THIS week marks the centenary of one of football’s most significant and controversial matches, the Khaki Cup Final, which was played on April 24, 1915.
The game is one of the key moments in The Greater Game: Football & The First World War, an exhibition at the National Football Museum which tells the story of fans, players and the game itself during the conflict.
It’s the only FA Cup Final to be played during wartime, marking the end of a season that had seen football and its fans targeted for propaganda as the full extent of World War One was realised by the British public.
The game, played at Old Trafford, was won 3-0 by Sheffield United against Chelsea. But it was the overwhelming presence of military uniform in the 50,000 crowd that was to be the defining characteristic of a game which marked the end of competitive football in England for more than four years.
Andy Pearce, head of creative programmes at the museum, explained: “Football fans and players had been targeted for recruitment to the military since the start of the season.
“By the time of the cup final there is a sense that the game really is up. The crowd is largely from the Manchester area, with many already in military uniform, who are either on leave or in training.”
The exhibition includes a very rare programme from the game, with a detailed look at the rise in popularity of football before the war, the propaganda battle during the season and the role the game played in fitness and morale at the front.
On Saturday April 25, members of the Manchester 1914-18 Living History Regiment will be at the National Football Museum to commemorate the final. With period uniform, weapons and kit they will provide visitors with an insight into what awaited the thousands of volunteers who attended the historic final.
Go to www.nationalfootballmuseum.com to find out more.