Fulham’s Under-12s will take part in the Christmas Truce National Finals at St George’s Park this weekend – with the winners then taking part in next month’s Christmas Truce Tournament in Ypres.
If successful , December’s showpiece will give our young players not only the chance to test themselves against top teams from Belgium, France and Germany, but also the opportunity to learn more about the First World War and the fields of Flanders where their forefathers once fought.
In 1914 troops from the four nations sang carols, exchanged gifts and played impromptu games of football on Christmas Day.
“As a former history teacher I know only too well of the significance of Remembrance Day,” said Academy Director Huw Jennings. “This is a fantastic initiative from the Premier League, and one that gives academy footballers the opportunity to participate in a unique experience - there's more to this tournament than just football.
“I've taken school groups to visit the battlefields in the past and I don’t think anyone can fail to be moved by it. It's a privilege to be involved and remembering the lessons of the past is an important focus for us.”
Fulham will compete against Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Leeds United, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion for the chance to represent England alongside last year’s tournament winners Manchester United.
All six teams came through regional qualifiers and will face each once before the top two teams play in a final at the FA’s national football centre St George’s Park - where they will also learn about the War, the Christmas Truce and Remembrance Sunday.
There will also be a ceremony at 11am on Sunday and a two-minute silence with a child from each club reading out the names of players who died in conflict. Wreaths will also be placed around the pitch where the tournament will take place.
Jennings added: “When we go to tournaments we always try and integrate into the culture of the region that we visit and usually get involved in at least one activity. But this goes one step further than that.
“This is centred round a particular event that took place in 1914 and commemorated. It has always acted as a symbol of football too, and it highlights the game as a power for good.
“Football often takes a bit of a battering, but what we have within our compass is a tool for reaching out and bringing people together. This experience will hopefully make our boys understand the value and place of the game within the context of the past.”
The Christmas Truce Final Tournament will take place in Ypres on December 1st 2012, where players will exchange gifts, as soldiers once did during the Christmas Truce of 1914 and visit the Menin Gate – the memorial to the missing soldiers in Ypres, where each evening at 8pm The Last Post is sounded.
“To be there next month, would be a really proud moment not just for the Academy but for the Club too,” said Jennings.