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Ciao Carolina! T&T women’s programme in jeopardy as Italian walks after three months without pay

The Italian renaissance of the Trinidad and Tobago National Women’s Team programme appears to be over—after just under six months—as the much vaunted head coach Carolina Morace officially informed the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) on Friday that she has had enough.

Morace, a former Italy player and Canada World Cup coach, was tightlipped about her sudden departure from the Women Soca Warriors post and a deal that was due to run until the France 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

But she did make one thing clear: it was not a resignation. Not exactly.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach Carolina Morace (centre) shouts instructions to her team during international friendly action against Venezuela at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 26 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“The right terminology is,” Morace told Wired868, “the contract [is] terminated for just cause.”

Morace holds a law degree and the wording leaves little room for misinterpretation. The Italian football coach, whose signing was hailed as a coup for the David John-Williams-led TTFA, is likely to now take the football body to court—and the cost could be substantial.

KFC Munch Pack

Although John-Williams never confirmed the value of the TTFA’s contract to Morace and her assistants Nicola Williams, Elisabetta Bavagnoli and Manuela Tesse, it was rumoured to cost US$24,000 per month. If that figure is correct, then the local football body could owe its Italian coaches TT$4.3 million (US$648,000) for the duration of their contracts.

Worse, the TTFA would have to find money to hire new coaches for the Women’s National Senior, Under-20 and Under-17 Teams while still paying bumper wages to the departed Italians. And, if ex-women’s coach Even Pellerud is any gauge, the consequences for the local football body, if they default on the payment, could be dire—as FIFA had threatened to suspend Trinidad and Tobago from international football until its former Norwegian coach was paid.

In the short term, the local FA, which hosts the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Trinidad from 18 January 2018, need a coach to prepare its team.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team coach Carolina Morace (left) shares a light moment with forward Laurelle Theodore after their international friendly encounter with Venezuela at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 26 March 2017.
Theodore missed a late opportunity as the two nations played to a goalless draw.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Wired868 understands that local National Under-20 Team assistant coach Desiree Sarjeant, a former international player and ex-St Augustine Secondary coach, is expected to step in and coach the youth and senior team on Monday in a combined session.

However, it is uncertain how the TTFA will remedy the situation in the long term.

The exodus of Italian coaches started at least two months ago when Under-17 coach Manuela Tessa told local staff that she would not return—supposedly because the local football body had not provided the level of preparation promised to her squad.

By then, ex-Italy international Elisabetta Bavagnoli, who was supposed to assist all three teams, was already conspicuous by her absence.

John-Williams declined comment on the whereabouts of Tessa and Bavagnoli and, so far, his general secretary Justin Latapy-George has also held his tongue on the recent departures of Morace and the Under-20 head coach Nicola Williams, who was born in England but lives in Australia.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams (second from right) poses with Women’s National Senior Team coaches (from left) Nicola Williams, Carolina Morace and Elisabetta Bavagnoli at a press conference in the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 1 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Morace has not offered an explanation for her departure just yet. However, Wired868 understands that the issue is part-financial and part-administrative.

The TTFA has allegedly not paid its foreign coaches in three months—but even that is not a straightforward matter.

In March, John-Williams told the media that the women’s programme would be funded by a CONCACAF subvention.

“I’m happy to say that the CONCACAF programme is going to finance the women’s programme,” said the TTFA president. “Don’t get the misconception that we’re contracting coaches and we can’t pay them—we have specific allocations. So therefore the $125,000 US that we get a year from CONCACAF is going to go into the women’s programme.”

The problem, allegedly, lay in how the TTFA hoped to pay Morace and her assistants. Wired868 understands that John-Williams asked CONCACAF for an advance on its subvention to the local football body to meet financial obligations to his women’s staff and players.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Dernelle Mascall (centre) drives towards the Venezuela goal during international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 29 March 2017.
Venezuela won 3-1.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The confederation, according to informed sources, agreed to wire money directly to the respective accounts of the employees rather than write a cheque to the TTFA, which would have allowed the football body to service its own debts.

CONCACAF’s wariness in handing over money to the TTFA is believed to be a throwback to the creative accounting and controversial use of football funding by former local football presidents.

So, CONCACAF was supposedly happy to pay Morace and her staff. But the Italian allegedly refused to sign the document to receive the money, based on legal advice about the potential tax implications.

Morace’s Trinidad counterparts found her exceedingly fussy.

“If the money is there for you,” they asked, “then why not just take it?”

