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Premier League donates football pitch to Ypres team

11:35 10/12/2013
The Premier League in England plans to build a state-of-the-art football pitch in Ypres, West Flanders, as a donation to the centenary commemorations of the First World War, the British Foreign Office has announced. The League has signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Ypres and with local football club KVK Westhoek to complete the pitch by November of next year.

In December of 2014, the new pitch will be inaugurated with an International Christmas Truce tournament, marking the centenary of the many unofficial cease-fires that took place around Christmas 1914 between German and British soldiers. The period is famous for seeing the mingling of the two sides, who sang holiday songs, shared food and – most famously – played football in No Man’s Land (pictured). The Premier League already stages an annual Christmas Truce tournament in Ypres.

At other times, the pitch will be available for school, youth and community teams from England and Wales and to other sport and football clubs from across Europe.

“This new 3G pitch represents a fantastic opportunity to continue the messages of peace and understanding associated with the original Christmas Truce match of 1914,” said Ged Roddy, youth director of the Premier League. “It will also provide a high quality football facility for young people, linking the history of what happened in Ypres to their education. This will help those visiting from England and Wales to enjoy their trip and to understand football’s place in the history of the First World War. It will also help the Premier League and the City of Ypres to further build relationships with other communities and organisations across Europe for many years to come.”

“In the whole of our First World War centenary, the opening of this Premier League pitch will be one of our most high profile events,” said Ypres mayor Jan Durnez. “This is an important development for the city because of the impact it will have on young people both today and tomorrow. It will be up to future generations to take on the spirit of peace and reconciliation that was at the heart of the Christmas Truce in 1914.”

The building of the pitch emphasises the positive relationship between KVK Westhoek and the Premier League, noted KVK Westhoek’s chair Willy Lemaire. “We thank them not only for this wonderful gift but also for their expertise in youth football and their continuing commitment to our community. We are incredibly excited about the role the pitch will play in building an international exchange programme from Belgium, England and the rest of Europe in the future.” 

Written by Alan Hope