Bettina Brülhart has stood within touching distance of the Women’s World Cup trophy.
The Zurich, Switzerland-native, and former McNeese soccer player has visited the FIFA World Football Museum in her hometown and been able to see the prize for the highest achievement in international soccer and arguably the most prestigious trophy in the sport, which is showcased at the museum.
Since graduating from McNeese State in 2017, Brülhart moved back to Switzerland and got a job as a sports reporter at BLICK – a Swiss-German language daily newspaper published in Zurich – after interning there. She also plays club soccer for Grasshopper Club Zürich Frauen in the Women’s Nationalliga A, the highest level of women’s club soccer in Switzerland.
But on June 14, Brülhart accomplished a feat that most soccer players dream of when they are children: she played in her first game as a member of the Swiss senior women’s soccer team, earning her first international cap in a friendly against host Serbia; the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
“It was kind of difficult because I only got substituted on for maybe the last five or 10 minutes,” Brülhart said of her first international experience. “I knew it was going to be hard to get into the starting lineup, so I was prepared for not starting, which was obviously totally fine.
“I got a little frustrated I guess, because obviously I’m very competitive. So when (Swiss national team head coach Nils Nielsen) called me, I just calmed myself down and I just told myself I need to focus on playing my best, trying to help my team with the time remaining.”
The friendly – which was played in Stara Pazova, Serbia (just northwest of the Serbian capital of Belgrade) – was very hot, according to Brülhart. But she said that her time playing in Louisiana helped prepared for such temperatures.
About 5,800 miles away, McNeese soccer head coach Drew Fitzgerald and assistant coach Nick Whiting watched the match in the soccer offices after they were able to find it being streamed online.
In addition to the pride Fitzgerald and Whiting have for Brülhart, they’re not surprised that she’s succeeding in her post-college career. Brülhart was the first McNeese soccer player in program history to be named an academic All-American. She carried a 4.0 grade point average as a student at McNeese. As an athlete, Brülhart scored six goals and had eight assists in her two seasons as a Cowgirl.
“It was awesome,” Fitzgerald said of Brülhart’s latest accomplishment. “We were reading the live feed, waiting for her to get in the game and she got in late in the game and we were all pretty excited.”
Juggling professional soccer at the club and international level with a full-time professional journalism career is something that Brülhart acknowledges is tough. But according to her, the Women’s Nationalliga A doesn’t pay enough for players to make a living wage, thus usually requiring a second job. But in the case of being a sports reporter, it’s something that Brülhart really enjoys doing. She graduated from McNeese State with her bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a concentration in journalism. And her sports reporting job also allowed her to cover the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
So while she says it is tough doing everything that she does, she enjoys it. But she also wouldn’t be opposed to making a jump in club soccer if the opportunity presented itself, even though she knows that she has to go to another foreign country if she wants to get paid a better salary.
“Maybe England, France, or Germany,” Brülhart said. “I don’t know, those are close leagues that are all professional. I’m sure it would be something I’d consider. I still want to get better and if you can go abroad, it’s a gigantic opportunity. So yeah, why not?”
As far as her international team aspirations go, Brülhart knows that it will be tough to make the team that will participate in UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 qualifying; Switzerland’s first game for that is Sept. 3 against Lithuania. Even if she doesn’t make that team, the coaches have already told her that she will come in for the national team’s training camp in early 2020.
While Brülhart and the coaches know that her strength is her work rate and ability run all match, they also told her to pick and choose her moments to go hard so she doesn’t burn out in games. But the strength that she gained from her college years in the United States have helped her.
Brülhart didn’t expect to initially get called up to the senior team, though she had gone to camp and did fitness tests with them prior to the call-up. But when it happened, she told her parents and described it as, “amazing.”
If she has her way, this will only be the start and by the 2023 Women’s World Cup, she’ll be able to play for it instead of merely looking at the trophy or covering the event.