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CANADA: Hall of Famer Carmelina Moscato enjoying Mexican soccer adventure

The 38-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., has had more than a few experiences since retiring as a player in 2016
Soccer has taken Carmelina Moscato to Italy, Sweden, the U.S., Denmark and Mexico and now to the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame. Moscato battles Netherlands' Danielle Van De Donk during first half Women's World Cup soccer Monday, June 15, 2015 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Soccer has led Carmelina Moscato to jobs in Australia, Italy, Sweden, the U.S., Denmark and Mexico. And now the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame. 

The former defender, who won 94 caps for Canada between 2002 and 2015 as well as a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, joins 2000 Gold Cup hero Richard Hastings in the Class of 2023.

Moscato never expected Hall of Fame recognition but is grateful.

"It's cool to be acknowledged for the Canadian aspect of my journey," she said. "It's very awesome."

Moscato's football adventure continues in Monterrey where she is head coach of Tigres Femenil in the Mexican women's league. The Tigres women currently stand fifth in the standings at 6-3-0.

"Mexico's been a journey. It's been incredible. Nine months of life," Moscato said with a laugh. "Highs, lows and everything in-between. It's been a very cool experience so far."

Moscato is one of three female coaches in the 18-team league.

The 38-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., has had more than a few experiences since retiring as a player in 2016.

She has served as a Canada Soccer youth coach and talent manager of the Canadian REX Development program, director and coach of the semi-pro Illawarra Stingrays in Australia, technical director of the Kleinburg Nobleton (Ont.) Soccer Club, commissioner of League1 Ontario Women's Division, director of women's football for the Bahamas Football Association and coach of Denmark's FC Nordsjaelland.

Moscato says when it came to her post-playing CV, "life took over." But there was a huge helping hand from John Herdman, then coach of the women's team and now head of the men's program.

"As soon as I basically retired, he believed in me and gave me a mentorship at Canada Soccer which sparked my, I guess, self-belief and maybe potential in coaching," she said. "I started to think 'You know what? This could be what I sink my teeth into and see if I can actually get this career underway."

That took her to the coaching gig in Australia before returning to Toronto to be close to family, "because I hadn't done that in 20 years." 

She worked as a technical director at youth club level and in the front office of Canadian Soccer Business with League1 Women — "everything else that had to do with football in the Canadian landscape."

"Eventually I realized my talents are best-suited not in the boardroom right now, not in the politics right now. Really coaching on the grass, that's where I feel I can be most successful and share my strengths."

Armed with an Italian passport thanks to her Sicily-born parents, she had planned to stay in Europe after her contract in Denmark expired. Then the Mexico opportunity presented itself.

"All of a sudden, I started to hear about Tigres Femenil — the club, the phenomenon that this club is. The program, the ambition. Really what they had accomplished in a very short time was super-impressive and I knew that I had to listen at the very least to the opportunity and what that would entail.

"Within 10 days I had left one opportunity and moved to another. And it was a whirlwind. I landed and started pre-season the very next day, within 12 hours. So I don't know what to say. It was crazy. Quick, unexpected but pleasantly surprised at the football landscape here in Mexico."

So far so good.

Tigres defeated Club America 3-0 on aggregate in November to win the Apertura 2022 final.

"It was a ton of lessons," said Moscato. "I mean ups and downs. It was not a perfect season by any means but we found a way to win and we ended up on the podium for a fifth time in 10 opportunities. It was a very special season."

This season has thrown up new challenges.

"We are learning some hard lessons," she said. "We've lost three on the road for the first time in history.

"I think I do best when my back's against the wall. A little adversity here this season. A new story for Tigres. They're not used to losing. I'm not used to losing with this team. So I would say it's a season of response, of learnings, reflections and how we can get this very good group of players to be in their best light. That's my job this season — keeping the course and staying on track."

The league started with the goal of giving domestic players a place to play once they outgrew youth levels. Imports were not allowed at the beginning.

"It was a league for Mexicans, by Mexicans," Moscato explained. "And I thought that was really smart to start that way. It started very humbly."

Every men's team was required to field a women's squad. Some were more interested than others.

"Tigres was a club that from the beginning really bought into the women's project and invested heavily in players and staff and infrastructures that we're starting to see the benefit of now," said Moscato. "We're in the fifth year. It's looking really really good. I'm really impressed by the development in the league — the tactics, but also the quality of players it's attracting is supercool." 

Now the Mexican teams are allowed up to four imports. At Tigres, they are Colombian centre back Natalia Gaitan, South African midfielder/forward Noxolo Cesane and American winger Riley Parker and forward Mia Fishel. 

Tigres sold Nigerian forward Uchenna Kanu to the NWSL's Racing Louisville FC last month.

Moscato is optimistic Canada will soon join Mexico in fielding a women's league, given that former Canadian teammate Diana Matheson is leading the charge.

Moscato, who grew up speaking English and Italian, is working on her Spanish.

"I basically understand 80 per cent. Especially if it's a football context, I'm super-good 80 to 90 per cent. I can connect with my players and get to the heart of matters. But when it comes to speaking, because things happen so fast here, I don't anticipate doing a press conference in Spanish any time soon."

"I'm understanding and I think that's part of the puzzle," she added. "But I definitely need to work on my expression and speaking."


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press