Sport: World Cup 2022: "The War of Football", or when Honduras and Salvador came into conflict after a match

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A war triggered by football? This happened in July 1969. Salvador and Honduras, these two neighboring countries in the heart of Central America, are opposed in qualifiers for the Football World Cup, scheduled the following year in Mexico.

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from the first leg, in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, the atmosphere is tense. Hondian supporters prevent Salvador players from sleeping. Result: 1-0 for Honduras. Return match a week later, in Salvador. Inverted scenario, Hondural players are deprived of sleep, their supporters are molested. Salvador won 3-0. Honduras closes its border. Incidents are increasing.

A victory everywhere, it takes a beautiful to decide between them. It is the rule of the time. The match takes place in Mexico City. The Salvador wins 3-2 but the match takes place in an atmosphere of riot: fights, rapes. At the end of the match, skirmishes broke out on the border. On July 14, a Salvadoral plane dropped a bomb on the capital of Honduras. The war will only last four days but it is a real war. She killed 3,000 and 15,000 injured. It is considerable in such a few days. Salvador is progressing on the ground, but the aviation of Honduras is stronger. On July 19, Salvador removed its troops.

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Football as a catalyst

Football has mainly been instrumentalized by the powers in place in the two countries, in a logic of extreme nationalism. This is the risk of sport. The two countries are inseparable for lots of reasons: their population is also mixed, and they somehow share the Isthmus of Central America at this location: to the south, Pacific side, Salvador, to the north, on the Caribbean side, Honduras.

Honduras is poorer, less industrialized. The Salvador is smaller but more densely populated. He therefore sends many migrant workers to Honduras, without even real border in those years. In Honduras, the president of the time, who came to power by a coup, instrumentalized the migratory question to compensate for his unpopularity and his inability to redistribute the land. In Salvador, the government felt more powerful than its neighbor. The whole thing was fueled by nationalist media on both sides. And football came to ignite everything.

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More than 40 years later, the two countries are still seen as rivals. They are plagued by violence. Honduras remains and by far the poorest country in the region, hence these waves of Hondurian migrants who regularly head towards the United States, to Guatemala and Mexico, to the north. And for the little story at the World Cup.

A situation opposite for Costa Rica. The team was qualified and played their first game against Spain on Wednesday, November 23. Costa Rica is further south compared to Honduras and Salvador. The particularity of this country of five million inhabitants is that it has no army. In 1948, it was removed after a revolution. All budgets have been reinvested in health, education, then more recently the environment, in particular renewable energies. The richness per capita is five times higher than that of Honduras. The former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize Oscar Arias Sanchez was used to saying: "It is because we have no army that we are strong."

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