Houston Dash’s Nina Burger: From Austria With Goals

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Meisterschaftsspiel der ÖFB Frauenliga am 10.08.2012 ASK Spratzern – NÖSV Neulengbach 2:4 Courtesy of: SV Neulengbach

A big move abroad to a country where you are not fully comfortable in the language is a daunting prospect for anyone, particularly when you have spent your entire life and professional career close to your birthplace. However, that is exactly what Austrian Nina Burger did earlier this month when she made the move from SV Neulengbach of the ÖFB Frauen Bundesliga to the Houston Dash of the NWSL.

Burger, 26, was born in Tulln an der Donau, a small town of some 15,000 inhabitants just 30 miles from Vienna. Her career in soccer began at the young age of 7 when she joined the SV Hausleiten youth team just across the Donau River from Tulln.

In 2001, Burger made the move to SV Langenrohr of the ANKÖ Frauen Landesliga, one of the lower leagues of Austrian women’s soccer. Her big move to the top flight of women’s soccer in Austria, the ÖFB Frauen Bundesliga, came in the summer of 2005 when she joined SV Neulengbach, a team playing in a town of 7,000 in the Vienna Woods. Since then she has never looked back and she has never stopped scoring goals.

Burger was a dominant force for SV Neulengbach, leading the ÖFB Frauen Bundesliga in goal scoring on six different occasions en route to a career total 241 goals in the league in just under 9 seasons. She added another 64 goals in the ÖFB Women’s Cup.

eisterschaftsspiel der ÖFB Frauen Bundesliga am 05.10.2013 NÖSV Neulengbach – USC Landhaus 7:0. Courtesy of SV Neulengbach

SV Neulengbach was in turn dominant in Austrian soccer, winning the ÖFB Frauen Bundesliga title and participating in the UEFA Champions League  in every season in which Burger played for them. SV Neulengbach also won the ÖFB Women’s Cup seven times during her tenure and she topped off her personal success with a Player of the Year Award in 2010.

The club advanced to the quarter-finals of Champions League twice during Burger’s time including this season when they were knocked out by soon to be Dash teammates, Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg’s Tyresö squad. Burger scored 6 goals in the competition during 2013/14 which brought her career Champions League total to 39 goals.

Burger has also been a key piece of the Austrian national team since she made her debut against England on September 1, 2005. She is the all-time leading goal scorer for the national team with 32 goals in 58 appearances, recently surpassing Gertrud Stallinger who scored 30 in  56 national team appearances between 1990-2005.

Soccer in Austria is not fully professional, however, and even national team stars typically only earn enough to cover expenses. In need of a job to pay the bills, Burger attended and graduated from Polizeischule (Police Academy) and works as a police officer in Vienna.

At times juggling her police career with her soccer career has proved challenging, however Burger has said in the past that her supervisors generally have respected her playing career and take games and training into account in scheduling her responsibilities.

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There have been frustrations along the way around the support within Austria for the women’s game. In 2006, Burger expressed the hope that the Austrian Bundesliga (top flight on the men’s side) would someday form women’s sides.

The greater resources available to top flight men’s teams would mean better facilities and greater investment in the women’s game, as has happened in other European leagues. In particular, Burger hoped that her favorite team growing up, Rapid Vienna, would establish a side and that she could play for them. Unfortunately, to date this has not happened and most women’s teams remain relatively small in stature.

Click “next” below for the remainder of the article including quotes from Burger and Dash Head Coach Randy Waldrum.