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AS THE countdown to the 2010 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup winds down Jamaal Shabazz, coach of the senior national women’s team, is expecting the Soca Princesses to “light it up” on home soil.

TT kick off their campaign in Group “A” on Sunday (September 5) against Chile at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo before tackling Nigeria and North Korea on September 8 and 12 respectively. The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarter-final stage.

Speaking to Newsday yesterday, Shabazz, who has been involved in women’s football for over a decade, revealed that it is a personal feeling of gratification for him to see TT participate in a Women’s World Cup on home soil. And he is eagerly awaiting the start of the tournament.

“I’m very excited having seen the work coach Even Pellerud (Technical Director of women’s football) and his staff have put in over the last 18 months,” he said.

“I’ve seen the team grow from strength to strength and I think they would give a very good account of themselves. I think these girls can really light it up,” he added.

Shabazz revealed that he has been impressed with intensity and group organisation of the team. “They have some players who would never say die,” he pointed out.

Shabazz noted that the decision to bring in Pellerud, a former World Cup winner with Norway in 1995, was a stroke of genius and he is expecting it to reap dividends at the upcoming World Cup.

“Our decision to bring in Pellerud has proven to be a correct one given some of the results against some world class teams like Brazil and Ireland. Pellerud is very astute and a sound tactician. He is able to plan very well for opponents,” he explained.

The former Guyana national team coach noted that he is generally satisfied with the preparation of the national team but believes more practice matches should have been played at home. “I would have liked to see more games on local soil but there is no time to mourn on what did not happen,” he said.

Shabazz yesterday pleaded with the public to come out and support the national team for all their games.

“I think if the country knew how important supporting this team is to the nation, they would line up at the match venues from 10 am,” he said.

“These girls sacrificed a great deal, sometimes training six days a week to represent a nation. In this age group (especially), our people need to demonstrate to them what is nationalism,” he said.

Shabazz explained that women’s football has received a great boost with TT hosting the event but a good performance from the national team is necessary to sustain the increased interest in the female side of football.

“Hosting has been a major statement but part of the legacy must be that we have better facilities for women in the sport and more opportunities.. A good performance will justify the need for more funding in women’s football,” he argued.

The arrival of the 15 visiting teams continues today for the prestigious FIFA tournament which will be held from September 5 to 25. Matches will be staged at the Hasely Crawford Stadium (Mucurapo), Larry Gomes Stadium (Malabar), Ato Boldon Stadium (Couva), Manny Ramjohn Stadium (Marabella) and Dwight Yorke Stadium (Tobago).