For the past several years in August, a soccer club located in Lower Normandy: the “Reveil Saint Germain de Courseulles” has hosted a soccer tournament involving French teams hailing from the small towns and villages scattered along the D-Day invasion beaches. This year, in response to the upcoming 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on June 6th, a group of these clubs: the “Football Club Côte de Nacre” will be pushing the envelope significantly.
Having stumbled across an archive photo, taken by a war correspondent on July 14th, 1944, the management of the FCCN was inspired to host an International Liberty Tournament. This will assemble youth teams from the Lower Normandy region of France, the USA, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. Roughly one thousand football players ageing from 7-15 will come together for the first time in a series of friendly matches this June 7th and 8th. The importance of the dates, the nationality of the players and the underlying spirit of sport will make this tournament an occasion to remember for all who help perpetuate the memory of those who fought to free Europe from the Nazi movement.
This key photographic image portrays the British Royal Engineers along with the remains of the local French team in Courseulles, playing football on a soccer pitch today turned into car park. Further research brought up film footage stored in the archives of the Imperial War Museum in London, sparking enthusiasm for the tournament amongst local government officials. A call for visual witnesses brought to the surface the names of the players on both sides, as well as spectators recognizing themselves as children in the photos.
Such an undertaking involves a huge amount of work, not to mentions funds. The FCCN, being a nonprofit organization set about informing potential sponsors. To their delight the local, regional and national government is digging deep to help with funding and even more importantly, have declared the Liberty Tournament one of five official commemorative events for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The French Minister of Sport: Valerie Fourneyron has confirmed her intent to be present this coming June 6th and 7th, showing her support of the efforts made by a group of dedicated volunteers.
As of today, teams from Fishbourne in the UK, the American School of Paris and the German Football Club Unterafferbach have reserved their spots for this historic weekend. A key note match will bring together an adult team made up of selected players from Luc sur Mer, Langrune sur Mer, Ver sur Mer and Courseulles playing against a team of British Royal Engineers. This match will reproduce the photographed match claiming to be one of the very first international soccer meets in recently liberated France.
Understandably, the organizers have high hopes for famous attendees. Several top name football personalities have been invited, as well as political personages from the White House and Buckingham Palace. A firm “Yes!” came from Michel Hidalgo, the former manager for the French National Team from 1976 -1985 who has taken a special interest in this sports venue as he vividly remembers hiding in caves used as fallout shelters in Mondeville near Caen in 1944 as a young lad.
Each player will walk away from this two day gala with a special booklet showing photos of the war time views of each participating town as well as the contemporary photos of the teams and their club logos. In addition, an exhibit tent will house an exposition related to the history of soccer in France, and the importance of sports in war time. This expo will later travel around France to further promote the foundation principles of youth, sports, remembrance and most especially, reconciliation. The FCCN hopes to provide a once in a lifetime experience for young people to meet with veterans, to share their cultures with kids of their own ages and exchange goodwill via sport.
You can find out more about this tournament on the Facebook page dedicated to the “Tournoi de la Liberté” or on their website: www.fccn.free.fr.