Benstiti’s career as a manager began in 2001, after a 16-year playing career that began at Olympique Lyonnais. He didn’t go far to manage his first club, as he was Olympique Lyonnais’ women’s team manager from 2001 to 2010. It was during his tenure that the club officially became part of the OL family, winning four league (Division 1 Féminine) titles and three Coupe de France Féminine (Women’s French Cup) titles.
As the women’s game continues to grow and talent evolves all over the world, Lyon’s dominance continues to set the standard which all other clubs aspire to reach. Identifying and developing talent is how you get there, and Benstiti’s resume suggests he knows what he’s doing. The list of players who have played under him is nothing short of a soccer all-star squad: Amandine Henry, Élodie Thomis, Louisa Cadamuro (nee Necib), Sonia Bompastor, and Lotta Schelin all played under Benstiti. Americans Hope Solo and Aly Wagner also had spells at Lyon during his time leading the club.
Need another voice for his resume? Let’s go to Wendie Renard:
“The [national team] tryout [in 2006] at Clairefontaine didn’t go well. I landed at Olympique Lyonnais thanks to Farid Benstiti. After watching me in training for 20 minutes, he said, ‘I’m keeping her. She’s going to learn and progress.’ Farid treated me like his daughter but always respectfully and professionally. He never gave me anything for free.” – Renard in an interview with ESPN
After a two-year stint in Russia where he managed both the Russian women’s national team and club team Rossiyanka, Benstiti returned to France, this time managing Paris Saint-Germain. Players like Kosovare Asllani, Laura Georges, Tobin Heath, and Lindsey Horan are just some of the players that he coached in the four seasons he was there.
Horan’s time in PSG has been well documented, as the then 17-year-old midfielder declined a college scholarship at the illustrious University of North Carolina in order to pursue her dream of playing professionally. The path to becoming a pro was not easy for Horan, as she reflected on her time at PSG and under Benstiti for The Players Tribune, but it was that no nonsense, tough love approach that Horan says made her into the player she’s gone on to become both for the United States and Portland Thorns FC.
The video below gives a glimpse into the world of PSG under Benstiti back in 2012, with cameos from Asllani and Horan.
After PSG, Benstiti went to the Women’s Super League in China, where he managed Dalian W.F.C, winning two league titles. That team collapsed in the last year as their ownership group was investigated for financial misconduct and fraud, and Benstiti departed the club in April.
So the resume looks good. Managing the two powerhouse clubs in France with a who’s who of all-star soccer talents, some of them the best the game will ever see, is nothing to scoff at. The question is, can he guide Reign FC to the ultimate prize that still eludes them, the NWSL Championship? Can his experience translate to the NWSL, where sometimes it’s a literal shrug of the shoulders as to what is defined as a foul, and yet is still a destination league for players that want to improve their game?
Benstiti inherits a squad that took eventual NWSL champions North Carolina Courage to the full 90 minutes before running out of gas and luck and in extra time of the NWSL playoffs semi-final. It’s a squad with the lore of having been decimated by an obscene number of injuries that tested the mettle of players, coaches, and technical staff. It is also a squad that saw the revelation of Bethany Balcer, the arrival of Casey Murphy, the continued growth of Megan Oyster, and dependability of Lauren Barnes and Beverly Yanez. It is a squad that should see the return of Taylor Smith, Jasmyne Spencer, and oh yeah, a dragon in Jess Fishlock.
With a NWSL College Draft, potential trades and new signings, pre-season training camp, and friendlies to play before the regular season kicks off in April, we’ll have plenty of time to learn about how Reign FC play and develop under Farid Benstiti. With his experience at Olympique Lyonnais as a player and manager, clearly he is well aware of OL’s high standards and expectations of success. Reign FC have their own high aspirations for success, and as the club’s third-ever head coach, the challenge is on.
Ride of the Valkyries has reached out to the Reign front office for comment; we will update this story if and when we hear back. We will have more on this developing story as additional details emerge.