Hannah Griffin: The Tokyo-born England U19 star playing in Germany

Hannah Griffin was born in Tokyo and has been raised in Luxembourg but when it comes to national pride, she is certainly English, if her passion for playing for England is anything to go by.

“I feel extremely grateful to be able to play for England, there is no greater honor than to represent my country,” says Griffin. “The facilities and coaching are of course at a very high level and so are all the girls involved.”

So far the 17-year-old forward has played for England at under-17 and under-19 level. She was part of the side who finished third at the 2018 UEFA Women’s Under-17 Championship back in May. 

It’s no surprise the youngster is already in the under-19 side though as despite being just 17, Griffin has already made 11 appearances for Saarbrücken in the second tier of women’s football in Germany, a division which includes the second teams of Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim. 

Despite the progress the forward has made in Germany, she has only played women’s football competitively for the past two years.

“I grew up playing for my local boys team, FC Munsbach, in the Luxembourg youth league until I was 15 after my father’s job moved us to the country after about a year in Tokyo.”

Griffin in Saarbrücken colours

Having scored eight goals in 14 appearances for the junior side in the 2016/17 season, the forward followed that up with six goals in seven before being promoted to the first team last year. She made seven appearances in all competitions and rounded off her debut season with her first ever senior goal in a 2-1 win over Köln II back in March as Saarbrücken finished fourth in the twelve team southern division of the 2. Bundesliga. It was a year full of lessons for the young forward.

“It is a massive step up from where I previously played in Luxembourg and is definitely the best level of football and league I could be in whilst living in Luxembourg.

“I find the standard good, there are no games which could really be considered an ‘easy’ win as the standard is similar across all the clubs in the league.”

This season, the 2. Bundesliga division has scrapped the idea of two regional leagues and now has just one 14 team division. Griffin’s side Saarbrücken are unbeaten after eight games and sit in second place behind Hoffenheim II and the England youth international has played in all but two of those games.

Despite her importance to the team, she does not have a contract with the side as her future career plans prevent her from becoming professional such are the rules for those who are planning to study at an American university, which Griffin is set to do next year.

The women’s 2. Bundesliga has seen another English player feature in several matches so far this season. England international goalkeeper Mary Earps joined Wolfsburg in the summer and has played twice so far for the reserve team in the second division, as she battles to win the number one shirt in the first team. Saarbrücken are set to play Wolfsburg II in just over a fortnight and if Griffin could manage an impressive display against her compatriot and senior international, she could catch the eye of the FA coaches watching back in Burton.

Speaking of the national team, Griffin played twice last month for the under-19 side during their qualifiers for next year’s under-19 European Championships in Scotland and scored during an 8-0 win over Croatia. The 17-year-old was the only member of the squad who is currently playing competitively abroad (six of the squad are at university in the US) so her club football was a key topic of conversation among the squad.

Griffin (#19) lining up alongside her England teammates

“Yes, we often talk about the differences and similarities of our club football experiences,” she says. “I would recommend it [playing abroad] as it is a whole different style of football and could definitely build you as a player to train and compete in different footballing environments.”

With Saarbrücken looking for promotion to the top flight this year, the Tokyo-born forward still has a lot to play for in her last season of club football before she heads for the States.

“My ambition for the rest of the season is to try and get as much as I can out of my last season with the club before I head off to university. Also I want to stay integrated within England to the best of my ability.

“Beyond that, I just want to continue developing as a player to be able to get as far as I can professionally as a footballer.”

She may not have been raised in the UK but through her English parents, Griffin has the chance to make a serious impact on the international stage with a long career ahead of her.

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