Thursday 18th December 2014
A group of Scottish football fans, including some former Scotland Homeless World Cup players, are travelling to Belgium this weekend to play in a unique football tournament to commemorate the ‘Christmas Truce’ football match played during the First World War on Christmas Day one hundred years ago.
The tournament, which is being organised and hosted by The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) will also include teams from Germany, Belgium, France, England, Wales, Ireland FA and an Ireland Embassy team.
On Christmas Day in 1914 soldiers from England, Germany, France, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland laid down their arms, distributed gifts and played football at various sites along the frontline in no-man’s-land prompting respite from a global conflict.
The journey to the front for those soldiers was by rail, an intrinsic part of WW1 history, and the Scottish footballers will follow in the trail of their forefathers as they make their way to the war graves and battlefields of Europe by ScotRail and Eurostar. While the journey from Scotland would have taken between six and eight days at the time, it’s now possible within six hours from Scotland, in part thanks to the high-speed cross channel rail connection.
The three day commemoration event will also include visits to relevant Christmas Truce locations and participation in a Last Post ceremony under the Menin Gate in Ypres. The football tournament will be played on a historic field in Messines.
François De Keersmaecker, President of the RBFA said: “Now, almost 100 years after the Christmas Truce football match The RBFA wants to commemorate it with a football competition in which supporters play a key role. Involving the supporters allows us to stay true to the reality of the time and sends out a powerful message as eight different countries together for the centenary commemoration of the Christmas Truce.”
Paul Goodwin, co-ordinator of the Scotland team added: “Even though the horror of the war took place almost one hundred years ago no-one has forgotten the sacrifices made by millions. The Christmas Truce football match is well known across the world as a symbol of peace and we applaud The RBFA for creating a tournament that pays respect to those who lost their lives during the First World War. As well as playing football on the historic fields in Belgium the players will commemorate the legacy and memory of those who fell during the war by visiting relevant locations including the Menin Gate in Ypres.”
The Scotland team’s travel to Belgium has been kindly provided by ScotRail and Eurostar.
Elaine Bell, ScotRail’s head of Corporate Social Responsibility, said: “We are very proud to support this tournament for the centenary commemoration of the First World War.
“Remembering the Christmas Truce is a fitting mark of respect to our soldiers who lost their lives during the war, and it’s touching to see so many countries involved in the tribute. We wish the Scotland team all the best, and are looking forward to the tournament.”
Lesley Retallack, Head of Events & Corporate Social Responsibility for Eurostar said: “We’re proud to carry the Scottish supporters, as they travel to Europe to pay their respects to the ordinary men who took part in the Christmas truce football match 100 years ago. We look forward to welcoming many more passengers heading to the war graves and battlefields of Europe, as they commemorate WW1.”
Many of the Scotland team, which is made up from players and staff from the award winning social enterprise Street Soccer Scotland, are no strangers to international tournaments having played at the Homeless World Cup tournament in Brazil in 2010.
In the picture: (L to R) Street Soccer Scotland’s David Duke, John Robertson, Paul Goodwin, Iain McGill and piper Ryan Faulds at Edinburgh Waverley Station shortly before leaving for Belgium.