Swedish Connection Far From Home

Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu
Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

Two years ago, Sebastian Jansson, a junior midfielder on the men’s soccer team stood at the gate of a Swedish airport awaiting his future teammate. Jansson told his teammate he would wear a “fluffy hat,” while he searched for the “tallest man in the airport.”

The two found each other with relative ease.

The tall player, redshirt-sophomore defender Axel Sjoberg, stands 6-foot-7 and towered over the crowd at the gate. Sjoberg said when he saw the hat, he knew it was Jansson.

“It was like a freaking animal on his head,” Sjoberg said.

On the nine-hour flight across the Atlantic, Sjoberg and Jansson bonded and became close. Their developing relationship helped ease the transition to an American lifestyle by sharing Swedish culture. Both knew what it was like to be so far from home.

“It’s just easy to have someone from the same culture as you,” Jansson said. “We became good friends over time.”

Soccer has been a lifelong passion for Sjoberg. As a gifted athlete in many sports, Axel had to pick between soccer, hockey and track. His best sport was soccer, but in 2004, he earned the 2004 Swedish record for the high jump.

But even success on the track could not keep Axel away from accomplishing his dreams.

“It was my childhood dream to be a soccer player,” Sjoberg said. “It was always about soccer for me.”

His journey to Marquette started when he was invited by coach Louis Bennett to attend Marquette’s summer soccer camp, five days before the camp. So Sjoberg booked his flight to Marquette. Unfortunately, he booked a flight to Marquette, Mich., but quickly corrected the error and arrived in Milwaukee.

After attending camp and impressing coaches, who praised him, Sjoberg made his decision.

“I went to the camp and they liked me,” Sjoberg said. “That was about it.”

Unsure of the future, Jansson looked into going to school in the U.S. to play soccer. He decided to attend Marquette after hearing another Swede, Sjoberg, had signed on to the team.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it or not,” Jansson said. “You know I might as well take this opportunity for a new adventure in my life.

At one point he quit soccer to attend hockey school. Hockey was his sport, but when the hockey route didn’t pan out, he returned to soccer. Even after taking a year off, he still managed to be a top player for his age in Sweden in 2010.

Since arriving at Marquette in 2011, the two have made names for themselves. After quiet freshmen campaigns, in which Sjoberg missed most of the season with a broken foot, the two earned significant playing time and produced a combined 28 points.