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"It's back in the saddle for the "Legend" of Italian female soccer"

Mario Rimati

The "Legend" of Italian female soccer, 36 year-old Carolina Morace, has fulfilled a long-time dream, that of becoming the Head Coach of the Italian National Team. On July 21st at 11 am in the Rome headquarters of the Italian F.A., President Luciano Nizzola bestowed upon the most prolific player of the women's game in Italy the title of Head Coach of both the National and U-18 National teams.

The F.A.'s decision to pick Morace comes just two weeks after the nomination of another great of the game, Giovanni Trapattoni, as the new Head Coach of the men's National Team after the other legend of Italian soccer, Dino Zoff, stepped down from the job following the European 2000 Final game. Nizzola used the following words to justify the F.A.'s choice of Morace as new head coach, "Choosing Carolina is just a small part of a larger project. We want to give some weight to female soccer in Italy.

The starting point is to unify a sector which is presently too fragmented throughout the country. For example, the 1st division championship is run by the Female Soccer Division whereas the other championships (2nd, 3rd and regional tournaments) are run by the regional committees. This type of formula just doesn't seem to work well at the moment." Nizzola also added that coverage of the national team games would be included in the television rights of the state-run network RAI. This last point is of the utmost importance to the growth of the national team' s popularity among Italians as in the past RAI has shown either one half of an important national team game or in many cases no games at all.

Morace's contract will most likely be for a 4 year period at a yearly net salary of between US$50-60,000 per year. While the amount may seem low Morace has insisted on hefty prize money based on national team victories. The contract should take her and the National Team to two very important international events, the 2003 World Cup and the 2004 Olympics in nearby Athens.

In this new adventure Morace will most likely be flanked by her longtime national team companion as well as both Lazio and Viterbese assistant coach, Betty Bavagnoli (77 caps). It remains to be seen whether the other "legend" of Italian female soccer, Betty Vignotto will also be called up to give Morace and Bavagnoli a hand. Vignotto is after all the "Grand Lady" of female soccer (109 caps and 107 goals) and together with Morace and Bavagnoli would indeed form a formidable trio of knowledge and experience second to none. 15 years ago a young Morace, supported up front by Vignotto, scored Italy's only goal against the U.S. National Team's first-ever international appearance in Jesolo, Italy. That U.S. squad had amongst its ranks another upcoming incredible player, Michelle Akers.

The news of Morace's appointment made all the national newspapers as well as the evening news programs. Sports journalists went even as far as using the word "prestigious" in reference to the position of head coach of the national female soccer team, a word practically unheard of prior to Morace's arrival on the national bench. Congratulatory messages poured in from pretty well everywhere, including Arrigo Sacchi (former AC Milan and USA'94 Italian national team head coach) who told Carolina that "You're a perfect choice for the women". From the political front, Morace received the "thumbs up" from another woman, Giovanna Melandri, the Italian Secretary of Culture who has responsibility for the entire Italian sports sector. Her nomination has no doubt brought a lot of satisfaction to National Team players such as Patrizia Panico and Manuela Tesse who not only played alongside Morace on various teams but were also briefly coached by her at Lazio (it will be interesting to see if some national team players who have been contacted for next year's WUSA will want to leave now seeing that Morace has finally become head coach).

And what does the "Legend" herself think of all the hoopla surrounding her appointment? "I've always said that coaching the national team, whether it be the one for kids, old people, women or men, is absolutely the most in a person's life. I gave a lot to the national team and the national team also gave me a lot back. I know the female world rather well and I strongly believe in what I'm going to do. I can't promise that we will win the European title, nor the next World Cup, nor the Olympics in 2004, but what I can promise is to show people that women are capable of playing GOOD soccer".

So what sysyem will Head Coach Morace be playing against her opponents? "My favorite formation is a 4-4-2 but we'll also try a 3-4-3 and a 4-3-3. I'm not at all convinced though about the 5-3-2".

