Tromsø – Football near the Arctic Circle

Tromsø is the largest urban area in Northern Norway and the third largest area north of the Arctic Circle after the larger Russian cities of Murmansk and Norilsk.  Most of Tromsø, including the city center and the Alfheim football stadium, is located on the small island of Tromsøya which is accessible via the 3km long Tromsø bridge.

Tromsø is your first stop off point on any polar adventure but the city is sizable meaning it gives scope for exploration rather than just simply marveling at the sky. As the world’s northernmost university town, its young, vibrant and busy – far more busy that would ever think a place so far north would or should be.

Spectacular landscapes surround Tromsø, a wilderness in the far north of Norway. That said despite labelling itself as vibrant this is where I felt a silence that I have never felt before anywhere else in Europe.

No cars, no voices, no birds singing and no wind.

With vivid open landscapes surrounding it Tromsø sits 350 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.  

This is a place where the midnight sun occurs from late May through until the end of July.  Owing to Tromsø’s high latitude the twilight can be long meaning that there is no real darkness and when you experience it such is the impact on the senses you are forgiven for not being able to sleep.

Tromsø’s latitude of just below 70°N renders annual midnight suns and the contrast of polar nights depending on the season. However, according to locals it can be mild here in the winter with the extremity of weather fronts one might perceive not actually being the case all or every winter.

In truth the football stadiums of Tromsø have a reputation of accumulating a lot of snow in winter, and it is still visible in place and in the distance come mid-summer. That said on the streets of the city ice and slush often prevails, especially in the first half of the winter.

Snowfall patterns like in the United Kingdom can be quite erratic and weather fronts vary substantially with different winters felt from year to year.

With the Norwegian league season occurring between March and October the hours of darkness do not really impact upon football here unless the club plays in UEFA competition. And the club have been fortunate to play three times in the Group stages of UEFA football.

This is a locality where many big names have called in for a visit – Partizan Belgrade, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur to name only three.

Its worth noting that vivid snow capped mountainous landscapes albeit in the distance surround Tromsø even during the summer months. This combination of overhead blue crisp skies, pockets of cloud and bright sunshine can create intense overhead conditions from late February through to the autumn months.

A pleasant and peaceful city with a small compact center there are historic wooden houses all around that makes you feel you are in Greenland.

The locals are very proud of the local team Tromsø IL with the local fans creating good atmospheres at the compact and small ground.

Tromsø Idrettslag were founded in 1920 and play home games at the colourful community stadium called the Alfheim Stadion (currently called the Romssa Arena). Three times UEFA Cup and Europa League group stage participants the club currently play in the top division but have seen more lean times recently experiencing life in the second tier. 

Holding the position as the northern most top level football club in the world has some drawbacks with housing in Tromsø both expensive and hard to attain. This has a knock on impact on attracting and retaining football players to the area given the distance from the bigger regions of the South and West coast.

Travelling to Norwegian league fixtures for Tromsø is simply a challenge that very few clubs anywhere in Europe face.

A visit to Stavanger to play Viking on the South West corner of Norway involves a distance of 1,900km having to be negotiated. This encompasses a 3hr flight for the team or a mammoth 29hr trip by car for those who want a more scenic route to a football match.

Even the relatively short trip to rivals Bodø Glimt sees a 550km trip having to be negotiated which gives you some indication of how far north this place is located.

Despite the distant locations they are not completely alone.  

Just next door to Tromso IL are another club Tromsdalen UIL who currently play in the third tier. Even further north are Alta Idrettsforening in the Finnmark region of Norway – closer to Svalbard in the Barents Sea and the North Pole.

The far north indeed.

*This feature first appeared in voices in football during 2012.