However, the Italian was not willing to take chances with her accounting books. Could Morace explain to the Italy taxman why there were huge deposits in her bank account from CONCACAF when her job contract was with the TTFA?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach Carolina Morace (right) and captain Tasha St Louis warm up before kick off against Venezuela in international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 29 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

She was, according to a source, wary of the potential complications. But this did not mean Morace was unwilling to consider other avenues to settle the matter.

Wired868 was informed that the Italian tried repeatedly to find a solution with John-Williams and was allegedly frustrated by the football president’s perceived indifference to her phone calls or tardiness in responding to emails.

One possible option was that Morace would approach the corporate sector, as she had done in Canada, to raise money for the programme. It is uncertain whether she ever got the chance to broach such suggestions to the football president.

It was not, according to a source, that Morace felt John-Williams did not care whether she and her staff were paid or not. But she was concerned that the football president might be incapable—whether due to stubbornness or incompetence—of finding the required formula.

Wired868 has tried, so far without success, to ascertain whether the TTFA has an active marketing or finance committee at present and who is on either committee. Latapy-George has promised to prove the information at a later, unspecified date.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team captain Tasha St Louis (centre) signs a one year monthly retainer contract alongside TTFA president David John-Williams (right) and head coach Carolina Morace on 27 March 2017.
(Copyright TTFA Media)

Morace’s own hard-nosed approach to her job is infamous. In Canada, players moaned that the Italian supposedly refused to make allowances for student/athletes, scorned their style of play and even banned peanut butter from their diets.

In Trinidad, veteran winger Ahkeela Mollon stopped attending sessions after she felt the coach mocked her request to leave evening sessions before the ice baths—and do them at home instead—so as not to tempt fate by driving into her crime-ridden Longdenville neighbourhood too late.

There were fall outs too with former captain Maylee Attin-Johnson, star attacker Kennya “Yaya” Cordner and equipment manager Steve “Pokeyman” Fredericks; although, to her credit, there were also good reviews from senior players like Mariah Shade and observers from within the football fraternity. And Morace insisted she had excellent working relations with the bulk of her squad.

One memorable story lingers of a cancelled screening in Tobago, which is used to typify Morace’s refusal to compromise her standards—even for the sake of her new employers.

Morace, according to an eye witness, arrived for the training session in the “Sister Isle” only to discover that the groundsman was still in the process of marking the field, despite at least a week’s notice of the event.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach Carolina Morace (left) offers advice to attacker Shenelle Henry during international friendly action against Venezuela at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 29 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

There were over a dozen eager young players waiting to show their stuff to the Italian. But, without a word, Morace and her assistant allegedly turned around and headed straight to the ANR Robinson International Airport for a flight back to Trinidad.

Morace is eyeing the departure lounge once again. And it is likely to mean a huge bill for the TTFA, which is already facing legal action and/or struggling to pay former employees like Russell Latapy, Anton Corneal, Kendall Walkes, Stephen Hart, Ramesh Ramdhan and Sheldon Phillips.

“The Italians had brought a vast improvement to the women’s game with the programme they put in place,” one football insider told Wired868, on condition of anonymity. “This has nothing to do with the fact that they were foreign. They just have more knowledge than us and you could see it. And they were bringing it to the programme.

“Everyone was talking about how well the under-20s were doing, for instance, because [Nicola Williams] is a teacher and she was very good at getting ideas across.”

The Trinidad and Tobago women’s programme looks like it will now have to do without their services on the field of play—although the TTFA could still end up footing the bill for their expertise.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team coach Carolina Morace (centre) makes a point to Lauryn Hutchinson (far left) and her teammates during international friendly action against Venezuela on 26 March 2017.
The two nations played to a goalless draw at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Looking on (second from right) is assistant coach Nicola Williams.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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  1. It would have been so nice if Darryl Smith could have given her some of the gallivanting money he wasted in Tobago.

  2. Embarrassing to women’s football. ..

  3. I once dreamt of being a great coach ,after coaching in Trinidad ,between the facilities schools ,principals and ttfa ,I would rather sell avocadoes and cupcakes …sinking to rise no more a-rkelly

  4. There we go again…the off field games bigger than the on field games…’third world’ problems

  5. Dion Sosa Lasana Liburd
    How does one apply for this job?

  6. “John Williams, when asked in March, told the media that monies to pay for the Women’s programme would come from the CONCACAF subvention and boasted of his administration’s prudent management of funds received from the world governing body for football—FIFA.” Wonder where the FIFA funds are going?

