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Saunas and swimming pools - Megan and Zoe are loving life in Germany

By John Flack

Zoe Wilson and Megan Frazer could easily have been playing for the Ulster Elks this weekend but, instead, the two Irish internationals are living the dream as professional sportswomen in Germany.

And the Irish international hockey duo will be in direct opposition for the respective clubs in the Bundesliga tomorrow when Zoe's club Harvestehuder host Mannheimer in Hamburg.

Hockey is literally big business in Germany with sponsors pouring vast sums of money into the sport.

Helped by their investment, the vast majority of top-flight players are full-time professionals, training up to five times week.

Both Megan and Zoe live in luxury apartments, close to their respective hockey clubs who play in all-seater stadia with accommodation for 2,000 spectators.

Wilson (19) was hotly tipped to be on the verge of a move to the Elks from Randalstown in the summer when Hamburg club Harvestehuder came knocking on her door and offered her a professional contract.

Around the same time, 106-times capped Ireland captain Frazer (25), who helped the Elks claim an Irish Cup-European Championship double last season, put pen to paper on a full-time deal with Mannheimer.

Both women made winning debuts last weekend, Frazer helping her new club to a 3-2 win over UH Hamburg while Wilson scored in a 2-1 win over Berliner HC.

The Antrim teenager has already made a name for herself on Harvestehuder's Facebook site which labelled her as the 'Irish grenade' and described her goal as a 'cracker' prompted by the scorer herself.

Zoe explained: "The girls having been sharing their German culture and language with me so I have also been exchanging some of the northern Irish phrases with them!"

As far as learning German is concerned, Zoe has taken a leaf out of England goalkeeper Joe Hart's book after he moved to Torino from Manchester City and picked up a few football-related key phrases.

She added: "I have a little book of all the key hockey terms that I need to know on the pitch but all of the girls also are learning the English key hockey words so that both me and my team-mates understand both languages."

While Zoe is the only non-German at Harvestehuder, Megan's club has more of an international flavour to it.

The Londonderry woman explained: "Fortunately our team talks are in English for the benefit of Maria Tost from Spain, former Scotland captain Nikki Kidd and myself.

"It's been a fantastic experience so far and the facilities at the club are amazing.

"The club house is really cool - it has a big patio deck and the restaurant has good food. There are four pitches and, in winter, they have a 'bubble' to cover them and we even have saunas in the changing rooms.

"The apartment I'm staying in is fantastic - it's huge and it's recently been renovated."

Zoe's experience is similar on and off the pitch and she certainly has no regrets after giving up a hockey scholarship in the United States to be closer to the Irish set-up as she bids to add to her 20 caps.

She said: "My apartment is just three minutes walk from the Harvestehuder complex which has a swimming pool and tennis courts as well as hockey pitches so the facilities are superb.

"I am very much looking forward to playing against Megan on Sunday but I don't think I will see much of her during the game as we will be playing at different ends of the pitch.

"But she is staying on in Hamburg for a few days after the game so it will be nice to catch up with her then, especially if we win, of course!"

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