With The Latics, the Spaniard wrote the club’s history by winning the FA Cup in 2013. So he likes to return to Christopher Park, where it is officially called the training center as the Red Flames prepare for their games. “I’ve been a player here for six years, a coach for four years. That’s almost half a life. Together we won the most important cup in the club’s history. I’ve also kept a home here and I still know a lot of people inside the club,” he said on Sunday on the sidelines. Red Flames team training session.
Despite his close relationship with Wigan Athletic, Martinez played no part in securing the Belgians’ training ground. “You might not expect that,” he laughs. But it is UEFA that proposes possible base camps to the associations. Our delegation came to visit Wigan and chose. It came as a surprise to me, but I knew the selection here would be very well received. This is a real family club that still has people when I was here. They make sure you always feel welcome here.”
Martinez believes in Red Flames’ chances: ‘The team is ready’
On Monday evening, the Red Flames play their last European Championship group match against Italy. Roberto Martinez is convinced that the Belgian women will force qualification to the quarter-finals. “I’m convinced the flames will reach the quarter-finals. During the matches I saw certain things. France is five years ahead of us but we were competitive. In the last half hour we were stronger physically. I see him also in the individual performance. Nicky (Everard) saved two penalties. That’s it. The result of a lot of work. The team is ready.”
Martinez is expecting an exciting match anyway. “To win we have to be in control of the ball. This way you create chances.” “Italy lost 5-1 to France, it’s a team that is still looking for the best version of itself.”
The Red Devils themselves do not have fond memories of Italy. In the previous European Championship, the Italians kept Martinez’s team out of the semi-finals. “The only advice I can give to the Red Flames team is not to regret anything,” said the Spaniard. “We lost against Italy but won four matches. We gave everything and that is all you can do if you want to leave the tournament without regrets.”
The European Championship in England is the second major tournament for Red Flames. Five years ago, they were stranded in the group stage. Martinez believes this experience can now help them even more. “It’s like traveling to the moon. The first time is harder than the third time (laughs). If you know what to expect, you have a huge advantage. You make better decisions. Girls are ready to do it tomorrow.”
Challenges in Belgian women’s football: ‘The blessing must be greater’
According to Roberto Martinez, the thirteenth edition of the European Women’s Football Championship was a great success. He praised the organisers and is very pleased with the outlook on English stadiums. “I am amazed at the level of the matches. They are exciting matches where a lot of goals are scored. Even as a neutral football fan, you can get carried away quickly. This tournament has everything it takes to become the best women’s European Championship ever,” said Martinez.
The Spaniard also attended the first two matches of the flame of the red flame against Iceland (1-1) and France (loss 2-1). He says he was pleasantly surprised by the tight-knit team he saw in action. “They are girls from very different backgrounds. Some of them are very experienced and have played in the Champions League, others come from a less professional environment. I am positively amazed at how the Flames team have come so close so quickly.”
However, Martinez agrees that there are still plenty of growth margins for women’s football in Belgium. “If we compare ourselves to some countries, there is still a long way to go. Young players in development should be able to play in stronger competitions. There is a project like yellow flames but it is not enough. We need to get more girls to play football. We should The pond from which we can catch fish becomes larger. Then the competition will increase as well.”
At Red Flames, Martinez praised the professionalism that was applied around the coaching staff of national coach Yves Cernells. But he also sees pain points. After all, many players are not professionals. The problem is what happens when some girls go back to their club. There they should be able to work at the same professional level. Here’s the next step: professionalizing the competition. This is possible if we all work together. We need the support of the clubs, from the professional league. The federation can then play a coordinating role.”