The Inter Allied Services Cup
While the heads of the governments-in-exile met at the West End Hotels like the Dorchester, the Rubens or the Savoy to drink, eat and deliberating on current affairs, their Armies met at the pitches of Stamford Bridge, Selhurst Park or Upton Park.
The Football League First Division (predecessor of the Premier League) had been suspended in September 1939 due to the outbreak of the Second World War. The game operation paused until 1946. But England without Football? Between 1941 and 1944 the Inter Allied Services Cup was held four times. In its first final in 1941 the British Army and the Royal Air Force met. The British Army won 8-2.
On Wednesday, march 26, 1941 the London Times reported on the Belgian Army’s win of the Allies League. Of six matches, they won three, drew two and lost the other. The other teams, taking part in the Inter-Allied Armies Tournament were the Czech Army, who finished second, the Norwegians on third and the Dutch on the last place of the League.
At the same day another article announced the Inter-Allied Services Cup Competition, even sponsored by the British Football Association (FA). New teams entered or were about to enter the Cup: among them the Civil Defence organization, the British Army and the Royal Air Force.
In 1942 the London Police won against the British Army with 6-2. In 1943 again the British Army and the Royal Air Force were the finalists. They drew 2-2 and shared the Trophy. In the last final in 1944, the Royal Air Force could finally take revenge: they won with 3-0 versus the Army.
Although the British teams dominated the finals, there were some international teams consisting of the exile-armies. The most successful team was the Belgian Army (they took part in every year and in three times they even reached the semi-final).
Other teams were the Royal Netherlands Brigade (1941, 1943-44), the Polish Air Force (1941) and the Polish Land Forces (1942), the Czechoslovak Army (1942-43), the Norwegian Army (1942-44) and the Canadian Army (1942-44), even though they did not have a government-in-exile in London. Another team without a government-in-exile, but a national committee was that of the Fighting French (1943).
The temporary Capital of Europe was not only an international microcosm of political and diplomatic elites. It was also a microcosm of international football. Sometimes the matches were not only military or sporting occasions but also political. The heads of the governments-in-exile left their hotels, gentlemen-clubs and restaurants to meet at the football stadium. Among the spectators of the Allied Cup’s final round in 1943 were Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, General Wladyslaw Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister, Admiral Émile Muselier of France or Paul-Henri Spaak, the Belgium Foreign Minister.
The political collaboration, European cooperation and discussions about a post-war Europe between the governments-in-exile lead to a new international law and juridicial system (UNO); and only eleven years after the last final of the Inter Allied Services Cup sixteen European football clubs played in the European Champion Club’s Cub. In a dramatic final Real Madrid could beat Stade Reims with 4-3.