Meet FC Santa Claus from Finland, who play in red and white, and have the most famous coach in the world

IT'S not like playing on a rainy day at Stoke, but it must be chilly.

In 1992, FC Santa Claus – who play their games at Lapland – were formed when Finish teams Rovaniemen Reipas and Rovaniemen Lappi combined.


And they can officially lay claim to being the most Christmassy football club EVER.

Their honorary boss is Saint Nick, better known as Santa Claus to children around the globe.

Often, he's seen at matches and the club's crest features his image checking his naughty or nice list.

While their club colours are in honour of their Santa's famous attire, with red and white home kits and white and green away designs too.

PART-TIMERS

FC Santa Claus played their first professional match in 1993, and once reached the heady heights of the Finnish third division.

Not bad for a side that's made primarily of part-timers – that's students and locals who work at the Christmas market or at the post office that receives letters for Santa Claus.

The club, themselves, realise their status and have gained popularity all around the world.

And they do their bit for charity – teaming up with UNICEF to donate proceeds from their kits to the organisation renowned for their work for children in danger.

In 1997, they even played against Premier League side Crystal Palace in a friendly that drew 5,000 fans.


IN THE DARK

FC Santa Claus play games in Rovaniemi – Lapland's capital, in an area surrounded by forest, reindeer and the sight of the Northern Lights.

It could be seen as daunting place to go – football in Lapland is at the mercy of the winter elements, and from October to April it snows, while daylight hours are limited.

Temperatures can average between 16°C to -3°C.

Ralf Wunderlich, who runs things on the pitch, revealed his job satisfaction to BBC Sport.

"If you like Christmas, and I do, then this place is very good – it's all about Christmas here," he said.

"You have some kind of Christmas feeling the whole year without being too much – a whole year of positive feelings.

"Of course, Santa is not officially in charge, but in the background everyone knows he runs this club."


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A post shared by FC Santa Claus (@fcsantaclausofficial)

HARD TIMES

Despite their good intentions, FC Santa Claus have battled on amid financial tribulations.

In 2012 they were saved from bankruptcy with a last-ditch fundraiser, as well as sponsorship deals with EA Sports and Puma.

They have since been sponsored by Nike, as they continue to toil.

But fortunes on the pitch haven't been as kind as Santa's present giving.

The main team in Rovaniemi has always been RoPS – but they suffered relegation from the first division back in November.

FC Santa Claus are the locals' second team, and the players who represent them are often those who aren't good enough to play at a higher level and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.

After a number of relegations, last year they played in Finland's fifth tier. But this year they only have a team featuring in an eight-a-side league.

Wunderlich, however, isn't deterred. His job is to kickstart a youth set-up and restart the men's team from January.



"I like the idea of being Santa Claus' official club – such a big potential to be cheerful and spread positive messages," he said.

"For me it is very important people realise it is not just FC Santa Claus in name but the whole spirit of Santa and values around Christmas.

"I will do my best to make the whole world understand there is this positive small football club in north Finland representing Santa."

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