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Wed, Jun

Soca Princesses grounded owing to TTFA $$ woes.
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SHAMEFUL

JUST OVER month on from being crowned queens of Caribbean football at the inaugural Women’s Caribbean Championship, the local-based core of the Trinidad and Tobago national team (Soca Princesses) remain grounded at home due to the failure of local football’s governing body to raise $40,000, to process visa applications for team members.

 The financially challenged Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) continues to find it difficult attracting corporate sponsors, while seemingly inept at raising funds for what appears, arguably, this country’s best ever chance to qualify for a FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Soca Princesses were expected to fly out Saturday to the USA for the final round of qualifiers for next year’s World Cup in Canada.

Eight key foreign-based players are away from the team, in the US, while the local-based bunch had a two-week camp at Petrotrin beach house facilities. Among those separated from the local contingent are US-born striker Liana Hinds and Daneil Blair, who was a nominee for best US college defender a couple of years ago. 

Also among the separated bunch are goalkeeper Kamika Forbes, her sister (central midfielder) Karen Forbes, and defender Ria Belgrave, all members of the squad which edged Jamaica 1-0 on August 26 to win the Caribbean Championship here in Trinidad. 

“We ideally wanted to leave Saturday, but application to process visas is set for Monday (today),” intimated Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Sheldon Phillips in response to enquiries by The Express. “Raising funds for the visa applications, $1200 per person, was the issue,” he added.

The team’s late arrival in the USA leaves American-born head-coach Randy Waldrum little time to integrate the local-based players with the foreign-based members of his squad. If the Soca Princesses do qualify for a first FIFA Women’s World Cup, as some anticipate, it will be a tough road travelled. 

Waldrum will have had inadequate time to integrate the two halves of his team, while guessing about the fitness level of his US-based players, ahead of their opening match of the series next Sunday against the USA, rated the No.1 women’s team in the world. The Soca Princesses also play matches against Caribbean Championship third-placed team, Haiti, as well as Guatemala, who have never beaten T&T.

At a press conference two weeks ago, Phillips indicated the TTFA’s intention to allow Waldrum a pre-tournament USA camp, which would have included some warm-up matches intended to aid in the team’s integration. That looks difficult now. 

Phillips had said: “The plan is to take the team to the US, very close to Kansas City, which will be the very first venue for the team, and plans are to have them in the US about seven days before the first match.”

Potential victories over Haiti and Guatemala and a good result against the US could see the Soca Princesses into the final four of the October 12-26 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, from which the top three automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth-placed also have a shot via a playoff against a South American team. 

Expansion of the World Cup from 16 to 24 teams has given the CONCACAF region an extra automatic qualifying spot, and with hosts and top 10-ranked Canada not needing to qualify, Waldrum believes T&T chances at reaching next year’s World Cup is a real possibility. 

“Eight teams and 3 1/2 qualifying spots, I think that’s the best opportunity in the next ten years to qualify,“ Waldrum said. And he should know, having been a US women’s under-23 national coach only two years ago. 

Waldrum also has near 400 college victories on his resume and is one of the most decorated US women’s colleges coaches, having led Notre Dame to two national championships and ten division titles. He is also currently coach of the Houston Dash, a professional outfit which plays at the highest level in the US. 

Waldrum is donating his services free because the TTFA cannot yet pay him. His explanation is that it is a fantastic opportunity to qualify the first Caribbean team for a FIFA Women’s World Cup. Phillips indicated the TTFA’s intention to allow Waldrum a pre-tournament USA camp, which would have included some warm-up matches intended to aid in the team’s integration. That looks difficult now. 

Phillips had said: “The plan is to take the team to the US, very close to Kansas City, which will be the very first venue for the team, and plans are to have them in the US about seven days before the first match.”

Potential victories over Haiti and Guatemala and a good result against the US could see the Soca Princesses into the final four of the October 12-26 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, from which the top three automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth-placed also have a shot via a playoff against a South American team. 

Expansion of the World Cup from 16 to 24 teams has given the CONCACAF region an extra automatic qualifying spot, and with hosts and top 10-ranked Canada not needing to qualify, Waldrum believes T&T chances at reaching next year’s World Cup is a real possibility. 

“Eight teams and 3 1/2 qualifying spots, I think that’s the best opportunity in the next ten years to qualify,“ Waldrum said. And he should know, having been a US women’s under-23 national coach only two years ago. 

Waldrum also has near 400 college victories on his resume and is one of the most decorated US women’s colleges coaches, having led Notre Dame to two national championships and ten division titles. He is also currently coach of the Houston Dash, a professional outfit which plays at the highest level in the US. 

Waldrum is donating his services free because the TTFA cannot yet pay him. His explanation is that it is a fantastic opportunity to qualify the first Caribbean team for a FIFA Women’s World Cup.