Sondre Solholm Johansen isn’t your typical Motherwell player.
Not just in the sense that he is only the second Norwegian to represent the club, but he is also mates with Lewis Hamilton. Well, for three minutes at least.
A quick swipe through Sondre’s Instagram profile to the month of February 2020 will show a picture of himself with the Formula One superstar at a Puma ambassador event, where Sondre describes Hamilton as his “new gym buddy”.
“Lewis was so humble,” Sol – as he is referred to by his team-mates – recalls.
“As part of my contract with Puma, I get to attend these cool yearly events and he was there.
“I was sent as an ambassador from Norway. I also went with Todd Cantwell from Norwich City.
“I tried to suck out as much information as I could in the two or three minutes I had with Lewis because he’s a plant-based athlete and so am I.
“I’ve been plant-based for two years now, but I wanted to get info on how you perform at his level when you don’t eat meat.”
Starting off on a vegan diet mainly for ethical and environmental reasons, our new Norwegian centre-back was keen to see what it would enhance in his performance.
But what Sol noticed instantly was a major improvement when it came to getting a good kip.
“My sleep quality is so good,” Sol says. “For the first six months my sleep was amazing.
“It’s hard to tell the difference because I felt good before, but I just wanted to try something new and I know it’s something I can do.
“The most difficult thing is getting enough protein, but I got some help from my doctor and found out some supplements.
“I try to do the things that are best for my body to perform at a high level and it works for me, but I don’t want to be the weirdo who bothers the [club] chef at lunch.
“My girlfriend and I do it together. It’s much easier when there’s two of you. I don’t have to be alone with it.”
Sol doesn’t miss anything specifically from a standard diet, but – like the rest of us – it is hard to fight that urge at the end of a night out.
“I never crave anything,” he says. “But the part I slip the most is when I’m out drinking and going for a snack on the way home. At least I won’t remember it the next day anyway…”
While Sol was tapping into Hamilton’s plant-based wisdom, the seven-time F1 world champion wanted some knowledge in exchange.
Hamilton was “curious” about Sol’s homeland, as they struck another common interest in a brief chat.
“He loves his snowboarding and skiing,” Sol, who is also keen on his winter sports, adds.
“He has always wanted to go to Norway to do it so I just tried to give him some tips, but I don’t know if he remembers…”
The big Norwegian is still in a part of the world that is cold enough for snow and ice, but resorts are few and far between – unless Braehead counts…?
Regardless, skiing and snowboarding probably isn’t something that is advised for footballers, and Sol doesn’t think the manager would be too happy if anything went wrong on the slopes.
“I was an active downhill skier when I was a kid, but it’s not the most convenient when you’re a football player,” he says.
“If I fall and tell the gaffer I was out skiing, I don’t think that’s going to be a valid reason.
“Every time I go to the mountains I try to go skiing or snowboarding, but I make sure I try to stay safe.”
Away from the snow and plants, Sol describes himself as a “hybrid” on the grass.
One half of him is an old-school defender who will throw his body on the line, but the other is comfortable with the modern-day demands of being able to handle the ball at his feet.
“I’ve heard it’s quite direct here, that suits my style,” Sol adds. “I love defending to my own goal. The 18-yard box is my area.
“But I was brought up to be a central midfielder and didn’t become a centre-back until I was 16, so I’m very comfortable using the ball.”
The 26-year-old demonstrated those skills across a four-year spell at Norwegian side Mjondalen, where he has spent the last two seasons playing top-flight football.
Sol’s performances caught the interest of a number of clubs, and he was in fact close to penning a deal with another side before Motherwell’s interest instantly grabbed his attention.
It has been the defender’s dream to play outside his country, and the opportunity to come to Fir Park simply too good to turn down.
Not only was plying his trade in Scotland’s top flight a huge selling point, but also the fact he will be representing a club with “good core values” who “take care of their own”.
“The furthest I’ve lived away from my childhood home is 20 minutes,” Sol says. “This is a big change for me, but it is a dream come true already.
“I feel like this is the right step for me. If I’m being honest, from the first phone call with my agent I was sold. He didn’t have to make a sales pitch, I had my bags packed when he called.
“We were about to sign with another club in Norway, but we put that on hold for Motherwell.
“The first thing I did was go on YouTube. I was sitting on it for three weeks straight. The fans seemed so crazy, but it also seems like such a well-run club that take care of the community and the society around it.
“That’s something I appreciate and feel I can be a part of. I saw the video with Bevis, when he went out to a family and gave them the free tickets. That touched me.”
Sol quickly wants to show the fans he is on the “same standings” as them.
Take another swipe down his Instagram profile to December 2019 and you will see a picture of the Norweigan centre-back celebrating with the Mjondalen support in nothing but a pair of boxer shorts and a can of lager.
Antics like that with the Well Bois in the John Hunter Stand will quickly have the big man endeared as a Fir Park favourite.
“I like to show I’m not more important than the fans,” Sol says. “I don’t think too highly of myself or take myself too seriously.
“I play with my heart on my sleeve, but I have a smile on my face. I like to try to communicate with the fans, the referee and put the striker off his game. I always try to have a good time.
“We do this because it’s fun. I hope they see that I enjoy playing in front of them and I’ll do everything I can for the team and the club.”