What do a 22-year-old aspiring sports journalist from Eritrea and a student-athlete from Denmark have in common? They both attend George Mason University and love the sport of soccer.
I first noticed Tranberg in my Sports Communication course last semester with Dr. Rodgers. I complimented him on his Gucci t-shirt and he told me he liked my Sweden jersey as we walked down the stairs after class. He later revealed to me that he’s from Denmark, and I quickly noticed he plays for the Men’s Soccer Team at Mason.
Tranberg plays as a center back for the Patriots. The 23-year-old mentioned that he played right-back in Denmark but doesn’t prefer either position over the other. Back home, he played with center backs older than him, so he had to play out wide because of his mobility. Tranberg has lived in the States for 3 ½ years now, after coming here as a foreign exchange student.
I found it surprising that he liked my Sweden jersey since he’s from Denmark and both countries are rivals at the international stage. I joked and said I’m going to get a Denmark jersey and we left it at that.
We became friends afterward and even did a presentation together on Carli Lloyd’s attempt to become an NFL kicker. It was important knowing him personally, because I could share stories about his time with the team on-air, as part of George Mason’s Sports Broadcasting team.
As a broadcaster, it helps to know the players personally because it gives you more information for the fans at home to listen to. In the middle of the season, Tranberg picked up a bad ankle injury and missed some games, so I was able to talk with him and former coach Greg Andrulis about his recovery.
We often joked around in class and butted heads over our soccer views. He’s a Liverpool fan and loves to hate on Lionel Messi, while I’m a Manchester United fan, and think the Argentine is the world’s best. We also discussed how his season was going, and more often than not, he was either disappointed with the team’s performance or his injury troubles.
We ended up talking after class one day while heading home. Tranberg said he had a host family when he first arrived in the States and played ball at the University of Cincinnati before transferring to Mason. He was held back because his English wasn’t deemed good enough, but Tranberg told me he wasn’t ready to take his English proficiency exam.
Tranberg lives at home with his dad and brother. They love to watch UFC fights whenever they have a chance to hang around together. He also volunteers for Mason Athletics as part of his Sports Management practicum. I ran into him again while covering the Women’s Basketball team’s homecoming game against University of Richmond. He was one of the mop boys and it looked like he was having the time of his life…
Tranberg often got help around campus because he walked around with crutches. Being a student-athlete on campus gets you attention, and if you’re walking around in crutches, you’re an A-list celebrity. He has no trouble making friends, as people seem to approach him from all angles of the campus.
As a senior in his last days at Mason, Tranberg is now focusing on the next step in his life. He played for DC United U-23’s last summer and is hoping to have a stellar last season so a professional team can pick him up. He says it doesn’t matter who, he just wants a crack at the professional level. Tranberg played in the Danish fourth division growing up, but the American professional level will be a different level, even though he prefers the Danish style.
He notes how Americans “are more athletic”, whilst the Danish culture is about keeping possession of the ball. Danish players are “smart guys that have a foundation for the culture because they’ve played soccer from the age of five” Tranberg said.
Overall, Tranberg is a solid person and at times outspoken. Here’s his story.
Start by introducing yourself. Who you are, where you’re from, and what sport do you play?
My name is Mads Tranberg, I play for the men’s soccer team for George Mason University. I am from Copenhagen, Denmark, a small country with approximately 5.5 million people located in the northern part of Europe and a part of Scandinavia. Denmark is also considered to be one of the happiest countries in the world.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a Junior at George Mason University studying Sports Management. On the soccer field, I am a center back, wearing number 5 on my jersey. As I said before I lived in Denmark, being number 3 out of 4 children. I have an older brother, an older sister, and a little sister. My brother has also played soccer in the US just as a forward for Santa Monica Community College and my sister studied half a year at Hawaii Pacific University, so my family has always been a big fan of studying and traveling in America. My dad is a pilot for SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) and my mom is a nurse at the biggest hospital in Denmark. Bonus info I also have a golden retriever named Lucca, after the great Italian forward Luca Toni.
When did you start playing soccer and how often did you play as a child?
I started playing soccer when I was 4-5 years old. My dad was the one that brought me down to the local club and signed me up. Ever since that, I have been playing as much as possible and from the age of 12 where I got scouted to a youth academy, I have been playing 5-7 times a week.
What is a typical day in Denmark like for a student-athlete?
A typical day in Denmark currently is walking up a bit late so I can match the time difference, which is 6 hours with my classes in the US so a lot of the classes are in the late hours of the evening for me. So I am mostly off the first 6 hours after I wake up, where I have time to train. Right now the focus for me and everybody on my team is to stay in shape for the upcoming season. I do that by running a lot and also training with my brother up on the local turf field. The coach has set up a schedule for what we have to do and what our options are for running. Our conditioning coach has sent google docs with an 8 weeks training program, that focuses on strengthening the core and other muscles important for soccer. My day otherwise goes by like everybody else’s. I am trying to practice social distancing and still focusing on my school work. Otherwise, it’s a lot of just working out on my own, eating dinner with my family and reading books or playing computer games to keep me entertained.
What is a typical day like at Mason for a student-athlete?
Breakfast, treatment, training, treatment, lunch with teammates, school, study hall, dinner, homework, go to bed. Repeat.
“Right now the focus for me and everybody on my team is to stay in shape for the upcoming season. I do that by running a lot and also training with my brother up on the local turf field. The coach has set up a schedule for what we have to do and what our options are for running.”
How would your life be the same and different if you were living in Denmark today?
As a student-athlete in the United States, there is a lot more focus on combining school and soccer since the US has school sports. In Denmark, I would not have been able to pursue both a Bachelor’s and my soccer at the same time, because the school does not care about what you do in your life outside of school. So if I still lived in Denmark I would have had to choose between pursuing soccer or going to school. Because it is merely impossible to do both.
Would you prefer to play in Denmark or for Mason?
Right now I am very happy that I can combine school and sports, so I prefer playing for Mason. Mason athletics has a very strong group of people that help me become a better person and a better soccer player. In addition, they are good people with strong personalities that make me feel comfortable in the organization. Despite missing my family and friends in Denmark, it is easy to connect with teammates and other athletes, because we have a lot in common and we all strive to excel in our sports.
How has your daily life as a student-athlete been affected by COVID-19?
The main thing when being sent home to Denmark from the US and being home training is the difference between training with the team and alone. In Denmark, I have to focus more on getting fit and learning about my body compared to the US where we work and train tactics and different soccer abilities. Because all soccer clubs are also closed in Denmark, it is impossible to go out and touch the ball as much as when you are in season or at the school. Of course, I can go outside and dribble around but you don’t get the same team training as you do at Mason compared to home.