Philipp Harder reflects on his journey from playing soccer in Germany and moving to play soccer in the United States


Photo by Aidan Ringiewicz

Philipp Harder runs down field with the ball against Lawerence Technological University on September 5, 2022

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

Moving from your home country to a new country isn’t always the easiest decision to make, as one steps out of their comfort zone.

With more than 20,000 international student-athletes in the United States, many athletes have to adjust to new places when they attend college. Nonetheless, Point Park men’s soccer player Phillip Harder didn’t have any difficulty in his move to the United States. Harder made the move from Kiel, Germany all the way to Young Harris College in Georgia to play soccer and focus on Business Administration.

“I was never homesick because you have your teammates, which are right away your friends, and then you spend basically the whole day with them,” Harder said. “Especially when you’re on campus. You eat together, you train together and after that, you maybe have to do homework, you also do that together, and you can go to the library.”

Harder found people who supported him immediately and even mentioned that his teammates gave him a ride from the airport when he landed. There were also a lot of student-athletes who were also international athletes and that gave him a sense of comfort because he knew that they were going through the same circumstance he was.

Soccer has been a passion of his for quite some time. Harder played soccer since he was 4 years old and now plays in the United States. There are some differences in American soccer compared to Germany, but because the United States offers a larger focus on education, he made the move to the United States.

“In Germany, the system is different in that you can’t combine studying and playing at a high level because both take a lot of time,” Harder said. “Also, if you play at a high level, you have practice in the morning, and it interferes with your class schedule. In America, I heard from a friend about that system where you can combine studying and playing soccer on a high level and also have that college experience that we don’t quite have in Germany. That was really interesting for me, so I looked more into it and now I’m here and I don’t regret it at all.”

There are also many differences between the gameplay in soccer between the two countries.

“Here the game is more intense, more physical,” Harder said. “In Germany, it’s way more tactical. For example, the game looks kind of slower, but it’s because teams are battling each other with tactics and here just like they just go for it.”

In 2021, Harder transferred to Westcliffe University which is in Irvine, California.

“The location was great,” Harder said. “It was a really good area and I had a really good time there. Also playing soccer, we played in Orange County Great Park. It’s like a nice facility there in Irvine.”

Orange County Park is the home of Orange County FC, which is a USL Championship soccer team.

Harder strengthened his game and got the opportunity to play in a facility that was used by professional soccer players. The location was also a lot better for harder. Young Harris is a more rural location, whereas Westcliffe gave Harder more things to do on and off campus.

In his senior year, Harder notched 4 points in 16 games at Westcliffe. Nevertheless, he wanted to continue schooling and to continue playing soccer.

One of his Westcliffe teammates Geert Bijl, who is from the Netherlands, went to Point Park for his undergrad and played soccer for Point Park before taking his graduate classes at Westcliffe.

“I was looking for a school for my master’s and he just told me, ‘Hey, you should check out Point Park,’ and I did,” Harder said. “In the beginning, it started off as a joke but in the end, it actually worked out. It’s also funny because he had the number 10 at Point Park and now I have it.”

After receiving his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Westcliffe, Harder is now going for his Master’s in Business Administration.

“For my masters, I wanted to be in the city, and there’s a lot of life around Point Park,” Harder said. “The school is right downtown, which is great and also there are nice facilities like the stadium, Highmark stadium where we train and play our games.”

Harder experienced all kinds of different environments in the United States. He went from rural Georgia to sunny California to now a city atmosphere in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He considers Pittsburgh one of his favorites and considers it a smaller New York. It has the hustle-and-bustle and the city-like feel, but it is not as overwhelming as a city like New York.

Ever since moving from Germany, Harder has endured many changes throughout his life, whether it be meeting new teammates and friends or moving to a new location. Harder adjusted to each place and on top of that, he still plays soccer as well.

With everything going on outside of soccer, Harder still maintains his focus on the sport he’s been in love with for almost two decades. He found no issue in making an immediate impact on the Pioneers.

In early September, Harder won River States Conference (RSC) player of the week, tallying 2 goals and 2 assists in two games and totaled 6 points for the week.

“It feels good to make an impact and also as a grad student, I’m actually the oldest player on the team, so I have some responsibility on my shoulders,” Harder said. “I’m just trying to lead by example and lead every day in training, and also if it works out in the games, that’s great. But everybody’s contributing to the team.”

The Pioneers enter conference play and he and the Pioneers are preparing for their first conference game. He looks forward to finishing out his soccer career and education in Pittsburgh.

Harder has had his fair share of supporters through the years, but he will always show his gratitude and give thanks to his family for all they have done throughout his soccer career.

“They’re the reason that I started off (playing soccer) in the first place, and I’m extremely thankful that they enabled me to study in the US,” Harder said. “Even with a scholarship, the flights, the accommodations, housing, study, add tuition fee, everything costs a lot and is expensive, so they helped me out with that. I’m extremely thankful for that.”