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PROFILE: Widmarc “Tigana” Dalce: Former Vikings national champ becomes first African-American coach in MCCC soccer history

Widmarc "Tigana" Dalce, former Viking and Mercer's first African American coach
Widmarc “Tigana” Dalce, former Viking and Mercer’s first African American coach

Jean Amadou Tigana was a French national soccer team star from the French Sudan during the mid 1980s. Tigana, a midfielder, was known for possessing tireless stamina and staying active and aggressive on both the offensive and defensive portions of the field.

During the same time period a boy from Leogane, Haiti, about 20 miles from the capital of Port-Au-Prince, was modeling his skill set after the French national team superstar. The boy’s father came to the United States in 1981 working for the Haitian government’s international relations department.

That young man’s name is Widmarc Dalce, better known to his players and former teammates as Tigana, because his grit and tireless work ethic reminded peers of his idol. He honed his soccer skills on dirt fields in Leogane using a makeshift soccer ball he and his friends made by wrapping pairs of socks around a wad of newspaper.

Widmarc, the man, has a wife, and three children. Samuel, the oldest of the three kids is 12, followed by Widmere who is 7, and Celine the baby of the family is 2 years old.

Coach Tigana, now a Trenton resident, is a Mercer alum who starred during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. During that time the Vikings won a national championship in 1996 and finished  runners-up in 1997.

In 1998 Dalce transferred to American International University in Springfield, MA  where he received a full scholarship for his talent on the pitch.

A year later Dalce began his coaching career as an assistant to both the Men’s and Women’s soccer teams at American International.

The experience from playing and coaching at AIU landed him the head coaching job for girl’s soccer at Princeton High School in 2001, where he would remain for five years.

Coach Tigana then coached club teams in the Mercer County area when he got a phone call from the Athletic Director at Allentown High School. A parent of a student whom he had coached at the club level recommended Coach Dalce as a head coaching candidate for the Red Raiders boy’s soccer team. Without a formal interview Dalce was immediately hired.

Dalce had three successful seasons at Allentown, earning Colonial Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2006, his first season at the helm.

One of Dalce’s former club team players is now a Captain for the Vikings. Nana Osei, a sophomore midfielder and Business Administration major, thinks his coach is firm but fair. “He is the type of guy who will stick with you, he has pushed me to the brink. And in the long run, I could tell it made me a better player,” Osei said.

Dalce describes his personal coaching style as “simple.” One example is the Vikings 4-4-2 formation (four defenders, four midfielders, two forwards/strikers.) Many college teams implement more complicated formations but Coach Tigana is adamant in regard to the effectiveness of his strategy.

“You don’t have to be the best player in the world, its the little stuff,” Osei said, cracking a smile. “If you were literally just learning how to play soccer you could play his style.”

When asked what makes his coach mad, Osei said “he gets mad when we stray from his style [short passes, keeping the ball on the ground.] He gets mad when we complicate the game.”

From 2008-2010 Coach Tigana was an assistant of Rider University Women’s Head Coach Drayson Houndson and in February of 2012 Dalce came full-circle as he was named Head Coach of Mercer Men’s soccer, returning to the program that he won a national championship 16 years earlier.

Coach Tigana is  the first African-American coach in the history of Mercer soccer.

Assistant Dean for Student Services John Simone thought Dalce was an ideal candidate for the position left vacant when longtime coach Pete Inverso left for Rider University, “he was a Mercer Alum, he had an extensive background in soccer, and he was a former assistant coach so he was really a perfect fit,” said Simone.

Dalce was named Coach of the Year in Region 19 in his first season as Mercer Head Coach, leading the team to a record of 18-6, en route to an appearance in the Final 8 in the National Championship tournament.

Year two has not been as successful for Coach Tigana, his team stands at 6-6-1 currently, fourth in the conference out of six teams, but he is not discouraged. “I’m a little disappointed, but I’m not going to give up, I will fight for my team.”

Coach Tigana is adamant about his players dedication to their studies saying he wants them to “give 150% in the classroom and 110% on the field,” Dalce said leaning forward his eyes wide and face stern, “I don’t recruit soccer players, I recruit student athletes”.

That boy from Leogane, Haiti has become a molder of young men.

“He doesn’t just prepare you to play soccer, he prepares you for life,” says Osei.

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