Haakon Wik Heltne: AKA Big Hak

Norwegian soccer player, Haakon Wik Heltne, is killing it here at UCI. Back in Norway, combining soccer and education was not an option which is what lead him to move to the US.  Haakon talks about how playing in the US is better than what he can do in Norway. He started his US soccer career in New York at Hofstra University. After his freshman year, he decided to transfer to UCI and boy are we glad he did! His decision to move here was not only because we have warmer weather, but he prefers the program in the West Coast. Although moving here wasn't easy considering how far he is from his family, friends, and his girlfriend, he is proud to be an Anteater. Haakon speaks highly of his teammates explaining how rewarding it is to have such a tight knit group of individuals that have the same ambitions. As a business major, academics and soccer are both very important to him. I guess you can say he has the best of both worlds.

When did you start playing soccer and when did you realize it was something you wanted to pursue?

I started around five years old with my older brother, who is two years older. I was playing club with him back in Norway. I played every day from then on. It just felt natural.

You’re originally from Norway, how did you end up playing soccer at UCI?

So I actually started out in New York at Hofstra University. I originally wanted to come to the US for soccer, but I really love the academics as well. Since the East Coast is closer to Norway, it is more common for Norwegians to go there. I got a lot of offers from schools in the East Coast. I made a YouTube video which is like a promotional video. Then different schools contact you from there. I really liked New York but I wanted to be more academically challenged so I ended up here at UCI. At UCI academics and soccer are more focused on whereas in New York it was all about soccer. Also the way of playing soccer here is more suited for me. Here it is more like European style soccer, more technical. Whereas in the East Coast it is more about hitting the ball long. It is not as fun to watch or play. The program here has a higher chance of being able to play professionally. Also, playing in Irvine is a big factor because the weather is great here so we can play year round. Back in New York we could only play one month out of the three or four that we were in season.

Do you get to go back home to Norway often and visit your family/friends?

No, they usually have to come here. I was able to go back for winter break though.

 

 

Is becoming a professional soccer player one of your long term goals?

Yeah, since I was five years old being a professional soccer player has always been my main goal in life. But as I grew up and went to college, I did well in school and realized I need a back up plan. I am starting to realize more and more how important that is. I am still 100% committed to soccer, but I am also very into school and academics.

How do you deal with the stressors of being a student athlete?

There have definitely been hard times, especially this quarter. I am also in a long distant relationship with my girlfriend in Norway. I think the social life here is really helping me. I’ve got great friends. My roommate Vicor is from Sweden so we have a lot in common. Our team is super close because we spend five hours a day together. You become like a family.

 

 

 

Describe your proudest moment or any highlights while playing at UCI.

I think definitely the first five or six games were really great. I felt like I was integrated into the team really early. We flew out to New Mexico and played Denver. They were ranked #3 in the country and we beat them so that was definitely a highlight. We had a lot of good games in the beginning, but overall the whole season was great. It was a bit disappointing that we didn't make it to the NCAA because everytime we played against the top ten opponents, we were so close. All in all, my first season was the best and a good experience.

What words of advice or encouragement do you have to share with younger athletes who want to play in college or professionally?

Just work hard but make sure it is fun. If it is not fun, there is no point in doing it. I wouldn't be playing soccer if I didn't love it. I am always going out there with a smile on my face. I came all this way because I love the sport.

Who are some soccer players you look up to?

There are a lot of players I look up to. Cristiano Ronaldo is probably my number one. He doesn't play the same position as me but he has always been a role model of mine. I really like Spanish futbol so Sergio Ramos García. I also look up to some of my friends back in Norway who I used to play with and are playing professionally now.

Rapid Fire:

Who is your celeb crush?

My girlfriend, Christiane. She is a singer in Norway and is signed with Sony. (Check out her latest song here).

Best concert you have ever been to?

Back in Norway we have this big concert for High School graduates. It was a whole weekend and with all my friends. Also, Bruce Springsteen.

The one thing you miss the most back home?

My girlfriend  

What is the first thing you do after a game?  

We eat. The coaches usually get us pizza or we get chipotle. We also have ice baths.

Favorite food?

Thai food.

 

The UCI Men’s Soccer team is playing against the LA Galaxy on March 11th which will be a fun game. You can find the reminder of their scheduled games here!

A very special thank you to Haakon for taking part in this interview.