By Jerry Mancini.
There are many footballers in North America whose aim is to have the opportunity to play outside the region, but the goal of playing overseas, particularly in Europe, is a challenge that can prove very difficult to accomplish.
However, one player who has achieved this goal and currently plays in Italy’s Serie A, is Napoli goalkeeper, Kelly Chiavaro.
This past summer, Chiavaro was signed by the Italian side and her dream of playing top-flight football in Europe became a reality.
“My parents actually signed me up [for the local team] when I was four-five years old,” she told WFi.
“I grew up playing on teams where my dad was the coach which was a really cool experience because it made us a lot closer and it made us have a similar passion — something that we could share the two of us together.
“I remember winning nationals with my club team [Lakeshore] one year and, to this day, this is one of the best moments of my career because I know how much it meant to him and to be able to share this moment together was truly surreal.
“In terms of my path to becoming a professional athlete for Napoli Femminile, I always knew that I wanted to play professionally.
“I went through the typical Canadian Women’s soccer player path — made the regional team, was selected for the provincial team, got invited to train at the national training centre throughout high school, and then got a scholarship to play D1 in the NCAA.”
Playing in the top flight in Europe requires dedication, countless hours of training and, most importantly, the fortitude to keep going.
Many players stop after university but Chiavaro was committed to the goal of playing in Europe.
“A lot of players end their career once they graduate from university but I always wanted to reach the next level — to be in a more professional environment and to really see where my potential and my work ethic could bring me,” she added.
In addition to continuing to play football after university, she went through a period of uncertainty due to the pandemic.
This didn’t stop her, either, as she went overseas to develop her game and found an agent along the way who has helped her achieve her goals.
“I started looking for an agent to represent me towards the end of my senior season at Colgate University and from there started my journey to finding myself at Napoli Femminile,” she says.
“With COVID I had some difficulties finding a contract in Europe so I signed a one-year contract in Israel to get some experience and get familiar with the lifestyle of a professional athlete.
“I really took that year to work on myself both physically but especially on the mental side of the game.
“I’m very grateful for my agent who believed in me throughout this process and helped me achieve my dreams.
“I can firmly say that this is just the beginning for me and I really see myself continuing to improve and making a successful career as a footballer.”
Best part of training: ✈️✈️ pic.twitter.com/9987AXXC1z
— Kelly Chiavaro (@Kellychiavaro) October 29, 2021
Since arriving in Italy back in July, the past four months have been an astonishing experience for Kelly.
“My experience as a whole has been unearthly,” she says of the move to Italy.
“I have had the privilege of being part of a team with an outstanding staff and most of all an amazing goalkeeper coach.
“Being part of such an organization has given me the opportunity to really improve and work on all aspects of my game.
“Most of all, this experience has validated that this is what I want to do as a career and has allowed me to really work towards achieving my full potential.
“Living in Italy has been a dream come true. Italy is such a beautiful country and I absolutely love the culture.
“I have always wanted to live in Italy to be able to experience the culture and the lifestyle my family comes from. I am living such an amazing life and am extremely grateful for this opportunity.”
On October 17, 2021, Kelly’s dream became a reality as she made her first professional start for Napoli Femminile, in a 1-1 draw versus Hellas Verona in the Coppa Italia.
“Stepping on the field for the first time, wearing a Napoli shirt was a beautiful experience,” says Chiavaro.
“I worked really hard for this moment and to have my hard work pay off and get some playing time was awesome.
Getting to where she is today was not easy for Kelly, who has encountered obstacles along the way, yet this never set her back and has made her a stronger person.
When asked if there were ever moments of doubt about whether she would make it as a professional footballer, she said: “Absolutely, I went through some serious injuries — four knee surgeries and one elbow surgery and there was a time both prior to college and during college that I had some doubts about my capabilities of becoming a professional athlete.
“Battling these serious injuries gave me the opportunity to really take a step back and assess if this was something that I wanted to pursue, but most importantly it allowed me to see what changes I needed to make to attain the next level.
“I think it is normal for all athletes to go through some periods of doubt. What was crucial for me to get through these periods was remembering my love for the game and remembering how hard I worked to get to where I was.
“My dedication, perseverance and my work ethic really helped me through these times of doubt. At the end of the day, I couldn’t imagine a life without football, and this helped me push through these times of doubt.”