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Spectators, not patriots

28 November 2014

November 27th, 1914.

WE DO not like to think what the German Press will say of the pitiful fiasco of Saturday, when Colonel Burn, an aide-de-camp of his Majesty, made, on Saturday last, an appeal to a great football crowd at Chelsea. "As a soldier, I ask you," he said, "I am not saying 'go'; I say 'come,' your country needs you." And, when he said "come," he meant that they were to follow him. He had been at the Front since the war began, and was returning thither on the morrow. . . . The gallant Colonel's words . . . were drowned by a mighty roar, but this was not a shout of approval and sympathy but of welcome to the Chelsea and Notts football teams who had just arrived. . . Of all those 30,000 spectators one solitary man gave in his name. In burning words the Poet Laureate has denounced spectacular professional football at such a time as this as an "intolerable humiliation". And such, indeed, it is. The habit that has taken possession of the industrial masses of looking on at these professional contests has undermined the spirit of patriotism. They cannot forgo the excitement of these spectacles, and it has become a public duty to forbid any more matches. Perhaps it would then appear to these infatuated enthusiasts that there must indeed be something amiss if the public safety demands the suspension of professional football, and that, instead of being lookers-on at a game, they themselves ought to take an active part in a contest of life and death, in which they, their families, their King, their country and the Empire are now involved.

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