We would know from our history books that World War I began in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and it lasted until 1918. Like every war, first world war also had a bad result as over 16 million people—soldiers and civilians alike—were dead. But in this article, we would look at a good and a surprising thing that happened in a war. It was “Football”. Can you imagine the soldiers who were about to shoot and kill each other were playing football? Sounds weird, but it happened during those times when the entire world was in chaos. Read more to know what was the reason for playing football and how did the game helped people.

  • Football helped to keep men fit and their morale high – To keep men fit and active and to maintain morale, the sport was encouraged and most times it was officially sanctioned.
  • Football was widely used as a tool for recruiting men for the forces. 
  • Prisoners of War played football in camps.
  •  Football provided a distraction from the horrors of war.
  • Football was seen as a good way for officers to develop leadership skills and to forge links with their men.
  • Service Personal played football to prevent boredom.
  • During the First World War, more than 900,000 women worked in munitions factories. Most factories employed a welfare officer to monitor the health, wellbeing, and behaviour of their new female workforce. Sport, especially football, was encouraged and many munitions factories developed their own ladies football teams. 
  • The famous First World War football match of the Christmas Day truce started after a ball was kicked from the British lines into No-man’s-land.

Initially, games were played on rough bits of the ground around the camps. But as the army command began to see the physical and mental benefits of the game, they commissioned fields from farmers. It progressed to an organised league and cup competitions, from platoon to divisional level. Football was something a soldier could lose himself in and forget, for a time, about the possibility of death and terrible injuries that he might get the next day.

But then the women’s football was banned because of the return of soldiers from the army. Many women would lose their jobs in factories and other industries to make way for returning men. As part of a wider movement to return these women back to household roles, the view of women’s football began to change. No longer was it seen as beneficial for national morale or as helpful for women’s health. Instead, it became viewed as an unhelpful and unsuitable way for women to spend their time and potentially detrimental to their health. Some teams continued to play small games in front of reduced crowds but most women’s teams disbanded or drifted away. This ban was not lifted again until 1971.

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