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Christmas Truce: the day football stopped (for a few hours) the First World War

Christmas this year will be sad for thousands of people who will not be able to share a pleasant and happy time with their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it will not be the first time that humanity will welcome this special occasion in the midst of an adverse context.

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On 24 December 1914, the world was facing the First World War. Europe had been suffering for almost five months from this bloody and unjust conflict, which was promoted by enormous geopolitical tensions and the whims of powerful men. That Christmas Eve, British troops arrived in the Flanders (Belgium) trenches on the western front. The strange restlessness that invaded the place was accompanied by cold and snow. But as the British settled down and prepared for the next fight, the tense silence was broken.

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From the German side, carol singing began to be heard. The British soldiers looked in that direction and through the thick fog that separated the enemies, they could see a surprising image: the Germans were decorating their trenches with the few ornaments they had and had put up improvised Christmas trees. Despite the uncertainty, the British decide to join the chant. Both armies sang together all night, until the morning of December 25th.  At noon, the fog lifted and then the Germans made an incredible invitation in times like these: “Come over here, we won’t shoot you.”

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At first, only a handful of Brits answered the call, but after a while there was a large group of British and German soldiers shaking hands, chatting in English and wishing each other a merry Christmas. They exchanged drinks, cigarettes and food. Suddenly, someone appeared with a soccer ball and both sides played a game on the same field where they would be killing each other days later. They played for an hour on a slippery ground due to the ice. The conventional rules of soccer were respected, but there was no referee and the goals were not counted, the result was the least important thing. Some young people condemned to kill forgot about the war for a few hours.

This scene was repeated in other areas of the front. A spontaneous and memorable truce that was condemned by the high command, who went so far as to punish some of its participants by putting them in front of a firing squad.

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