Foot Culture

Foot culture: soccer and the holidays


A look at the beautiful game’s holiday moments

Christmas celebrations and the beautiful game have a longstanding history together. There was even a time when watching a football match on Christmas Day was the standard, especially in the United Kingdom, although it’s a tradition we haven’t seen since the 1960s.

Still, if Christmas day football is no longer an option for enthusiasts of the sport, Boxing Day fixtures are still very much a thing; 18 Premier League teams will be in action the day after Christmas in 2018, while most Serie A teams will also be taking to the field.

So, with the holidays fast-approaching, Impact Media takes a look at the some of the game’s lasting moments in this joyous time of year, including some local happenings over 25 years ago…

World War I

Christmas in 1914 was difficult for many people. The first World War was underway, and all signs were pointing towards it being a long one that wouldn’t be resolved any time soon. The Germans and the English, enemies in this century-old war, produced one of the most famous moments in wartime history with what happened on Christmas Day in 1914.

Down in the trenches, both sides decided it was time to lay their weapons down for the day. They emerged, greeted each other, and played a game of soccer in the middle of nowhere. In what is considered one of the most devastating wars in the history of mankind, this moment of purity sticks out and continues to be remembered over a century later.

Women in the game

This moment between enemy troops isn’t the only good soccer did during the first World War. With most of the men gone off to war, women started taking up more place in different sectors, and more specifically, the work environment.

Women started being more and more present in factories with the men gone, and with time most factories formed their own football teams, mostly for fun. But in Preston, Lancashire, at the Dick, Kerr & Co Ltd, the Dick, Kerr Ladies football team was born. Their first official game, on Christmas day in 1917, drew over 10,000 spectators and raised almost £600, equivalent to almost £50,000 today.

The team would go on to play 828 games over 48 years of existence, including a 2-0 win over a French side in 1920 that would officially go down as the first international women’s association football game.

Holidays are for drinking

For many, the holidays are a great excuse to dramatically increase their alcohol intake. Those may seem to include the Clapton Orient football team, who showed up to a Christmas day clash against Bournemouth with most of the players in an altered state of mind. It wasn’t necessarily their fault; clubs often provided their players with booze as a Christmas treat, and Clapton’s manager gifted an entire barrel.

Captain Ted Crawford recalled being so inebriated that he collapsed on the field. Somehow, they would go on to lose just 2-1, sobering up sufficiently to win the following day on Boxing Day.

An unfortunate slip

Most of professional soccer played during the holidays was in Europe, especially in countries like England and Scotland. These are by no means countries which boast tropical weather when winter comes around, often falling into below-zero temperatures during the holiday months.

It’s this setting that leads us to the unfortunate incident of 1909, on Christmas Day, in a Scottish league matchup pitting Partick Thistle against Hibernian in horrid weather. Defender James Main, just 23 years old at the time, was accidentally kicked in the stomach by Frank Branscombe after the latter slipped on a patch of ice on the field. Main was eventually rushed to hospital and doctors discovered he had suffered a ruptured bowel. He died four days later.

The Impact is born

The holiday season will always be a little more special for the Bleu-blanc-noir: it was on December 10, 1992, just two weeks before Christmas Day, that the Montreal Impact was officially born.
In a press conference with Lino Saputo Sr., Impact president Joey Saputo, league commissioner Bill Sage, Montreal mayor Jean Doré and the team’s general manager Pino Asaro, professional soccer made its comeback in Montreal. This year, the club marked how far it’s come since that December day in 1992, by celebrating its 25th anniversary throughout the season.