Women getting a raw deal

ALISON KORN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

As soccer's best men enjoy the world's attention in South Africa, some of the sport's top women players are getting the shaft.

Why? Well, the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup will be held in Germany next June 26-July 17. And the Canadian women have a decent chance of qualifying through their CONCACAF group, with the qualifier to be held in Mexico this October. But -- and this is so brutal it's hard to believe -- CONCACAF has not set the tournament date yet!

That's right. The women's high-stakes series to qualify for their World Cup is only three months away, and nobody knows exact dates. Canadian women's head coach Carolina Morace is incredulous.

"I'm surprised, because we try to be precise and rational in our work, but like that it's impossible," Morace said. "All we know is that the dates will be at the end of October and we work in this way. For us it is a big problem for our individual physical program. If we know the dates, we can have the players at maximum level of fitness."

She continued: "In Europe we know the dates one year before. For athletes, it is incredible but this is what happens."

Never mind the logistics of team travel and bookings -- how can host Mexico be expected to pull this off with such short notice? Perhaps Mexico is being crafty, then, to give its home team an advantage by keeping everyone else off balance. I suggested as much to Morace, but she said that's not the case. It's CONCACAF, headquartered in New York City, who is at fault. So when will we know?

"It's a good question," Morace said. "Maybe next week. At the end of the next week."

CONCACAF spokesman Ben Spencer said in an e-mail the dates "are nearly final and we should be ready to announce them in the very near future."

Team Canada has participated in each of the last four FIFA Women's World Cups, finishing ninth in 2007 and fourth in 2003. Morace also heads the U-20 team that won gold at the 2008 CONCACAF Women's Under-20 championship over the U.S.

It's been just over a year since Morace moved from her native Italy to Canada to become head coach of the Canadian women's senior and U-20 teams. The former coach of Italy's national and youth teams, Morace was also a fantastic player, scoring 105 times for the national team in 153 international games.

Now able to communicate in English -- "but when I get angry, they understand my Italian" -- Morace has determined that many of the Canadian women who play for club, university or college teams are over-played and under-trained, which can lead to injuries.

"If you play two or three times a week you don't have time to recover properly," Morace said. "This is our concern. Here there are a lot of injuries that we don't have in Italy. A lot of problems with the knee. If you don't train properly, the weakness of women soccer player is the knee."

Morace's athletes are now put through tests to measure agility, speed, explosiveness and endurance and each one of them gets a customized training plan. In August, she'll take the senior women to Europe for further testing at a sport institute in Italy and then a game against Germany. In total, the team will be together for two months leading up to the October qualifier - whenever that will be.

"I think that we can do well," Morace said. "I think we have to be calm, we know that we can still improve more, but I think that the way that we play is good. I think that the team can do something important for soccer here."

ALISON_KORN@HOTMAIL.COM


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