World Cup scandal
FORMER Young All Whites coach Steve Cain has lifted the lid on his mystery resignation, just weeks before the Fifa under-17 World Cup in Mexico.
Cain says he was left with no choice but to step down this week after New Zealand Football learned he had emailed a photo, partially showing his genitals, to the mother of a national youth team hopeful.
Sunday News has chosen not to name the 16-year-old player or his mother, in the interests of the teen's career.
But Cain claims the woman had "pestered" him to return explicit images – and when her son failed to score a regular first-team place in the under-17s, he alleges she retaliated by distributing Cain's revealing email photo to New Zealand Football bosses.
Cain, 52, is the only other professionally licensed football coach in the country beside All Whites' boss Ricki Herbert. He fears his successful career is now in tatters.
"This all started about mid-2009, she was sending emails asking how people were, just normal stuff," Cain told Sunday News last night.
"It got a wee bit over the top ... then it started getting very personal.
"I had to change my email address. My family have access to my account, my children check my emails for me occasionally. She was sending explicit material.
"It started to get more over the top. Suggestive. It just got more and more forward.
"There were suggestions about perhaps meeting and doing things sexual. I never responded." Cain says the pornographic content featured the woman herself on at least two occasions.
"I deleted them. I was quite shocked," he said. "She kept pressing me to send her something back."
In an English hotel during an April soccer tour last year, and after "a few beers and [in] a moment of madness", Cain did something he describes as naive and stupid.
"She kept pestering me and in the end I sent her something back," he said.
"It wasn't totally explicit, not by any stretch of the imagination. I'd had a few beers and it wasn't anything like as much detail as she had sent to me." The image focused largely on Cain's abdomen, also partially revealing his genitals.
"It was just a picture taken at sink-level in a hotel mirror," he said. "I think she responded, 'That's great, thank you very much', something like that.
"Then I just totally forgot about it." Cain says the messages and meeting proposals continued, but turned nasty last December when the woman's son wasn't picked in the original 20-strong squad for the Oceania Championship, a qualifying tournament for this year's World Cup.
He alleges that: "The player wasn't picked ... and it triggered these bizarre late-night texts, which in hindsight, were threatening.
"Then it was like, 'This decision [not to select her son] was personal'. Then the texts started mentioning, 'I've got a picture'. I just ignored them and deleted them.
"I mentioned to my coaching staff at the time that I was getting these bizarre and abusive texts."
Cain denies ever allowing his personal life to influence decisions on the boy's football career.
Last month the situation boiled over, with Cain's explicit photograph apparently being shown to Waitakere United and New Zealand Football members.
"I got a call from Darren [Bazeley, U17 assistant] saying these people were flaunting this email around, accusing me of not choosing the boy for personal reasons," Cain said.
"I immediately wrote to New Zealand Football from Qatar and told them the context, it was nothing to do with football." In 14 internationals, Cain's under-17s have lost only twice.
Cain says he desperately wants to continue coaching, and would consider a role with NZF if the door was reopened in future.
He says his resignation will seriously damage the Young All Whites' chances of World Cup success in Mexico.
He said players were upset he wouldn't be continuing with the team and he felt he had paid an overly severe price for his mistake.