A miracle happened, Tottenham won the trophy
Some people love to hide behind tradition when they have nothing else to offer. Conservatism isn’t always bad, but it has the unpleasant historical trait of often leading to totalitarianism. Those who lead into a supposedly glorious past usually find themselves in a dead end. But there are pleasant traditions. For example, the ability to acknowledge long-standing mistakes and tell of real heroes forgotten in the pages of bloody history.
Yesterday Kane, around whose name a scandal erupted, did a double in a match against Rangers. “Tottenham won the Walter Tull Cup, a former player for clubs from London and Glasgow. Mr. Tull is one of the most unusual figures in British soccer history. One who ended his life tragically, as Duncan Edwards is known to a greater number of fans. The stalwart from Dudley could have been a legend in club and national team midfield, but died at the age of 21 after a plane crash in Munich.
Bobby Charlton and many others survived then, and Duncan struggled for fifteen days, but the injuries were too serious. Walter Tull, born many decades before Edwards entered the world, in 1888, also passed away early, at only 29. But in his case it was not an accident, but the great crime of World War I. As you know, in June 1914, the 19-year-old Serbian extremist Gavrila Princip, who was terminally ill with tuberculosis, decided to kill Franz Ferdinand.
Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire did not share the Bosnian lands. Since the world then could not know the key conclusion from World War II – that borders are paid in great blood for redistribution, so they should be recognized legally without searching for “historical truth” and “a special German way,” hundreds of thousands of people went to the front. And first Gavrila’s shots killed the Archduke and his wife Sophia, who is usually forgotten.
A chain of very different events, linking the division of Chinese lands by a group of large and not so large European countries, mutual territorial claims by the French and Germans, other imperial pranks in different parts of the world, led to the inclusion of crazy Germans and equally crazy monarchs from different sides. Among the victims of the great war was a soccer player, Walter Tull, about whom you did not yet know one important detail. Mr. Tall was not white.
A black guy among racists
Tull had the hardest life. His father, Daniel, was the son of a slave from Barbados and worked in England as a carpenter. He married a poor girl from Kent, a rich one who would not have consented to be the wife of a black man. But when Walter was seven, his mother Alice died of cancer. Dad found a new wife, but he himself died of a heart attack two years later. The stepmother couldn’t raise her five children, and the boys, Edward and Walter, were sent to an orphanage. Tall’s brother ended up with a family from Glasgow and even became the first black dentist in Great Britain.
And Walter grew up in London, started playing soccer for amateurs. Took the FA Cup among the amateurs and became the season opener. In 1909 he believed in him at Tottenham. The debut was successful, Tall played great against Manchester United, played 10 games, scored two goals. Then he met some real racists in the stands. Bristol City fans hounded the midfielder, who played in the Spurs attack, although he did not give in to provocations. London stopped using Tall in the starting lineup.
Had another series of matches, but the stands reacted violently and inadequately. “Spurs began to embarrass the player. To continue his professional career, Tull came out to former Tottenham player Herbert Chapman. The future legendary mentor of Arsenal, one of the inventors of the scheme “double-ve” began his career at Northampton Town, where he invited Walter. At this club Tull played much more often, it was from the “cobblers” lineup that the young athlete got to the front.
Officer of the Football Battalions
People often talk about World War II and soccer, but the First World War is far away, and the average person doesn’t know much about it. Although the relevance of that massacre is no less. And if we are talking about the connection with athletes, even more. If in thirty years many European countries had time to evacuate famous players to the rear, and the youngest, who would later achieve success in the sport, went to the front, in World War I everything was different.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the one who invented Sherlock Holmes, had a hand in creating the Football Battalion, even two in the end. Members of the government caught sight of a letter from a soldier at the front that there were hundreds of athletic young rough men in Britain who kicked a ball instead of kicking a German. National team player Frank Buckley was the first to enlist in the battalion, and Walter Tull was his team’s first player in the unit.
Later, referees and fans ended up in the battalion, although some players specifically went to other regiments. They didn’t want to fight their colleagues because they thought it was better to obey the orders of professional military men, it was safer that way. Buckley turned out to be a major, a former Tottenham player became a lieutenant colonel, and Tull eventually became a junior lieutenant after a series of battles. He was the first black man to be promoted to the rank of officer in the British Army, but he could not rise higher, he was not considered “European.
Whereas there had already been blacks and mulattoes in soccer before Walter – the Scots had a better attitude to such players, one even played for the national team there, and in England children from Anglo-Indian families were more quietly accepted, it is very, very difficult to imagine a black officer in Europe during the First World War. Tull turned out to be a good soldier and officer; he was respected by his fellow officers, so he got his rank. Walter was thrown between the 17th and 23rd Battalions, the very soccer battalions.
Could have become a revered war veteran
The midfielder fought successfully on the Italian front for a couple of years. Tull was an infantryman, went on reconnaissance, he was personally praised by Major-General Sir Sidney Lawford for one of the raids behind enemy lines. But in early March 1918 Walter was transferred to France. There he reflected the Spring offensive of the Germans and was killed. Fellow players returned to the battlefield to find his body, but could not. Tall was unlucky, killed in the course of the German Operation Michael. It was a desperate and unsuccessful German push. Captured territory, but exhausted the army in a series of difficult offensives.
Eyewitnesses recall that when German soldiers saw fresh white bread and chocolate in the trenches of the British and French, while they themselves lived starving, robbing local stores and the population, morale plummeted. German officers began to say that the war was lost. Tull and his comrades-almost 300 British players died in World War I-defended Europe from big trouble in the face of the German imperialists. Though soldier Adolf Hitler fared poorly in that big defeat and went after a failed revenge decades later, Walter did what he could.
Tall managed to sign with the Rangers in 1917, but never played for the Glasgow club for obvious reasons. Walter could easily have lived until 1966 and quietly watched from the stands in London as the England team becomes world champion in a match against his combat enemies – the Germans. Instead, one of the first decent black players in the history of British soccer has remained somewhere in French fields forever. But his memory lives on, and a friendly named after him worked a real miracle – rich and hapless Tottenham won the trophy. Not what Conte dreams of, but at least the world was reminded of a glorious soldier and a talented footballer.