How a Soccer Match Led El Salvador and Honduras to (Kinda) Wage War Against Each Other

It may seem counter-intuitive but sports can sometimes lead us to take unsporting actions. Ugly sports rivalries usually bring out nothing more than hateful online comments or maybe the odd bar fight or two. However, there was one instance, where an aggressive rivalry led to an international soccer match being the background for a violent short war. It has come to be known as the Football War.

Way back in 1969, the soccer teams of Honduras and El Salvador were fighting for a place in the 1970 FIFA World Cup. They played a series of three matches in June that year. The winner of the series booked a spot in the World Cup. Little did the players know what was transpiring behind the scenes. Honduras and El Salvador are neighboring states in Central America. They had a history of disputes with each other, including border disputes. So they were not the best of friends. During the 1960s, the biggest bone of contention between them was the presence of migrants from Salvador into Honduras.

Geographically, El Salvador has a lot less territory than Honduras. Most of the land there is owned by elites from landlord families. This meant there were limited …

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