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Christmas holds a special place in the history of sport

ByRuaidhri Power

Dec 6, 2017

From football in ‘No-Man’s Land’ in 1914 to Kauto Star’s record fifth George VI Cup horseracing win on Boxing Day in 2011, the festive period has been a crucial period of sport for over 100 years.

Football and War

The story of football at Christmas between German armies and Allied forces is known worldwide and conveys a powerful message that sport can unite even the most bitter of enemies.

Reports of matches in ‘No-Man’s Land’ on Christmas Day are useful in telling us about how the matches came to happen and the joy that they brought to the soldiers, yet factual evidence on the matches is scarce.

It has often been said that the first match between a German team and an English team happened on Christmas Day in 1914 when a German threw a football into ‘no-man’s land’. Rumour has it that this resulted in a 3-2 German victory, yet this is probably just a myth.

More reliable reports suggest that a match did take place near to Wulverghem and that no scores were recorded. Regardless of the facts, this story truly shows the powerful uniting force that both football and the Christmas spirit can be.

Festive Female Football

On Boxing Day in 1920, a charity football match between Dick, Kerr Ladies and St Helen’s Ladies took place at Goodison Park, resulting in a 4-0 win to Dick, Kerr Ladies.

This match reportedly attracted 53,000 spectators, far more than would have attended a men’s match at the time. Not only does this represent a remarkable achievement for the women’s game, it also highlights the importance of sport to the British public.

This has clearly continued into the modern day, as the festive period is one of the most intense and busy periods in the football calendar.

Unfortunately, the Football Association at the time were so shocked by the support that appeared for the women’s game that they subsequently banned all women’s matches from taking place at their grounds.

Nevertheless, this should still be remembered as one of the most remarkable festive sporting moments.

‘The Ghost’ of Christmas

A game between the Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Colts on Christmas Eve in 1977 produced one of the most famous and historic plays in American Football history. ‘The Ghost to the Post’ was a play that involved Dave Casper receiving a 42-yard pass that led the Oakland Raiders to a famous victory over the Baltimore Colts.

Whilst such a play is clearly a remarkable achievement in itself, the festive context of the game added to the romantic way in which it has been remembered. This example is one that shows how Christmas helps fans to enjoy their sport and is a reminder of how sport can evoke such great emotions among fans.

Christmassy Cricket

The conclusion to the Ashes in 2010 on Boxing Day was one of the most momentous moments of English sporting history. By the end of the day, Australia had been bowled all out for 98, whilst England had scored 157 runs without the loss of a wicket in a significant step towards their historic series win.

Once again, this is an achievement that would have been recognised and celebrated at any point in the year, yet the festive context of the series makes it all the more memorable for English fans, and difficult to forget for the 85,000 Australians present in Melbourne that day.

King Kauto Star

On Boxing Day in 2011, the horse Kauto Star won a record-breaking fifth King George VI race. This incredible achievement by horse and trainer typifies the excitement of festive racing, which is famously active on Boxing Day, with Christmas Day being more or less the only day in which no racing takes place in Britain.

The wealth and variety of sports and historic moments in this article clearly highlights the importance of sport to millions of people at Christmas time. Thankfully, the sporting traditions at Christmas do not look like they will be ending anytime soon.



Image Courtesy of Falling Heavens

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