After the start of the First World War, different events and gaming activities had to be stopped in different parts of Europe. For example, the onset of this major global upheaval forced sporting organizations to suspend matches.
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This new development affected the experiences and outcomes of many players. Several clubs and associations were unable to pursue their aims during that time. Despite such negative influences, soccer remained a unifying factor throughout the war period and influenced a wide range of sociological and political aspects at the macro level. It helped redefine the concepts of humanity and unity despite the hostilities that existed between different nations. The purpose of this essay is to describe how soccer influenced or affected the political and sociological attributes associated with this war.
On 4th August 1914, war was declared in Europe that would eventually become a major global upheaval attracting armies from different continents, including America and Asia. Immediately after the onset of this conflict, many cricket associations across Europe chose to cancel all organized or planned matches. Fortunately, different decisions were considered by the Football Association (FA) in Britain.
Other soccer associations in this region were also expected to follow the example set by cricket teams. Serb reveals that soccer matches for the Football League continued for the entire 1914-1915 season (21). However, the events and descriptions associated with the ongoing war forced all stakeholders to consider suspending the normal or major league programs. However, many clubs in Europe were empowered or allowed to continue organizing regional contests and competitive matches amongst themselves.
During this period, many footballers and athletes were tempted or encouraged to join the militaries of their respective countries and become part of the ongoing war. With some of the professional players deciding to serve in the army, competitive matches couldn’t take place. Throughout this war, soccer became a powerful tool that continued to revolutionize people’s thoughts, attitudes towards the situation, and expectations. Nonetheless, soccer continued to reshape the future of this upheaval by encouraging fighters to relate positively with one another, interact effectively, and focus on the most appropriate approaches to support the missions or goals of their respective countries.
Soccer and the Famous Christmas Truce
In December 2014, several unofficial matches were held on the Western Front by British, French, and German troops. These events were possible since the fighting nations agreed to unofficial cessations of hostilities during the Christmas of the same year (Holder 79). With this kind of situation, different armies were empowered or willing to play soccer. One outstanding football game was the one played between the German and British fighters (McDaniel 93). On Christmas eve of 1914, German and Allied troops stepped out of their war trenches to kick a football at a time when the level of hostility was quite high. With football having become a favorite form of exercise, hobby, or profession for many people in Europe, these enemies had a reason to come together and share a moment of unity.
Since the main protagonists during this war were the Germans and the Britons, the idea of playing soccer contributed significantly to this famous Christmas truce. With everyone being eager to be part of the celebration, an unofficial cessation of fighting emerged between these enemies and their respective allies. The staged matches would encourage these soldiers to collaborate and share a common aim. Some analysts and researchers have gone to identify Christianity as a common factor that played a significant role in bringing these soldiers together (Holder 53).
With many people willing to be part of this physical exercise and the presence of shared religious views, it became possible for them to focus on soccer, thereby creating the best environment for the Christmas truce football match between the German and British troops during this time of war.
Christmas Truce: Sport and Humanity
The Christmas truce football matches have become some of the widely shared or known events of this infamous war. The scene should have been spectacular since many soldiers emerged from their respective trenches to shake hands, fraternize, and engage in a common physical activity in the name of soccer. This kind of occurrence has been studied widely as an outstanding symbol of humanity. The concepts associated with John Locke and Thomas Hobbes view people as intelligent creatures that are capable of establishing peace while at the same time holding on to their ideals or notions of the war (Crocker 37).
This short reprieve in the form of soccer matches indicates clearly that people are capable of connecting and pursuing their aims as an integral part of humanity. Despite being foes at the time, these troops chose to collaborate and engage in an exercise that appeared more rewarding and convenient to them at the time.
The occurrence of this truce is attributable to the role and effectiveness of soccer in any society. Since Europe had been brought together by this sporting event before the onset of the war, the troops were quite aware of its ability to bring them together and compete in a friendly manner. With football being the contributing factor or facilitator of this Christmas truce, it is agreeable that it reflects the outstanding connection between humanity and sport.
For many centuries, various activities have been observed to bring people together despite their diversities or differences (Holder 76). When people engage in sporting activities, chances are high that they will reveal their humanistic features. It also stands out as a unique or powerful tool for bringing more people together and encouraging them to pursue peace whenever necessary.
