VIDEO: Under-19s visit war memorial

Players and staff from Arsenal's under-19 team visited a First World War cemetery near Brussels on Wednesday.

The squad were joined by Steve Hookins, from the Firepower Museum in Woolwich, and bombardier Colin Walker, who is currently serving for the Royal Artillery.

The trip was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, and was a chance for the young players to learn more about the club's origins and historical links with the military.

Each player placed a poppy on the graves of the 'gunners' who lost their lives 100 years ago - many of whom were sent to war when they were the same age as the youngsters in the youth team. Team captain Alex Iwobi then laid a wreath on behalf of Arsenal Football Club.

"Many of those who died were the same age as our players, and it's important for our players to learn about this history"

Frans de Kat

Afterwards, bombardier Walker spoke to the players about his experiences serving at the front line in Afghanistan and answered questions about life in the army.

Bombardier Walker finished by highlighting the importance of camaraderie, teamwork and discipline – values shared by soldiers and footballers alike.

Frans de Kat, coach for the Arsenal youth team, said: "I think it's very important that the players have experiences like this while we are away. The gunners that lay here were so brave to fight for their country and fight for their lives. It makes us all very humble.

"We were lucky to have Colin and Steve with us to explain the history, but then to experience and feel it for ourselves was very good for our young players, and I could see that in their faces.

"Many of those who died were the same age as our players, and it's important for our players to learn about this history."

Iwobi added that it was a very worthwhile trip. "All the players were asking so many questions, because we were really intrigued to learn more about life in the army," he said. "It was inspirational.

"At first I couldn't see what the similarities were between being a soldier and a footballer, but Colin spoke to us about working as a team, the determination you need and the hard work you have to put in. Although you are working for different things, there are similarities."

Iwobi is the senior member of the squad which travelled to Belgium for the Uefa Youth League game with Anderlecht on Tuesday night, and as team captain he had the honour of laying the wreath at Halle Cemetery, on behalf of the club.

"That was a proud moment for me," he said. "When I laid down the wreath and we paid our respects, it really hit me emotionally. It will stay with me for a long time, it's one for the memories."

The club will commemorate the First World War centenary with a number of special activities during the 2014/15 season.

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