  7. Williams (N) told Guardian Media Sports yesterday: “It was not something that we wanted to do, but rather something that we had to do.”

    “We kept on giving them notice of the non-payment of salaries until we decided to give the TTFA a period of 15 days to pay, but they still did not respond, so we did what we had to do. It is sad.”

  8. Same crap…diffetent day. This has happened in the past. Imagine what this respected coach will say to the international football community.

  9. Didn’t the TTFA forward $800k the the PFL? Clearly mismanagement of financial affairs. Can’t pay coaches but can bailout PFL.

  10. Selby Browne VFFOTT

    Now it is clear that the TTFA will have to answer the questions from VFFOTT.

    One week has now passed and one hopes the TTFA now understands the need for providing the answers to the VFFOTT questions soonest.

    The answers do not require much research and can be provided quite easily.

    The TTFA members have no idea of what is transpiring at the TTFA.


  11. Pay the woman what she’s owed but honestly, thank your lucky stars she’s gone. She almost ruined the Canadian WNT.


  13. The more things change the more they remain the damn same! Our football will never go anywhere until we put people who actually love the game and respect our players and coaches enough…… not these people who only care about filling their pockets

  14. Classic Trinidadian bush thinking at work again…..we will never be world class when we only thinking low class. Set ah imps.

  15. The mere fact we are still talking about Sponsorship, instead of Partnership means we are not in this century.

    • ..maybe in the next century..

    • Not a real country eh. Them really good yes

    • My professor Jamaal Shabazz I went quiet for a moment because I just now saw that You mentioned my name eh, and as you know that I have been batting for many moons now eh especially for the underprivileged eh and just imagine that meh untie Kams government built or repaired a field down there in Siparia for over 1.5 million I was told eh, and to repair three very important fields in the communities, Morvant, San Juan (Bourg) and Barataria complex eh, the fella was asking for $ 200 thousand of monies eh and was turned down eh, and Terry should be the last person to be attacking anybody eh . Them really good yes.

  16. For 400 years you pulling wool over we eyes. Mango come out and bat for the Saint ….

  17. Mango you gone quiet come out and bat for Saint Peter.

  18. When men beating your name and raising all your discrepancies I am the jackass saying no hold on Fenwick is a good coach…Fenwick is a soldier I defend you on i95 …men beat me in the Board room …And this is the second time you wrongfully try to use my name in your nonsense. Well you and all who want to bat for you whether with they pen or they computer. Attack meh let us start to deal with matters

  19. They sure know how to destroy sport in this country. All self serving and to hell with the sport or the players.

  20. Call my name for things I do like the anniversary coming up this month. Dont call my name casting no aspersion and you know you have North East I mean cocoa or is it the Ministry cheque in the sun

  21. The story is on Carolina how Fenwick bring me in and casting aspersions on my already bad name. And Mango all of you does stay quiet. All this peace maker thing with me done.

  22. Raymond Tim Kee was doing good job they voted him out and voted in John Williams so take

  23. Would love to hear the DJW side of this..

  24. Why is it that TTFA don’t like to pay their coaches? They are going to build up such a reputation that no international coach would want the job. Sad.

  25. Funny thing that North East purchase story did not come out.

    • There are many stories in football that are still untold. Maybe that story will be told eventually too.

    • Yu want a story after I publicly say the fraud squad had a soft drink case against Saint Peter …Police come home by me and say Shabs stay out ah dat…
      I say NO the cheque was for a noble cause. I done take licks thinking I on the side of football when is nothing but Frank James Jesse James and the what you call them.brothers

    • To suggest Stuart Charles …Isa and myself getting some favourable treatment financial is both erroneous malicious and also wicked. For many who remain silent not seeing the undertone all you deep. But let it be your name ….men go run in court

  26. I stay out your business dont put me in your mischief you know nothing of my arrangement and speed. Dont cast those kinds of aspersions. I have not said what your would be Investor in the Failed North East purchase said about your conduct of affairs. This is the month all you like to call muslims name. Ok

  27. Terry Fenwick have respect for me star do not bring me in your thing. I said nothing about your fiasco with The North East bobool and all those tricks. I supported you with your fraud issue with your Ministry cheque and MY GROUND in Morvant. You know once you call a war with me I up for it

  28. Players want to party when they should be training. Not showing up for practice. Can’t be spoken to. Hurt their feelings. That’s why so few are chosen for international teams.

  29. She was useless and was always a most terrible choice. We missed the bullet that would have killed women’s football