It’s a mad, mad, mad, Mads world
Reboot: an interview with Mads Stokkelien
Last spring, I had the opportunity to interview one of the New Cosmos newest players, Mads Stokkelien, from Kristiansand, Norway. The New Cosmos has risen from the ashes of the original Cosmos team that dissolved almost 30 years ago.
This is no small feat. The original team was owned by Warner Communications, a business flush with cash that hand picked the best players from around the world, boasting Pele, Beckenbauer, and Chinaglia. The team was also instrumental in popularizing the world’s most favored sport—outside of the U.S., that is—into a respectable sport inside the U.S. However, for a variety of reasons the Cosmos could not endure, and the team folded in 1985.
The team was reborn two years ago as part of the New North American Soccer League. Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium has replaced Giant Stadium. Last year was their first season and they played magnificently, winning the 2013 Soccer Bowl.
Mads is from Kristiansand, where he played soccer for the local team. At 21 he moved to Oslo to play for Stabæk. He signed with the Cosmos in February 2014. In my last interview, I asked Mads about his life-long passion for the game. He recounted, “Since I was four or five years old, I played soccer most of the time. In all the pictures I have from me as a child I always had a ball in my hand or at my feet. Every vacation we went to with my family, I always had a backpack with my ball in it. That was it. My brother and I usually played in the garden and actually we brought the soccer ball everywhere and we played together. For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in playing soccer.”
In his first season with the team Mads has scored seven goals in 23 appearances to date. So, I thought I would check in with Mads and see how he has been faring.
Victoria Hofmo: How’s it been going since I interviewed you last May?
Mads Stokkelien: It’s been going well. Time flies… I’m having a good time; we’ve had some ups and downs with the team, but now at the end of the season we’re in a good position to make the post season, so I’m excited for the last few games of the season.
VH: It looks like you’re off to a great start with all the goals you’ve achieved in your first season playing with the Cosmos. Are you happy with your performance?
MS: I’m happy with my performance, but obviously I know that I can do better. I was hoping I could contribute by scoring more goals than I have but obviously it’s my first season and it’s always tough to come to a new country, new club. I’m happy that I’ve played a lot and I’m the leading goal scorer so far. I also know and feel that I can play at a more consistent and higher level than I’ve shown, so I think the best is yet to come.
VH: There seems to be a lot of camaraderie off the field between the Cosmos players. I saw the video of you and your teammates at Buffalo Wild Wings in Westbury, Long Island. Owner Dan challenged the team to a chicken wing chow down. Cosmos’ Peri Marosevic, who is known as the eater, competed against a local and the restaurant’s busboy. Little did anyone know that Marosevic was up against a ringer, Kobayshi, the famous competitive eater, who was disguised as the busboy. Well, you looked like you were having a ball. Could you speak about that day and why you think the team has coalesced so quickly?
MS: One of the first things I noticed when I came over here was how easy it was to get to know the guys on the team. There’s a lot of players from different countries like myself and also from different places in the U.S. That makes it easy for a new player like me to come into the team because everybody has been in the same situation as me. We do fun stuff like [that day at Buffalo Wild Wings] which was a great day; it was funny. It’s obviously good to do things like that with your teammates to get to know them. At the time I had only been there for a couple of months, and that’s one of the things we’ve done that makes it easy for new players.
VH: As for teamwork on the field, I watched the graceful moves between you and forward Danny Mwanga when you scored in the August 30th game. Can you speak about team cooperation?
MS: We have a lot of good strikers on the team and there’s always good competition. That’s what you want because it pushes you to do your best every day. Danny is a very good player; he came in and he scored a goal in his second game and has contributed ever since. He’s a really intelligent player and he’s been good for us.
VH: There has been a lot of chatter about the June 25th game, when referee Ismail Elfath refused to call a clear penalty when you were obviously pushed from behind. Would you like to speak about his decision?
MS: We played a good game, and we wanted to win. I felt it was a penalty; maybe it wasn’t, but that’s the way it is sometimes. I think we were unlucky that we didn’t win that game.
VH: When you were selected for the Cosmos, head coach Gio Savarese said the following about you: “Mads is an exciting young player who gives us more options offensively. He can operate as a target forward and has proven he’s a good finisher.” Can you speak a little about your relationship with Savarese and his skills as head coach?
MS: I’ve learned a lot from both coach Savarese and assistant coach Alecko Eskandarian. They’re both former strikers so there’s obviously a lot I can learn from them. I feel I’ve improved in many ways since I’ve arrived here and I feel like I still have a lot I can learn from them.
VH: Has your family come to see you play in the states?
MS: Yes, my brother came here a few weeks ago and was able to see two home games. I know my parents want to come before the end of the season so hopefully they’ll also be able to come and watch a game.
VH: What do you think about the stadium the Cosmos plan to build in Belmont Park?
MS: I’ve only seen the website plans and it looks amazing. If they can build something like that, it would be great obviously.
VH: How are you adapting to life in the U.S.?
MS: It feels good. I feel at home; I feel like I’ve been here for a long time. It’s been a great experience for me. I’ve met a lot of great people here both on the team and outside the field. New York is obviously a popular place for Norwegians to travel, so I meet a lot of Norwegians here as well.
VH: What do you miss most about Norway?
MS: My family and friends back home. That’s what I miss the most. Aside from that, I feel like I have everything I need here.
VH: Inquiring minds want to know. Do you have a significant other?
MS: I have a girlfriend. I met her here when I came over and we started dating.
VH: Can you tell us about your future goals?
MS: Obviously, one goal is to keep developing as a player, to score more goals for the Cosmos than I have this season. I know that I can score a lot more goals than I have this season. A big goal for me is to play for the Norwegian national team. If I can manage that, I would be very proud.
Hurry now to catch Mads and the team. The season is almost over! For further info, visit www.nycosmos.com.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 24, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.