Inverness midfielder Trafford on the Northern Lights, Santa & Saunas in Lapland

Trafford (left) has made 16 appearances for Scottish Championship club Inverness this season
Charlie Trafford (left) has made 16 appearances for Scottish Championship club Inverness this season

The magical, wintery wilderness of Lapland is known for aurora borealis, midnight sun and being more heavily populated with reindeer than people.

It is also home to one of Europe's coldest football grounds.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle midfielder Charlie Trafford, 27, is one man who's braved the sub zero temperatures on the football pitch - and not in the Highland capital - having featured for Finnish top flight side Rovaniemen Palloseura (RoPS) briefly in 2017.

Here he tells BBC Scotland about life in Lapland including saunas, midnight sun, and the Big Santa Claus village.

'You're in the middle of nowhere'

Growing up in Calgary in Canada, Trafford has contended with harsh winters all his life, but instead of seeking warmer climes he began his senior football career in 2013 in Finland, joining a cousin at IFK Mariehamn on the largely Swedish speaking peninsula, Aland.

He viewed the move as an opportunity to make his way in European football, and adapted easily to the Finnish lifestyle. He had stints at second tier team Turun (TPS) and made 49 appearances for Finnish Premier League outfit, Kuopion Palloseura (KoPS).

A spell in Poland followed before arriving in Lapland, where life was very different to the metropolis he grew up in.

"The feeling that you are up there in the Arctic Circle, with the northern lights - you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere. Well, you are in the middle of nowhere..." Trafford said.

"It's something different and part of the adventure. If you go see the set up they have, it's ridiculous. Big Santa Claus village, with the cabin which has the glass roofs so you can see the northern lights. It's some place.

"I love it there - a real socialist system, well looked after, the nicest people, calm, easy living and a lot of nature - just a nice culture and beautiful country. And the saunas - unbelievable."

Rovaniemen Keskuskentta home to Finnish side RoPS
Aberdeen played at Rovaniemen Keskuskentta in the first qualifying round of the Europa League in July

Coming out of nightclubs in daylight

Life in the sparse Arctic, one of the world's most pristine environments, might sound peaceful, but Trafford still found some time to liven things up.

Only, a trip to the pub and on to a nightclub to dance the night away always had a bit of surreal ending, given the football season runs through the summer months.

"In summer it's 24 hours of light," Trafford explained. "You have to get those blackout curtains and do anything you can to sleep when it's light all night.

"You go out to the nightclub and when you come out at three o'clock in the morning it looks like the middle of the day, which is so weird."

With snow on the ground 200 days per year in Lapland, where dog-sledding and snowmobile riding are popular past-times, even the summer months can feel brisk, especially at the beginning and end of the season.

It makes playing at the brutally exposed Caledonian Stadium in Inverness seem tropical, but Trafford has become hardened to the most biting of conditions.

His survival guide? "Don't stop running," he laughs, adding he consistently has to refrain from giving his team-mates stick for complaining about the conditions in the north of Scotland.

"It does get cold but I've grown up in it. I've played games in -10, -15 (degrees celsius) so we try not to complain too much.

"It's something you just have to get on with but does get tough at times and different climate factors, like here [in Scotland] it's getting used to wind and the rain."

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