Patalon and Signeul: A match made in football heaven

  • The ideal partnership: Nina Patalon and Anna Signeul
  • Sharing networks and knowledge the main focus
  • “I really love to help these women to live their dreams and to achieve a goal”

When you see the intuitive way in which Nina Patalon, head coach of the Poland U-17 women’s team, and Anna Signeul, head coach of the Finland women’s senior national team, interact, it soon becomes clear that these two people were destined to work together.

“I don’t know about Anna but for me it’s very comfortable,” Patalon told FIFA.com. “I admire Anna. I knew about her story before I met her. I know that she can teach me a lot and help me to grow and develop. She always understands when I say something in English when nobody understands me. It is very comfortable for me because I think that football language is very simple. She gives me a lot of space to feel comfortable on the pitch and with the team.”

As part of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme, the 33-year-old from Poland had the opportunity not only to follow her mentor during the Cyprus Cup, at which Finland were playing, but also to contribute.

“It is a relationship, and it is really important that the relationship is working,” Signeul explained. “It is important that Nina thinks that she can ask me anything she wants. It is really up to her. I am a toolbox and she can take whatever she likes. She can ask me about player development, talent (identification) or scouting. We talk football on the pitch, at trainings, team meetings or how to develop individual players. It can be anything but it is really up to Nina and what she feels she wants to learn or talk about. I don’t decide the agenda. When I see Nina, I ask a lot of questions – why she is doing things and she maybe has to reflect a lot on those things.”

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The focus of the programme is therefore not just to pass on experiences, skills and knowledge, but also to promote development and career opportunities for women’s coaches.

“One of our tasks also is to share our network. That is really important,” Signeul continued. “I want to share all my colleagues and all my staff. She just had a meeting with the fitness coach – that is a real privilege to get access to all these people. But that is a part of the mentor programme, that we can open some doors here for our mentees. I really love to help these women to live their dreams and to achieve a goal. I’m a very passionate person. When I do something, I put my soul into it. I think it is great to help these women. The young players and coaches here have a bright future.”

Patalon, who was the first woman in Poland to take part in the UEFA Pro Licence course, was in total agreement. “For me it is a fantastic experience. We don’t have a lot of women in this role. If you want to learn something, you need a mentor. Someone who can help you – not exactly tell you what to do but to give you some advice and help you to grow. It is very important to find people that have experience and can share with you what they know.”

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How Nina sees Anna as a coach:

  • A quiet leader but very charismatic
  • Very consistent, knows what she wants
  • Chooses a way and believes in it
  • Lets people find their own way and helps them to give the best they have
  • Lets the players and the staff be authentic and feel part of the team

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