Man plans, God laughs, so goes the age-old adage. In other words, you have to learn to adapt in order to find success. Few know that better than Øyvind Alseth, a man who has seen out his fair share of winding turns along the way. And throughout his journey, deviated plans and all, perseverance—and a bit of good fortune—has seen him through.
Growing up in Trondheim, Norway, Alseth could hardly sit still.
“My family is very active, so I was always a part of different sports,” he says. “My parents wanted me to try it all: soccer, skiing, cross country, track and field, handball, ski jumping for four years. But when I got to an age where I had to choose, soccer was the thing that really stuck with me. My friends and I would go down to the local field every weekend in the summer and we’d be down there for 10 hours a day.”
Alseth parlayed that love to a shot at the big time as the country’s biggest club side came calling. At the age of 16, Rosenborg invited Alseth to join their academy to develop his skills alongside some of the country’s best and brightest.
“I won two national championships during my time there at the U-19 level which was a great experience. I learned a lot and played in some very big games against top academies from around Europe. I’m very thankful for the opportunity I had there.”
Playing for his local club was a dream come true, but Alseth’s plans changed after he learned that a spot on Rosenborg’s first-team wasn’t in the cards. With his life at a crossroads, he came face-to-face with a life-changing decision.
Chances open up for you when you stay confident. You can’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
“With it being my last year in high school, I had already started to look at what I was going to do next with my life,” he explains. “That’s when I started really considering coming to the United States to go to school, mostly because I wanted to try something new and get a change in environment. I didn’t know anyone who had been to the States, I just knew it sounded like an incredible experience and I wanted to give it a shot. I told myself that if it didn’t work out, I could always go home, but I wanted to put myself out there.”
His adventurous move paid dividends, despite his understandable apprehension. Enrolling at Syracuse University in upstate New York, Alseth began the next step in his journey to make a name for himself.
“I had no idea what to expect when I got to Syracuse,” he admits, “but I was very fortunate to end up there. It’s a school with such a rich history, great facilities and an amazing coaching staff.”
Alseth’s time at Syracuse put him back on the pathway to success, as he helped to lead the Orange to some of their most successful seasons in recent history. A far cry from the college experience he would have experienced back in Norway, playing in the ACC prepared him for the trials yet to come.
“When you’re a college athlete, you learn to live the life of a professional player,” he says. “You don’t get the full college experience that everyone else does, but that’s the choice you make when you pursue athletics at a high level like it is at Syracuse. Most of us had dreams of going pro, and that made for a group of very determined and motivated guys that pushed each other every day and elevated the program.”
It was there that he met current TFC teammate Alex Bono in what turned out to be the start of a new journey for the pair. Bono, a New York-native, took Alseth under his wing and showed him the ropes.
“It’s somewhat surreal, to be honest. He’s the first teammate that I met there. I ended up staying with his family because he lived right outside of Syracuse. They’ll tell you that I was a very quiet guy that spent most of my time alone in my room, which is true,” he says with a laugh. “I was very shy, I didn’t speak English very well, but I’m very thankful that Alex and his family took me in during that time.
“Even when Alex left school to play for TFC, I’d still go over and visit his family every now and then. Now here in Toronto, they come up to see a bunch of our games and I always make time to see them. They’re my family away from home and I’m so fortunate to have landed in Syracuse with Alex.”
But while Bono had moved on to MLS, Alseth was still waiting for his shot. The road, once again, seemed unclear.
“My goal was always to make it to MLS, to get drafted,” he explains. “I had, by my estimation, an OK senior year; I was a bit disappointed with myself if I’m being honest. I hadn’t heard any interest from clubs, so I was starting to think that I wasn’t going to get the opportunity.”
Back in Norway, Alseth had lined up a job at a local bank, a responsible fall-back option for a footballer. But once more, plans changed.
“I had gone through my first day of training at work when I got a text from a Syracuse teammate of mine to tell me that I got drafted by Toronto FC. I didn’t believe it at first, but then I spoke with Tim [Bezbatchenko] and it all became real. I had to go back to the bank to tell them I was quitting after just one day, but they were very understanding.”
And so the road leads onward nearly 6,000 kilometers from home, as Alseth is ready to embrace whatever comes next.
“I can’t imagine there are many cities better than Toronto. It hasn’t been your typical journey, but I’m just so happy that it all paid off for me in the end.”