And what about her experience of having coached a men's professional club (the first time for a woman)? "Running a female locker room will be certainly more difficult than my experience at Viterbese because women are less superficial and more demanding than men. Men don't ask a lot of questions. You don't have to explain things in great detail. They do things without necessarily asking "why"? This doesn't worry me at all as I've always followed basically two golden rules in my approach to players: good manners and respect".

What if an Italian politician were to criticize her work (n.b. former men's National Team Head Coach Din Zoff stepped down after having been heavily criticized by AC Milan's president Silvio Berlusconi right after the recent European championship)?

"If someone were to criticize my work I would answer back that they're not competent enough to judge me. I surely wouldn't resign. I would only step down if my president were to judge me negatively". Both Carolina Morace the coach and Carolina Morace the woman definitely know what they want out of this new adventure: RESPECT! Her plans for the future? "The national team should definitely be THE ultimate goal for young women and their respective clubs. I'll be traveling around Italy talking to the coaches and watching up close the present national players during the championship as well as the new upcoming players."


Carolina Morace, who now calls Rome her permanent home, crowns an impressive career as a player, coach and even play-by-play commentator: Born in Venice on February 5th, 1964;she has a law degree,and began playing in the 3rd division championship at the age of 13. Two years later she made the jump to the 1st division and played for nearly 20 years at the highest levels of the game.She won 12 championship titles in the women's Serie A (1st division) with 8 different teams and with 550 goals scored.

Played in the 1st FIFA World Cupt (1991 in China) was captain of the Italian national team for a decade, had 153 caps with the national team and 105 goals scored, including 4 memorable goals against England in 1990 in the "temple" of international soccer, Wembley. She was named " best player in the world in 1995" 2nd best European player of the (last) century after Germany's Heidi Mohr;and 6 months agoshe was chosen as one of the "Top 4 best players" of the last 100 years by the International Federation of Soccer History and Statistics. She played in two European vice-championship titles (including the historic 1997 victory against Norway in the semi-finals of that edition) , 5 European championship events, and is the only woman in Italy to have a 2nd level coaching license (the highest is 1st level).

She was head coach of Lazio's regional all-star team, head coach of Lazio's 1st division female team, and became the first woman to have coached a men's professional team, Viterbese, last year which even made the pages of America's "Time" magazine.

She was a play-by-play commentator at the France'98 World Cup and recent European 2000 championship. Her analysis of the games was often considered superior to that of former professional players such as Paolo Rossi (1982 World Cup champion) and Giorgio Chinaglia (former New York Cosmos player). Morace will continue to be a game analyst of the men's Serie A championship for the TV network TMC ( she'll be flanked by longtime professional sports journalist Marina Sbardella who has also been the past president of the Female Soccer Division). This is also of utmost importance because her continued presence on the weekly sportsTV show will bring more exposure to the women's game. Carolina Morace's nomination has been in the works for the last couple of weeks and was greatly overdue. Four head coaches in a little more than four years began to weigh heavily on the over-all performance of the national team. The recent results (a 4-1 loss to the States' B national team for example) proved it. Her expertise and deep knowledge of the game not to mention her excellent connections in the world of men's soccer should bring perhaps what is missing the most to the women's game; media attention!

What about Carolina's big first test as head coach? That will probably come about on October 18 of this year, mostly likely in Palermo, Sicily, as Italy will face Portugal for the European qualifications. At this point, we can only wish Carolina Morace "Good Luck" for the long and winding road that awaits her once again on the international stage of women's soccer!


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Carolina Morace officially starts her journey on the long road to stardom for Italy's National program

September 13, 2000

Carolina Morace, Italy's new national team head coach, made her very first appearance on the national team bench on September 11th at Italy's national coaching center, Coverciano, located on the outskirts of Florence. Carolina had a smile which went from ear-to-ear as she led her players, many of them former club and national team companions, for the very first time in a three-day training camp. The "legend" of Italian women's soccer was also

flanked by her former national teammate and inseparable assistant coach, Betty Bavagnoli.

