Maria Hasler has played football for Austria at two youth levels and on a scholarship at Florida Atlantic University. However, a multitude of injuries have sadly played a major role in her playing career being restricted.

Now, a MSc Football Communications & Digital Marketing student at UCFB Wembley, the GIS student spoke to us about her playing career and her aspirations for an alternative career in the football industry…

What made you decide to study the Football Communications & Digital Marketing programme at GIS? 

Frankly, having lectures in the most iconic football stadium in the world sounded too good to be true, especially as a footballer myself. After doing some research and talking to several fellow Austrian students already at UCFB and GIS, I found that this Master’s would provide me with the knowledge, but also the connections that I need to be successful within the football industry. 

What is it about the football and sports industry that fascinates you? 

Football is more than a sport. It unites people from all over the world, eliminating any language and cultural barriers. For instance, this summer I was on holiday in France and was able to train with a boy’s team and made friends with them despite me not being a fluent French speaker. I also had a similar experience when I travelled to South and Central America.

Additionally, most individuals within the sports industry are wired the same – they’re competitive. The competitive nature of sport can bring the best out of people in their respective positions within the sports industry. Finally, the sports industry is fast paced and dynamic, as the current pandemic shows. Organisations need to adapt quickly in a high-pressure environment. Having played football at the highest level I am used to this environment and also need this challenge to get the best version of myself.

Are you excited about living and studying in London with Wembley Stadium as your campus? 

I’m absolutely buzzing! I’m fascinated by the variety London offers and its enthusiasm for football. I was hoping to attend lots of matches, but I’m sure things will look a bit brighter next year. I’ve been on the Wembley campus a few times now, but I don’t think I will ever get used to the view. It’s very special and I feel privileged to study and live in a location that people from all around the world go on vacation.

You’ve also spent a good few years playing football in Florida at Florida Atlantic University and represented Austria at two different youth levels. How has your playing career shaped your career goals in the sports industry? 

When I was 14 I first left my home in the Alps to move to an academy near Vienna where we trained twice a day with the national team whilst getting our high school diploma. Straight after, I moved to Florida on a full scholarship to play D1 college soccer. So I’ve been away from my family for a long time now, but I do think it was crucial for my personal development. Being in such a professional environment from a young age, discipline, time-management, being a team player – all of these soft skills become innate. 

By being exposed to this environment throughout my whole life, I’ve realised that is where I belong and where I thrive. Perhaps not as a player myself anymore, but because of my experience in Europe and the US, I understand the industry and I think that gives me a competitive advantage.

You’ve also trained with the likes of Nottingham Forest and the London Bees but have suffered injury problems. How resilient have you had to be to get through these situations? 

Over the last four years I’ve had multiply surgeries, casts, injections and done lots of hard work off the pitch. All I wanted was to stand on the pitch with my teammates, so it was and still is really tough for me mentally after working so hard to come back and then just getting unlucky with an injury again. But at the end of the day you need to listen to your body. So many times my heart and passion trumped my body, but now I’ve learnt to listen to it and still follow my passion and remain in the football industry, but this time behind the scenes. 

Do these injuries make you think more about a career in the sport away from the pitch and the importance of education for athletes who want to remain in the sports industry? 

Yes, absolutely. For me it has always been imperative to get an education while playing football, because as a female footballer you’re still vastly underpaid despite the recent improvements. That’s why I went to the US to play D1 soccer and gain my bachelors, because I was in a professional football environment but still gained an excellent education at the same time.

Unfortunately, you can’t predict how your body reacts to the different intensities. Despite doing all the right things in terms of nutrition, strength and conditioning, my body still wouldn’t allow me to play at the level I wanted to at 23. Therefore, it’s imperative for athletes to get a good education alongside the aspirations of becoming a professional because injuries are unfortunately part of the beautiful game.