Sunday, 11 November 2018

image for WW1 would have been over more quickly without all the football armistices
Some say that football is war. But perhaps it is more accurate to say that war is football.

World War 1 is an evocative and mysterious war. The dark trenches, the stench of death, the rattle of bullets, the endless referees' whistles, the thwack of metal boot on leather, the cheeky banter of the chants.

The war was technically won by the Allies 1-0, but that was only the final knockout game of a tournament which stretched over four whole years.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was the Americans, new to the game, who provided the extra push to win after the Russians were sent home. But it was the Tommies and Jerries who started it all.

On a field in Flanders, on Christmas Eve 1914, the strains of a German carol floated over the barbed wire of no-man's land. Many of the British troops were angry. "They're opening their presents on the wrong day," some cried. "Just like the King does!" said a reply.

And then a football flew astray, and, curious, the two sides came together to play the first game in what would become a Byzantine tournament.

It was a golden era of football, a time of legendary players such as Major Barry "Goalie" Watkins, Captain Helmut Trench-Foot and the Brazilian master Subbuteo who turned up, inexplicably.

In one fiercely fought game on the Somme, English Brigadier Geoff Scoundrel shot Swiss referee Hans Neesontoze after receiving a yellow card. Scoundrel was court martialed and suspended for the rest of the season, and the game had to be replayed.

In some games, due to a shortage of men, other animals such as donkeys and scarecrows had to be used to fill the eleven. This led to the bizarre awarding of the only ever Golden Hoof award to German war-animal Stinkenarsch in February of 1916.

But still the war raged on. Soldiers complained that the war was continually interrupting their matches, and eventually managed to arrange small truces around them. It has been estimated that without all the football, the war would have been over by Christmas 1915.

So let us remember not just the dead, but all the fantastic goals, which are sadly now lost to history because nobody thought to bring a video camera.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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