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By Mark Colley
Four months ago, 16-year-old Rosa Maalouf scored her first international goal. It came in a game against Poland in March as part of the U17 women’s soccer national team.
It was only a sign of things to come. At the CONCACAF U17 championship in April and May in the Dominican Republic, Maalouf scored 12 times in six games, the most of any player at the tournament and eight more goals than the next-closest Canadian.
Maalouf scored in all but two of Canada’s seven matches. Not only did she have a hat trick against Honduras, she scored four goals against the Dominican Republic.
After tearing up the international competition, Maalouf is now back home and bound for a domestic competition: the Canada Summer Games, taking place from Aug. 6 to 21 in Niagara. The Ottawa native will compete on Team Ontario alongside local products Maya Galko, Sofia Cortes-Browne and Teegan Melenhorst.
While Canada ultimately finished third at the CONCACAF championship, losing 3-0 to the United States in the semifinals but beating Puerto Rico in the bronze medal game, Maalouf said her international experience has taught her she’s still got room to grow.
“I’ve learned that nutrition and hydration and all that plays a really important role in success and development,” Maalouf told the Sports Pages.
At the same time, she’s also gained confidence in her game. When she first started playing internationally, Maalouf said she was “really nervous,” having never played with the U17 team before.
“I didn’t know how other players played. I didn’t know if they trusted me,” explained Maalouf, who played for the Ottawa Internationals and Ottawa South United locally before moving to the Canadian women’s national team’s development centre in Toronto.
But she built up confidence for the CONCACAF championship, leading to her pace-setting performance. Maalouf said she was pleased to be the leading goal scorer at the tournament, but she won’t rest on her laurels.
“I was proud of myself after getting the golden boot, but I know that maybe I could’ve put a bit more out there and the golden boot won’t slow me down,” said Maalouf, who has the Oct. 11-30 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Italy coming up. “It’s just like another motivation to do better and score even more goals when we’re at the World Cup.”
Maalouf grew up as a multisport athlete, competing in gymnastics and downhill skiing in addition to soccer. She started playing soccer around age five.
“In our family, soccer’s always really been a thing,” shared Maalouf, who added that her family is half Italian and half Lebanese. “It’s kind of part of the culture.”
Her dad played soccer growing up and coached Maalouf for many years. Around age 12, Maalouf decided she could go further in soccer than either gymnastics or downhill skiing, so she chose to pursue soccer exclusively.
Then came the pandemic. Maalouf paddled regularly with the Rideau Canoe Club, while still training every day with her dad and a neighbour who was committed to playing soccer at the University of Memphis.
“I developed my love of the game a lot during COVID,” Maalouf said, explaining that she wants to play soccer at a Division 1 NCAA school and play professionally in Europe. “My love for the game is just so big that I can’t give that up right after university.”
Right now, though, her goal for the Summer Games is to bring home gold for Team Ontario.
“I’m looking forward to winning,” she said.
The Canada Games women’s soccer competition takes place from Aug. 16-21. Consult the full schedule here.
In the two weeks leading up to the start of the Canada Summer Games, OttawaSportsPages.ca will be profiling participating local athletes. During the Aug. 6-21 Games, we’ll bring you daily reporting live from Niagara Region. Sign up to receive our free Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games Daily Newsletter to follow along!
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