A Moment in Time

It is 20 years since one of the most weather-affected games in our history took place, and here we revisit with photos that famous night in northern Norway, when Ruud Gullit's side battled the elements...


Tromso v Chelsea, Thursday 23 October 1997, European Cup Winners' Cup, Second Round first leg, Alfheim Stadium

The star-studded Blues headed to the Arctic Circle to take on part-timers Tromso in the second round of what would ultimate prove a successful European Cup Winners' Cup venture. We didn't have it all our own way in the snow, however.

The players arrived to a winter wonderland the day before the game and the conditions hadn't changed as kick-off approached. 

Roberto Di Matteo is pictured walking off the pitch having inspected the surface. In the background, groundsmen use shovels and tractors to try to clear the pitch before play starts. 

tromso 5 zola

They had some success, too, as this picture of Gianfranco Zola during the first half demonstrates. It was actually while the pitch was (mostly) clear that Tromso raced into a two-goal lead.

Steinar Nilsen and Frode Fermann were the scorers inside 20 minutes with Ed de Goey not covering himself in glory between the posts. 

During the half-time interval, the polar night sky produced a blizzard so fierce that the pitch was fully covered in snow in a matter of minutes. 

 

Twice during the second half play had to be stopped so groundstaff could redraw the lines by dragging large brooms through the snow. 

Now the orange ball Zola is pictured below kicking was absolutely necessary.  

The quality of play understandably suffered as passing football proved nigh-on impossible, but a moment of individual bloody-mindedness from Gianluca Vialli got us a precious away goal. 

He forced his way through the heart of the Tromso backline on his own, just about kept control of a ball bobbling all over the place, before slotting his finish through the home keeper's legs. 

That was with five minutes remaining, but the deficit was halved for barely 60 seconds. 

As confusion reigned over whether we could make a substitution and bring on Andy Myers to shore up the result for the second leg, Tromso attacked and Ulla Martin Erst brought the ball down and fired past De Goey.  

Gullit raged on the sidelines and he would have strong words to say after the game, but his mood was lifted by a second wonderful individual goal from Vialli. This time the Italian striker, who would be player-manager within four months, danced his way through a slipping and sliding defence before producing another ice-cool finish befitting of the conditions. 

He turned to celebrate in front of the hardy travelling Chelsea support who can rarely have been so cold watching a game. 

Gullit was left to reflect on an unusual evening.

'That was just a farce,' he said afterwards. 'I love football but for football to be played you need to have conditions that make it possible.

'We just didn't have that and there's no way that that game should have been played to a finish.

'In the second half we couldn't see because the snow was coming into our faces. But it was clear that UEFA had decided the game had to be played even though it wasn't fit.

'For you to be able to play football you must see some green but there was none out there, only white. They even had to stop play twice to sweep the snow off the lines, that's how bad it was. You can not call that football.'

'It didn't look good when we were 2-0 down but we kept going, showed pride and I was delighted by that,' Gullit added. 

The players, including Celestine Babayaro, captain Dennis Wise, Zola and Vialli, trudged off knowing things would be a little easier on the Stamford Bridge playing surface, and so it proved as we ran out 7-1 winners a fortnight later. 

tromso 6 group