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Women's football in Austria

Just over a decade since the opening of a national academy for female players, Austria have emerged as a competitive force on the European stage.

UEFA

History

Stepping up

Austria was one of the first countries in Europe to launch a women's league, with the Austrian Football Association (ÖFB) setting up the Frauen Bundesliga in 1982 to replace a competition that had developed in the east of the country over the previous decade. But it is in more recent years that Austria has really made strides. After the ÖFB opened a National Centre for Women's Football in 2011, Austria reached their first female final tournament at any level by qualifying for the 2014 UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship, before their senior team's debut run to the UEFA Women's EURO semi-finals in 2017.

Best UEFA competition performance

Senior: UEFA Women's EURO semi-finals (2017)
Youth: UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship group stage (2016), UEFA Women's U17 Championship group stage (2014, 2019)

Role model

Manuela Zinsberger has risen through the ranks to become a star
Manuela Zinsberger has risen through the ranks to become a star

Manuela Zinsberger started playing football at USV Leitzersdorf, a village club 30km north of Vienna, and is now a world-class goalkeeper for Arsenal and Austria. Like several of her squad-mates, she moved up the ÖFB pyramid from regional teams and performance centres to the national academy.

"I asked myself, what was the factor for our 2017 success? For me it was this flow that we had. From the beginning, we were very familiar with each other, we didn't have a lot of pressure, and we enjoyed all the moments together. As the tournament went on, the more we noticed what we were capable of, and what we could achieve. We hope that we can get into the same flow again, enjoy amazing moments together, leave everything on the pitch and make our country proud. The media might focus more on us this time because we surprised everyone in 2017 - we try to focus on ourselves and perform on the day, when it counts, make our country proud and then we’ll see where we end up at the end."

Milestone moments

On the pitch… 

Qualifying for Women's EURO 2017 with a 0-0 draw in Wales was a breakthrough. Beating Iceland to top a group containing France was a surprise. But outdoing Spain on penalties to reach the semi-finals on their debut moved Austria from also-rans to the elite. They only lost on spot kicks to Denmark as the showpiece loomed.

… and off it 

In 2011, the Austrian Football Association (ÖFB) founded the National Centre for Women's Football in St Pölten, where the 50 best prospects aged between 14 and 19 are able to train and continue receiving an academic education. The result of that investment has seen more than 80 graduates of the scheme playing in either Europe’s top leagues or the Austrian national team (more information below).

Game changer

The run at Netherlands 2017 was a transformative moment. For the semi-final against Denmark, a big screen was set up in Vienna's Rathausplatz, which days later held a huge public reception for the squad – who were later voted Team of the Year at the prestigious Sportler des Jahres ceremony. The side's popularity is reflected in the fact that main TV channel ORF 1 will be showing every Women's EURO 2022 game live, building on the big ratings from 2017.

Here and now

Zadrazil's pride

Sarah Zadrazil
Sarah Zadrazil

Sarah Zadrazil is one of Austria’s star players, but her talent and influence go far beyond the pitch.

She discusses the nation's growth and development of players in a special UEFA interview.

"A lot has been achieved in the past few years in Austria, and you can also see the effect of it in the national team. A lot of young talent is moving up to help strengthen the squad and there is a bit of a rivalry due to the size of the squad we’ve now got."

Austria's improvement with Sarah Zadrazil

Joining the game in Austria

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How you can play

Trailblazers exhibition

WEURO Trailblazers: Austria

"Trailblazers" is a unique exhibition that showcases the work of European artists given a blank canvas to celebrate women’s football. UEFA invited artists from participating nations in this summer’s tournament to create an image inspired by the game in their country. Austria's representative is Birgit Palma: "The artwork presents a multi-layered view of women's soccer. Organic shapes merge with abstract geometry to capture the spirit, precision and speed of such a game. I find the size of the stadiums breathtaking, when I first went to see a match, I was literally blown away. You feel small but at the same time part of something bigger - admire the spirit and teamwork in this sport."

Investing for the future

Austrian Football Association (ÖFB) women's football strategy

UEFA Women's EURO 2022 will provide the ÖFB with the perfect opportunity to redouble its ongoing efforts to develop the women's game, as outlined in its women's football strategy for 2020–2024.

During the tournament the ÖFB will:

* Expand its grassroots projects to bring more girls into football

* Create a miniseries/documentary on the national team and its players together with broadcast partner ORF to inspire young girls

* Start, expand and develop coaching courses exclusively for women to increase the number of female coaches

Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP)

Since 2010, UEFA's WFDP has provided associations with funding and tools to increase participation, improve standards and build infrastructure to help keep the female game growing. One example of a project funded by the WFDP programme in Austria is…

Women's football academy

Action at Austria's women's football academy
Action at Austria's women's football academyJan Hetfleisch/Getty Images for UEFA

Dedicated UEFA funding helps the academy combine school and football to provide players with targeted individual education and support in all areas, with a main objective of developing and preparing the most talented girls aged 14 to 19 for the women's national teams and national and international competitions.

Not only has this led to an increase in enthusiasm for women's football across the wider community, academy graduates such as Manuela Zinsberger, Nicole Billa and Barbara Dunst have gone on to represent top clubs. Meanwhile, Austria reached the Women's EURO 2017 semi-finals and the final tournaments of the 2016 Women's U19 EURO and 2019 Women's U17 EURO.