Twenty-four players were called up to the camp, including 13 members from last summer's USA'99 World Cup (Brenzan, Comin, Tesse (long absent from the national team circle), Tavalazzi, Duo', Zorri, Frollani, Deiana, D'Astolfo

(voted last season's Serie A "Player of the Year"), Pallotti, Panico, Guarino and Tagliacarne). It's worth noting that Federica D'Astolfo is once again back with the national team after having been "banished" for criticizing FA operations after USA'99 (lack of funds and attention to the needs of the players). Five more players were called up by Carolina,

including USA'99 member Roberta Stefanelli, but were unable to be present due to work commitments. Together with Italian F.A. officials, the new head coach has said that she would like to sit down to resolve the problem of those players that cannot take part in camps and/or games due to their work responsibilities.

The former national team star and by far Italy's most prolific soccer player said that she wants to now impose her own playing style on the team differently from what was used by her many of her predecessors (with the

possible exception of Sergio Vatta who was in fact responsible for having qualified Italy to USA'99. He stepped down and made way for Carlo Facchin who was Italy's head coach at the World Cup). Carolina said that she will be most likely using the 4-4-2 system. "I'm not personally in favor of the 5-3-2 because I feel it's not applicable to female players" she said in an interview with the "Gazzetta dello Sport". "This system would involve a systematic attacking phase with many long balls. I feel there would be few alternatives to this kind of style. I'm more in favor of the 4-4-2 also because Marcello Lippi (n.b. former head coach of Juventus and now head coach of Ronaldo's Inter) used it quite effectively with Juventus: he would change system according to the needs of the game".

Is Carolina therefore ready to perform miracles with the national team? Not quite. "I don't really have a magic wand up my sleeve. I'm here to work during a four-year tenure, provided they (the FA) don't get rid of me earlier"! The national team's first big test will come in shortly over a month in the Sicilian capital of Palermo against Portugal for the European qualifying round. The return match will be in Portugal on November 22nd. Before that, Carolina will make her triumphant public appearance with the national team in the northeastern Italian seaside resort of Grado on

September 27th against the Slovak Republic (Finland had been the original opponent but cancelled out).

Carolina realizes that her position as head coach will also (hopefully) bring more attention to female soccer in Italy which has always had trouble getting out of the "ghetto" of the Italian sports world (as she herself noted recently in an interview). "I'm aware that female soccer in Italy has always had to struggle for media attention. What's really needed are the positive results from the team in order to get that badly needed attention".

The 36 year-old head coach has a lot of work cut out for her. She has waited several years for the opportunity to lead the women to fame and glory (she apparently went looking for the support of politicians in Rome as well as that of the president of the Italian Olympic Committee in order to get the coaching job). "The national team is the jewel in the crown of Italian female soccer. We have to absolutely transmit the enthusiasm of this team to the club players, their coaches and managers. The national team after all is based primarily on what the clubs have to offer. This time we truly

have the possibility of getting out of that "ghetto" that we've been confined to for decades. The national team comes first but the Serie A as well as the Serie B (2nd division championship) must not in any way be overlooked. And the U-18 national team? It has the same importance for me as the A national team. My project for the entire sector will mean a

friendly match once a month for both the A and U-18 national teams. I also know that work and studies permitting I won't always be able to have all the players I really want out to my training camps but I'll certainly be happy with a minimum of 22 players, basically two for each role. In this way, I won't always have to explain the same things to those players who can't always be present. Ideally, I'd like 28 players present at my training camps. It'll also be a question of seeing who will be in fact able to adapt to my system of play".

Bold is Carolina's personal opinion of where Italy presently places itself among the European national teams: "According to me, among the first three teams. I'm also sure that if we put together a really competitive team we

can aim for 1st place".

Carolina was also asked if there's anything in life that scares her (she "faced the music" awhile ago as she became the first woman to have coached Viterbese, a 3rd division men's professional club, located near Rome. Together with Betty Bavagnoli, that experience came to a rather abrupt end as she was fired by Viterbese's rather "volatile" president, Luciano Gaucci). Lunatic club presidents? Fierce opponents? Injuries? Italian sports journalists? None of the above. "Of course I'm scared", answered sarcastically Carolina, "Mostly of spiders and the odd mouse that my cat

brings into the house"!


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