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Sabrina Wittmann's debut a first in German men's football

May 6, 2024

Sabrina Wittmann earned a point in her debut as interim coach of German third-division side Ingolstadt. The former Bundesliga club has not ruled out handing her the job on a more permanent basis.

Sabrina Wittmann
Sabrina Wittmann is breaking new ground in German men's footballImage: Daniel Löb/dpa/picture alliance

"Role models are important so that other women realize what is possible," Sabrina Wittmann said in an interview published on the website of the German Football Association (DFB) early last month. A few weeks later, she has become just such a role model.

Appointed as interim head coach at Ingolstadt last week, the 32-year-old earned her first point in charge of the third-division outfit on Sunday, as Ingolstadt pulled out a last-minute 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Waldhof Mannheim.

"Exciting, just like the previous few days," Wittmann told MagentaSport shortly after the final whistle.

"We've already implemented a lot of what we trained over the past three days. That makes me look forward to more."

Wittmann is not the first woman to take charge of a men's side in Germany – former national team player Inka Grings had a spell as head coach of SV Straelen a few years ago, as did Imke Wübbenhorst at Sportfreunde Lotte. However, both these clubs were in the fourth tier – a step below the 3. Liga (third division), the lowest fully professional league in Germany. 

There is currently one female assistant coach in the Bundesliga, Marie-Louise Eta of Union Berlin.

'Quality trumps gender'

"If Sabrina were male, there would have been no fuss," said Ingolstadt's sporting director Ivica Grlic of Wittman's promotion from coaching the club's under-19 side.

"But we go by quality and not by gender," added the former Bundesliga midfielder who made 16 appearances for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the mid-2000s. Grlic described Wittmann's main attributes as being "direct, authentic, very talented."

Born and raised in Ingolstadt, Wittman played as an amateur for her hometown club from 2011 to 2013, before moving on to other teams in the southern state of Bavaria. She turned to coaching while still a player in 2017, and has since worked with several youth teams at Ingolstadt.

Sabrina Wittmann gesturing to players during training
Sarah Wittmann previously coached several youth teams at IngolstadtImage: Daniel Löb/dpa/picture alliance

Her big break came after Ingolstadt parted ways with previous boss Michael Köllner – as, according to Grlic, the club sees developing young coaches as an important part of its profile.

Four league games and a cup final

Wittmann has been put in charge until the end of the season, giving her five matches, including Sunday's draw, to make her case for being kept on for next season. 

"It would be a mistake to rule anything out. We're open to everything," Grlic said of the possibility of her earning the job longer term.

She can make her argument with a minimum of pressure in the league, as Ingolstadt sit in 11th place and are therefore not in a battle for promotion nor against relegation.

However, there will be plenty on the line when she takes to the coaching zone for Ingolstadt's last game of the season – the final of the Bavarian Cup on May 25. Winning the title would see Ingolstadt qualify for the first round of next season's German Cup.

This article was adapted from German.