KABUL - British and German soldiers gathered in a dusty field in Afghanistan on Wednesday to play a game of soccer in memory of a Christmas truce spontaneously called between their armies a century ago during World War I.
That moment in 1914 - when troops along Europe's Flanders front met after four months killing each other to sing carols, exchange gifts and play soccer in No Man's Land - is celebrated as a triumph of humanity over the savagery of war.
A hundred years later, on a military base halfway around the world, the soccer match took place between concrete blast walls in a country where Britain and Germany have spent over a decade in a coalition fighting against the Taliban insurgency.
Those playing in the Afghan capital Kabul said they hoped it would send a message of hope to enemy combatants in the country ravaged by decades of conflict.
“It's about celebrating what joins us, what is united,” said Brigadier James Stopford, commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. “Look at the comradeship of the people here.”
The British and German teams were jovial as they sang Silent Night and posed for pictures, much like the 1914 scenes described in letters by soldiers to their families.
In one letter, published by Britain's postal service on Wednesday, a British soldier recalled the moment two German soldiers climbed out of their trenches, waving their arms.
“I think I have seen today one of the most extraordinary sights that anyone has ever seen,” Captain A D Chater wrote.
“We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles ... in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas.”
The coalition's combat mission will officially end this year without defeating the Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001 by U.S.-led forces.
Instead, the militants have gained ground and are posing an increasing challenge to Afghan security forces left to battle them without the international support.