UN chief scores goal for peace in football game to mark 'Christmas Truce' of 1914

An iconic game of football was played at UN Headquarters to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. UN Photo/Mark Garten

5 December 2014 – As part of commemorations of the centenary of the First World War, the United Nations Secretary-General today addressed an event at Headquarters dedicated to the 'Christmas Truce' of 1914, when a series of spontaneous ceasefires briefly held, during which soldiers on opposing sides exchanged gifts, sang carols and played an iconic game of football.

“To this day, the events of Christmas 1914 give us hope that enmities can be forgotten, and that former enemies – such as the United Kingdom and Germany – can become great allies,” Mr. Ban said. “As we reflect on the lessons of one of the deadliest conflicts in history, let us also remember some of the most glorious examples of man's humanity to man.”

The occasion recalled “quite extraordinary and un-choreographed events” when some 100,000 troops were involved in unofficial truces all along the Western Front, and featured readings from letters recording the events of 1914, carol singing and a football penalty shoot-out between the Permanent Representatives of Germany and the United Kingdom, which the Secretary-General refereed.

The Secretary-General described how the carnage of the First World War led to the birth of the League of Nations, one of the first comprehensive attempts by the international community to create a multilateral body dedicated to maintaining the peace.

“Tragically, the world found itself at war again. The United Nations rose from the ashes and next year will celebrate its 70th anniversary,” he said.

The result of the penalty shoot-out between the two delegations was a 2-2 tie.


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Archival footage and photos from WWI. Credit: European Film Gateway 1914 Project

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