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Football Remembers: The 1914 Christmas Truce

Football. What comes to mind? Red cards. Bad decisions. Diving. Swooning over David Beckham (that’s more me). Steven Gerrard’s amazing free kick resulting in a goal off the inside of the top left corner of the goal post, that I thought would lead the charge of them scoring again, beating FC Basel and progressing in the Champions League 2014. What do we get? The Europa League! NOOOOOO… I could go on about how we-should’ve-won-and-we-could’ve-won but I won’t bore you.

But what else is there about football. What about its history? How many people are aware of football’s beginning? Or how the game has continued to bring people together through the ages?

Last night I attended the UK Parliamentary reception for “Football Remembers” – a project run by the Premier League, The FA, the Football League and the British Council engaging football fans of all ages about what took place on Christmas Day 1914 in Flanders, Belgium. A day where two opposing sides put down their weapons in a temporary truce. They stopped for a day and “hung out”, had a kick about, shared stories, celebrated Christmas together. I suppose that’s the word – together. I went home and spoke to family and friends about it and they weren’t aware of the 1914 Christmas Truce. The most they know of it is through the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad, which Charlie Brooker described as “Shivering in a frosty trench – or “the frozen aisle”, in Sainsbury’s parlance – they pause to sing Silent Night, have a kickaround with their German counterparts, and bond over a chocolate bar. It’s all very poignant, if you mentally delete the bit where a supermarket logo hovers over the killing fields, which you can’t.”[1]

But as I sat down with my pizza and thought about it, I had to be honest. If it wasn’t for the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad (I prefer the John Lewis ad… Monty the Penguin rules!!!) and the invitation I got to attend this event, would I know about the Christmas Truce? I don’t remember being taught this at school. After reading the resource produced by the British Council and looking at the facts and figures, it highlights to me the importance of this project and why this needs to be taught in schools.

Of the 7,500 people surveyed across seven countries, only “11% had knowledge of African countries’ involvement in the conflict”[2]. If they’d asked me I’d have been one of the 89%.

I suppose my point is this: so many fans and spectators get lost in Suarez’s biting scandal, the transfer window, which manager is going out and how much they should bet on the Liverpool vs Manchester United game, that the bigger importance of the game and its history is lost.

You can download British Council’s education pack from https://schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org/classroom-resources/football-remembers/education-pack

[1] Brooker, C. (2014). A trafficked penguin, a creepy talking doll and trench warfare – Happy Christmas 2014. The Guardian, [online] 24th November. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/24/christmas-2014-john-lewis-sainsbury-ads-top-christmas-products : [Accessed: 10th December 2014].

[2] British Council. (2014). Remember the world as well as the war.

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