The University of Manitoba Bisons women’s soccer team is hosting nationals for the first team ever this season.
In the lead-up, the Manitoban will feature weekly profiles of each player on the roster. First up is Florin Wagner, whose international experience will be a big plus in 2017.
The Bison women’s soccer team will have a bit more global flavour this season with German born midfielder Wagner entering the fold. She is the third player from outside Canada on the roster, joining fourth year Brazilian striker Bruna Mavignier and second year American midfielder Abby Eggers.
Growing up, Wagner played in the German state of Saxony and was in the pool for the U16 and U17 national team. After high school, she travelled abroad, playing soccer professionally for two years in Switzerland, a year in the Czech Republic and, most recently, a stint in Finland.
During her time in all three locations, she had the chance to play against some of the best soccer players in the world.
“I learned a lot because I played together with a few national team players from different countries, but you’re also like, ‘I want to go there, I want to have that experience,’” Wagner said.
Always one for new experiences, Wagner began looking for other places to hone her talent in January. She started texting back and forth with Bisons head coach Vanessa Martinez Lagunas, who knew Wagner from her own time coaching in Germany.
The opportunity to gain an education while also playing soccer was enticing enough that Wagner committed to playing with the Bisons, arriving in Winnipeg just weeks ago.
In choosing to come to Canada, Wagner stepped into a unique situation. She was still technically on Aland United’s roster in Finland and their season does not end until October. But the club honoured her wishes to pursue a new life in Manitoba.
“In women’s soccer, if you have a chance which is better, especially academically, they need to let you go without any costs or whatever,” Wagner said.
“A lot of people, especially my family, they said, ‘Yeah this is a good opportunity and just try it. Start it and if you like it, you can stay there for longer, and if not you can always come back in December.’”
Despite having her former team’s, as well as her family’s, approval, Wagner said she still struggled with the decision.
Ultimately, the upside of pursuing a degree while also playing soccer was too high to pass up.
“It was a hard decision because I liked it in Finland, everything was perfect,” she said. “But really, I just play what I love to do, and I felt like maybe I could try and start on my academics [at the U of M].”
While Wagner has only been with the squad for a few weeks, she has already made an impact on the pitch, scoring four goals in six preseason contests. She admitted that the playing style is a bit less intense, but said she is looking forward to what the season has in store.
“I think the league games [in Europe], they take a lot from us so you need to give everything and be aggressive,” Wagner said. “Sometimes I miss that here but it’s coming in the games I hope.”