Tokyo 2020 (F) – Great Britain

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  • Rhian Wilkinson has won bronze with Canada in the last two Olympic Games.
  • This year, she’s aiming for gold as Britain’s deputy.
  • She talks about the UK talent pool, Hege Riise and the FIFA Coaching Mentorship Program.

Present at the last three editions of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament and medalist in the last two, former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson has a strong affinity with this event. However, in Tokyo 2020, it will take its place on the bench of Great Britain when the Team GB will face Canada.

Wilkinson, 39, has 181 caps for the Canadian jersey. More recently, she led the U-17 and U-20 selections, while serving as an assistant with the A.When Kenneth Heiner-Moller decided to step down as coach, the Canadian federation handed over her succession to Beverly Priestman. Wilkinson saw herself offering to assist the Englishwoman, but she decided to decline and head abroad.

“I made this choice to progress as a coach,” she explained to FIFA.com. “I learned a lot from the coaches I worked with for Canada but it was always the same people, the same players, the same style. I felt like I had to leave to grow. C It is really hard to leave your country, your family and your friends, but I resigned, without having a job waiting for me at this point, because I felt that this was the path I had to take. “


Head coach Rhian Wilkinson of Canada gestures during the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Uruguay 2018 3rd place match between New Zealand and Canada at Estadio Charrua on December 1, 2018 in Montevideo, Uruguay.
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Fortunately, Wilkinson did not have a long spell of unemployment. After two weeks, she was recruited by England to work as assistant to the interim coach of the Lionesses, Hege Riise. Given his desire to go abroad, but also to leave his comfort zone, this challenge corresponded exactly to his expectations.

“England today is a major nation in women’s football,” she said. “When I spoke of privilege to describe my arrival in the staff, I really weighed my words because it is a great period to work in women’s football in this country. I am enriched in contact with Hege, there is so much to admire about her. “


Team GB coaches Hege Riise and Rhian Wilkinson.
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A complementary duo

Wilkinson discovered Riise’s talents in 2005, when she played alongside him in Norway at Team Strommen. “Hege was playing the last season of her career and she only played in a very small area of ​​the pitch, but despite everything, she managed to dictate the tempo and dominate the matches. She had an extraordinary technique and vision of the game. “, remembers the Canadian. “When you have the honor of playing alongside one of the best players in history, you tend to get discouraged at first because you realize that you will never come close to her. At the same time, it was extraordinary to see her dominate her subject in a match, without giving the impression of forcing. Instinctively, she knew where the available space was and where the ball had to go. “

Riise was an assistant when Wilkinson returned to Strommen. “Hege is someone who does not speak much, but when she speaks, she knows how to find the right words to hit the mark,” describes the British new assistant coach. “As a coach, she has the same foresight. What I like about her is that she never loses the pedals. Some people think that to be a coach you have to be very vocal and demonstrative, but she She doesn’t feel the need. She’ll get more out of a calm conversation with a few players than a stereotypical intervention in front of the group. “

Wilkinson is convinced that she forms a perfect tandem with the Norwegian. “I am much more vocal than she, more directive in the field. In general, she asks me to lead the sessions and she intervenes more on the overall vision,” she confirms. “She’s totally devoid of ego, which is very rare in a head coach. She has no problem letting others lead and take the light.”


Rhian Wilkinson of Canada celebrates with Erin McLeod of Canada after the Women's Football Quarter Final match between Great Britain and Canada, on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at City of Coventry Stadium on August 3, 2012 in Coventry, England.
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Souvenirs of medals

Wilkinson and Riise have a lot in common and in particular excellent memories of the Olympic Games, with a cumulative record of four medals: three in bronze and one in gold, won by the Norwegian in 2000. This is undoubtedly what made the difference. decided Great Britain to turn to these two experts to guide the selection in this competition in 2020.

“The Olympic Games have given me the best moments of my career,” confirms Wilkinson. “I had always dreamed of participating but never imagined winning a medal. The podium at Wembley in 2012 remains the best moment of my entire career. In quite a few matches, we had been dominated, but we were remained united, united with each other. And we became the first Canadian women to win a medal in team sport for 86 years. “

Wilkinson also retains fond memories of Rio 2016 even though she was at the end of her career and only played three out of six matches. “It was difficult to move from executive status to that of replacement who was to encourage the incumbents, but I’m really proud of the way I managed this transition,” she said. “In this competition, I became a leader. It was really a plus for me as a coach because I know the pain you feel when you lose your place.”


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Well surrounded and bin recommended

An experience that served him when he formed the group that will fly to Tokyo. “Britain’s talent pool is incredible,” admits Wilkinson, born to an English father and a Welsh mother. “Before taking my job, I thought I was aware of the level of the players, but what I saw really exceeded my expectations. It was mission impossible to put together a squad with only 16 outfielders. This country is going to be one. great nation of women’s football for years to come. “

This “impossible mission”, Hope Powell had already accomplished in 2012. The former coach of the Team GB was associated with the Canadian in the FIFA Coaching Mentorship Program. She therefore called on her expertise to best prepare for the Olympic Tournament. “He’s someone I admire a lot. I was keen to learn from his wisdom and insight,” who has also taken advice from Jill Ellis, and Sarina Wiegman in the past. “The FIFA mentorship program is one of the best that I have followed. The mentoring component was essential and beneficial, but the networking component was also very important. It was during this training that I have met Jill and Sarina, for example. And then I met mentors, but also the other mentees, who practice at a good level. “

“For me, this is one of the programs that must be perpetuated because it brings a lot of support and confidence to young coaches at a crucial stage in their development. I was very lucky to participate in it,” she concludes.

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