Maria Selo began to kick a ball around herself when she was living in the Lower Austrian town of Altenmarkt and soon discovered she had a passion and talent for the game.
Two years later, she has now started playing for the Vienna side Altera Porta who are in the second division of Austria’s Bundesliga.
“She’s always shining, always want to train more, and has been accepted well by the team,” football trainer Ines Polly told the ORF. “We definitely see much potential.”
Selo, 23, left her home in the Syrian capital Damascus after it became impossible to live there during the civil war. “As a woman you could not go out alone on the street without a hijab,” she told DerStandard, adding it was difficult for women to go into education or work.
After she travelled the 3,000 miles by foot via Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, she eventually ended up in Austria living in Altenmarkt.
It was then she first saw women playing football, something that she says is not allowed in Syria. “I could not believe it at first. It is still incredible to me,” she said. “Had someone in Syria said that women play football, I would have not believed it.”
She added: “In Damascus I played Fifa on the Playstation and seen games on the TV but as a woman it was forbidden for me to play myself.”
Now training two times a week with the team in Vienna, where she currently lives with her brother, she has ambition for a career in sports. “Maybe playing in the first league of national team,” she said. “If you want, you can do anything.”