Football is the world's most popular sport and has been played for well over a century.
People tend to forget about their struggles in life and enjoy 90 minutes of entertainment while watching one of the greatest sports of all time. Footballers put on a show in front of a large crowd from the time when the sport was in its infancy.
The sport is played throughout the year, whether at club level or on the international stage. However, football has had to take a backstep due to some unforeseen circumstances.
The most recent example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which took away quite a few months of football. But there have been even more serious situations in the past, with even war coming in the way of football.
Even the commoner would have to join the fight during a war back in the day. All hands were needed on deck as the country's safety was at stake and footballers were not spared either. This article will list five famous footballers who served their country during the war.
#5 Herbie Roberts
Herbie Roberts was an English footballer known for his time at Arsenal. Roberts started his career at Oswestry Town before moving to Arsenal for a spell of 11 years. During his time in north London, the Englishman won four First Division titles.
The centre-back was so inspired by Herbert Chapman's coaching methods that he took on a coaching role in Arsenal's second team after hanging up his boots. Roberts was a policeman before joining the Gunners, and his old club was an amateur side.
Roberts served as a lieutenant for the Royal Fusiliers when World War II started. He died at the tender age of 39 while on army duty due to a condition known as erysipelas. Apart from him, eight other Arsenal players also perished during the war.
#4 Sir Tom Finney
Sir Tom Finney was an English footballer who primarily played as an inside forward for Preston North End. He was one of the first wonderkids in English football who experienced the advantages of the youth development system established in England.
Tom Finney was fast-tracked to the senior Preston side, and for good reason. He was already winning top-scorer medals at the age of 17 and was a gifted forward. However, the war broke out during his late teens, and he had to join the British army in North Africa.
The English striker returned from the war and became a club legend at Preston, scoring 187 times in 433 league matches for the club. He was also prolific for the Three Lions, as he scored 30 goals in 76 games.
Sir Tom Finney received his well-deserved knighthood in 1998.
#3 Fritz Walter
Fritz Walter is arguably Kaiserslautern's greatest ever player, having spent his entire career at the German club. In fact, the club has named their stadium after him. Walter scored 357 goals in 364 appearances for Kaiserslautern and has etched his name in German football history.
The attacking midfielder was involved in a war as the Nazis forced him to fight against the Soviets on the eastern front. Walter was held hostage at the end of the battle and wasn't expected to live for more than five years.
Interestingly, at the holding camp, he got a chance to showcase his football skills.
One guard spoke up for Walter when it was time for the inmates to board the train to Gulag. The soldier persuaded his superiors that Walter was Austrian, not German, and that the sentence was unjust.
He eventually went on to captain West Germany to FIFA World Cup glory in 1954.
#2 Raymond Kopa
Raymond Kopa is one of the most gifted French players of all time. Kopa is renowned for his spells at both Reims and Real Madrid. The attacking midfielder was a pivotal part of the Los Blancos side that won three European Cups during the late 1950s.
Kopa worked in the coal mines of northern France with his father and brother during the war, producing fuel for the French while under Nazi rule. He even lost a finger in a mining accident.
Kopa then tried out for professional football after the war to avoid the early deaths that most miners experienced.
The Frenchman's decision turned out to be highly successful as he enjoyed playing at the highest level for around a decade. At his peak, Kopa was among the best players in the world. He won the Ballon d'Or once and narrowly missed out on the award thrice in a tremendous career.
#1 Lev Yashin
Lev Yashin is arguably the greatest goalkeeper of all time. Known for his positioning, quick reflexes, and extraordinary penalty-saving capabilities, Yashin remains the benchmark for goalkeepers across the world. He is the only shot-stopper ever to win the Ballon d'Or.
Yashin was compelled to work in a factory at the age of 12. However, at 18, he was unable to work due to a health condition. As a result, he was assigned to a military factory in Moscow. Yashin was then invited to join the Dynamo Moscow youth squad after impressing while playing for the factory team.
The Soviet Union international played 74 times for his nation and on 326 occasions for Dynamo Moscow. "The Black Spider" almost single-handedly carried the Soviet Union to the 1996 FIFA World Cup semi-finals. He also won an Olympic Gold Medal and saved more than 150 penalties in an accomplished career.
In honor of his incredible contributions to the sport, France Football created the Yashin Trophy, which is presented to the best goalkeeper over the course of a year. The award was established in 2019.