One-hundred years ago, on the Western Front during World War I, soldiers emerged from their trenches in what can only be termed a Christmas miracle. German and British soldiers, hardened by five months of fighting, entered No Man’s Land not in the spirit of war, but for a moment of peace, cooperation, and… sports!
Yes, as German and British soldiers across the Western Front organized an unofficial truce in order to wish each other a Merry Christmas. They traded food, clothes, whatever they had on them, and took time to talk to the other side. Then, they began playing. The most famous of these games is believed to be a football game between the Lancashire Fusiliers, a British infantry regiment, and their German counterparts, on the northern French coast. While the soldiers did not have a football to kick around, they did have an empty rationed beef tin.
And so the they took to the pitch. Young men from opposing trenches, who the day before were shooting at each other, put down their weapons to enjoy playing a game they all loved. The final score: a 3-2 victory for the Lancashire Fusiliers. However, on this day, all the soldiers were victors as they had the chance to get away from the horrors of war and enjoy good times and good cheer with one another.
The ability of sports to take people away from conflict, create oases of peace, and transcend divides, whether they be trenches, borders, or nationalities, is truly amazing. At PeacePlayers, we work everyday to provide these opportunities to all our program participants. That is why throughout this month, each PeacePlayers International program will link up to the global commemoration of the Christmas Truce by showing how it is an example of the power of sport to transform lives. In addition, we will be posting across social media using #ChristmasTruce, and we encourage everyone to do the same in solidarity with efforts to raise awareness of this special day.
Already, other organizations have made efforts to showcase the Christmas Truce. This past week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon joined British and German ambassadors on the lawn of the UN headquarters in New York City for a penalty shoot in honor of the Christmas Truce. How will you you honor the Christmas Truce? Show us.