Football: UEFA to mark 1914 Christmas truce match
(GENEVA-AFP) – European football’s governing body UEFA on Tuesday announced that it planned a high-level ceremony to mark the 1914 Christmas truce match played by Allied and German soldiers in World War I.
UEFA chief Michel Platini has invited the leaders of Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland and Italy, plus the heads of the national football associations, to take part in the December 17 commemoration.
“This remembrance ceremony pays homage to the soldiers who, a century ago, expressed their humanity by coming together to play football, thereby opening an important chapter in the construction of European unity and serving as an example for today’s young people to follow,” the former France international said in a statement.
In 1914, soldiers on both sides downed weapons and held an impromptu football match between the trenches in Flanders, calling a brief halt to the mass slaughter to celebrate Christmas.
The impromptu football match came four months after the war began on the Western Front, and was condemned by both sides’ military leaders as fraternisation with the enemy.
There was no recorded repeat of the football matches as the war dragged on.
The 1914 game has become a symbol of ordinary soldiers’ shared experience across the lines, and of the hope for peace, which did not come until 1918.
UEFA said that the match had been a “rare and extraordinary moment of peace and human fraternity, when football emerged as the only common language among men of different nationalities”.
Part of the commemoration is to take place in Comines-Warneton, the Belgian town where the original match took place, and where a monument will be unveiled.
A remembrance service is also to be held in nearby Ypres, which was the epicentre of some of the bloodiest and most futile battles of the war.