Ball sense and a talent for languages landed her a job as a club manager
From literary agent in London to the first Swede to become general manager of a British football team. Sophia Axelsson studied English at the University of Gothenburg and then worked with two of her biggest interests: literature and football. “Everything is about being able to communicate,” she says.
Sophia Axelsson is home with her family in Gothenburg to celebrate Christmas and for some rest and recreation following a period of intense activity. Snow and the cold made many football pitches in the UK unplayable in December and many games were cancelled, including AFC Wimbledon’s matches.
“We were to have played a match in the FA Cup that the umpire cancelled five minutes before kick-off. It’s been full on, so it’s really nice to have a bit of a rest.”
It’s scarcely one year since Sophia Axelsson became general manager of AFC Wimbledon’s women’s team. As general manager, and the first for the women’s team and so far its only employee, she is involved in virtually everything that concerns the team. From organising matches to setting up long-term strategies for how the club will grow.
“I have contacts with sponsors, players, agents, coaches, journalists and volunteers. Women’s football is getting quite a lot of investment now in the UK, after having been forgotten about for many years. It’s exciting times,” she says.
The only thing she doesn’t do in Wimbledon is play herself. She does that instead in another football team – Clapton CFC. Sophia Axelsson started playing football as a five-year-old and in London she picked it up again for something to do on evenings and weekends alongside her job as a literary agent.
Studied a course in publishing
Because it is in fact books that are her second biggest interest and books have been in the picture roughly as long as football. It was also books that led her to London after studies in English at the University of Gothenburg. In London, she took a course in publishing.
“I have always loved reading and always loved talking about books. And I realised that you can actually get a job doing that.”
What has been the significance of your language studies at Humanisten for you?
“They certainly gave me a deeper appreciation of the language. English is everywhere: on TV, in music. But my studies gave me a completely different understanding of the language. When I studied publishing, I had no problem writing academic papers because I had already learnt that here. It was an international course and many of the students who did not have the same background with English found it difficult.
After the course, one of the teachers gave me a tip about a literary agency that was looking for someone who needed to know a Nordic language in addition to English. For five years Sophia Axelsson worked with literature and international authors and publishers. She negotiated contracts and visited book fairs around the world.
“It was really great to be able to work with so many different languages and to get to read on the job. It was like being part of a big international book club.
In parallel with that, she played football in Clapton and became more and more involved in volunteer and board work for the club. She had no desire to leave the world of literature, but when she applied for and got the job as general manager for the Wimbledon team, she accepted the offer.
“So I went from volunteering in a football club to running a football club. A bit unusual perhaps.”
Literary agent and general manager of a football team sound on paper like two very different jobs – are there any similarities?
“Everything has to do with communication of course. That has been one of the principal features of both jobs. You are in contact with so many people, and so it’s important to know how to communicate well with others.”
“Straight and narrow path is a little overrated”
Although today it is possible to see a clear red thread in both her studies and career, for a long time Sophia Axelsson did not know what she wanted to do. Along the way she worked at a ham factory, as a nanny and at a home for young people with autism. For a while, her ambition was to become a music teacher. She was attracted to architecture as a profession and started an engineering base year at Chalmers University of Technology, but she eventually dropped out. It took many years of study before she started to get a clear idea of what she wanted to do.
What would your advice be to someone who is studying languages and might not know what they want to do?
“I think it’s been an advantage that the road has not been all straight and narrow for me. The straight and narrow path is a little overrated, because you learn a lot along the way, regardless of what way you take. My experiences from both work and study have given me many different tools for making my own way through life and communicating with different people. Communication is the most important thing we have.”
Text: Janna Roosch
Moved to Gothenburg as a 20-year-old
Name: Sophia Axelsson
Lives in: London, currently in Walthamstow.
Job: General manager of AFC Wimbledon women’s team, is herself the goalkeeper of the Clapton CFC team.
Born in: Stockholm, but grew up in Kramfors and moved to Gothenburg as a 20-year-old.
Interests: Football, music, books, cooking.
Languages: Fluent in Swedish and English but can also read in Spanish, Dutch, Italian and to some extent French and German. “But don’t ask me to speak those other languages”.
Studied at the University of Gothenburg: Degree of Bachelor in English, but has also studied international relations for example.