A quick glance at the squad list for host nation Trinidad and Tobago here at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and it soon becomes clear that eight of their 21-player squad ply their trade in the USA or Canada. Leading the way for this foreign-based contingent is forward Diarra Simmons of Canadian outfit Pickering Power, whose ninth-minute strike in Sunday’s opening win over Chile was her country’s first ever goal at a FIFA women’s showpiece.
“I feel really good. We’ve reaped the reward for all the hard work we’ve put in,” said Simmons, given a huge ovation by the Hasely Crawford Stadium faithful when substituted against the Chileans, in an interview with FIFA.com. “We’ve had to spend a lot of time away from home and far away from our families (preparing for the competition), but it’s been worth it.”
Born in Canada to a father from Trinidad and mother from Tobago, Simmons’ first steps on the footballing ladder were taken in Canada, though she was quick to throw her hat into the Soca Princesses’ ring once the opportunity for a trial arose. “I feel very proud of what we’ve achieved, but once the celebrations have died down we need to recover our focus and start thinking about the game against Nigeria,” said this ardent admirer of Brazil star Kaka.
“It’ll be a tough game but if we go out there with a good team spirit we can win. Our only aim is to reach the final and repay the support we’ve had from the fans,” continued the gifted youngster, who only turns 15 on 11 September. Simmons was also frank about the areas in which she and her team-mates could improve. “In our next games we need to communicate with each other better, use our heads more when passing the ball and focus on following our coach’s instructions more carefully.”
Another of the Soca Princesses’ foreign-based stalwarts is captain Lauren Schmidt, who plays her club football in the USA. “My mother was born in Trinidad, so when my uncle told me the national team were on the lookout for players I didn’t hesitate. I feel very proud to be representing my second country. I’ve always felt a very strong connection to my roots and being here is very special.”
“The taste of this first victory can’t be put into words, it’s so incredible!” said the MVLA Avalanche defender. “I feel very proud of my team. I’m also really pleased for my family, because they bought 60 tickets for this match!”
Yet despite this wave of enthusiasm, Schmidt is acutely aware that the hosts must tighten up in certain areas if they are to build on the 2-1 win over La Rojita Femenina. “We need to be more aggressive, get on the ball more and avoid conceding any more goals,” said the skipper, whose team follow up 8 September’s meeting with Nigeria by taking on reigning champions Korea DPR four days later.
“The game against Nigeria will be very tough but we have to draw strength from this opening success. I think that we’re capable of beating them,” said Schmidt. The player also echoed Simmons’ stated hopes for the rest of the competition, saying, “We’re aiming to reach the final.”
And if T&T continue to produce performances to match that ambition, it could well be a tournament to remember for the hosts.