U.S. head coach Anson Dorrance is asked to leave the bench after dissenting over a non-call in the 1993 concacaf Women’s Championship final. And yes, that was assistant coach Lauren Gregg and Tony DiCicco sitting next to Dorrance on the bench. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo by Michael Lewis)
The field used for the 1993 concacaf Women’s Championship was not world-class caliber. Here is how the participating teams viewed the condition of the pitch.
By Michael Lewis
Soccer Week Editor
NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. — Before her team took on Trinidad & Tobago in the opening match of the concacaf Women’s Championship on Aug. 4, Canadian coach Sylvie Beliveau made an unusual request of her team at the Town of North Hempstead Park.
“If you’re playing, you pick up everything on the field,” she said.
Beliveau’s concern about the condition of the field was justified. Her players found pieces of glass, bottle caps, a saw blade, nails and pennies.
“This is the worst field conditions I’ve seen for international competition,” she said after he side defeated Trinidad, 4-0. “If this is how we treat women’s soccer, we’ll never grow. The champions [U.S.] are here and we should get recognition.. … My decision was not to play, but concacaf wanted to play.”
The field was several yards narrower than the 72-yard regulation pitch. The goalpost, which were supposed to be wooden, were metal and part of the football goalposts. Padding was used for the matches of Aug. 6 and 8.
“The goal — if anything happens, it’s a nightmare,” Beliveau said.
Nightmare almost became a reality for Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper Bronia Malcolm, who thought she broke her leg after slamming into the post during the U.S.’s 9-0 victory on Aug. 6. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was diagnosed with a pulled quadricep muscle in her thigh.
“I was in a lot of pain,” she said. “The metal is much harder than wood.”
The Canadians were not the only team to express dissatisfaction with the field.
“I certainly wouldn’t play on it in New Zealand,” New Zealand coach Dave Boardman said. “It’s disappointing. If I had a super product like the U.S. women’s national team, I would want to give them a good showcase.”
The beginning of the opening match — it was a 6:30 p.m. kickoff — was held up for a half hour while FIFA game officials and concacaf sized up the field and situation before deciding to play.
The 1993 tournament was supposed to have been held in Haiti — the first one was held there in 1991 — but officials of concacaf pulled out because that country’s poor economic condition necessitated a chance in venue. When Haiti’s Over-35 national team dropped out of concacaf’s veteran championship at the last minute in March, the organization designated Long Island as the new site.
Other sites on long Island, including Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, Stiles Field at Adelphi University in Garden City and Park Stadium in Franklin Square, were not available for a variety of reasons (see accompanying story).
U.S. coach Anson Dorrance, who usually never minces his words, was more diplomatic than his international counterparts. I’m sure the organizers tried to find the best field. I would have liked to have played on a wider field. It makes for more attractive soccer.
U.S. midfielder-forward Mia Hamm said that it wasn’t worth fretting over. “Everything is not ideal,” she said. “You have to adapt to everything. The foreign food is not what you’re used to. It really brings the team’s morale down when you complain about everything that is not perfect.”
For concacaf officials, it was a matter of the show going on.
“It was important to exist, so it will continue to exist,” concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer said.
Blazer, whose offices are in Manhattan, inspected the field two weeks ago and gave it a thumb’s up.
“I saw the field, which had real grass,” he said. “I saw 1,800 seats. I saw the locker rooms and I saw a parks administration that was willing to work hard.
“It wasn’t perfect conditions, but it was playable conditions.”
Concacaf president Jack Warner, who flew in from his native Trinidad & Tobago, said he was grateful that Eastern New York State Soccer Association was able to step up.
“They took it on at the last minute,” he said. “We are quite happy with ENYSSA. They were great to the teams. … It was not the best circumstances.”