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$500 in America: The Journey of Trinidad & Tobago's Women's Soccer Team

What was the T&T women's team doing ahead of their USWNT match? Bargaining with taxi drivers and campaigning for donations.
Photo by John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, 12 members of the Trinidad & Tobago women's soccer team arrived in Dallas to play the CONCACAF Women's Championship—a qualification tournament for the 2015 World Cup. Their country's soccer federation had only sent $500 with them for the trip. No equipment, no food, nothing.

The team spent $300 on a meal during a stopover in Miami, and when they landed in Dallas they only had $200 left. They had to negotiate with taxi drivers to take them to their hotel in a local suburb for that last $200. Their first opponent in the tournament, meanwhile, the U.S. team, has an annual budget that surpasses $9 million.


I need HELP! T&T sent a team here last night with $500 total. No equipment such as balls,no transportation from airport to hotel, nothing.

— Randy Waldrum (@CoachWaldrum) October 8, 2014

I don't know how I'm going to feed these players starting at lunch today! If you know of anyone in Dallas area that will help with food, etc

— Randy Waldrum (@CoachWaldrum) October 8, 2014

In a panic ahead of the David and Goliath match-up, Coach Randy Waldrum sent out the above tweets. His appeal quickly moved the Texas soccer community, where he coaches the NWSL's Houston Dash, and managed to raise thousands of dollars for a team that a day prior, did not even have lunch money.

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Local MLS team FC Dallas was the first to extend support. They offered their grounds for the Trinidad & Tobago team, known as the Soca Princesses, to train. They partnered with local restaurants CiCi's Pizza and Hutchins BBQ to take care of meals for players. FC Dallas also organized an exhibition match for the Trinidad & Tobago team against their all-star U-16 squad and gave the visitors all the proceeds.

The American Outlaws, the national support group that rallies around U.S. soccer teams, joined in to help their rival team, too. They delivered 800 bottles of water, 450 bottles of Gatorade, and 40 pounds of oranges, along with other cut fruits, to the Comfort Inn in Dallas where the team was staying. Various Trinidad & Tobago expats and locals contributed as well.


"It kind of renews your faith in humanity," Waldrum told VICE Sports. "These girls are very resilient. They know the job is to come here and qualify. I told them 'Lemme take care of everything else.' And they did what players should do—they stayed focused."

"We had a local Trinidadian club that came in and really helped out a lot with supplies. They fed us one day at a Caribbean place so that the girls could get some food that they like from back home," Waldrum said.

Soccer website Keeper Notes also reached out to Waldrum to set up an online donation campaign. Soccer teams from Canada, Australia, and other countries tweeted their support, urging fans to donate. The campaign raised about $13,000 in four days. The money only stopped pouring in when the team had to stop accepting it for tax reasons.

One of the most heartening gestures came from the Haiti Women's Soccer team, which despite struggling with funds for its own players, donated the $1,316 they had collected from a GoFundMe campaign to the Trinidad & Tobago team. In a crucial match in Bridgeview, Illinois, on Friday, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago will be competing to advance to the knockout stage from their group.

But the Trinidad & Tobago Football Association (TTFA) and the country's sports ministry were upset at how Waldrum and the online cry for funds laid bare their incompetence in handling their Caribbean Cup winning national team. The Association instituted a social media ban for the team, asking them not to share any more pictures and stories of people's contributions. TTFA President Tim Kee refused the help from Haiti for the "perceived" need of his team.

"I think there was a lack of communication. When the team arrived, I tweeted those things out not knowing that some support was on its way or what they were preparing for," Waldrum, who was hired in July to coach the team through the 2015 World Cup, said. "My immediate concern was to make sure they were fed and taken care of. I'm glad we got past that and the federation stayed on top of it." Seeing the backlash from the federation, Waldrum issued a statement of apology, saying he didn't mean to embarrass anyone in the federation.

He did not say why the money was delayed in the first place or whether the $40,000 that the TTFA later acquired from the sports ministry for the team has in fact gone to the team.

What he does know is that this group has a chance to make history. Trinidad & Tobago's women's team has never made it to the FIFA World Cup, but Waldrum is confident this team can qualify. To do so, it will need to finish first or second in Group A, which features the U.S., Haiti, and Guatemala—then make it through an elimination tournament.

Last night, that mission started off with a great fight against the USWNT, one in which Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper Kimika Forbes made 11 saves. But they eventually went down to Goliath 1-0. Abby Wambach's header in the second half was what finally made it through a packed defense. Trinidad & Tobago's women's team, however, likely remains undaunted.