One of Europe’s few female scouts happy to represent ‘family club’ Norwich City
- Credit: Norwich City FC
Delia Smith and Zoe Ward lead the way as female figureheads at Norwich City but they are joined by one of the few women to be working as a scout in European football, as David Freezer discovered when he spoke to Mariela Nisotaki.
Pushing the boundaries in men’s football is one of the few female scouts in Europe, who has spoken of how happy she is to work for a “family club” in Norwich City.
Mariela Nisotaki, from Greece originally, joined the Canaries in January 2017 as an analyst focused on statistical gathering having previously spent a year at Swansea City.
A few months later Stuart Webber joined the club as sporting director and for much of the last three years the 30-year-old has been part of the team reporting to head of recruitment Kieran Scott, who works closely with Webber and head coach Daniel Farke on player transfers.
“I realise it is quite a family club, which is great, and the city is like that,” Nisotaki said. “The whole environment - I really like Norwich, as a city.
“Everyone knows everyone almost and I think everyone is open-minded, which I think is important nowadays.”
Having been keen on playing sport as a youngster, enjoying football and basketball in particular, Nisotaki started to realise she had a knack for sporting statistics which could allow her to pursue a career in a team sport - with computer games such as Football Manager feeding her habit, as with so many who go on to be analysts.
She explained: “I started watching a lot of football and knew everything about all the players, reading magazines and newspapers.
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“I remember my father saying to me ‘why do you know all of these players? Is that any use for you?’ and now of course we laugh about it.”
After completing a masters degree in performance analysis at Cardiff Metropolitan University the opportunity to work in professional football arrived after graduating in 2015, at Swansea working as first team performance analyst while the South Wales club were in the Premier League, under Garry Monk initially and then Francesco Guidolin.
That season brought a mix of opposition scouting and data collection from other leagues, as the Swans looked to modernise their scouting systems, and was followed by a few months as a first team match analyst back home in Greece, with top-flight club Atromitos Athens.
Then it was back to the UK in 2017, to begin a fruitful spell with the Canaries, initially as a technical scout, researching potential transfer targets and creating dossiers on players.
Webber, Farke and City’s recruitment department received plenty of praise for successfully building the squad which won the Championship title last season, often signing players unknown to the majority of City fans who have gone on to be big successes, such as Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia.
“It was always team work, which I think is good, with everyone’s opinion,” Nisotaki said of that praise. “So I don’t really want to mention one player in particular, but a lot of people mention Emi Buendia, that the stats flagged him up. So yes it is good to see the player doing well and it’s a good success story about him.
“When people praise the recruitment department that’s excellent for us, it’s good because we are trying to be clever, in a good way. We work very hard, we are not a very big team in terms of numbers but we are trying to go everywhere and cover as much as possible.”
Last summer brought a change of role to domestic and European lead scout, which Nisotaki estimates takes her away from Norwich around 70 percent of the time, covering areas including Holland, Belgium and South America, as well as some English matches.
She rarely meets other females scouts on her travels though, saying: “Of what I am aware, there are two other women. I don’t think there are more in European football.
“One I have met, last July in Armenia for the Under-19 Euros, which is Helena Costa who is working for Eintracht Frankfurt, she is Portuguese, and one more, Andrea (Orts), who works for Espanyol.”
The Canaries scout doesn’t see that gender imbalance as a barrier to her work however.
“I don’t find it difficult, probably because I was used to working with men because every time I was coaching I was communicating and working with men,” she explains. “There’s a lot of discrimination in general in society, which is more important than women in football, but one thing I always say is that your difference is probably your strength, whether it’s women in football or something else.
“So for me it’s an advantage, I see it like that, and if you are working hard enough and you are confident in yourself, it’s an advantage because people remember me. If I go to a stadium they remember ‘this is Mariela from Norwich’, so that’s good.
“It’s challenging but that’s good. It’s challenging for everyone when you are working in professional football - for women and men.”