Born: 5 February 1964 in Venice, Italy
Clubs as a player: Trani, Lazio, Verona, Modena, Reggiana, Torres, Aguana, Milan (all Italy).
Honours as a player: Participation in 6 European Championships (twice runner-up) and at the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup. 153 caps for Italy, 105 goals.
Coaching career: Lazio (women), Viterbese C1 (men, professional football), Italy U-18 national women’s team, Italy national women’s team.
Miscellaneous: Today, Morace lives in Rome and works as a television football commentator and lawyer. Her favourite (men’s) teams are AS Roma and Manchester United, her favourite players are Cristiano Ronaldo and Francesco Totti.
“Girls need role models”
Scoring 105 goals in 153 games for Italy is in itself worthy of considerable adulation but since retiring from international football, Carolina Morace’s contribution to both the men’s and women’s game rates without doubt amongst the greatest.
FM: How did you initially get into football?
Carolina Morace: I started playing in Division C in Venice, where I was born, when I was 11 years old. Before my very first match, Mum said ‘Ciao, please make sure you take care because you are small and the other players are a lot older and bigger than you. Be careful of tackles’. Mum was really worried about me getting hurt. The funny thing was though, late in the match I got a breakaway and was running full steam towards the goal with the defender chasing me. As the goalie came out to close me down, the defender pushed me and I collided with her. But despite being the small one, it wasn’t me that got hurt. She unfortunately came away with a big black eye and I was fine.
Why did you start playing football? Girls playing football was not so common in the 1970s.
Morace: There isn’t really a reason I wanted to play. Football is like art. When people paint, write or sculpt, the talent needs to come out. With football it is the same.
How did you progress to the national team?
Morace: I was playing for Spinea in Division B when Sergio Guenza, the national coach and also the coach of the Lazio junior men’s team called me to ask if I would train with the national women’s team. I was only 14 years old, but I wasn’t nervous at all. I was just happy and relaxed. When I looked at the other players who were 28 or so, the only difference between me and them was my young face. Physically I was as big as them and I could play, so the age gap did not matter. The first match I played at San Paulo, the Naples stadium where Maradona played, certainly also surprised them. They could see I was fast and had ability, and that I was an unselfish player. I therefore had a good relationship with my team-mates.
What made you such a good player?
Morace: I was a good player because I trained responsibly and I was keen to learn. For example, I learned to play with both feet by focusing on my left foot during training. On the days that the team was not training, I went with my trainer, Professor Perrone, to the field where we did hill sprints, plyometrics and resistance training. My whole body changed and thanks to him, my talent was supplemented with physical ability. I became faster and more powerful and subsequently stayed with him until the end of my career. Professor Perrone also joined my staff when I went into coaching.
What were the highlights in your playing career?
Morace: The first was when we played a derby match in Agliana versus Pisa. We were winning 1-0 when our goalkeeper got sent off midway through the first half. They scored a penalty to make the score 1 -1 and we had to play the remainder of the match with 10 players. Just before the second half started, I said to one of the younger players who was worried about lasting the distance, ‘Don’t worry, I will score.’ And I did. I scored two goals to make the final result 3-1. Another highlight was playing England at Wembley as a curtain raiser to Manchester United v. Liverpool in the FA Cup. I scored four times, which is a record that can now not be broken given that Wembley has been reconstructed. Even the English fans applauded when I went into the tunnel.
How did you progress into coaching?
Morace: Football is my life and when I played, the coach always remarked that I knew what was happening so I thought I might make a good coach. I started as the player/coach for the regional team in Lazio. Then after I got my Serie C coaching qualification, the newspaper wrote a story to say I was the first woman in Italy to obtain professional coaching qualifications. Viterbese approached me after this to take over their men’s team. It was a great experience and in my first game as coach the fans all brought cards with pink roses on them. It was a little bit different from coaching women where many of the players had been team-mates and they knew and respected me on the field. Still, it never made any difference when I was angry whether it was a man or a woman on the field. I liked coaching the men and they respected me. I am still in touch with many of them today. In fact, two of them, Liverani (Fiorentina) and Biacco (Catania), work with me on TV.
What do you do nowadays?
Morace: At weekends, I work as a football commentator on television. I started doing this when I was 28 and my first TV co-worker was Nils Liedholm.
Later I worked with Zibi Boniek and Sandro Mazzola. It is relatively easy work for me as it is about providing viewers with comments based on technical and tactical analysis. It certainly takes a lot less effort than coaching or playing. I am a lawyer by trade but during the week I work as a professor in the science of movement in Rome. I teach football culture to first-and second-year post-graduate physical education students. I also have a role as a FIFA ambassador. For me this is very important because young girls need to have role models.