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100 Years Ago, Christmas And Soccer Stopped WWI

On the Eve of Christmas in 1914, an unofficial ceasefire went out across the western front of World War I. Across nearly 400 miles of trenches, men from opposing sides decided to stop fighting, choosing instead to socialize with the very men they would soon again have to try to conquer and, perhaps, kill. They bartered, shared stories, and played football. In honor of the games that they played 100 years ago, UEFA has made a commemoratory video.  

“Football, then and now, bringing people together.” That is the message that UEFA chose to end their tribute with, and they couldn’t have picked a better set of words. We cannot imagine what it was like to be on the front lines of World War I, what it was like to live and fight in the trenches, but we can appreciate that through all the horror, hardship, and animosity between factions that those conditions created, football eventually brought everyone together. If only for a short time. 

Because UEFA has disabled embedding, you can watch the video here.

“We played the same game, liked the same beer, tread the same ground, under the uniforms we’re all the same.” Those words, spoken by Sir Bobby Charlton, are supposedly taken from the letter of a soldier that took part in the truce that Christmas Eve. 

In the comfort of most of our current lives, it is easy for us to believe that a soldier could think of such an altruistic existential thought. He was human, he obviously had a soul, why shouldn’t he be able to think of something so elegantly touching?

This is why:

Nobody would have had a second thought if the truce that Christmas Eve suddenly turned into a bloody coup. It would have been thought of as nothing but another manifestation of the cruel nature of life. But it didn’t. After all of the fighting and loss and hatred, the fact that these soldiers were able to rediscover their humanity and socialize with the enemy is nothing less than extraordinary. 

These men played a game of soccer in the middle of a world war. The men that they were passing to, or tackling, or scoring on, would very well be the person that kills them in the next day or week. 

Football might be just a game, but moments in history like this show that sometimes doing something as meaningless as kicking a ball can change how you look at someone. All it takes is a conscious effort to try. 

This holiday season, as we reunite with those we have been longing to see, and those that we could have done without, we should all remember that whatever qualms we have look rather shallow in the face of happened on Christmas Eve 100 years ago. So make an effort to be cheerful, it just may be the best thing you do.  

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