Football is more than a game

By | Category: Travel news
part of the memorial at Comines-Warneton ©Comines-Warneton

part of the memorial at Comines-Warneton ©Comines-Warneton

Nearly everyone must know of the story where, on Christmas day 1914, a football match was played between the two opposing sides.

Today in Saint-Yves in Belgium – the site where that famed match took place – Michel Platini, President of UEFA, will inaugurate, a monument especially commissioned by the organisation to commemorate the 1914 Christmas Truce, and more particularly the improvised game of football that took place in No Man’s Land in December 1914.

At Saint-Yves, British and German soldiers left their respective trenches and played a game that will for all times remain linked to this truce.

Platini said, “This ceremony of memory will pay homage to soldiers who, one hundred years ago, expressed their humanity by playing a game of football, in so doing opening an important chapter in the construction of European Unity and serving as an example for the young people of today.”

Starting at midday today near the Cross of Saint-Yves; political and sporting bodies, local authorities, members of associations, schoolchildren,locals  and visitors will all be able to share the moment.

But this won’t be a one-off ceremony. During the first 6 months of 2015 the Heritage Committee of the Saint Yves Cross will be officially launched. Its identity will be represented by a strong image: the poppy, symbol of the blood and horror of the Great War, and the “pause” sign, a moment of relief, a sort of truce, and the meaningful word TRUCE.

To celebrate the Centenary of the Christmas Truce the town of Comines-Warneton will be organising a varied and educational programme over the weekend of the 19th/20th of December and many Brits will travel across for the ceremony. This will include a series of events around the re-enactment of the Christmas Truce, of what it was like to live in the trenches and of the game of football; a torchlight march, a Last Post and a concert by the Royal Marines; guided visits of the Plugstreet 14-18 experience and the Interpretation Centre, a walking tour of the frontline; a screening of the film « Joyeux Noël », and something that the troops never had – a Christmas Market.

Incidentally, a newly-discovered letter written during the First World War reveals the thoughts of  General Sir Walter Congreve VC and provides a graphic first-hand account of troops from opposing sides sharing cigars and playing football as fierce fighting continued nearby in northern France.

It was donated to Staffordshire’s archive service in the 1970s and came to light during research to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war.

He wrote: “I found an extraordinary state of affairs – this am a German shouted out that they wanted a day’s truce and would one come out if he did. “So very cautiously one of our men lifted himself above the parapet and saw a German doing the same. “Both got out then more and finally all day long in that particular place they have been walking about together all day giving each other cigars and singing songs.”

The letter went on public display at Stafford’s Records Office last week.

 

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