It has become dark on the fjord in Kvænangen.
In large shoals, the herring swim to the water’s surface to feed, as they always do after the sun has set.
The fishing boat “Christina” rocks on the waves. The crew has thrown out the note, turned off the lights.
They look over the edge of the boat, shine their headlamps into the icy water. There, the light is reflected in the shells of all the herring.
The fishermen go to the aft deck and start the machinery. They pull the seine up slowly, while small herring and large pollock detach from the net and slap against the deck.
– We hope that it is up to 70 tonnes here, says Jakob Glesnes.
He has not been involved in this before. Herring fishing in pitch darkness and biting cold, out on a fjord, 70 degrees north. But now the opportunity presented itself.
Glesnes is usually a football pro in the USA. While several of his peers in the industry are playing the World Cup in Qatar, he is on holiday.
He has therefore chosen to spend it on a fishing boat, where the shifts are as long as the winter nights in Troms. Where sleep is scarce and the work physically demanding.
– There are many people who don’t understand that I bother to go fishing when I’m on holiday, stress about it now that I’ve finally come home, says the 28-year-old.
– So why do you bother?
– It is an experience. And then it’s nice to join in and see how they feel on the boat, because this might be something for me after football. That career doesn’t last forever.
When Glesnes grew up in the small village of Steinsland outside Bergen, he could stand on the terrace and throw stones into the sea. The sea was the nearest neighbour.
Through several generations, the family has been involved in fishing. The grandparents were fishermen. The uncle too. And the father was at sea for a long time before he got a job on land.
Now two of his older brothers are carrying on the legacy. They are twins, 15 years older than Jakob, and each own a shipping company. Jakob and his wife are co-owners in one of them.
Together they have the fishing boat “Christina”, where older brother Morten is captain. His son, Rasmus, is part of the crew on board.
– You can call it a family business, says Jakob Glesnes.
Several times he has been with his older brother fishing for mackerel in the summer. But it has been close to home, the boat has been moored long before the crew have taken evening.
Herring fishing far from home is something else. Here it goes on all night long.
– It’s nice to have him here. When he’s awake so much, it’s nice to have him with you, says older brother Morten.
– Can you imagine Jakob fishing when his football career is over?
– Yes I do.
Inside the wheelhouse the heater is at full power. Glesnes has taken off his overalls and rain gear, changed into worn Calvin Klein sweatpants and a gray hoodie with the club logo on it.
While he is waiting for a larger boat to pump up the evening’s first catch, he finds his phone and calls home. Through the screen, he can see his wife Linn and three-year-old son Emilian.
– Are you coming home soon, dad?
– Yes, not long after. We have caught a lot of fish!
Almost three years ago, Glesnes announced his transfer from Strømsgodset in Drammen to the Philadelphia Union in the American league. When the first corona wave had subsided, the family moved with it.
Now they have settled down in the big city, which is a long drive away from the sea.
– I was a bit skeptical when I left safe Norway, where everyone takes good care of each other and is part of a community, but it has turned out that it is quite the same in the USA, says Glesnes.
– We have enjoyed ourselves from day one.
There are many of them in the club in the same situation. Several players have moved from Europe with their families, several of them with children of the same age.
Danes, Hungarians, Germans. They have created a community.
Things have also gone well on the football pitch. Glesnes has played firmly in central defense since he joined the club, and has been an important contributor to the team becoming one of the best in the USA.
The first year they were the best in the basic game, last year they made it to the semi-finals in the play-offs. This season they played the final against Los Angeles FC – with star players such as Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini on the team.
They lost, but Glesnes was selected for the “team of the year” and was named the league’s best defender.
– It was nice to receive that award, but it is the entire team’s performance that means that some of us receive awards. We are a good group that works well together, says Glesnes, who has been impressed by the level and facilities in the USA.
– It is no secret that the league has not had the best reputation, but I have been very pleasantly surprised. The level is underestimated, he says.
In the wheelhouse he has found bring out the iPad, switched on during Norway’s international match against Ireland. He sees his childhood friend Kristoffer Zachariassen being replaced.
Glesnes himself was once part of the national team. In 2019, when he was still playing for Strømsgodset, he was called into one of Lars Lagerbäck’s squads.
But after he moved to the USA, and Ståle Solbakken became national team manager, he hasn’t heard anything from them.
Not even before the training matches against Ireland and Finland, where two of the centre-backs had announced their absence, was the defensive player of the year in the American league called.
– Should you have had the chance?
– So, if I had deserved it, I would have had the opportunity. I just have to work hard and the opportunity will come when I deserve it. It is of course a wish I have, says Glesnes.
– Is it a disadvantage that you play in the USA?
– Yes, it can probably be, but it depends on the eye that sees. There are many Norwegians playing in good leagues now, so it is difficult to join.
The light is switched on in the cabin. The time is 04:00. Throughout the night, the captain has driven around the fjord in search of large shoals of herring, now the instruments at the helm show that the catch could be significant.
He wakes up the rest of the crew, who have had just under an hour on the pillow. They put on coveralls, rain gear, boots and headlamps, and get ready to throw out the note again.
But they are told to wait. It wasn’t that thick with herring under them, though.
– Fishing is “passion”. It must be in the blood a little. The guys who work here get a bit of the same feeling that I get when I play football, says Glesnes.
He believes there are several similarities between fishing and football.
– We bark at each other a bit, don’t always say the nicest words in the heat of the match. Then we laugh about it afterwards, he says.
– Is this a life that tempts you after football?
– It is something I am considering. When I was younger, I was either in a boat or playing football, so I’m well used to being at sea.
He has plenty of time to decide. For the time being, he is raising millions in salary to be a football player in Philadelphia, and he is not going to give up that life anytime soon.
The family is enjoying themselves. He has several years left on his contract. There are no good reasons to move. If they are to move, it must be because bigger clubs express their interest.
Going home to Norway is not relevant right now, neither to fish nor to play football.
– We must enjoy the adventure while we can. We are not ready to move home yet, says Glesnes.
He puts his raincoat back on. It’s past 5:00 a.m., sunrise is approaching. The fishermen are starting to have a bad time.
They pull out the note one last time. When the sun has risen, they pull it up again.
The catch was not as large as they had hoped.
Glesnes goes into the wheelhouse and calls home. He says hello to his son, who is on his way to kindergarten, then goes to bed.
It won’t be long until the sun goes down again.