(Image credit: BZ Sport)
JR: You signed for FC Thun in 2020. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe a club such as FC Thun?
NH: I am really enjoying my time at FC Thun so far. First of all, I knew the club before I signed for them having played against FC Thun in the past before I went to play in the MLS, so when I returned to Switzerland, I knew the conditions and how the club works. FC Thun is a familiar environment in a good area where you can really focus on working hard and trying to do your best for the team. It’s like a small family to be honest and that is what made my decision to sign for them very easy. When I signed for the club they were in the first division here in Switzerland, I signed with the goal of helping them to avoid relegation. Unfortunately, in the end we were relegated although we played very good football and had an amazing time out on the pitch together. Now we have the reality that we play in the Swiss second division and nothing has changed in the respect. We still have a good group of people at the club that are willing to learn and working hard and we are currently doing really well as a club at the moment.
JR: You mentioned your spell in the MLS. You played one season for Toronto FC. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
NH: Yes for sure, when I think back, especially the season 2017/ 2018 it still gives me goosebumps because even now and maybe it will stay like this in the future it was the best time of my football career so far. When I received the offer, my older brother Julien Hasler who is very passionate about football, he also wanted to be a professional footballer too but he sustained some injuries so it did not work. Anything football related that is happening in my life I always discuss it with him so when he found out about the offer from Toronto FC and he realized that I could play with such big players such as Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley he told me you have to sign for the club right away and to be honest looking back it was the best decision I could have made. I came into a team that was already playing very good football and gaining points, it was amazing to be part of such a team and feeling that mentality of going into a game and you do not have to worry because you know you are going to win the game. It turned out perfectly because that year we won the Canadian Cup, The Supporters Shield ( The Championship ) and also the MLS Cup so we won the treble that season - we are still the best team in the history of the MLS in that respect which is perfect.
JR: You have been capped and made many appearances for Liechtenstein. How do you look back on representing your country and what are your highlights and memories of playing international football?
NH: I had the dream of representing my country since I was a little boy. Even though Liechtenstein is a very small nation and there are still people that smile a little bit and they say things like it is easy for you guys to play international football and why do you play for Liechtenstein you are going to lose anyway. But at the end of the day, it is not about that, it is about a level of pride that you have inside you when you put on the shirt of your national team and represent your country. Trying to get the best out of it and play for your national team even though you have to be realistic that most of the time you are going to probably going to lose, but you cannot say that 100 percent because there is always a chance in football. You can get points and achieve a miracle and that is why for me, it is always a dream to play for the national team and being one of the older players in the squad and also wearing the captain's armband from time to time. It is a huge honour and I do not want to miss any part of that.
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JR: You have accrued good experience at club and international level, could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?
NH: Yes, I have had so many great moments in great teams and playing alongside great players. I would mention Bastian Schweinsteiger who I played with in the MLS at Chicago Fire. He was also a native German speaker and my country of Liechtenstein is also German native speaking so it was easier for us to communicate and we got along very well, he was there from day one to help me and to see a player like him not just on the pitch but also off the pitch too. He achieved everything you could possibly imagine in football and to come into the changing room and see such a humble guy was amazing to see, it also helped language wise that he could explain different things that he could see in video analysis or directing on the pitch where he could help me because sometimes I played the same position that he did and it was truly amazing to experience that live - Bastian Schweinsteiger was also just an unbelievable football. I also played with Victor Vasquez at Toronto FC and you could see that he came through the FC Barcelona’s La Masia academy. He could use both feet and he was very quick. At the time when I arrived I was playing right wing and he was playing as an attacking midfielder, we had a good understanding of one another and I knew that I just had to run and that he is going to play the ball. It was great to play alongside him because he could just chip the ball behind the defence and it would result in an assist or a goal which was nice. I would also like to mention Michael Bradley who was also an amazing player and our captain. He had such a great leadership both on and off the pitch and he always found the right words for the right times. He was a true leader and for me that also makes a good footballer. I am very happy to have played alongside such players.
JR: I can imagine in your position as a midfielder that you have come up against many difficult opponents through the years, could you say which opponents have stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?
NH: Playing for the national team of Liechtenstein we would often play huge games against big countries for example playing against Spain. Andrés Iniesta was my favourite player and when I had the opportunity to play against him that was truly amazing. You know what he can do on the pitch and when I had to play against him and defend against him it was too hard because you look one way and you think that you close one passing line and then half a second to a second later he is on the other side of you and he gets the ball. Also seeing what he could do with the ball live when playing against him was for me amazing. Playing against David Silva who incidentally always played well against Liechtenstein where he scored a lot of goals. He is maybe not the player that you would put in first place having played against him Xavi, Zlatan Ibrahimović but he really stood out as a player that had so much ability on the ball and he could always play the final pass especially against a team like Liechtenstein who from their point of view just have to defend and sometimes it even gets hard for the bigger teams to find space on the pitch, but David Silva could always find the right pass.
JR: Finally Nicolas, could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?
NH: My Dad Rainer Hasler played a key role. He was a coach when I was a little boy and having him as a father and he was also a professional football player in his own right so for me he was not only a father he was always a coach to me and after every game he would show me things and he was never happy with me and looking back that is what I kind of like because he made me better and he coached me in the sense of what I could do better on the pitch in terms of my position. He was one of my best coaches. Moving into the professional level, one of the best coaches I had even though I did not play a lot of games under him would be Peter Vermes of Sporting Kansas City. He always tried to get the best out of the player and he was also a very good motivator, he tried to play very good football and he would often show you possibilities on the pitch in terms of how he wanted to play and for me he was a very good football coach.
James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.