How Montaigne's music career was helped by Malaysia Cup star Cerro

It used to be that Gus Cerro would be asked about his football career, including three Cup finals in Malaysia. But, increasingly, the coach and former star import is fielding questions about the remarkable rise of his 21-year-old daughter, Jessica.

Jessica was a former midfielder, like her father, whose clubs include four-time Australian national champions Marconi Stallions. That was until her football show-reel -- accompanied by music she composed and sang as an after-thought -- launched an unexpected career as a recording artist.

Five years later, Jessica has created a stage name of Montaigne after the French philosopher, signed a publishing deal with the same company that helped launch AC/DC, and won a major award for best breakthrough artist.

"My daughter has experienced incredible success in Australia in a relatively short amount of time, and is now playing festivals in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans," Cerro told ESPN FC.

"Never in a million years did I think she would win an ARIA, which is Australia's version of the Grammys. I'm extremely proud."

Cerro, 47, was Montaigne's coach and encouraged the then 16-year-old to apply for college soccer scholarships in the United States. They agreed that a professionally produced video of her footballing prowess would help her chances.

"We wanted to make the tape look and sound as good as possible," Cerro explained. "Jessica liked to sing, so we suggested that we get one of her songs professionally recorded to go along with the footage of her playing.

"The song sounded better than we were expecting so we uploaded it onto a radio station's website for emerging artists. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, our daughter was in the music business, so we put the U.S. college scholarship idea on hold."

Cerro's wife Maitina quit her job to become their daughter's full-time manager, and both parents have done crash courses on the music business. Just three months ago, Montaigne made a short Australian tour in support of Blondie and Cyndi Lauper, two veteran artists whose hits provided some of the soundtrack to Cerro's 1980s and 90s football career in Australia and Malaysia.

Born in Argentina as the son of a former Newell's Old Boys player, Cerro's family emigrated to Australia when he was three years old. He made over 200 senior appearances in the National Soccer League (NSL) before a move to Malaysia as part of the Aussie invasion of the mid-1990s.

Along with decorated Australian defender Alan Davidson, Cerro was part of the 1995 Pahang side who won the league title, and appeared in three domestic finals. His teammates included current MSL coaches Zainal Abidin Hassan and Dollah Salleh.

"The 1995 Malaysia Cup final was probably the most precious moment of my professional career -- playing before a crowd of 90,000 at Shah Alam, having 10,000 fans watch us train, and spending two hours signing autographs for the kids who attended," he said.

"Even though we eventually lost to a golden goal [by Selangor's Australian import David Mitchell], it was an amazing experience.

"It's great to see Dollah back as coach of Pahang because as an ex-striker he tends to channel his football philosophy around playing attacking football. As for Zainal trying to save Penang from relegation, he's up for the challenge, and if lacing up his boots again himself would help them, he'd do it!"

Cerro also had three seasons with Negeri Sembilan under ex-national winger M. Karathu. He and fellow Australian import Jose Iriarte helped take an unfashionable side to the brink of league glory in the 1996 season before injury sidelined him at a critical point.

"The ninth state went crazy for team who hadn't had success in a long time," he said. "It was hard for me and Jose to remain inconspicuous as everyone seemed to want a piece of us, even when we were in the supermarket.

"Sadly, I blew out my knee, and we lost the league to Sabah with about three matches remaining."

In recent years, Cerro has become a renowned junior coach in Sydney, setting up Foundation Sports which develops youngsters and can provide a pathway to professional careers in Europe. He's helped place promising Australian players in the academies of some lower league clubs in Spain.

"I've been involved in coaching for 15 years, and been running my own football school full-time for the last five," he said.

"Many people may be well versed and knowledgeable in senior football principles, but coaching kids is a unique profession. You have to be part coach, part father, part psychologist, part mentor."

Shortly after Montaigne returned from Los Angeles after recording her second album, her father headed to Singapore and Malaysia this week, as he looks to make connections in Southeast Asia.

On Tuesday night, he was at Larkin Stadium with former Negeri Sembilan teammate Scott Ollerenshaw and his one-time NSL rival Alistair Edwards, now the sports' director of Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT). JDT defeated Sarawak 4-0 in their opening 2017 Malaysia Cup game, as Dollah's Pahang drew 2-2 with Negeri Sembilan in a battle of Cerro's former teams.

During his Malaysia trip, Cerro is getting updates from wife Maitina about Montaigne's latest schedule, and regarding their 19-year-old daughter Tijana, who's also gone from footballer to aspiring musician.

Cerro remains philosophical about his children choosing the arts over the beautiful game, but reckons the hundreds of hours spent on the pitch as kids will never be wasted.

"Football served as a way to develop my daughters' ambitions towards their goals," he said. "If I can give any parent advice, it is that you are the key to your children's success.

"Open doors, create opportunities and surround them around good people and mentors."