Chelsea U12s win Truce Tournament as clubs join together to mark WW1
Written by Simon Austin — December 11, 2023
CHELSEA’S Under-12s won the annual Christmas Truce Tournament for the third straight time as clubs from England, Germany, Belgium and France came together for a flagship commemorative event.
The tournament is the culmination of a week of activities to mark the 1914 Christmas Day Truce, in which Allied and German Forces stopped fighting on Christmas Day to exchange gifts and play a game of football in no-man’s land.
Children from a number of English Academies had a residential trip to the Belgian town of Ypres, close to the site of the famous 1914 football match. They visited a Belgian War Museum, battlefields where fighting had taken place and watched re-enactments of what soldiers had experienced.
A selection of the clubs presented educational projects they had completed about the war and also took a short walk to the Menin Gate memorial for a 'last post' ceremony.
The tournament was held at KVK Westhoek’s Crack Stadion in Ypres and featured eight English teams - Manchester United, West Brom, Liverpool, Norwich City, Chelsea, Brighton, Wolves and Sheffield United - as well as four from overseas - Genk, Club Brugge, Eintracht Frankfurt and Lyon.
In the final, Chelsea (pictured above) beat Sheffield United 1-0. This was the 12th edition of the Christmas Truce project, which was launched under former Premier League Director of Youth Ged Roddy.
This year there was a particular focus on Walter Tull, who had played for Tottenham and Northampton Town before becoming the first officer of black heritage to serve in the British infantry. He died in the Battle of the Somme in 1918 and was recommended for the military cross.
HISTORY OF THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE PROJECT
The Christmas Truce Project was launched under former Premier League Head of Youth Ged Roddy MBE.
He told TGG: “We were looking for ideas to develop the games programme, because we needed better opportunities to play top teams in Europe. We also wanted to develop events that would have a wider educational and cultural impact, enhancing the overall experience for players in Academy football.
“I knew about Ypres from my Grandad, who had been stationed there in World War One and used to talk to me and my brother about the town. I approached Manchester United about the idea and they were brilliant and jumped on board.
"True to the club’s pioneering spirit, they were the first English club to embrace the opportunity and engage in the Christmas Truce Project. Those first steps were taken under the astute guidance of Brian McClair and Tony Whelan, who both understood the power of Manchester United’s history to help educate, shape lives and develop positive cultures for the next generation of players.
“We then set about inviting clubs from Belgium, France and Germany and based the competition out of Westhoek FC, the local club in Ypres. The guy who did a huge amount of leg work to get the whole thing moving was Tim Kirk, who worked at the Premier at the time and is now a coach developer at Stuttgart.
"Credit must also go to Martyn Heather (the former Head of Education and Welfare at the Premier League). Once we got some momentum the Mayor of Ypres jumped on board and things snowballed from there.
"We eventually agreed to build a 3G pitch at Westhoek to secure the viability of the event long term and Richard Scudamore formally opened it to coincide with the commemorations of World War One.
“We even collaborated with the Farm one year to reproduce their hit 'All Together Now', with kids from the clubs singing on it. Sadly, we didn’t get anywhere near the Christmas number one, but it was all part of raising awareness and building a cultural programme around the football.
“It’s great to see how this project has grown over the years and now engages so many clubs and young people in England, Germany, Belgium and France.”