The Christmas Season is one time of year when people can sit back and appreciate their good fortune and share in good times with friends. One group of Finnish soccer lovers decided to take this festive spirit and build a club around having a good time and sharing their joy with others. That club is FC Santa Claus and it comes from northern Finland’s Lapland province, in the town of Rovaniemi. It is a community of approximately 61,000 people, and it is just six miles outside the Arctic Circle. In addition to being about as far north as you can go and still be on planet Earth, Lapland is also known for being the home of Santa Claus and the real live reindeer that inhabit and thrive in the area. Of particular interest to outsiders is the world renowned Santa Claus village that attracts visitors from all over the world. You can learn more about it here.
With that background information, it makes all the sense in the world this would be the home of FC Santa Claus. Santa’s club was formed in 1993 following the merger of two local clubs, Rovaniemi Reipas and Rovaniemen Lappi. Theoretically, the club could have been called Santa Claus United as well, but there is no indication that this alternative moniker was ever considered. Nonetheless, the club does have fun with the team’s famous namesake by publishing videos of Santa Claus with the team, claiming Santa Claus as the team’s honorary coach, and the team crest has a picture of Santa checking the "naughty" list. The team claims to have supporters around the world – in fact, our own editor, Stephen Schmidt, has a FC Santa Claus jersey!
Do not let the fun name and famous lineage deceive you, the club is a professionally run organization on and off the field. It shares a nice stadium that seats 4,000, with 2,800 of those seats covered. Since 1994, its first season of competition, the club has spent most of its existence in the third tier of the Finnish soccer pyramid with occasional dips into the fourth tier. Last year it was in the fourth tier, but it is currently in the third tier as a result of being promoted at the end of last season. Speaking of promotion, Santa Claus’ club has been close to reaching the second tier a couple of times, most recently in 2010. That year it won its group but lost in the promotion play-offs. News of its promotion battle was followed by its fans far and wide.
The existence of this club came to my attention via a video from the folks at Copa90.com. They went up to the Artic Circle to find Santa Claus and get the full story behind his club – the video is entitled FC Santa Claus: The Pride of Lapland. I cannot recommend the video enough, it is funny, insightful, and contains excellent footage of the club’s facilities and the surrounding community – including a trip to Santa’s Village.
I would like to end with words from the Copa90.com video. The host eloquently states that "Lapland is quite the commercial place aimed at tourists and it would be quite easy to think that FC Santa Claus was just another gimmick. But they’re not, they’re a serious community football club with real ambition."
If you love Santa Claus, love soccer, and need European club in addition to the New York Cosmos, this is the club for you!