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Monday 02 December 2013

Eight teams for Christmas Truce Tournament revealed

Two teams from four nations to play each other in Premier League's annual U12 finals in Ypres

U12 teams from Premier League clubs and from Belgium, France and Germany compete in Ypres while learning about significance of WW1 (Dec 2012)

Coaches from Borussia Moenchengladbach and Anderlecht have revealed a great air of excitement at their teams taking part in the Premier League Christmas Truce Tournament in Ypres on December 7-8 as the eight clubs who will participate were revealed.

"As well as the competition on the pitch our young players gain a lot of precious experience by meeting players of their age from different countries"
Lars Tiefenhoff

Arsenal and Manchester City will represent England having emerged as the top two in the National finals this month at St George's Park. Borussia, the defending champions, will be joined by Schalke from Germany, while Paris Saint-German and Valenciennes will be there for France, and Club Brugge will join fellow Belgians Anderlecht.

Since 2011 the Premier League has celebrated the unique piece of football history of the Christmas Truce, when soldiers in combat on the Western Front in Belgium laid down their arms on Christmas Day and ventured into no-man's land to sing carols, exchange gifts and play football. Every December it runs the Christmas Truce Tournament in the small town of Ypres, in Belgium, where much of the fighting took place in the Great War.

It has become a successful platform for the entwined educational and football development of the best young players in the Premier League, Ligue 1, Pro League and Bundesliga, as two teams from professional clubs in each country come together to honour their forefathers.

"We're very glad to be invited again," Lars Tiefenhoff, the Borussia head youth coach, said. "It was a great experience for our players to win the tournament last year. It's always something special and a big challenge to compete with teams from other European countries.

"The Christmas Truce Tournament is a high-level competition and the organisation is absolutely perfect, so we're looking forward to participate again. As well as the competition on the pitch our young players gain a lot of precious experience by meeting players of their age from different countries. That helps to develop them not only as players, but as individuals as well."

Anderlecht excitement

Gert Desot, the coach of Anderlecht Under-12s is looking forward to the experience, having been there last year.

"Our boys are can't wait to play teams from different countries because it is always a great experience"
Grant Desot

"Our boys are can't wait to play teams from different countries because it is always a great experience," said Desot, whose side contains players who played against Arsenal and Manchester City earlier this year at a Premier League tournament at St George's Park.

Desot also emphasised the importance of the experience his boys received off the pitch with various ceremonies commemorating those who fell in First World War and a visit to a local museum helping to educate the participating players.

The players also enjoy the benefit of mixing with their counterparts from other countries. On the Saturday evening between the two days of matches, all the under-12 players are seated at tables with members of teams from each of the other three nations to encourage the cultural exchange as well as an exchange of gifts.

The youngsters will also witness for the first time a performance that will bring to life the experiences of the soldiers who took part in the Christmas Truce.

"Last year, at first our boys were a bit nervous sitting next to others from different countries but by the end they were really happy, chatting freely and promising to stay in touch, exchanging contact details," Desot said. "This year, with all four countries having qualified for next year's World Cup finals, they will have something in common to talk about."

Wreath-laying

For the players from the English teams, they will have the chance to tour the sites of the war, visit the war graves and the museum before the Ode to Remembrance is read at the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. Members of each team lay a wreath at the memorial, whose large Hall of Memory contains names on stone panels of 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found.

"By making them read out the poems, lay down the wreaths, read out the names of those who died, you're making these young players think"
Martyn Heather

As well as the football and the cultural elements for the players, a demonstration of the educational emphasis of the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), of which the event is a key part, for the first time all the Heads of Welfare from the 20 Premier League clubs will travel to Ypres to see the impact that the tournament has in terms of bringing history to life and making it relevant to young people.

"By making them read out the poems, lay down the wreaths, read out the names of those who died, you're making these young players think about what they're doing," Martyn Heather, head of education at the Premier League, says. "It's important. It does go solemn but that's the reason why this tournament keeps on growing, because of the amazing response of the clubs and the players. The more we do it, the more we see the positive effects. It's surpassed our expectations."

The tournament

Group A Anderlecht, Arsenal, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Valenciennes

Group B Club Brugge, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke 04

Teams will play each other once in the group stage in 9 v 9 matches. The team finishing in first place in each group will progress to the final, while the rest of the teams will play off against the team finishing in the same position in the other group to determine their overall tournament placing.

All matches will take place at Crack Stadion in Ypres with access free to the public and the Barclays Premier League Trophy will also be on display for visitors to view.

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Key Points

  • The eight teams who will play in Premier League's 2013 International Christmas Truce tournament announced
  • Two teams from England, Belgium, France and Germany to play in Ypres
  • Much focus again on gaining experience on and off the field for the Under-12s taking part