Friday 08 November 2013
The Premier League’s latest National Christmas Truce Tournament will take place this weekend at St George’s Park with more emphasis than ever on educating the Under-12s who attend on the legacy of war.
Competing for two places at the 2013 Christmas Truce tournament in Ypres next month will be six teams: Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City, Reading, Stoke City and West Ham United. These six came through regional qualifiers and, as part of the goal of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan to give such youngsters experience of playing against the best counterparts in the country, each will face each other in 9 v 9 matches, with the top two qualifying for Ypres.
"It shows the Premier League’s commitment to giving them the chance to become well-rounded individuals"
As with past tournaments, while there is importance attached to what the boys will gain on the pitch, this year there will be greater emphasis on the learning of history for the six teams involved. For the first time, the teams in the national finals will conduct research about how their clubs were affected by the First World War and the players who lost their lives in it.
On the Saturday evening, after the first day of matches, the teams will also take part in an educational session featuring "Our Friends the Enemy", a solo show which captures the remarkable story of the Christmas Truce, when troops from those countries in the trenches stopped fighting, went into no man's land and exchanged gifts, sang carols and played impromptu matches of football on 25 December, 1914. The show has been adapted for schools since it made a successful debut at the Edinburgh Festival.
"The extra emphasis that we are putting on the educational aspect of the tournament, with the research and the show, is a demonstration of the Premier League's commitment to providing these children, as with all the young players at our academies, the opportunity to become well-rounded individuals, not just good players," Martyn Heather, the Premier League Head of Education, said.
As in previous tournaments held over the Remembrance Weekend, on Sunday the competition will stop for the teams to attend a ceremony to honour those who lost their lives in conflict. As well as having the poem "In Flanders Field" read out (see below) and The Last Post played, one player from each team will read out the names of those from the club who died as a result of the First World War, while another will lay a wreath.
The matches will then resume with clubs vying to emulate West Bromwich Albion, who won the tournament last year.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.