Watch as SAFC's Academy players combine time on the football field with learning about life on the WW1 battlefield
Sunderland AFC Academy under 12s team have been combining time on the football field with learning about life on the battlefield as part of a Premier League Academies project about WW1.
In the run up to Armistice Day, the Year 7 children have been taking part in activities including researching about former SAFC players who sadly perished in No Mans Land, and creating their own additional verse to the classic war poem In Flanders Fields which they recited at the Commonwealth war graves in Mere Knolls Cemetery in Sunderland.
The Academy players also created a range of displays about local volunteers who signed up to help the war effort.
The players also took part in a competition to design their own poppies based around themes including recycling, the death of Queen Elizabeth II and diversity and equality, with first team players Bailey Wright, Dan Neil, Lynden Gooch and Luke O’Nien judging the under 12’s team centre-half, Charlie Morton’s poppy as the winning design.
Charlie, 11, who attends Seaton Sluice Middle School, said: “I made the poppy from recycled football kit. The black cat represents Sunderland and the black background all those people from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds who fought in the war.
"The players asked me about my design and I was really pleased to find out I’d won.
"I’ve really enjoyed the project and learning about the different SAFC players who fought in WW1. It’s very important to remember the sacrifices made by past generations.”
Central midfielder Sonny Bartle, 11, brought in his great, great, great grandfather’s medals which he was awarded following his bravery on the WW1 battlefields.
Sonny, who attends Walbottle Academy, said: “He was called Anthony and he died on the battlefield during WW1. I never met him but I’m very proud he fought for our country and who knows what would have happened if people like him hadn’t.
"I’ve enjoyed the project and it’s very important to remember the sacrifices people made.”
For Head of Education, Don Peattie, the WW1 project is a key part of the wider education of the academy’s players.
He said: “The project is introduced through the Christmas Day truce when soldiers from both sides took part in a game of football. The project is about celebrating the lives of those who died and served on the front-line.
"As a club, we want to develop the youngsters as people, not just footballers, and learning about the sacrifices made by this generation is a key part of that.”
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The club hope to be one of eight teams selected from academies nationwide to take part in the Christmas Truce Tournament in Ypres in December, with three places awarded for the quality of work submitted as part of the WW1 project, and the other five from a qualifying tournament.
Don added: “As well as the tournament, which will involve teams from across Europe, the players will get to visit and learn about the WW1 graves and battlefields of Belgium.”
Sonny added: “I really hope we get to go to Belgium.”
Engraved on a plaque on the Stadium of Light are the names of Alex Barrie, James Chalmers, Jack Huggins, Sandy McAllister, Albert Milton, Leigh Richmond Rose and Thomas Rowlandson, all former players who perished on the WW1 battlefields, along with Percy Saunders who died during WW2.