Two brash balls: First-ever Svalbard Spacerun, locals vs. Drillos football match heat up chilly end of summer


For the athletes, it’s kind of a decision about playing stars or seeing them.

Local football players will test their skills against a team of retired Norwegian all-stars on Thursday and runners of all abilities will be the biggest ballers of all during the Svalbard Spacerun on Saturday. Both events are taking place for the first time.

The Svalbard Turn vs. Drillos match will feature a team of local footballers that’s never practiced together against four former prized prized pros and the legendary Norwegian football manager known as Drillos. But Vidar Arnesen, head of the local football team, said he’s predicting it will be a close match.

“We are on the home field and they just have four players, so they have to borrow players from us,” he said.

Arnesen said a member of Drillos inquired about a month ago about a match as a promotional event for a match the all-stars will play against Germany next week. He said the locals have plenty of amateur playing experience, just not together.

The match starts at 6 p.m. Thursday on the football field at Svalbardhallen and will feature two 20-minute halves. The all-stars will also offer training for youths after the match.

The visiting players are Jan Åge Fjørtoft, Vidar Riseth, Erlend Johnsen and Gunnar Halle.

Those participating in the Svalbard Spacerun won’t actually reach space or see any stars (including the sun if forecasts for cloudy skies and near-zero temperatures hold up), but their heads may be feeling like they’re in the cosmos after completing the steep uphill course. The race begins at Taubanesentralen (197 meters above sea level) and ends about eight kilometers longer at KSAT (459 meters).

The untimed class will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday. The timed class will begin at 7 p.m., with the top men’s and women’s finishers receiving a Spacerun-themed lithography from local artist Olaf Storrø.

As with all outdoor Svalbard races, there are certain eccentricities in the official details (“polar bear protection along the trail,” it is not allowed to bring a dog,” etc.). There will be water stations along the course and transportation back to the starting line.
Participants will also get a chance to see the inside of the antenna facility, which is normally closed to the public, with the awards ceremony and food sales planned there.