This kind of development reveals that soccer contributed significantly to the sociological aspects of the people at the time. Despite their significant differences during the time of this war, these soldiers chose to come together and interact as part of humanity. These issues would later become powerful attributes for encouraging more people to focus on a unified world that collaborated to overcome existing differences and promote global peace (Crocker 72). This discussion indicates that the Christmas truce is a true reflection of the connection between humanity and sport. Future populations will consider this relationship in an attempt to pursue their commonalities as part of God’s creation.
During the time, soccer became a unifying factor whereby many soldiers put their ranks and positions aside and focus on a common aim. Those who were not part of such sporting contests played the role of spectators. Combined with other sporting activities, soccer became the best opportunity for soldiers to improve their leadership and communication skills (Crocker 82). They were also empowered to forge links or positive relationships with other men with diverse backgrounds. The occurrences were instrumental in setting the stage for the Christmas truce and encouraging more soldiers to focus on their naturalness as part of the wider humanity.
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Soccer and the Recruitment of Soldiers
From 1914, many countries in Europe did not end or stop football competitions. Using the example of Britain, Crocker indicates that those in top leadership targeted this area to get additional soldiers who could become part of the ongoing war (89). During the first year of this conflict, many matches were held in different parts of the country. A new approach was considered whereby individuals with placards and posters could be paraded at the sporting fields and arenas.
They also distributed cards and pamphlets that encouraged both players and supporters to become part of this war. During halftimes, famous or prominent leaders cold address the fans and encourage them to become part of the army. Although the response from the targeted individuals was quite unpromising, the British army managed to recruit around 478,000 soldiers within a month after the onset of the war (Holder 59). However, the same approach was pursued for more months in an attempt to establish stronger battalions and regiments.
While in France, the majority of these recruits were observed to engage in impromptu soccer matches. Such informal contests continued to become popular among the soldiers. The result was that more citizens and professional footballers were willing to enlist and become part of the army (Crocker 102). These individuals considered such sporting activities as essential since they made it easier for them to overcome stress, collaborate, and unwind after spending many days in their trenches.
Since soccer was known to have many followers and fans, the opportunity was right for different leaders to target citizens who supported different clubs and teams in Britain and across Europe. Those involved employed a unique form of propaganda whereby potential recruits were informed about the achievements of their fellow sportsmen. The emerging or popularized notion was that all the soldiers deployed in different regions to fight the enemy were good sportsmen. This kind of propaganda was aimed at encouraging more footballers and athletes to become part of this agenda and enlist as soldiers (Coates 218). Fans and local citizens were also primary targets since they were capable of providing appropriate services throughout the war period.
The works and appeals by Arthur Doyle stand out as a powerful initiative aimed at encouraging more people to join the ongoing war effort. Through his writings, Doyle informed and guided footballers to volunteer and support Britain’s military aims. Those in leadership positions went further to establish a unique Football Battalion in Middlesex. With this kind of strategy, over 2,000 professional players were convinced to become part of the story by joining the military (Holder 79).
Another battalion was established in Edinburgh to encourage more soccer players to enlist. A good example was the 16th Royal Scots that was comprised of prominent players from different Scottish football clubs, such as Raith Rovers, Hibernian, and Hearts (Holder 64). With this kind of initiative, the country was able to recruit around 1300 soldiers within less than a week. This means that soccer was an appropriate tool for recruiting more people to join the military.
Some famous footballers received decorations and medals for their contributions during the ongoing upheaval. Some of the outstanding ones included Tim Coleman, Jimmy Speirs, and Bernard Vann (Holder 82). After the end of the war, the majority of the soldiers were recognized and honored to ensure that more footballers could become part of the military in the future. From this analysis, it is agreeable that soccer remained a meaningful tool for supporting the success of this conflict.
Soccer and Performance on the Battleground
To a very big extent, soccer was instrumental in helping soldiers perform positively on the battleground and deliver the intended results. Coates indicates that football and other sporting activities remained essential elements of the First World War (217). After helping and empowering commanders and military leaders to recruit additional soldiers to join the war effort, soccer remained a powerful tool for encouraging more men to interact with one another and acquire additional skills.
For example, those who played amongst themselves managed to develop superior communication abilities. They identified additional approaches to solve problems and overcome their differences. This achievement made it possible for them to share ideas and pursue their aims diligently. This means that more men were willing to focus on the wider picture and fight to deliver victory to the country.
