Here are 4 of the most politically charged World Cup games ever played

FIFA 2018 Russia

(FIFA, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Rob Smith, Formative Content

From 14 June, the eyes of the world will be fixed on Russia, as the host nation kicks off against Saudi Arabia in the first game of the eagerly anticipated 2018 Fifa World Cup.

Russia secured the right to host football’s most famous tournament in 2010, but the process was marred in controversy. A probe into alleged corruption around Russia’s bid, as well as Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup, led to ex-Fifa ethics investigator Michael Garcia resigning in protest in 2014.

Fractured relations

Meanwhile, human rights organizations have called for a boycott of the tournament to protest Russia’s backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Clearly, the 2018 World Cup will take place against a backdrop of political uncertainty.

But this is nothing new. The World Cup has long been one of the most politically charged sporting events. The four matches highlighted below provide a snapshot of how often the footballing and political worlds collide:

1. Italy versus France, 1938

During the 1938 World Cup in France, just one year before the outbreak of the Second World War, Italy took on the host nation in the quarter-finals.

At the time, Italy was a fascist nation, led by Benito Mussolini. The Italian football team, famous in the modern era for wearing blue, wore black shirts and gave a fascist salute before kick off. Ahead of the game, Mussolini reportedly sent an ominous message to the team, with the instruction: “win or die”.

Fortunately for the players, Italy went on to beat France, and won the overall competition, beating Hungary in the final. Following Italy’s victory, the tournament would not be played again until 1950.

2. East Germany versus West Germany, 1974

By the end of the Second World War, Germany was a divided nation, and soon after split into East and West. The Berlin Wall, which stood until 1989, acted as a physical reminder of the nation’s political divisions.

At the 1974 World Cup, hosted in Germany, teams from the East and West met in the group stages. The East Germans, largely seen as the more inferior of the two sides, sealed victory with a 1-0 win over their western counterparts, topping the group in the process.

However, it was West Germany that eventually went on to win the tournament, beating the Netherlands in the final.

Following West Germany’s World Cup victory in 1990, the two teams united on 20 November of that year. Germany are the reigning World Cup champions, and will begin their defence against Mexico on 17 June.

3. Argentina versus England, 1986

On 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic over which Argentina claims sovereignty. The Falklands War claimed the lives of about 650 Argentine and 255 British servicemen, as well as three Falkland Islanders.

Four years later, during the 1986 World Cup, Argentina were pitted against England in the quarter-finals. Reports described the first half as “cagey” and “bad-tempered”, with grudges between the two nations allegedly spilling onto the pitch.

However, the match is best remembered for Argentine footballer Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal. The diminutive striker scored after forcing the ball beyond England goalkeeper Peter Shilton with his hand. Despite complaints from the England players, the goal stood, giving Argentina a 1-0 lead.

If there were disputes over Argentina’s first goal, there could be none with the second, which saw Maradona evade several challenges before slipping the ball underneath Shilton. Argentina then proceeded to win the 1986 World Cup, defeating West Germany.

4. United States versus Iran, 1998

Tensions between the United States and Iran have simmered for more than half a century. However, relations between the two countries deteriorated dramatically after the overthrow of the US-backed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the US Embassy hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days from 1979 to 1981.

So when the two nations were drawn against each other at the 1998 World Cup, US Soccer Federation president Alan Rothenberg referred to it as “the mother of all games”, reports FourFourTwo magazine.Arguably the most politically charged match in World Cup history, the game ended in an Iranian victory and the US being knocked out of the tournament.

According to FourFourTwo, US defender Jeff Agoos said at the time: “We did more in 90 minutes than the politicians did in 20 years.”

Sport’s unifying power

While it may not always be the case, major sporting events do have the capacity to improve relations between nations in conflict.

At this year’s Winter Olympics, for example, athletes from North and South Korea marched under a single “unified Korea” flag during the opening ceremony.

Then in April, the leaders of North and South Korea met, marking the first such meeting between the two nations in 10 years and the first time a North Korean leader has set foot in the South in 65 years.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Future EU-UK Partnership: European Commission publishes draft legal text

What does the future of energy look like, how do we get there, and who will benefit?

