Monday, 27 December 2010

Football and Rugby remember those who gave their lives for their country

The media - both TV and papers still like to portray Rugby Union as a sport with slightly more class than football. Seeming to forget that both sports are now professional, every time a football ref is harangued by football players the media quickly reminds everyone that it 'would not happen in rugby!'

This image of Rugby Union as a more respectable sport, more patriotic and so on has existed for many years, since the Public Schools dropped football with the accusation that football had been unpatriotic by not stopping fixtures as soon as World War One started. This myth still continues as does the modern myth that football has much to learn from Rugby. What is not often mentioned is 'bloodgate', sponsorship on the England Rugby Union shirt, and Twickenham over priced and aimed at the corporate market.

But it is the role of football in World War One where the myth is totally unjust. It is true that Rugby Union has been better at remembering those who gave their lives for their country, even as recent as this year, Ipswich Rugby FC held a remembrance day at their Humber Doucy Ground and included a wreath laying and matches between the junior sides of Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

But Football should also be proud of those who both played football and then went onto play their part in a much more formidable battle.

This year in Longueval, France saw a memorial unveiled to commemorate those footballers who lost their lives in World War One, in particular those of the 17th and 23rd Middlesex Battalions, known as the Footballers' Battalions. The memorial was payed for by contributions by both the PFA and the Football League.
In Edinburgh it is possible within one mile to see that both Rugby Union and Football lost many young men in the service of their country.

At Murrayfield the home of Rugby Union you will find a memorial gate to those who lost their lives in the Great War but currently you have to look a bit harder for a memorial to those who played football and then lost their lives in both World Wars.
As you walk to Murrayfield from the City Centre, you pass the Haymarket, a busy road junction, that is currently part junction/part building site but in the middle of the junction, pinned on the safety fences were a number of poppy wreaths. the reason why is that up to 2008 the Haymarket junction was the location of a Clock Tower that was built in 1922 as memorial to those who had lost their lives in the Great war, but in particular those who had either played for Hearts FC or their supporters. As with the Middlesex Regiment in Scotland a regiment of footballers had been formed, The Sir George McCrae Battalion of the Royal Scots, 11 members of the Hearts Football club joined this regiment on the day it was formed and four of them would not return from France.

Edinburgh is currently re-introducing trams to the city and this meant that the Haymarket junction would have to be redesigned. There was talk of moving the clock to either Tynecastle or to Atholl Crescent, but a public outcry has meant that the Clock will return to the Haymarket, in a new location, outside Ryrie's Bar. On Remembrance Day, wreath laying is held at the site of the Tower and is attended by the Hearts players and their supporters as well as representatives of other clubs.

Every year now we have a number of clubs wear a special poppy shirt, and who will forget the silence-0 followed by applause when the 'Last Post' was played at Portman Road in November before a game by a bugler from the Royal Hospital school. It is right that sport should help remember those are currently serving in the Armed Forces and those who lost their lives, but it also as important to remember those from sport who also paid the ultimate sacrifice and both Football and Rugby Union (plus many other sports) lost many gifted sportsman in both wars.

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