Watch Cosmonauts Play Soccer in Space to Celebrate 2018 World Cup (Video)

The World Cup kicks off in Russia this week, and two cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) celebrated the impending event with a little microgravity soccer action of their own. 

A recent video posted on YouTube (which you can see above) by the Russian space agency Roscosmos shows cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Anton Shkaplerov playing goalie and trying out some kicks on the ISS with an official 2018 FIFA World Cup ball.

"A great football celebration is expected not only on Earth, but also in space. Roscosmos astronauts Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Artemyev did football training on the International Space Station," read a statement on YouTube from Roscosmos in Russian, translated by[Cosmic Quiz: How Well Do You Know the International Space Station?]

The cosmonauts, each of which donned a "Russia 2018" T-shirt for the occasion, pulled off a variety of acrobatic flips, kicks and spins — moves that would make real World Cup players down here on terra firma jealous. 

The soccer ball arrived at the ISS on March 21 along with the Expedition 55 crew, which included Artemyev. The ball came back down to Earth on June 3 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Shkaplerov, Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and NASA astronaut Scott Tingle. The ball will be used during the first match of the FIFA World Cup, which runs from June 14 through July 15, Roscosmos officials have said.

The two cosmonauts said they were excited for the upcoming event. 

"We're looking forward to the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. #WorldCup," Artemyev wrote on Twitter in May, in English. 

There have been other soccer matches in space. In 2014, for example, two NASA astronauts held their own tournament in honor of the FIFA World Cup that year. (The World Cup is held every four years. The event is organized by FIFA, which stands for "Fédération Internationale de Football Association.") 

U.S. football is also a popular sport aboard the ISS; previous crews have thrown around footballs in honor of the Super Bowl.

The Russian space agency has a strong connection with sports, including through other fields of competition. In 2013, two cosmonauts did a spacewalk with the Olympic torch ahead of the 2014 winter games in the southern Russian city of Sochi. That torch today resides in the RKK Energia museum in Moscow.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: