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Truce finals give youngsters lifelong memories

12 Dec 2018

Academy players enjoy educational and football experience in Ypres with Cardiff City emerging triumphant

Academy players from Premier League clubs and across Europe came together this weekend for the seventh running of the Premier League Christmas Truce Tournament finals.

The event in Ypres, Belgium, offers a unique cultural and footballing experience to the Under-12 players at the six clubs from the UK who qualified for Ypres via Premier League national tournaments.

The boys learnt about the First World War on the land where it was fought as well as tested themselves against the best young players from France, Belgium and Germany.

'Fantastic experience'

"It is a fantastic opportunity for them to play against foreign teams," said Ash Higgins, lead foundation coach at Burnley.

"All different cultures are coming together for young children to play football and it's fantastic for them to be a part of that and gain those experiences." 

The boys visited the Commonwealth cemeteries and attended the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate to commemorate those who lost their lives in battle.

Cultural exchange

They also spent an evening exchanging gifts and experiences with their counterparts from Europe in the spirit of the Christmas Truce that took place on 25 December 1914. 

"The Christmas Truce was a significant moment in the First World War," explained the Premier League's head of education Martyn Heather, who organised the finals.

"Soldiers from both sides came out the trenches and exchanged gifts and played football. It’s something that football recognises as a really poignant act."

2018 PL Christmas Truce Tournament
In the spirit of the 1914 Christmas Truce, the boys from the different countries exchanged gifts

The boys also learnt on the pitch as well.

"It's good for the boys to have that different experience," said Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-11/12 lead coach Dan Watson.

"Not to be able to understand what the opposition are saying and having to read what they are seeing as opposed to what they are hearing from the coach on the opposite side."

Inspirational location

After two tough days of competition, Sunderland and Cardiff City reached the final, with the Welsh side lifting the trophy after a penalty shootout.

2018 PL Christmas Truce Tournament
The Truce final was played out between Sunderland and Cardiff City

"It's a very inspirational place and we tried to use that in our performances and continue to do what we have been doing all season and working really hard," said Cardiff academy coach Ben Adams.

For all who went to Ypres, the impact of the tournament will be felt for many years to come.

"They are definitely going to remember this experience," said Watford academy head of education Nathan Marshall.

"It will have a lifelong effect on these young men and have memories that they will take and share with their children and their children's children."

Participating teams
Arsenal Anderlecht
Burnley Club Brugge
Cardiff City Lens
Sunderland Lille
Watford Cologne
Wolves Hertha Berlin


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