In years to come, Maya Hahn may be regarded as the one that got away from New Zealand Football.

Having been part of the New Zealand side that exceeded all expectations to finish third at the Fifa under-17 women's World Cup in 2018, Hahn shifted her allegiance to Germany and is now on target to represent them at the rescheduled under-20 World Cup early next year.

Even before the under-17 tournament, Hahn secured a four-year scholarship at the University of Oregon. That also became the catalyst for the re-emergence of a childhood dream.

"I'd wanted to play for Germany ever since I was younger," says Hahn from her family home in Eastbourne where she's spending time before returning to the US for pre-season training in August.

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"That went to the back of my mind when things started getting going with the NZ under-17's, but when there was a break between the 17's and 20's, those thoughts resurfaced.

"When I went to America, things weren't necessarily going to work out with the New Zealand under-20's in terms of our season lining up with when I needed to come back for camps and getting flights and those sorts of things.

Capital's Maya Hahn fights for possession during a Womens' league match. Photosport
Capital's Maya Hahn fights for possession during a Womens' league match. Photosport

"I made a highlights video of my World Cup footage and our qualifiers and sent it to some random email at the DFB (German Football Association) without really expecting a response. I just thought it was worth a shot. It got passed on to the under-20 coach and I got invited to camp pretty much immediately."

Hahn was unable to attend the next scheduled camp because it involved games and the rules decreed she had to take part in a regular training camp before she could play matches for Germany.

A broken nose suffered shortly after she arrived in Oregon scuppered her chances of attending the next camp, but in November she finally took her place among Germany's best young female footballers and impressed coach Kathrin Peter at the first time of asking. She attended two more camps before the onset of Covid-19.

The pandemic also put paid to the under-20 World Cup going ahead in Costa Rica and Panama as scheduled in August and September, but the 19-year-old Wellingtonian feels she's on target to feature at the tournament for her newly adopted nation.

"That's obviously the goal and the coach has made it pretty clear she wants me to make the right decision and they're not going to screw me over," Hahn said.

"They gave me some clear feedback on where I'm at and obviously helping me make a decision that will be best for me. If I continue to do well, I think I'm on track."

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Hahn qualifies for Germany through her father Peter, who she credits for her excellent grasp of the language which he spoke regularly when she was growing up. That knowledge has been helpful in her transition into the German set-up, while her time at Wellington's Ole Football Academy has provided the base from which she has meshed seamlessly into their more technical footballing approach.

"I can see now how playing at Ole prepares players for Europe," said Hahn.

"When I went into the German camp I was able to fit into the style they were playing and what the other players were thinking. They were in spaces I was familiar with and thinking in a similar way to me.

"It's been harder to find that connection in other environments I've been in. It was more instant when I went over there which was a nice feeling."

As rugby is here in New Zealand, football is a religion in Germany. No-one has appeared in more senior men's World Cup finals than their eight, while the women's side are two-time world champions (most recently in 2007) and are currently second in the Fifa rankings behind the USA.

"It's a big jump and that's what interested me a lot," said Hahn.

"There are so many little details they put in to try to get an edge and be the best in the world. That's the way they talk constantly.

"It's not just trying to win one game or one tournament. They want to dominate world football and see improvement in the long-term, so they're always putting resources in and the players are benefiting from that."