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American player on Swedish team is closer to home at Schwan’s USA CUP

07/14/2017, 8:00pm CDT
By Mary Brickner, Media Intern

A few legendary teams have made names for themselves at Schwan’s USA CUP throughout its 33 year history. One name in particular, however, stands out among the rest: Rudbeckianska. And that’s for more than just the 13 letter, five syllable long team name that’s almost as difficult to spell as it is to pronounce

Elias Colberg from Anchorage, Alaska, plays goalkeeper for the U19 Rudbeckianska team from Sweden.

Rudbeckianska, a high school team from Västerås, Sweden, has dominated the 19U boys division at USA CUP for years. The boys make the trip halfway around the world nearly every year, but for goaltender Elias Colberg, he’s just a little bit closer to home this week.

Colberg is from Anchorage, Alaska, but he has spent his junior year of high school as an exchange student in Sweden.

“In college my dad went to China, so he’s kind of pushed me to go abroad since then,” Colberg said. “I decided to study abroad in Sweden and it’s been awesome. I went to the same school they did, and it turns out they have a soccer team, which is really rare for a Swedish school.”

A high school soccer team is rare not only in Sweden but all across Europe, with Rudbeckianska being the rare exception to the trend of academy teams churning out top athletes. Their untraditional approach doesn’t stop them from creating a highly successful and competitive team.

“They all play in different clubs in town,” Rudbeckianska coach Mattias Florés said. “What brings them together is playing for the school. From that bond, we create a good soccer team.”

Without knowing any Swedish, Colberg faced a big learning curve when he began training with the team, where they communicate primarily in their native tongue. He picked up the language entirely by ear.

“If I don’t understand something, they can clarify,” he said. “But it’s mostly learning on the spot. You sit in line and you watch what’s going on, and you figure it out.”

“We have to try to test our way to talk to him, so it’s good for us too,” Florés added. “We practice on him. Sometimes it’s Swedish, sometimes its English and sometimes it’s a combination.”

Colberg assisted his team in a 3-2 victory over the Neenah Gunnars on the first day of tournament play.

This is Colberg’s first USA CUP. Although Rudbeckianska is a hot topic around the tournament, he had never heard of the team before arriving in Sweden. He now knows that he has some big cleats to fill.

“We gotta perform,” Colberg said. “The other [Rudbeckianska] teams in years before us have performed, so we’ve got to make it happen.”

Although he feels a little pressure, Colberg’s mantra is to simply “go with the flow.” He seems to be in the right state of mind so far, because the team is already off to a solid start, shutting out Woodbury Soccer Club 2-0 in their first matchup, and besting the Neenah Gunners from Wisconsin 3-2 in their second match of the day.

Rudbeckianska will be playing in both the USA CUP weekend and weeklong tournaments before returning to Sweden, where Colberg will be spending one final month with his new friends and teammates before heading home to Alaska.

Trying to sum up his year abroad left him nearly speechless.

“It’s so hard to explain,” Colberg said. “It’s been awesome. Unforgettable.”

Tag(s): July 14, 2017