UNCW men’s soccer coach Aidan Heaney will leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding talent.
Heaney extended his reach as far as Sweden to sign players. Four of the 27 players on the Seahawks’ 2017 roster -- Joel Bylander, Mark Lindstrom, Emil Elveroth, Hjalmar Ekdal -- are from the Scandinavian country.
“They bring a little extra level of play that our kids haven’t experienced,” Heaney said. “Hjalmar’s brother plays for the Swedish national team. He’s grown up in an environment and club that is a high level. So you bring that into your program, and it rubs off onto other players.”
Bylander, a junior, was the first Swedish player to sign with UNCW and his transition wasn’t easy, so when countryman Mark Lindstrom came to Wilmington the following year, Bylander wanted to make his transition easier.
“I just wanted to make sure he (likes) everything as much as I did when I got here,” Bylander said, “and I wanted to help him with the transition, because it wasn’t easy for me.”
Now Lindstrom and Bylander are doing the same for the two freshmen.
“Me and Joel have a big responsibility with the two-new guys from Sweden as much as possible,” Lindstrom, a sophomore, said.
For incoming freshman Ekdal, having Bylander and Lindstrom as teammates was the main reason he came to UNCW.
“It felt safe that you had two Swedes on the team already, plus one more,” Ekdal said. “Yes, that helped me.”
It always helps being able to talk to someone in your native language.
“You always have someone to talk with if you are homesick,” Elveroth said. “You can talk Swedish so it’s almost like being home.”
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