Casa Calcio: Football legend Carolina Morace returns to Lazio

SS Lazio second team coach Nicola Williams and SS Lazio women team coach Carolina Morace pose alongside team crest.
SS Lazio second team coach Nicola Williams and SS Lazio women team coach Carolina Morace attend the press conference as SS Lazio Women unveil Carolina Morace as new team coach at the Olimpico stadium on February 02, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Marco Rosi - SS Lazio/Getty Images)

Carolina Morace was unveiled as the new Lazio manager this week. The team currently compete in Serie B and sit four points off a promotion place. With two games in hand, the club will be hoping she can take them to the top flight.

Morace’s assistant in her new job will be her wife Nicola Williams. Williams, herself a former player, was born in England but moved to Australia as a child with her family. The couple have previously worked together at AC Milan and with the Trinidad and Tobago national team.

Early Starter

Carolina Morace is one of Italy’s greatest ever players and one of the most prolific strikers to have graced Serie A.

Born in Venice, she embarked on her playing career at a very young age. By the age of 13, she was already playing in Serie B. Just a year later, she made her first appearance in Serie A with Belluno. This brought about her debut with the Italian national team when she was still only 14 years of age.

Goals and Scudettos

She was top scorer in Serie A for 12 seasons, 11 of those consecutively from 1987/88 to her final season of 1997/98. She also won 12 Serie A league titles with eight different clubs. Two of those titles were with Lazio, but her first ever Scudetto win came with the legendary team ACF Trani 80.

Italy's Carolina Morace dribbles the ball.
Italy’s Carolina Morace is on the ball against West Germany in the 1989 European Competition for Women’s Football. (Photo by imago/Oliver Hardt)

Trani’s title

In 1984, she was part of the team that won the club’s first Serie A title. Not too surprising when you take a look at the players they had at their disposal.

Along with Morace, who scored 19 goals, the squad included two other legends in Rose Reilly from Scotland, who bagged 21 goals, and Irish playmaker Anne O’Brien. The team also contained another Scottish international, Maria Blagojevic.

Morace and Reilly would team up again 10 years later to win the title with Agliana. She would also win further Serie A Scudettos with O’Brien at Reggiana and Milan over the years.

Morace rules Serie A

It became almost essential to have Morace in your team if you wanted to win the title. In the last five seasons of her playing career, she helped four different clubs win their first ever Scudetto, with Modena winning it twice in her final two seasons.

Her goal-scoring prowess only got stronger as the seasons passed. Her highest ever goal totals came in those last two years and in her final season with Modena she scored 41 goals. If that sounds impressive, then just the season before that she had knocked in 47 when helping the same club win their first ever league title.

Italian style

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In her international career Morace represented Italy on 153 occassions, scoring 105 goals. Italy reached two European finals during her time with the national side.

In 1990, as a curtain raiser for the Charity Shield at Wembley, Italy took on England with the Italians running out 4-1 winners. In what was her 80th game for her country, Morace scored all four goals. It was a feat deemed important enough to grace the front pages of the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport.

She also scored the first ever hat-trick at a World Cup finals when the first tournament took place in 1991. By 2014, Morace became the first female player to enter the Italian Football Hall of Fame.

Lazio lady

Once her playing career ended, Morace entered into management. Her first job was at Lazio, where she joined Betty Bavagnoli.

Bavagnoli had spent the previous season as player-manager and when Morace came in she continued playing while also taking the assistant managers role. Morace and Bavagnoli had a long history of playing together, lining out on the same team at seven different clubs.

This is a man’s world

In 1999 when Morace took on a new job, Bavagnoli, now finished playing, would again join her as assistant manager. This was the year that Morace became the first woman to take charge of a men’s professional team. Viterbese were a Serie C club and the owner Luciano Gaucci brought Morace in to take charge for the 1999/2000 season.

Gaucci is the man who later tried to sign a female player to join the men’s team at Perugia, another club he owned. He was turned down in 2014 by the German Brigit Prinz, having also failed to attract the Swedish pair Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson.

Back to Viterbese, and after a pre-season under the glare of the Italian media, the team won their opening game. An ideal start for Morace, but the dream didn’t last too long. After losing the following match 5-2 at Crotone, Gaucci looked to bring in his own staff to assist her. Morace however, wasn’t having any of it, resigning after her disagreements with the temperamental owner.

Women of the world

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Morace’s next job in football came as manager of the Italian national side from 2000 to 2005, again with Bavagnoli as her assistant. The pair then took charge of the Canadian team in 2009. Morace succeeded in taking Canada to the 2011 World Cup, and despite resigning after the tournament, she had also moved them from 11th in the world rankings up to 6th.

When she then became manager of the Trinidad and Tobago national team at the end of 2016, it would be Nicola Williams who would join her as assistant. They also worked together when Morace returned to Italy to become Milan manager for the 2018/19 season.

Morace returns

That was her last management role before the new Lazio job. This was the newly created AC Milan team’s first ever season and they finished in third position in Serie A. The side that contained Daniela Sabatino and Valentina Giacinti also recorded a 3-0 win over eventual title winners Juventus.

Morace, a qualified lawyer, has also been commentating and analyzing the men’s game on Italian TV since finishing her playing career.

Italian football needs women like Carolina Morace involved, and it’s great to have her back in a management role. Maybe next season we’ll get the chance to see her and Betty Bavagnoli facing off in a Rome derby.

It just so happens that today is also Carolina’s birthday. Tanti auguri, Carolina!

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