Thu, Sep

Soca Princesses

Trinidad & Tobago’s rare adventures in front of a global audience have been both spirited and resolute. On two recent occasions – the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ and the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup – the national team was managed by highly regarded imported coaches. Leo Beenhakker and Even Pellerud both ensured the Caribbean nation of just 1.2 million inhabitants punched well above its weight.

Trinidad & Tobago are now looking to achieve a new landmark by qualifying for the newly-enlarged FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™. The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association are putting significant resources into their campaign, and with history no doubt in mind, they have recently appointed American Randy Waldrum, a career women’s coach with a track-record of success at various levels.

The Texan native already holds down the head coaching position at NWSL side Houston Dash following a quarter of a century of involvement in college football, including 15 years at the famed Notre Dame University, plus a brief stint as Trinidad & Tobago U-17 coach.

Investing for success
The first step will be next week’s hosting of the Caribbean Football Union Women’s Championship; an important milestone on the road to Canada 2015. Hosting the tournament is further evidence of T&T’s ambitions in women’s football. So too is Waldrum’s appointment, and an intense two-week camp organised for the Soca Princesses in Houston over the past fortnight.

“The big difference will be making financial investments over the years to grow the women’s game,” Waldrum tells about the prospects of future development in the region. Trinidad & Tobago now has a semi-professional national league, and T&T are currently competing creditably in the CONCACAF U-15 Championship. Waldrum paid tribute to the federation for their newly enhanced commitment to women’s football. “It is a huge step (sending the team to Houston) and probably the first time they have made such a financial commitment and I’m really excited about it.”

New landmark the goal
T&T will be joined be joined by seven preliminary stage qualifiers for the upcoming eight-day tournament, which concludes on 26 August. On offer to the top four is passage to October’s continental championship in the United States.

Waldrum says qualifying for Canada 2015 is an attainable goal, one that would provide impetus to women’s football across the region. “We have a good group,” Waldrum says of his T&T squad. “We will try and get as organised as possible in this two-week period, and hopefully qualify. Then we would have six weeks to prepare for the CONCACAF tournament.

“If we qualify (for Canada 2015) it would be a first for the Caribbean. It would be a good boost for women’s football in Trinidad and maybe for the region itself. I’m hopeful good things can happen, but I’m not taking anything for granted by any means.”

Three and a half spots are on offer in CONCACAF, including a play-off against the third-best South American nation. World No1 USA and the vastly improved Mexico have the inside running and Waldrum says the contest for the remaining spots is wide open, listing Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Haiti - managed by respected women’s coach Shek Borkowski - as just some of the nations with lofty ambitions. “It is as good a chance as there has ever been for a Caribbean nation to get in”

Most of the Soca Princesses squad are based domestically, with a few currently plying their trade in the United States college system. Among the better known squad personnel are one-time Seattle Reign forward Kennya “Yaya” Cordner and inspirational captain Maylee Attin-Johnson.

“He (Waldrum) brings a different perspective which is needed for the next level,” said Attin-Johnson. “He is a very forward-thinking person and I believe the difference he will make is in the fundamental aspects of the game that we take for granted. The chemistry of the team has already improved. We aren't going to take these games lightly because at the end of the day we know we are number one in the Caribbean and teams will be targeting us.”