Tuesday 12 November 2013
Arsenal's and Manchester City's Under-12 sides will represent England at the Premier League's 2013 Christmas Truce Tournament after winning through to the national final at St George's Park at the weekend.
"Credit to the boys – there was lots of football played by both teams and some real quality on show"
Greg Lincoln, Arsenal U12s coach
In a closely contested nine-a-side event Arsenal emerged victorious from a tournament including Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City, Reading, Stoke City and West Ham United, and had to draw upon considerable resources of resolve to come out on top.
After each team had played each other, the young Gunners were called upon to come through an additional golden-goal play-off against West Ham for the right to meet Man City in the final after the two London sides finished equal on points, goals scored and goal difference in the group stage.
Greg Lincoln's side edged the Hammers on penalties before going the distance in the final, forcing yet another shootout, thanks to a last-minute equaliser in normal time. Once again the North Londoners held their nerve to triumph on spot-kicks.
"Credit to the boys, they showed some strong character," said Lincoln. "It it was a very good final – lots of football played by both teams and some real quality on show. It was fantastic all round."
Off the field of play, the boys also got to learn about the fields of battle and the players from their clubs who lost their lives during the First World War.
On Saturday evening they attended a showing of the one-man show, "Our Friends the Enemy", which recounts the remarkable story of the Christmas Truce, when troops from opposing nations stopped fighting on 25 December 1914, exchanging gifts, singing carols and playing impromptu matches of football.
All who took part whole-heartedly entered into the spirit of the tournament and the Remembrance Sunday ceremony proved to be an emotional affair. Reading's team donned special T-shirts bearing the names of the club's players who fell in battle.
As national finalists Arsenal and Man City will both take part in next month's Christmas Truce Tournament at Ypres, Belgium. On 7 and 8 December they will take on sides from the host country, Germany and France in the annual youth development competition held to honour the sacrifice made by previous generations of footballers in the First World War.
"We're very lucky that we're invited to numerous foreign tournaments but the added benefit of this is we've had to win a qualification campaign to get there," Lincoln said. "Personally and collectively, it will be a great experience and I can't wait."