A Co Antrim football team formed by veterans of the Great War will commemorate the centenary of the famous Christmas truce in the trenches – by taking part in a goodwill match against a team from Germany.
The story of soldiers leaving their trenches to fraternise and play football on December 24, 1914 is one of the most heart-warming tales in the history of the First World War.
Irish League Championship side Ballyclare Comrades came into being when three survivors decided a local football team would help lift the spirits of their war weary former brothers in arms.
All three were members of the Comrades Association and, just three months after the signing of the 1918 Armistice, a team made up of 12th Royal Irish Rifles veterans was born. Almost all would have endured the carnage of battles such as the Somme and other horrors.
Later this month a number of players from Dorsten – a town on the edge of the Rhineland region – will travel to Ballyclare for the poignant match at the club’s Dixon Park.
Presbyterian minister the Rev Robert Bell had the original idea, which has been developed to include an on-pitch musical performance by the Ballyclare Male Choir, and a solo performance from Eugene O’Hagan of The Priests singing group.
In a re-enactment of the carol singing which led to the impromtu outbreak of goodwill in 1914, Fr O’Hagan will sing the first verse of Silent Night in German.
Rev Bell said: “I want to use the event to get people to think about what Christmas means, whether it’s 1914 or 2014.
“There will be a Christian flavour running through the whole event. The Sports Chaplaincy organisation in the UK had flagged up this anniversary to churches, and of all the clubs in the UK Ballyclare Comrades should not miss this because of their origins.”
The commemoration will take place on Saturday, December 20 between 2pm and 4pm.