The EU launches € 1 billion plan on supercomputers and tries to catch-up with competitors

No agreement in sight on EU budget

Turkey presents a new strategy for EU accession but foreign policy could be the lucky card

Draghi’s negative interest rates help Eurozone’s cohesion

These are the places with the most climate change deniers

Mergers: Commission clears Telia’s acquisition of Bonnier Broadcasting, subject to conditions

What is behind the wide reach of  fake news about Coronavirus?

Von der Leyen on Europe Day: What does Europe mean to me and why is solidarity more valid than ever

Afghanistan: UN condemns blasts that leave 8 dead at cricket stadium

Central Asia: the European Union matches political commitment with further concrete support

‘Amid stormy global seas, UN charter remains our moral anchor’, says Guterres on United Nations Day

Climate change will force us to redefine economic growth

A new dawn for Europe: Joint op-ed by President von der Leyen, President Michel and President Sassoli

‘We are nowhere closer’ to Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, than a year ago, Security Council hears

Gender minority and health sector: promoting mental health with better medical education

‘Proving our worth through action’: 5 things Guterres wants the UN to focus on in 2019

EU imposes provisional anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panels

Migration surge leaves children stranded, begging on Djibouti’s streets

Reception conditions for asylum-seekers agreed between MEPs and Council

Industry 4.0: Championing Europe’s fourth industrial revolution

The EU’s trading partners: US, China and the rest

MEPs adopted measures to reconcile work and family life

Here’s how we can make innovation more inclusive

Backed by UN, Asia-Pacific countries to advance space technology for ‘development transformation’

Paid paternity leave should be the norm in the US

We must treat cybersecurity as a public good. Here’s why

What Merkel and Macron are to tell Trump in Davos?

EU elections: The louder the threats and the doomsaying the heavier the weight of the vote

UN allocates $20 million in emergency funding, as Cyclone Idai disaster unfolds

‘You can and should do more’ to include people with disabilities, wheelchair-bound Syrian advocate tells Security Council in searing speech

The EU checks the multinationals for tax fraud but Britain may sail out of the EU via Panama

Global hunger is on the rise. These simple steps could help eradicate it

5 ways to swim, not sink, as part of a ‘liquid workforce’

China has announced ambitious plans to cut single-use plastic

EU mobilises €10 million more to respond to severe Desert Locust outbreak in East Africa

Night owls, rest easy

IMF’s Lagarde: Estimating Cyber Risk for the Financial Sector

Coronavirus: EU guidance for a safe return to the workplace

More women and girls needed in the sciences to solve world’s biggest challenges

The Italian ‘no’ and France’s Fillon to reshape Europe; Paris moves closer to Berlin

Partnerships key to taking landlocked countries out of poverty: UN Chief

French Prime Minister passes Stability Program and takes his ‘café’ in Brussels this June

Mali facing ‘alarming’ rise in rights violations, warns UN expert

Will ECB win against low inflation by not following Quantitave Easing?

Monday’s Daily Brief: ‘Horror’ at Notre Dame fire disaster, Yemen still bleeding, measles now ‘global crisis’

EU report: Implementation of reforms continues to bring EU and Ukraine closer together

Imaginary Journeys Into Eternal China

Islamophobia is driving more US Muslims to become politically engaged, suggests report

3+1 issues to haunt tomorrow’s EU Summit

Future fit: 3 ways fashion can be more sustainable

Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino died – here are more species on the verge of extinction

Whose interests are protected by the new Mortgage Directive?

Investment Plan for Europe: European Investment Bank to provide BioNTech with up to €100 million in debt financing for COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing

Eurozone: Avoiding a new Greek accident

Easing ‘classroom crisis’ in Côte d’Ivoire, brick by (plastic) brick

Business could learn plenty about cybersecurity from the secret state

Half the population of Yemen at risk of famine: UN emergency relief chief

“If they think they can slave an entire nation, then they will just have the opposite results!”, Alexis Tsipras cries out from the Greek parliament

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s