FA backs play commemorating World War I centenary

Tuesday 20 Sep 2016
Sport Remembers

The FA continues to support remembrance activities marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War with the latest commemoration being a play called The Greater Game.

Staged at London’s Southwark Playhouse, The Greater Game brings to life the experience of young footballers who gave up their careers to take part in the Battle of the Somme – which raged from 1 July to 18 November 1916. On the first day alone more than 19,000 British soldiers lost their lives and tens of thousands were injured.

The play focuses on a club then called Clapton Orient, which later became Leyton Orient and The Footballers’ Battalion (17th Middlesex). All 41 men from Clapton Orient signed up to the Battalion for the war effort.

The play is based on the book They Took The Lead, written by lifelong Leyton Orient fan, Stephen Jenkins, who also produced the play with Orient goal-scoring hero Peter Kitchen and has been supported by the Royal British Legion as part of its Sport Remembers initiative and The Professional Footballers Association (PFA).

FA chief executive Martin Glenn, in the audience for the first night’s sell-out performance, said: "The Greater Game is a wonderful tribute to a group of young men who put duty before football to serve their country and fight for the freedom that we enjoy today.

“They were as proud to wear their uniforms on the battlefront as they were to wear their club shirts. The Greater Game also captures that remarkable spirit of unity, care and humour in a football team which also existed on the battlefield.  Every football fan and every player and anyone who has ever been involved in football at any level will feel very moved by this wonderful production.”

Respected football commentator John Motson was also present. He said: “If this could be seen by 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium it would remind us all of what's important in life.

“These young men gave up football to fight for our country 100 years ago and it is their sacrifice and courage that we should never, ever forget in this very special year of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme. I would urge anyone connected with football to see this wonderful and poignant production and re-evaluate their lives and priorities, to put our modern lives into some kind of perspective.”

Since 2014, The FA has been involved in a range of First World War commemorations. This included a special tribute to the Christmas Truce story of 1914 being unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum and, this past summer, a link-up with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to coincide with the European Championship in France falling on the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

For more information on The Greater Game or to buy tickets see southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/the-greater-game.

By FA Staff