Football has followed Carmelina Moscato through her life, from kickabouts in the park as a young girl, to World Cup competition and an Olympic medal. Moscato has inspired a generation young women all over the world.
Moscato’s incredible career spans from player to coach and executive and has taken her from Canada to Australian, Italian and Swedish club football. She has represented the Canadian national team as both a player and coach and is now a coach for Danish Women’s team FC Nordsjælland.
Some of her greatest achievements in football include Canadian W league championships, Women’s world championship finals, a CONCACAF Tournament victory and an Olympic bronze medal at the 2012 London games.
“I was a little bulldozer at that age”
Mississauga, Ontario, a Toronto suburb and childhood home to Carmelina Moscato, who began playing football at the age of four. She began at the local team Dixie SC, emulating her coach and older brother, who played a pivotal role in her passion for the game.
She was named Most Valuable Player of the St. Francis Xavier Secondary varsity team and played for the Burlington Flames club team. As a member of the U-19 and U-21 Canadian National Soccer Teams, Carmelina moved onto play her college soccer at Penn State University, helping the U-20 team to a gold medal in the 2001 Canada Games as team captain.
The first ever FIFA established U-19’s women’s world championship was hosted in Canada in 2002, where Moscato made her international debut, reaching the final game against the United States, losing 1-0 in added time.
“We had 47,000 Canadians watching a youth tournament, record setting till this day. Canada embraced us. And I felt like that was the first time it captured my heart.”
Head coach John Herdman took over Canada Women from Carolina Morace in 2011 after a 16 out of 16 placement at the 2011 world cup and completely changed the pace of the team, going onto win two bronze medals in the 2011 and 2016 Olympic games.
“I think I still have a career in football because of the way he taught us. I’m still evolving. I’m creating my own philosophies. But he was just so brilliant on a personal and collective level. He knew how to really get the team working in one direction, and it’s so rare.”
Over Moscato’s extensive playing career, her time in the Australian W-League and Swedish Damallsvenskan felt the most progressive in developing women’s soccer and youth talent in a professional environment. And yet some countries still had a way to go.
Carmelina explains, “I think we were below like beach soccer on the [Italian league] website in 2009” Moscato laughs.
The reality of the financial and emotional struggles hit Moscato a few years after retirement at 32, realising a lifetime of passion fuelled movement from opportunity to opportunity was beginning to catch up with her.
“I think I’m maturing in the sense that my work is of value. And it is worth something more than probably what I’ve thought it has been, my experiences are unique, and I do have a lot to offer. So, there’s been that evolution, but I think it happened for me”
“The thing is, nothing’s changed. But I realised what my value is now. I think that’s the difference. “
“My Drive is to impact girls and women’s football”
If building up women’s soccer in Canada was the goal, Moscato would have to get to the roots of the issue and rebuild from the inside, at a club level. Moscato became the Commissioner of League1 Ontario in 2019, to see what a women’s league in Canada could look like but as with many sports, COVID-19 dashed all progress.
“I think we all talk about equality in football… But really what we’re asking for is equity as women’s football, in my opinion, especially in Canada. It’s at the grassroots through to senior levels, the same opportunities, the same competitions, the same reward structures, I started to realise the joy for me was going to be in creating solutions for that equity.”
Think of it this way, Canadian men’s club football has 12 professional teams, three in the MLS and eight in the Canadian Premier League and are now since 2008 competing in the Canadian Championship, a national tournament with professional teams. There is currently no women’s equivalent.
“Why have so many more years of attention and investment put into a men’s product where the women’s equivalent is still lagging behind. The good news is, the potential and appetite for it is huge.”
“We’ve been relying heavily on the women’s national team for success and to celebrate, which is great but we need more now at the various levels below the National team level.”
The Canadian women’s Olympic squad celebrated a hard earned gold medal at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, beating the favourites, United States on the way to a nail biting penalty shootout against Sweden. Canadian women’s football has proven again they deserve the opportunities to play professional football but the framework hasn’t been there.
“I think [Canada’s Win] will draw attention to the country and bring in notable money and investment. From there we want to bring pro soccer to Canada and a domestic league. The players deserve it.”
The future looks bright for Carmelina’s visions of women’s soccer in Canada, with viewership and fanbases increasing exponentially around the world, the thought of a change into men’s football is not currently in discussion.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else right now. It’s just right for me.”
“There’s going to be Club World Cups, there’s going to be the CONCACAF Champions League, just like there’s European Champions League, I think we’re sort of planting the seeds right now and it’s going to be really, really interesting.”
Modern investment from national teams into staff and facilities will help but development will come from grassroots level, without young players coming into the sport, the game will never progress.
“I think that’s the biggest scare around the world is that we have to get kids back from COVID, that’s where it starts. So, I think there has to be a big emphasis on that to keep the cycles alive and going.”