Top Photo: Wikimedia/ Ailura
From Tennessee to the German Bundesliga
By Hannes Richter & Marina Reitner
Sarah Zadrazil, one of Austria’s most promising female soccer players, recently signed a professional contract with FFC Turbine Potsdam, among the most successful teams in the German Women Bundesliga. Her path to Germany led the 23 year-old, who also plays for Austria’s national team, from Austria to the United States first.
Zadrazil, who hails from St. Gilgen in the picturesque Salzkammergut, started her career in Austria at USC Abersee before she played her debut in the Austrian Bundesliga at the age of 14 for USK Hof bei Salzburg.
In 2012, she was asked to joinThe East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Buccaneers; their coach, Adam Sayers, first saw a video of Sarah playing with Austria’s Under 19 national team and subsequently contacted her via Facebook. Ultimately, Zadrazil had offers from three universities and decided to follow the call to East Tennessee.
She completed her degree there in Spring 2016 after successfully playing for the Buccaneers for four years and acquiring many accolades, including being named 2016 Southern Conference Player of the Year. At the same time, Zadrazil has also competed with the Austrian national team numerous times and so far has scored four goals.
Austrian Information asked her a few questions about her time in the United States, soccer, and the differences between the two countries.
Congratulations on your recent graduation! What will the future bring for you?
Thank you very much! I just decided to sign with a team in Germany so I will play in the German Bundesliga in the next season and I am really looking forward to being a professional soccer player in such a great league.
You previously mentioned that Portland, Oregon was also an option for you – now that you will be moving back to Europe, will you continue to keep an eye on Portland or other places in the United States - do you think you will come back?
I would love to come back to the National Women's Soccer League one day to play in the USA again. Right now it was just the better option for me to return to Europe, but maybe one day I will get an opportunity to play professional soccer in the United States.
Let’s briefly talk about the situation of women’s soccer in the United States and in Austria – what are the main differences that you see?
The main difference in my opinion is that in the United States, soccer is a women’s sport and gets way more attention. In Austria or Europe in general, it is mainly a men’s sport and not nearly as many girls play soccer in Europe as in the U.S. At a professional NWSL game the attendance record is 23,000 people and in Austria we get maybe a couple of thousand people to watch a women’s game.
Besides being talented, do you have any tips for young soccer players on how to go about playing in the United States, and if possible, on how to get a scholarship?
I would tell every young girl who wants to play soccer in theU.S. to keep working hard and just follow her dream. Never give up: The best way to get attention from college coaches is when you play for the Austrian youth national teams, because a lot of coaches scout European players in national team games.
What were the factors that made you choose East Tennessee State?
The coach from ETSU contacted me after seeing me at some under 17 and under 19 national team games. When I subsequently visited the university, I fell in love with everything: The campus and the facilities were great, the coach made an amazing impression and what also made me chose ETSU was the fact that they already had a lot of European players - so I would not be the only one from another country.
How were you able to balance your responsibilities there with your career in Austria’s national squad? It wasn’t always easy because I had to miss out on a lot of time at school, missing many classes and having to make up all the exams and work from when I was gone with my national team. I just tried to keep up with my work online and I also had support from a lot of teachers who kept me updated and allowed me to make up things as soon as I got back. It took a lot of hard work and discipline, but it was definitely worth it.
You have been living in the United States for quite a while now – what are the things that you will really miss?
I will really miss the college lifestyle. College became my second home and it was like being part of a big family. You support every sports team of your university and other students know you because you play soccer there. Living on campus was like living in a small city with a lot of friends and teammates and that’s definitely what I will miss most.
To be a bit more specific, what did you like best about Tennessee? Is there anything special that you would like to highlight?
I just loved the university, the people I have met there and the friends I’ve made. Everyone was really friendly and open. I don’t know if it was just in Tennessee but in my opinion most Americans are like this.
Are there any places in the United States that you have not seen yet that are on your bucket list?
I’ve visited most of the cities I wanted to see, but I would still like to travel more and see as many parts of the U.S. as I can. Chicago and Boston would probably be the two next cities on my list.
Shifting focus towards Austria now, what are your favorite places back home?
My favorite place in Austria is definitely my home, Sankt Gilgen am Wolfgangsee. Nothing is like home and it is a beautiful place to live: I would recommend to everyone to go visit Austria. I also love going into the city of Salzburg. It is a relatively small city compared to cities in the U.S., but it is beautiful there with a lot of history.
What are your favorite soccer teams in Austria (both women and men)?
My favorite men’s team in the Austrian league would be Red Bull Salzburg because that’s where I am from, so that’s the team I support. My favorite women’s team is my old club team FC Bergheim where I played when I was younger.
Thank you very much for your thoughts. We wish you best of luck for your next career steps in Germany!
Top Photo: Wikimedia/ Ailura