The Soldier’s Game boosted morale and fought against
In 1914 football was part of daily life across Britain and like us today the First World War generation had a passion for football, a game which grew hugely in popularity in the early part of the 20th century. Football became (and still is) the ‘Soldier’s game’. It was a morale booster, and a weapon to combat the bleakness of the trenches. Back at home, many women when they weren’t busy contributing to the war effort took to the pitch in unprecedented numbers to organise and play in football matches that raised both morale and funds for wounded soldiers and for bereaved families.
Today it’s hard to imagine footballers like Harry Kane being required to swap a Spurs kit for khakis and a rifle. But thousands of players like him did just that. Almost three thousand professional footballers served during the First World War and sadly three hundred of them paid the ultimate sacrifice. Alex ‘Sandy’ Turnbull was one of them. He played for Manchester United before the war and scored the first goal at Old Trafford. He died at Arras in July 1917 leaving a widow and four children. Walter Tull, the British Army’s first mixed race officer to command white troops was formerly of Tottenham Hotspur. He died at Arras in 1918. There was Newcastle United’s Donald Bell, who had there not been a war would’ve played international football but instead he won a VC by knocking out a German machine gun post.
The list goes on and as Chairman of the Army Football Association I recognise the need to tell the story of these men to future generations. I also believe in the enduring and inclusive appeal of the Soldier’s game. Football still plays an important role