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Christmas Truce remembered

December 24, 2014

Exactly 100 years since German and British troops laid down their weapons to play football together, soldiers from both countries have commemorated the event with a match in Kabul. The friendly ended 3-0 to the British.

Germany play Britain in Kabul
Image: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Despite being on a different continent as well as in a different century, Wednesday's match marked a poignant moment in the history of the First World War.

On Christmas Eve troops gathered on grounds of the NATO-led coalition headquarters in a protected area of the Afghan capital.

"Back then we were enemies in a bloody war ... Today we are coalition partners and close friends, fighting together on the same side on the combat zone again. The message it sends it that peace is possible when we want it," said Colonel Graefe, a military advisor in Kabul.


The cup was provided by the ambassador of Germany to Afghanistan, Markus Potzel, who himself was a football player in his teens until a knee surgery ended his career.

"It is a commemoration of the match between England and Germany - soldiers playing football, instead of waging war against each other," said Potzel.

"Sports and sportsmanship can overcome all borders, and can overcome everything that separates people," said German General Carsten Jacobson, the deputy commander of the coalition.

British troops wave the British flag
The British troops beat Germany 3-0Image: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Carol singing

Like the troops who called the Christmas Truce on the Western Front a century ago, a NATO soldier also played Stille Nacht, or Silent Night, on his violin, with the troops singing along in German and English.

Some 200 troops from different countries, including Sweden, Pakistan and the US were also in attendance in their battle fatigues.

Mid-way through the Christmas Eve match, however, play was postponed after a Black Hawk helicopter had to land on the make-shift pitch. On board was US Senator John McCain who was visiting American troops for Christmas.

The match highlighted, however, that despite the commemorated truce of 1914, in Afghanistan peace is anything but in sight.

'Extraordinary sight'

Wednesday's match also coincided with the release of a letter by the British postal service, Royal Mail. The letter, written by British solider Captain A. D. Charter, recalls the moment that two German soldiers climbed out of their trenches in 1914, waving their arms.

Sculpture "All Together Now" in Liverpool
All Together Now: a statue in Liverpool commemorates the 1914 Christmas TruceImage: REUTERS/Phil Noble

"I think I have seen today one of the most extraordinary sights that anyone has ever seen," Captain A D Chater wrote.

"We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles ... in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas."

Following the Christmas Truce in 1914, combat resumed until November 1, 1918 by which time more than million had died in combat. Some 7 million civilians were also killed as a result of the First World War.

ksb/sb (Reuters, dpa)