Many soldiers pursued soccer as the best form of hobby throughout the war period. This practice made it easier for them to improve or boost their morale. They were willing to establish unofficial teams and consider the best approaches to achieve their potential. The emerging ideas encouraged them to collaborate and be ready to help one another. Such initiatives made it possible for them to perform effectively on different battlegrounds (Coates 218). These attributes or practices explain why Britain was able to triumph throughout the war period.
The nature of the operations and intended goals forced major soldiers to stay in the trenches for prolonged hours. This kind of warfare was quite discouraging and capable of affecting their goals. With the power and freedom to play soccer, most of these soldiers were able to exercise, thereby being able to stay physically fit. They could stretch, laugh, and interact with one another whenever there was an opportunity to do so (Holder 48). These practices made it possible for them to perform effectively and deliver positive results. This observation explains why football and other sporting events remained relevant throughout this turmoil.
When people engage in different exercises, chances are high that they will become mentally alert and be in a position to focus on their primary aims. Throughout the war, British soldiers and those from other countries played soccer as the best exercise for improving their mental capabilities. Consequently, they found it easier to work together and target their common enemies (Holder 51). This practice made it possible for them to overcome stress and minimize the chances of depression. Those who were not willing to play became spectators and shouted, thereby becoming more alert. In the end, these soldiers managed to record positive results.
Since they had left their family members and friends behind, soccer became a unifying factor that brought many soldiers together. They could use such exercises as a way of sharing stories and experiences. They could also establish new friendships and focus on their common goals. These developments encouraged them to feel more at home than ever before. They were able to offer support and empowerment to each other, thereby being in a position to achieve their aims. From a sociological perspective, these individuals managed to get rid of loneliness or any form of homesickness (Serb 62). Consequently, they established their unique societies with shared values and common goals. These achievements eventually made it possible for them to emerge victoriously.
From the above discussions, it is evident that soccer transformed the sociological attributes of the people during the period of the Great War. German and British troops found themselves united by a single ball that would eventually result in the famous Christmas truce of 1914. Many historians have been analyzing and studying this occurrence as a symbol of the connection between humanity and sport (McDaniel 97).
Many footballers were encouraged to join the ongoing war effort and support the missions of their respective states. With the increasing number of footballers in different battalions, the stage had been set for soldiers to pursue soccer as the best exercise for keeping physically fit and improving their mental alertness. They got a new opportunity to escape the challenges and pains associated with trench warfare and get something new to smile about.
With such gains and achievements, the level of morale increased significantly while at the time minimizing burnout and stress. Many soldiers were willing or empowered to perform efficiently on their respective battlefields. Soccer became a unifying factor since many soldiers with diverse backgrounds had been recruited during the time. They managed to develop superior skills and competencies that continued to guide and empower them to pursue their interests.
With this kind of teamwork, leadership, and effort, the soldiers found it easier to fight in their battlegrounds and focus on the common enemy. Serb acknowledges that the success of the British soldiers during this war can be attributed to these soldiers’ decision to engage in soccer (46). The decisions of different commanders to promote this kind of exercise are worth noting since they played a significant role in supporting the war effort and delivering the intended results.
The above discussion has revealed that soccer had significant impacts or influences on the political and sociological aspects of the Great War. Being a favorite pastime for many citizens and professional athletes, different governments considered it as one of the best tools for encouraging more people to enlist and become part of the ongoing war effort. Within less than three months, thousands of soldiers had been encouraged to join the military and continue to support the outlined goals.
The occurrence of the famous Christmas truce became a new opportunity for these opposing sides to play soccer matches and show the world that humanity and unity were critical attributes that define human beings. With these ideas, more soldiers continued to play soccer to keep fit and overcome stress. The final result was that they performed effectively on their respective battlegrounds and eventually delivered the anticipated victory. With such developments, many leaders world continue to consider the importance of soccer as a unifying factor that was capable of presenting positive outcomes after the onset of the Second World War in 1939.
Coates, Dennis C. “Weaponization of Sports: The Battle for World Influence through Sporting Success.” The Independent Review, vol. 22, no. 2, 2017, pp. 215-221.
Crocker, Terri B. The Christmas Truce: Myth, Memory, and the First World War. The University Press of Kentucky, 2015.
Holder, James. The Great War’s Sporting Casualties. YouCaxton Publications, 2018.
McDaniel, Kathryn N. “Commemorating the Christmas Truce: A Critical Thinking Approach for Popular History.”The History Teacher, vol. 49, no. 1, 2015, 89-100.
Serb, Chris. War Football: World War I and the Birth of the NFL. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.