Mads Bech Sørensen is keeping all his career options open for the future – but it’s unlikely that he will be looking to pursue an alternative sporting code by recapturing his talents as a Handball player!
For those supporters that missed our extensive interview with Mads in a recent programme, it's published in full below.
The Danish defender, who has made an impressive start at Wimbledon since joining on loan from Brentford, played Handball in his homeland as a child, but he was determined to chase his dream of becoming a professional footballer in England.
“I played Handball when I was younger, but I always preferred football. I was all right at Handball, but I knew I wanted to be a footballer, so that was always my focus. When I played Handball some clubs wanted to sign me, but I turned them down and told them I was going to play football instead. I was quite good at it, and the sport is quite big in Denmark, but football is still more popular.
“My Dad played football and my mother played Handball, both of them at a semi-professional level. I think I made the right decision because I’m happier playing football! It feels like a long time since I played Handball.
“England is the best country in the world for this sport. From when I was very young, I knew that I wanted to play in England, so to be a professional footballer here is a dream come true. Daniel Agger (who played for Brøndby and Liverpool] was a defender who inspired me, as he was a left-footed defender like me. I started supporting Arsenal when I was a child. My best friend was a fan too, and we’ve supported them ever since.
“I started playing when I was three years of age. My Dad tackled me in the living room, and it was just funny falling over the ball! I joined Østbirk when I was about three or four, playing 3-v-3 games with tiny goals.”
Mads signed a new long-term contract at Brentford just before he came to AFC Wimbledon on loan, and appears to have a bright future in football ahead of him. But he is also busy with his studies, to make sure there are other options open to him in the future.
“I’m studying in my spare time. It’s called ‘Gymnasium’ in Denmark, and it’s kind of similar to A-levels here. I did two years in Denmark and you have to do three, so you finish after the third year. When I’ve completed the three years there is the option to go to university. The subjects I’m studying include Maths, English, and Danish.
“I probably won’t go to university as I’m aiming to stay playing professional football, but I’ll probably do a degree as well as playing football in the future. I don’t like to just lay on the couch all day! Sometimes it’s not easy because you can’t do too much if you need to be up for training the next day. I like studying because it means I have something to do and it doesn’t use up too much energy.
“It’s much better to be studying than wasting time gambling, or doing other things that have affected footballers in a negative way. Some people don’t like studying – maybe it’s no good for them. As long as it doesn’t affect your football, I think it’s a good idea, but if it does affect your football I don’t think you should study. I can do all my studying online and I’m enjoying it.”
After making 15 first-team appearances for Brentford, Mads feels that a loan spell here is exactly what he needs at this stage of his football career.
“League One is exactly what I expected it to be, and it’s good here at Wimbledon. You need to be prepared for everything at this level. You have to be able to deal with going to tight, hostile grounds in this league, and it shouldn’t affect your performance. Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time here so far and I’m looking forward to the next couple of months.
“There’s a brilliant coaching staff here – they’re always trying to develop the squad. We’re training hard, trying to get better, and hopefully we’ll see that happen in the rest of this season.”
Mads switched from Østbirk IF to AC Horsens, and at the age of 16 he became Horsens’ youngest-ever first-team player.
“I was the youngest at the time, but someone has beaten that record since! We were struggling in our league and we didn’t have any left-backs. The manager took me and another guy aside, and said that one of us was going to play at left-back. The one that trained the best would play on the Saturday! I played, and it was amazing, a great feeling to get my debut at such a young age. As a young footballer I started off in the middle of defence, but I played a bit at left-back and also in midfield. I played one game as a winger at Horsens and scored a good goal!”
His big strength was as a defensive player, though, and his impressive progress was soon attracting the attention of English clubs. It was far from an easy decision for Mads to move to another country, but it’s one he now believes was for the best.
“It was a tough choice because I had to decide if I was ready to go abroad. I was still young, just 18, and my concern was if I was ready or not. The owner of Brentford also owns FC Midtjylland, and people at that club had seen me play in the Danish league. I think that’s how the move came about. I wasn’t worried about the football, more about me personally. But I’m happy that I made the step, and I think I’ve developed a lot as a player. I believe it was the right decision.
“It’s not easy to move to another country, but it could have been much tougher than it was. I think Brentford did very well – the people there helped me to settle in. It was nice to have other Danish footballers with me when I joined Brentford. I could ask them questions and they would show me around. I’ve enjoyed it a lot – I like Brentford as a club. It’s good training there, with good people. It’s good to be involved at an ambitious club.
“I wouldn’t say I was fluent in English, but you start learning it in Denmark at about the age of six. My little sister is 11 now and she’s done English for four or five years. It certainly helps Danish people when they come over to England.”
Having represented Denmark at U18, U19, and U21 levels, Mads is very proud to play for his country – and he could receive a call-up for the U21s later this season.
“At U19 level I captained Denmark in a four-team tournament. It was a very good experience, and I’m very proud to have captained my country. My first game for Denmark was at U18 level. There’s an U21 international coming up, and hopefully I’ll get another opportunity.”
Mads says that he’s come through testing times while in England, particularly after he suffered a medial collateral ligament knee injury.
“I had a spell at Brentford which was difficult. I was quite busy as I was with the international team, and I was travelling a lot with the Brentford B team. All of a sudden, everyday life just hit me. It took me a month or so to realise that this was my life now. I was away from home and it was tough, but I had to accept that this was my life now. I had quite a serious injury last summer. I did my MCL, so I was out for four months. I basically didn’t do anything apart from go to the gym for three months!”
Having spent time out injured, Mads can sympathise with Marcus Forss, who had his successful loan here cut short by a serious hamstring injury, and he has given Marcus support. It was advice from Marcus that pointed Mads in Wimbledon’s direction, and Mads is relishing the opportunity of being involved in some big games here.
“I have spoken with Marcus. I feel sorry for him because he was doing well here, and I hope he has a speedy recovery. It was nice to have someone to talk to who had already experienced what the club was like and what it was about. It was good for me to take his advice before I came to Wimbledon. I’m looking forward to the challenge here."
Look out on Saturday for an in-depth interview with Terell Thomas in the Bolton programme.