The Chelsea Women manager, Emma Hayes, has said she fulfilled a childhood dream in winning a Fifa Best award on Monday night – and that her son, Harry, asked whether it was “for being the best mummy”.
Hayes won the women’s coach award and was following proceedings from home via a link when the announcement was made in Zurich. “The funniest thing about it all is my son came downstairs and he said: ‘Mummy, you’ve won an award – is that for being the best mummy?’” a beaming Hayes said. “Dream fulfilled, and in my son’s eyes, I won an award for being mummy of the year.
“When they called my name out, as everyone knows I was completely shocked,” she added of her open-mouthed reaction that went viral. “The first thing I thought about was that little kid in the orange flats kicking the ball against the wall, commentating on myself in a cup final or leading a team. As a little girl I dreamed of these things. I’ve just had a dream turn into a reality, and then I felt instantly embarrassed.”
Hayes’s embarrassment comes from the fact that, while appreciative, she does not see too much in individual awards in a team sport. Chelsea won a domestic treble in 2021 and reached the Champions League final. “I feel like everybody deserves it – an individual award for a coach seems mental to me,” she said. Being a role model, too, feels a little alien.
“When you are that person, trust me, words like role model or inspiration or pioneer get used a lot and you don’t really understand it,” she said. “It’s not because I’m ignorant but because I’m doing a job I love every day.
“It’s all of us that will influence the next level for the game, in terms of making sure people are involved, invested and influenced by it, that the base becomes even bigger. We know when we first started there were only a few of us. The fact we’re more front and centre across the board, there’s more regular coverage and there’s more back-page stories, it’s just helping the game. I’m one of those parts to that. That movement for me is far more powerful than any other individual award.”
Helping to challenge her is the increased competitiveness of Women’s Super League teams. West Ham, Chelsea’s opponents in Wednesday’s Continental League Cup quarter-final, are one of many performing better than ever.
“It’s great,” Hayes said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted for the league. I always feel when I watch West Ham play that they know how to stay in the game. I think Olli Harder has done a great job with them.
“But what a great job so many teams are doing: Rehanne Skinner at Tottenham, Kelly Chambers to recover Reading, Mark Skinner, Manchester United, I think he’s doing an amazing job. They’re making the league interesting.”
A noticeable difference in the WSL compared with other leagues is the number of female managers in charge, with half the teams managed by women. Tottenham and Chelsea also have female former WSL head coaches as assistants.
“I’m proud of the league for that,” said Hayes. “The NWSL has a lot to learn in my opinion, as does the French league, the German league, the Spanish league, about appointing women. This isn’t about just appointing women into jobs. It’s just demonstrating that healthy diversity is important, at any level, for the players, for the whole sport.
“So I’m very proud of all of them for what they’re doing because I think they’re raising the bar for the sport, and I become a better coach with competition, so I’m really enjoying the difficult games week in, week out.”