In August 2014, Chloe Mustaki was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is a type of blood cancer in the lymphatic system. Five years on, Mustaki has earned her first senior international call-up to the Irish Women’s National Team.
Ireland take on Ukraine in their second Euro 2021 qualifier after beating Montenegro 2-0 earlier this month. In what is set to be a record crowd at Tallaght Stadium tomorrow, 8 October, Ireland are aiming to reach their first ever major international tournament.
Mustaki received her first senior-call up after an incredible journey. Newly appointed manager Vera Pauw and assistant-manager Eileen Gleeson have taken note of Mustaki’s impressive form.
Mustaki signed with Shelbourne FC in March earlier this year. She went on to captain Ireland at the World University Games team during the summer, where despite being the lowest ranked University team in the tournament, Mustaki captained the side to a fourth-place finish.
The 24-year-old started her playing career at Park Celtic before making the move to St Joseph’s as a teenager. Attending St. Andrews College, the midfielder then made the switch to Peamount United winning the first ever Women’s National League in 2011. A supremely talented young footballer, Mustaki received International Player Of The Year at U17 level.
However in what was supposed to be one of the best times in her career, 2014 proved to be one of the hardest periods in her life.
Mustaki had captained the U19 international team to history as they became the first-ever Irish side to qualify for the U19 European Championships, unbeaten through their six qualifying games.
They were drawn into a heavyweight group with outsiders giving them no hope. Ireland were pitted against previous winners England and Sweden as well as the runners-up from the tournament two-years prior, Spain.
Republic of Ireland 1 – 0 Spain.
Republic of Ireland 2 -1 England.
Republic of Ireland 2 -1 Sweden.
The Netherlands eventually beat Ireland and ended the dream, as they went on to win the tournament.
Ireland were history-makers and defied all odds. Yet something was not quite right with Mustaki. She felt she had let her team-mates down. Her performances at the European Championships were below the expectations and high standards she had set previously.
The lively midfielder is known for her box-to-box to prowess and ability to control the game. Her energetic performances in midfield are a key facet to her game. Yet in Norway something was off – her energy levels were shot.
After returning back from the competition and at a loss to understand why she didn’t perform to her usual high standards, Mustaki went back to her daily routine. Two weeks later she visited her GP to have a subscription renewed and get her bloods taken.
After being called back for a second set of tests, a chest X-ray showed a six centimetre tumour in her chest. Mustaki was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Like anyone, she was scared.
Mustaki took time out of college and began chemotherapy sessions, which she described as torture. These sessions began in September and carried on every two weeks through to February. After a long and gruelling period, she received the news she was cancer free. Unconceivable relief, unimaginable reassurance.
Astonishingly, Mustaki kept football in her life during her treatment. She felt if she let go of football she would have lost everything.
Within five weeks of being given the good news, she was back playing for UCD Waves, under the management of now Republic of Ireland assistant-manager Eileen Gleeson.
Since then, Mustaki has continued to make her barnstorming comeback. She was part of the UCD Waves team who made it to the FAI Cup final in 2017. Mustaki cruelly missed out on the final the last time UCD Waves made it to the final, in 2014, as she was undergoing chemo therapy.
Now, Mustaki is set to finally realise her dream of representing Ireland at senior level after a long and gruelling journey.
Had illness not interrupted, there is no doubt Mustaki would have several international caps already however she is still young. Tomorrow she will get the chance to play alongside the now Ireland captain Katie McCabe. The pair enjoyed vast success together at underage level and now get to do it all again on the highest stage.
Mustaki says she feels “great now” and has never been in a better place. “Obviously, it was a tough time in my life back then but I got through it and am for the better now, health-wise everything’s perfect, thank God “I think it’s changed me for the good and the bad, to be honest.
“It’s definitely made me stronger, it’s interesting seeing what life can bring in terms of good and bad.”
On her future:
“I just moved to London a few weeks ago for work. “In terms of football I’m looking to sign for a club in England soon so not sure where that’ll be but hopefully, it’ll bring me forward and improve my quality of football.”