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CHRISTMAS TRUCE: Football on the battlefield?

 

If you go to St. Yvon, France, you'll see a sculpture, commissioned by UEFA, to mark the special part football played in the truce on Christmas Day in 1914.

You may have heard of soldiers from either side of the war meeting in No Man's Land during the First World War for a kickabout.

It's a story that has worked it's way into folklore, as far as UEFA putting a monument in France.

So you'll understand my surprise that when speaking to battlefield author and guide Steve Smith, football during the Christmas truce may be all blown out of proportion.

And in fact, where UEFA have planted a memorial might not have actually seen any football on Christmas Day in 1914.

"We can definitely state there were two very basic, ad-hoc games of football played," Steve tells Local TV.

"They were definitely recorded. The problem with that is a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon afterwards.

The Norfolk Regiment, who Steve has written a book about under that name, and the Cheshire Regiment played against German soldiers, confirmed by diary accounts and newspaper clippings.

However, Steve says that both recorded matches would have been played by a small number

"The reality of both of those matches is you're talking about no more than about 30 blokes.

"It's not the wide idea that all along the line where the truce happened is men came out and had this sort of kickabout.

Steve continues, making the UEFA monument's placement seem a bit silly.

"The problem (with UEFA's memorial) was that when UEFA contacted a historian who is an expert in this field, he said there was no football played there.

"But UEFA ignored it and put the memorial there. Now what you get, is people going to that specific point, placing footballs and memorials to a place where it didn't happen."

It's not the first time UEFA have made a blunder - see the Champions League draw for the round of 16 - but this brings into question the myth behind football and the Christmas Truce.


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