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From burgers and fries, to a coach on the rise (New Zealand)

Gemma Lewis was running an American diner in Wales when it dawned on her what she really wanted to do with her life.

A former international footballer, who’d also had a stint with giant English club Chelsea, Lewis had made a clean break with the sport four years earlier. “I needed to find myself without football,” she says.

But, working in that restaurant, she realised just how much she loved the game, and how much she wanted to coach.

Now Lewis is regarded as one of the most promising coaches in New Zealand – and the world. She’s just spent three days with the world’s top female football coaches in Zurich, as part of the new FIFA coach mentorship programme.

She also met the woman who will mentor her for the next 12 months – the head coach of the Japanese women’s team, Asako Takemoto.

Like a jet-setting footballer (but without the jet), Lewis is now in Montevideo, Uruguay, where she picks up her role as the assistant coach to the New Zealand team about to play in the women’s under-17 World Cup.

Earlier in the year, she was an assistant coach of the New Zealand under-20 women at their World Cup in France. Both teams have male coaches.

A little of what Lewis gleaned from Takemoto during their whirlwind introduction may be able to help the under-17 side over the next couple of weeks, in their aim to advance from their group for the very first time.

“Just listening to some of her experiences was pretty amazing,” Lewis says of Takemoto, who played for Japan for 15 years, and was head coach of Japanese age group sides at two World Cups. In June this year, Takemoto guided Nadeshiko Japan to a 3-1 victory over the Football Ferns in Wellington (a ‘friendly’ which incidentally began the unravelling of Ferns’ head coach Andreas Heraf).

“She has so much experience, and I was digging into all of that, trying to get all of her ideas. She’s so humble and grounded, and so willing to share. I think it’s going to be a really good opportunity.”

It is 28-year-old Lewis’ goal to be like Takemoto and ultimately become the head coach of a national women’s side.



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