“I didn’t have to think much when FC Santa Claus called. Who doesn’t want to work for Santa Claus’ official football club?”
Ralph Wonderlich may have the most famous ‘boss’ in world football.
The 43-year-old German has taken charge of the club in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, otherwise known as the official home town of Santa.
He told BBC Sport, “If you like Christmas and I do, this place is great
“Not too much, you have a kind of Christmas feeling all year round – a whole year of positive feelings.
“Of course Santa wasn’t officially in charge, but everyone in the background knows he’s running this club.”
The population is ov3,000. The region – in the eyes of the forest, graduates and the Northern Lights – feels “you think the world has come to an end”, says Wonderlich
The main team in the city has always been Rups, who was released from Finland’s first division in November.
FC Santa Claus is “second team – for players who can’t play too much but support the Christmas spirit”.
Last year they played in the fifth tier of Finnish football, but have stopped and only one team has participated in the local eight-a-side league this year.
Wonderlich, who moved to Lapland in June to oversee the club’s junior division, is re-launching the men’s team in January and will be head coach.
“I like the idea of Santa Claus being an official club – it’s so much more likely to be cheerful and spread positive messages,” he said.
“It’s very important to me that people understand that it’s not just FC Santa Claus but Santa’s whole spirit and values close to Christmas. I will do my best to convey this positive small football club in northern Finland to the whole world. Representing Santa.”
Playing football in Lapland presents its own challenges. It can snow from October to April, daylight is limited during long winters and some players have to travel long distances for games and training.
“Lapland footballers need a lot of dedication to play – there are very few players but those who are here are very dedicated,” recalls the 14-hour round trip to a game itself.
Wonderlich, who has been a football coach for 22 years, moved to Finland from Berlin six years ago after working with various clubs. He had to give up his role at FC Iliviska due to the coronavirus situation in the spring, but was soon thrown out by FC Santa Claus, who contacted him via social media.
“I feel very comfortable here. It’s such a free-spirited club and I realize how much I’m actually a big Christmas fan,” he said. “Growing up in Germany I like the feeling, but now I’m actually living it as part of the Christmas theme.
“The whole time I feel so proud and happy, I went out in a jacket with the Santa Claus logo – the kids come up to me and give me the top five.
“There’s a lot of negativity in football, violently and violently, but there’s nothing wrong with that – I’ve never been happier in my life.
“When I was first here, Santa came up to me and said my name. Even though I was older, I was like: ‘Wow, Santa Claus said my name!’ It made me feel so good. “
Wonderlich have great ambitions for the club – and the men’s team is one of the “driving forces” providing a “complete player path” across all age groups.
He expects the men’s team to re-enter the fourth-tier league system and his goal is to pick promotions, make the games attractive to tourists and eventually create players who can play in the top division.
Do it and he should find himself on Santa’s beautiful list …