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Academy boys remember war heroes in Truce Tournament

23 Dec 2019
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Six English Under-12 sides experience an educational trip to Ypres, the Belgian town where soldiers fought in the First World War

Six English academy teams competed against six European sides on the pitch and learned about the sacrifices of soldiers in the First World War with a recent trip to Ypres, Belgium. 

The Under-12s from Burnley, Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Stoke City and Watford joined Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Hertha Berlin, Cologne, Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain at the annual Premier League Christmas Truce Tournament.

The annual tournament is an educational experience for boys from England, Belgium, Germany and France. It takes place in the town of Ypres, where soldiers from those countries fought over a century ago but laid down their weapons to play football in a Christmas Day Truce in 1914.

"The Truce Tournament is a great opportunity for us to combine an education programme with a first-class football event," Martyn Heather, the Premier League's Head of Education & Welfare, said. "It's very important in what we try to do with our young players in terms of developing them both on and off the pitch.

"The education programme is really an opportunity for them to learn about the sort of history they've got with the other countries that are here, but also to learn some of the lessons from the Christmas Truce.

"The truce was a great event in history where, amidst the horrors of the First World War, there was humanity and the players showed friendship."

'Overwhelming' Menin Gate experience

This year's Tournament weekend started with a day of education, in which the players visited trenches, cemeteries and museums, before trying on the soldiers' gear from a century ago and then taking part in The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

The boys laid wreaths and one player, Gabe, from Middlesbrough, read out a poem to begin the ceremony.

"It was really overwhelming because you'd never dream of doing anything like that and to represent all those people who have fought and lost their lives is just extraordinary," Gabe said.

Then the boys had two days of top-quality competition on the pitch, with Anderlecht beating Man City in the final to win the Truce Tournament trophy.

Jonny, a Watford player, said he learned a lot from seeing all the different things from the war. "It was quite emotional going to all the cemeteries because they fought for us and our freedom, so it's important that we remember them," he said.

Michael Kamara, Under-12s lead coach at Crystal Palace, stressed that the trip will have had a big impact on his players on and off the pitch.

"They get a great experience to come out here and hopefully it stays with them for ever," he said. 

Tomorrow Burnley's unforgettable educational experience in Ypres

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