Norwegian duo makes instant impact on the soccer pitch

Moving to America was difficult for freshman Emil Ekblom and Oyvind Alseth; but sharing a country, language and soccer helped them become playmakers for the Orange.

Syracuse’s men soccer team is a fairly young group this year, comprising of seven freshmen. Of those freshmen, two hail from Norway: striker Emil Ekblom and right fullback Oyvind Alseth.

Ekblom and Alseth have made promising starts to their Syracuse careers, starting in all games this season. Ekblom has three goals so far for the Orange, while Alseth tallied one assist. But beyond the matters on the pitch, integration was the first obstacle they both had to overcome.

Both 19 years old, this was the first time Ekblom and Alseth came to the United States. Moving to a new country, meeting new people and learning a new language were the first of many things the two had to adapt to. Ekblom is from Bekkestua, a town just about seven miles west of the capital, Oslo. Ekblom admitted moving away from his family and being in a new and bigger country was tough.

Emil Ekblom and Oyvind Alseth talk on the field after practice. (Photo: Taylor Baucom)          

“Living alone with lots of cleaning and things I’m not so used to do myself made things more difficult than back in Norway,” Ekblom said.

Ekblom didn’t even know about fellow countryman Alseth before the two arrived in Syracuse. Head Coach Ian McIntrye told Ekblom there was another Norwegian on the squad, Ekblom said, but they had never met. In fact, Alseth is from Trondheim, a city that is 314 miles north from where Ekblom lived.

Both also had to deal with Americans’ general perceptions of them. Given they’re blonde -- “like the stereotypical Norwegian,” Ekblom said -- they have been more than satisfied with their peers’ reactions to them. “Exotic” is how Alseth said his peers described him. “I’ve been told that the girls like my accent, so I gotta trust that.”

Their adaptation on the pitch was actually the smoothest transition for both. They already had a lot of experience playing for their respective home clubs in Norway. Ekblom was top scorer and MVP in his club, leading Stabaek with 19 goals. Alseth played for the Under-19 side of Rosenberg, one of the biggest clubs in the country and which has participated in recent UEFA Champions League campaigns. With three years worth of experience in the Rosenberg under-19 side, Alseth has also participated in the prestigious NextGen Series tournament and won two domestic titles with his club.

#14 Emil Ekblom dribbles against UMass defense in Wednesday's victory 3-0. (Photo: Ziniu Chen)

“Even though I played for a club, there’s not a lot of difference between the type of play,” Alseth said. “The play here is more intense, more physical…the skill level here is pretty similar than what I’m used to in Europe.”

Ekblom expressed a slightly different opinion regarding his adaptation to the new and more physical college soccer style however. “It’s more or less the same [to score goals] even if defenders are more physical… but even if Syracuse tries to play with the ball on the ground, we’re a little bit more direct than back in Norway,” Ekblom said.

In effect, it is normal that both had to go through different issues on the pitch. After all Ekblom plays as a lone striker and still has to learn how to fluidly interact with the rest of his teammates. As for Alseth, he is integrating a highly functioning defensive unit with stalwarts like goalkeeper Alex Bono and defender Chris Makowski to aid him.

#2 Oyvind Alseth pushes past UMass in their 3-0 victory over the Minutemen. (Photo: Ziniu Chen)

No matter what though, they could always find solace in each other with the struggles they dealt with in their everyday lives off the pitch. Communicating with English is something Alseth said he’s still not used to, but hopes to get better. But he still appreciates having Ekblom here with him as a reminder of home. “We always talk Norwegian when we’re together,” Alseth said, “it’s the most natural thing to do.”

It was the universal language of soccer that triumphed in the end. During their first competitive game against Colgate, Ekblom sealed his first two goals for the Orange, the second courtesy of Alseth’s cross.

“The crowd had been shouting ‘Norwegians’ to us all throughout the game,” Alseth said, “and so it was good to just respond back like that to say ‘Yeah, that’s how we Norwegians play soccer.’ ”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.