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Note: This article includes additional information beyond what appears in the print edition.
Madeline Keane had a stellar soccer career at Newtown High School and, after graduating in 2012, continued to compete as a defender at Wesleyan University. But Ms Keane’s soccer-playing days did not stop there. In fact, she is now displaying her skills on the pitch overseas, playing professionally.
Ms Keane is a defender for a team based out of Catania, Sicily, called ASD Catania Calcio Femminile. The team has weekly games against Catania, Rome, Lazio, Chieti, Apulia, and other cities throughout Italy, around a demanding practice schedule. Ms Keane initially flew to Europe in the late summer to lace up the cleats for Mfl Kvk Tindastoll, based in Saudarkrokur, Iceland. When that season ended in the fall, she was offered a spot on the Sicily-based team, which plays throughout the fall, winter, and spring. Through this experience, Ms Keane has had a chance to absorb European culture while playing a sport she loves.
“I didn’t know how possible it was, but it was something I always wanted,” said Ms Keane of playing professionally in Europe, while home visiting family during holiday break.
With family from Europe, Ms Keane has been overseas many times for family trips, as well as for a unique opportunity while in high school. Ms Keane represented her Connecticut Football Club Premier team, playing with older athletes, for a week in Germany that coincided with the World Cup. The experience was a taste of what has come Ms Keane’s way.
“It was pretty challenging and it was a lot of fun and an eye-opening experience. It gave me a little bit of something to work off of going over now,” Ms Keane said.
Since living in Europe, she has coached youth players and volunteered at a dog shelter, as well as taken time to explore.
“The coastline is really beautiful,” Ms Keane said.
Getting to and from practices or destinations is a bit different than her travels in the states, she noted.
“The driving in Sicily is scary compared to here because the roads are narrow, they drive faster, and the don’t wear seat belts,” she said.
Christopher McCullum of SoccerVista is Ms Keane’s agent, and helped make it possible for her to play in Europe. He discovered Ms Keane while she was training with other soccer standouts already playing professionally or aspiring to do so.
“He dealt with all of the logistical hoops so I could focus on the playing side. He arranged it so that I just had to send over a video that showcased my playing and strengths as opposed to flying out for a trial. I made a video from my time playing at Wesleyan University and pulled clips from the footage from Icelandic games,” Ms Keane said.
Ms Keane got off to a great start with Catania, helping to set up four of the team’s goals in a 6-1 win in her first game, then scoring one of her team’s two goals in a 2-0 win in the second contest.
“The level of play is very high, but it is difficult to compare to playing in college. The style of play differs drastically. In Europe, there is a greater emphasis on technical skill and precision, with a movement away from the physicality of play in the US. But it has certainly been an adjustment coming from a notoriously physical league in college,” said Ms Keane, referring to the New England Small College Athletic Conference, to which Wesleyan belongs.
“The kid is freakishly athletic,” said Marc Kenney, Newtown High’s soccer coach. “She grew into certainly one of the best defenders we’ve ever had here.”
Ms Keane earned All South-West Conference and All State accolades, and was a team captain, helping her team into the conference and state playoffs.
“Maddie really paved the way for the success we’ve had since she graduated,” Mr Kenney said.
After graduating from Wesleyan, Ms Keane began working at a venture development incubator firm in New York City called Prehype.
“While I really enjoyed my time working there, I was not ready to give up on soccer. I am so fortunate for the help and guidance over the years from many people, including my family and friends, Marc Kenney, and my college coach. They have made it possible for me to pursue my dream and experience living in foreign countries that speak other languages. The cultural differences have been fascinating and eye-opening. Prior to going to Iceland, I had little to no concept of what the people were like that lived there, only that it is extremely beautiful and parts of Game of Thrones were filmed there. I left with a great appreciation for the kindness shown from every Icelandic person I interacted with and, although insular in nature, a welcoming place to live and visit,” Ms Keane said.
While working at Prehype, Ms Keane, as part of a side job with her boss, helped open a project-based learning school in Westchester County, N.Y. Her work included everything from determining parking regulations to promoting the school and being part of the teaching interviewing process.
Ms Keane would like to bring her passions and experiences together in her career and become a teacher and coach down the road. She would like to teach Art History, which was her college major field of study, as well as Italian.
“I’ve always loved kids and working with kids,” Ms Keane said.
To this point, having studied Italian throughout college is already paying dividends.
“It’s pretty fun to be able to answer the phone and be able to have a conversation in Italian,” she said.