Friday 09 November 2012
Teams from the academies of six English clubs will be looking to seal a place to play alongside holders Manchester United in the Christmas Truce Tournament in Ypres next month.
The tournament gives Under-11s not only the chance to play top teams from other nations – United beat Racing Genk, Borussia Dortmund and RC Lens to the title in December last year – but to learn about the horrors of the First World War as children from the nations of England, Belgium, France and Germany play together on the fields of Flanders where their forefathers once fought. It recreates spirit of the Christmas Truce in 1914 when troops from the four nations sang carols, exchanged gifts and played impromptu games of football on Christmas Day.
“This is part of the holistic development of players that the Elite Player Performance Plan is about– it is not only what you do on the pitch but off it as well,” said the Premier League’s Head of Education and Welfare, Martyn Heather. “It gives an opportunity to mix education with high-level play and give children the chance to develop social responsibility skills.”
"It’s the idea of trying to get them to realise that football isn’t just about what happens on the pitch"
This year the education process about the Great War begins earlier and will be spread wider as Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leeds United, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion travel to St George’s Park this weekend to compete for the chance to represent England in an expanded tournament in Ypres next month. The six teams came through regional qualifiers and will face each once before the top two teams play in a final.
The U12s who attend St George’s Park will also learn more about the First World War. Heather will make to them a presentation about the War, the Christmas Truce and Remembrance Sunday. The children will also learn about Walter Tull, a former Tottenham Hotspur player who was the first black footballer to score a professional goal and became the first black infantry officer in the British Army before being killed late in the First World War.
There will also be a ceremony at 11am on Sunday at St George’s Park with a two-minute silence and where a child from each club will read out the names of players who died in conflict, as well as lay wreaths around the pitch where the tournament will take place.
As well as take part against elite European opposition Manchester United and the winning team from the weekend will get to learn at first hand more about the War at Ypres at the tournament starting on December 1.
There they will exchange gifts among each other, as the soldiers did during the Christmas Truce of 1914 and will go to the Menin Gate, the memorial gate to the missing soldiers in Ypres, where each evening at 8pm The Last Post is sounded.
“It’s the idea of trying to get them to realise that football isn’t just about what happens on the pitch, it can affect other things around society,” said Heather.
To see a video about last year’s Christmas Truce Tournament click here