Iacchelli: I'm still pinching myself
“He said, ‘You made the team!’ My jaw just dropped and I burst out into tears.”
Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi, Rhian Wilkinson, Sophie Schmidt, Diana Matheson and Erin McLeod are some of the names that fans around the world expected to read while scrolling through Canada Soccer's Twitter feed when head coach John Herdman announced his squad for the FIFA Women’s Cup Canada 2015™.
Selenia Iacchelli? Probably not. And it turns out, it was just as big of a surprise to the player herself.
“I was literally shocked,” Iacchelli told FIFA.com, her voice still shaking with excitement. “I sent a text message to my whole family, and had the group message all set up.”
Iacchelli has been away from the international football scene for almost a decade. Her last appearance for Canada at a Women’s World Cup at any level was at the Torpedo Stadium in Moscow in a 1-0 loss against eventual runners-up China PR at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. She didn’t make her senior team debut until the age of 27 in November 2013 against Mexico.
A relentless string of serious injuries derailed Iacchelli from that of a “normal” player’s professional timeline. There were two freak accidents on the pitch. There was the time she was accidently tripped into the boards at an indoor soccer arena and broke her arm. When she was even younger, Iacchelli collided with a goalkeeper, resulting in a broken leg. Later in her career there was a foot injury followed by a knee injury, both related to over-use. How did she get through four serious injuries? Why didn’t she give up and carry on with her other professional goal of being a physiotherapist?
“For me, it wasn’t hard,” Iacchelli said. “I truly love the game of soccer. You ask anyone who I’ve played with growing up. I’m in my happy place. It’s mentally hard, obviously, but as soon as you’re better, I was just back playing. I never said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. It wasn’t even a thought in mind. I said, ‘Ok, I want this to get better so I can get back playing’. I always looked at it really positively. ‘Ok, this happened, and it sucks and it’s out of my control.' All I can control is getting better and getting back, so that’s what I wanted to do and I did it."
Living in two worlds Without her unmistakable optimism for life and the game itself, Iacchelli would probably be working in Vancouver as a physiotherapist, preparing to watch all of Canada’s games this summer as a fan. And she wouldn’t mind that.
“I moved out, got an apartment. I had to move on with my life. I wasn’t playing anymore. So I was working, and then I started training with the team and they knew I had been called back into Cyprus (Cyprus Cup), so I knew there would be a chance for me to make the team if there was an injury or something.
“I just didn’t want to get my hopes up. My percentage was like slim to none. I had told John (Herdman), ‘Whether I’m on this team or not, I’m going to be there fully, my heart and all. These girls are my sisters, they’re family to me. I’m going to be cheering for the team, whether I’m on it or not’.”
Coach Herdman called Iacchelli into the Cyprus Cup squad, where Canada finished runners-up to England. Iacchelli played some of the best football of her life during and after the camp. Everything was clicking, but still, her expectations were low. Until Herdman called her into a meeting.
"It was a full-on surprise!" Iacchelli said. "I had no idea, nobody let anything slip. The staff had known I was going to make it and I went into the meeting room and John was like, ‘Hey Sel, this meeting’s going to be pretty quick'. He started thanking me for coming on and training with the team. He started talking about my character and how important I am to these girls and then he said, 'I don’t know what clicked but I noticed you're playing your best soccer'.
And the rest is history. Iacchelli will be representing Canada on home soil at a Women's World Cup.
Big moment awaits in Edmonton The Edmonton, Alberta native, born to Italian parents, will be playing in front of countless friends, coaches and family members at the Opening Match when Canada face China PR at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on 6 June. And it was Edmonton that moulded her into the player she is today.
“The soccer community in Edmonton is so tight and so close,” Iacchelli said. “It is because of the soccer community in Edmonton that I am where I am today. I had so much support there. I just want to represent Edmonton so much. I know everyone there is proud of me and they’ve seen what I’ve been through, with all my injuries, the ups and downs. I want to inspire a nation, and inspire Edmonton.”
The last time Iacchelli played in the stadium was for the Edmonton Aviators, a club that folded after the 2004 W-League season.
“It’s going to be super emotional for me when I’m in Edmonton,” she said. “I have played in Commonwealth before, but there were probably one hundred people in the stands. With 60,000 people there it will be like a dream come true. I remember being the young girl watching the U-19s play there when I was little and that changed Edmonton soccer and also changed women’s soccer. It’s amazing what these tournaments do.”
When Iacchelli enters the stadium for the Opening Match she will be back at a place that represents both her roots and all the adversity she has overcome. This time, nearly 60,000 people will be there to welcome her.