Earlier this December, our Academy Under-12 side headed out to Belgium to combine football and education about the First World War.
The annual Christmas Truce Tournament allowed the boys to meet some international opposition on the playing field, and their activities for the rest of their time in Belgium helped them to understand the sacrifices that previous generations made on the battlefield.
Their excursions in Ypres included visiting cemeteries of those who fell the First World War – a powerful, moving and humbling experience, but one which adds to the holistic learning experience that our Academy provides for these young men.
It was a packed schedule, beginning on a Friday morning and ending back at Hogwood on a Sunday evening – packed with eye-opening experiences, including a trip to the Menin Gate where the youngsters paid their respects in the Last Post ceremony and laid a commemorative wreath.
The boys and staff also went to Langermarck German Military ceremony, Tyne Cot, Perth Cemetery (China Wall) and Ace of Diamonds, where the boys tasted trench food and were given a marching lesson, Your Country Needs YOU, and a field-gun masterclass by Sgt Dickie.
Last on the excursions was the site of the Christmas Truce at Ploegsteert Wood, where they had their picture taken where the first truce was had by the Germans and British soldiers and where UEFA have erected a memorial to the football match which took place in no man’s land.
On the Sunday morning, they played in a Christmas Truce Tournament at Westhoek against teams from Belgium and France in a round robin. Another learning curve for the boys to play against Lille OSC and Westhoek before returning to the UK for departure from Hogwood that evening.
The boys and staff took a lot on board over the weekend – and in their roles as ambassadors of the club, the U12s paid their respects to Pte James Comrie and Pte Jack Huggins, who are commemorated at the Menin Gate and China Wall respectively.
A trip that was about more than just football – a humbling experience for everyone this Christmas.