On December 25, 1914, World War I stopped for a football game. They called it the Christmas Truce (and Duarte Gomes sees hope in it)

Fighters scattered on the western line are said to have played “friendly matches” with those on the opposite barricade. Friendly matches played in no-man’s-land, which is like saying on neutral ground. Between the trenches of some and the trenches of others

There are reports that on December 25, 1914 (precisely 106 years ago), several football matches were played between enemy lines, in what was the first major pause in one of the most bloody and brutal confrontations that man had on a global scale.

We were in the middle of World War I.

Although on that day there were records of the deaths of hundreds of English soldiers (in the trenches of France and Flanders), the truth is that football worked there as a kind of pause button. Messenger of peace.

“It is important that we never forget these examples. They make us believe that nothing is impossible because humanity, all humanity, speaks the same language and responds to the same impulses, feelings and appeals. Sport is one of the ones that most contributed to add them”.

The story refers to that rare and unique moment as “The Christmas truce”.

Fighters scattered on the western line are said to have played “friendly matches” with those on the opposite barricade. Friendly matches played in no-man’s-land, which is like saying on neutral ground. Between the trenches of some and the trenches of others.

It is important to bear in mind that, at that time, almost all healthy adults (and others) were required by their countries to be in the first line of combat. Many of them were football players at the time.

Herbert Smart (then Aston Villa’s spearhead in the service of the British army) said he had walked across to exchange cigarettes for cigars with a German soldier. He learned that he spoke English well because before the war started he worked as a waiter in a London restaurant. And he also learned that he and most of his companions did not want to be there, fighting. They were afraid to die. They wanted everything to end quickly, to get back to their lives, with their families. He said that the handshake, as a farewell, was emotional. Both knew that they would never see each other again and that, a few hours later, they would be back on the battlefield to confront each other as enemies. Enemies who, hours before, talked like friends.

This little piece of history illustrates the healing power that sport has.

It was like that, with the truce decreed by the Olympic Games of Antiquity, with Jesse Owens (who defied the Nazi ideology by winning in Berlin), with the message sent by Mandela through the brilliant selection of South African rugby and with hundreds of others examples from various moments in history. From all sides.

It is important that we never forget these examples. They make us believe that nothing is impossible because humanity, all humanity, speaks the same language and responds to the same impulses, feelings and appeals. Sport is one of the ones that most contributed to add them.

To make it a battlefield is to betray the memory and honour of all those who, in 1914, realized that it was the exact opposite. If we don’t learn from the present, we learn from the past.

I wish you a very happy Christmas, full of special moments and with those who are most important.

 


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