestions.

“Yes, that’s right. The most concrete proposal I received before the European Championships 2017 (Editor’s note: from a Scandinavian national team that offered him a big contract). As I always do when I receive an offer, I informed our technical I wanted to train my ladies at the European Championships and I felt that the association had a short- and long-term project with me. So I refused. As a footballer I have never won a fortune either. I have always played in Belgium. I am “proud of what I have achieved by working hard. You know that after my career, for three years I combined a job at the Kampenhout golf course with a coaching position in Dessel, in the men’s D2?”

Speaking of men’s football, would you not train a men’s team in 1A one day?

“It depends on which club it is. Lierse or Westerlo, where I enjoyed the warm family atmosphere during my playing career, tempts me. And there are a few others that I do not want to mention the name of. But I repeat: at moment “A departure is not on the agenda at all! I’m having fun here!”

You have your own jerseys, you have a staff of about twenty people, you have all the technological means for scouting and video analysis …

“The level of professionalism on the national team, we are at the top. I had to justify any expense, which is logical. I knew at the time where we had to fix our numbers with tape on shirts that were way too big. Now,” We have fine clothes. The devils carried them towards Poland, and they liked them. I also come from the time when my staff consisted of five people. I had to do everything. And yes, I have all the technological facilities. Thanks to Roberto Martinez, I have a TV screen at home where I watch all the matches in wide angle. It’s a gift from god that Roberto is still there as technical director. You know he watches all our matches, either in the stadium or on TV. ?

This increases the pressure on your shoulders in the euro. But when we look at the pool in the first round, Belgium is 19th in the world rankings, France 3rd, Italy 14th and Iceland 17th.

“And yet an elimination in the first round would be a big disappointment. We may like to raise the bar higher than in 2017, when we were already happy to be there. We had won a match – 2-0 against Norway – but we were too nervous against Denmark (0-1) and the Netherlands (1-2). At the start of this preparation campaign, I revealed my ambitions to the girls. And I added: ‘If anyone disagrees, let her say it now.’ We must dare to express our ambitions. “

They will earn 1,000 euros per. victory and receive 200 euros per. day. Previously, the bonus was 100 euros per match.

“Honestly, I can not confirm the 1,000 euros for you, but it must be in those areas. What I do know is that they can do a lot if they qualify for the next round. In the beginning, I fought for the girls. to be better paid. Now it’s no longer my domain. Fortunately, Katrien Jan is the leader of women’s football. “

Several countries, such as the Netherlands, Spain, England, Norway, Ireland and, of course, the United States, have embraced the principle of equal pay: women’s national teams earn just as much as men.

“I know. I could not ask for more, but the USA won the World Cup and the Netherlands the European Championships. If my players win the European Championships, it will open doors for them. Our CEO Peter Bossaert attaches great importance to this. My dream is to have 100% professional female players on the national team within four or five years.Now I do not count ten.I think we are the only participant in the ‘Euro’ with less than 50% professional players.

Is it frustrating?

“I will not say frustrating, but – and this is no excuse – it is sometimes annoying to know that we are not fighting with the same weapons. We are fighting with a small potato peeler against a butcher knife or even a gun. Some of my daughters am used to driving a 125cc and have to drive a 500cc at an international level.Two weeks of training is not enough to catch up.When I am used to running at 8 km / h and I am asked to run at 12 or 14 km / h, I only hold for 10 minutes. “

Does this explain your defeat in the friendly match against England and Austria in preparation?

“Even Austria only has top athletes on their team. We have girls who go to work at 7 o’clock. I know what it’s like to combine the two. I have incredible respect for them. Every day they give everything they have in them And beware: we’re on the right track. We’ve already made tremendous progress. I’m going to the European Championships with real athletes. I’m proud of ‘them’.

You should be tough on the weight of your players. Was it hard not to pick some girls because they did not meet the physical requirements?

“It may seem strange, but it was not difficult at all (Editor’s note: Odeurs, Anderlecht goalkeeper, is no longer available, Vanmechelen has met the requirements and is for the European Championships). I was very clear with my group for a long time. And I personally said this to the girls involved. I know it’s a sensitive topic. But if you want to compete in the top 8, you have to reach certain standards. I do not want to use the word ‘lost’, I prefer to say ‘take on muscle mass’. “

The flames are scared of you?

“I do not hope. Sometimes I raise my voice when I do not like something, like in the break against Austria. But I also tell them the positive. And I am not a coach who gives fines. Except on the day of the match. It who comes too late to the theory will pay a fine that will hurt her enough. “

Do they address you by your first name? And they give you a kiss at the beginning of the preparatory camp?

“A kiss? No. I know that in Wallonia it’s easier to kiss each other. I do not mind my players kissing certain members of my staff. But I keep my distance. And they call me ‘coach’.

Tessa has Lukaku-like statistics: Romelu has 68 goals in 102 games, Tessa has 67 in 109 games.

“(Laughs) She’s worth gold for women’s football in Belgium. When I see how popular she was during our fanday. She’s very professional. When I show her videotapes of certain actions, do not explain it to her twice. But it is a special one. I have a hate-love relationship with her. She does not hesitate to contradict me, for example. “

Do you speak differently to women than to men?

“You no longer have to personally explain to them the reasons for certain decisions. Like when I had to reduce my choice from 28 to 23, or when I have to put someone in the stands. But make no mistake: they know how to talk tactics too! And more than you think. “

They know what playing career you had? That you almost became a red devil?

“I was selected about ten times on the youth national team. And in 1996 I received a pre-selection in national team A for the match Italy – Belgium (2-2), but it was more a selection ‘other knives’. In the end, I was not taken back.”

You won a title and a Cup with Lierse and you played in the Champions League.

“I played 274 games in D1. I was a recovery player. I had a good technique, but I did not stand out. I ran a lot, even though I hated running in the woods. I remember the presentation of Eric Gerets as coach of Lierse “We happened to be next to each other on the toilet. ‘ The showers with a string are still the same, I was thinking especially of 5-1 against Anderlecht.

With Westerlo you even beat Anderlecht 5-0.

“It was the title fight for Anderlecht. When we saw them come home with champagne, Thans, Rudy Janssens, Machiels and I said: ‘Never in their lives will they win here!’.”

How do your former teammates react to your success as a Flames coach?

“Recently we celebrated 25 years with the Lierse title. Gerets and the others were very excited about our results. It warms the heart. Van Meir, Van Kerckhoven and De Roover came to watch our matches in Lierse. We have a WhatsApp group “Lierse Legends” where they congratulate me regularly. That’s nice. Because when I started, people made fun of me. ‘Did you get your Pro License diploma to train the ladies?’ “

Are you still training with them?

“No. I still hate running and I do not know how to follow them. And football, forget it. I participated in a match for a good cause before Covid and I suffered for a week. Never again. At most, “I kick a penalty kick during training. But I start to miss them too often and I do not like them laughing at me (laughs).”

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