Soccer fans now know that Spain’s women’s team has been crowned the new Women’s World Cup champions, and congratulations to the players for a wonderful display of talent and teamwork. Sadly, we also are aware that Canada did not advance beyond the group stage.
This is a huge disappointment based on expectations going into the event. The reasons for the setback will be analyzed by soccer experts in this country for some time but clearly there is still a tremendous future for the sport in Canada. Soccer is after all the largest team sport for female participation in Canada with more than 750,000 players.
We have won an Olympic gold medal, and the all-time leader in international scoring is from Canada.
The men qualifying for the World Cup have helped as well. Considering the fact that FIFA has also chosen Canada to host world-class competitions and one can see that Canada is growing on the soccer map.
Most likely some of that bright future will be coming from the Greater Vancouver area and perhaps even from within our Catholic family. Recently I had a chance to speak with three very successful players who are all members of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Coquitlam.
Genevieve Murdocco, Simona Mascitti, and her younger sister Sasha Mascitti are all products of the elite Coquitlam soccer program and the OLF community (which is gaining a reputation as a hotbed of soccer).
They all began playing the sport at a very young age and they all count their parents as inspirations. While their organized soccer experience started at 5, each of the girls actually began playing around the home at a much younger age.
Sasha remembers, “My dad turned our rec room into a soccer pitch, and we would all go down and play after dinner. My mom broke her toe during one of our battles.”
While breaking parent’s bones isn’t usually part of the equation, this is a classic case of a family bonding through a sport, which is one of the most important goals of sport according to Popes Francis, Benedict, and John Paul II.
Simona speaks highly of how supportive and encouraging her parents have been throughout her playing career, while Sasha counts her sister as an inspiration.
The list of accomplishments for this trio is significant. Genevieve, who is a U16 attacking midfielder, has been part of a provincial championship team twice. She has also won the school athletic award at OLF in Grade 7, and she won the athlete of the year award in Grade 9. A multi-sport star, she has also excelled in basketball.
Simona, who plays right back, was similarly part of the two provincial champion squads and due to her impactful play has been invited to play up on an older team.
Sasha, who plays centre back and centre midfield, played a significant role in her u14 team’s also winning a provincial Metro title and she too was asked to play up for an older age team.
Having been a Metro soccer parent I am aware of how challenging it is to win provincial championships. Besides talent, it takes very hard work and inspiring leadership, something these young women have shown.
When it comes to their favourite world-class players, these three local athletes list quite a variety of individuals. Genevieve makes a classic choice in Lionel Messi, while Simona favours a Canadian national team member, Adriana Leon. She and her sister like Italian Frederico Chiesa, while Sasha adds to her list her father’s favourite, Ricardo Kaka, her grandfather’s choice Antonin Panenka, plus Men’s World Cup star Kilyan Mbappe. The younger sister also lists as personal highlights meeting Canadian women’s star Julia Grosso as well as receiving a team scarf from Damiano Pecile, who attended St. Helen’s Elementary in Burnaby and plays professionally in Finland.
Highly decorated athletes often lose touch with God, but these three prodigies have remembered to keep their Catholic faith and love of God front and centre.
“I pray to God before every game to keep me safe from injuries and to play well,” said Genevieve.
Sasha similarly believes that God hears her prayer for guidance and a good game.
Simona knows that God is truly helping her deal with frustrating times. “I always know that God will be proud of me and my effort. This has helped me to build my confidence which motivates me more to succeed on the field.”
As Catholics we understand that through prayer God hears us and gives us what is best for us as we grow closer to him. To this end this OLF trio all have favourite prayers that they turn to.
Genevieve prefers to say the Guardian Angel Prayer and adds, “God please keep my mind clear so that I may play smart; please bring strength and energy to my legs so that I may play with speed; please give me motivation to play my best. Amen.” Her #1 saint is St. Michael because he is both warrior and protector.
Simona loves the Apostle’s Creed and St. John Bosco, while Sasha receives joy in reciting the Hail Mary and asking for the intercession of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Anne.
The pride of the Archdiocese, Genevieve, Simona, and Sasha will continue on their faithful journey on the pitch, perhaps to one day wear their names on Canada jerseys in future World Cups.