Few would contest the fact that football is the world’s real global sport. No other sport is as intensely followed, played, debated, loved, and reviled from Baghdad to Buenos Aires as soccer.
It also has a great lot of authority because of how widely it is used. Since the dawn of time, tyrants and politicians have made an effort to harness football’s capacity to bring people together and instil a feeling of national pride for more nefarious political purposes. Examples include Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president of Iran, who both feared and appreciated football’s ability to inspire change, and the Argentine junta, which used the 1978 World Cup to inspire the kind of allegiance that its dictatorship had failed to do.
Melvyn Bragg nominated the 1863 Rules of Association Football, football’s first official regulation, in his list of the “Twelve Books That Changed the World,” stating that “[football] has caused at least one war and numerous conflicts, often sad, off the pitch.”
On the other side, a single match has occasionally ignited huge social and political changes. Before the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, CNN lists a few of the games that had a significant historical impact.
2. West Germany vs Hungary (1954)
After World War II, Germany was a broken, divided, and scarred nation. Despite the fact that their country had been economically destroyed by the folly of Nazism and split into east and west by the development of the Iron Curtain, Germans were in a soul-searching funk about their role in the Second World War. Few people saw the country’s new, loathed flag, and singing the national anthem was purposefully prohibited. The “Miracle of Bern” then occurred during the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.
Even though they were defeated 8-3 by Hungary in their initial match, West Germany nonetheless made it to the World Cup final to face that same team. The roster was made up entirely of amateur football players, but Hungary, the best team in the world at the time, had players like Ferenc Puskas on it. They managed to win 3-2 despite no one giving them a chance, sparking joyous celebrations throughout West Germany and the first positive manifestation of collective nationalism since the war.
German historian Joachim Fest stated that it was a form of emancipation for the Germans from everything that had been pressing down on them following World War II.
In some ways, the German Republic was founded on July 4, 1954.
4.Dinamo Zagreb vs Red Star Belgrade (1990)
When Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade played Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb at the latter’s Maksimir Stadium, Yugoslavia was already on the verge of disintegrating. Recent elections in Croatia were previously won by parties in favour of independence. But many believe that the events of March 13, 1990, marked the start of the most brutal European conflict since the Nazis were overthrown in 1945.
During the game, Zvonimir Boban, a future captain of Croatia and AC Milan, delivered a kung-fu kick at a police officer who was assaulting a Zagreb supporter. Riots broke out between Red Star’s “Delije” and the savage warlord Arkan’s “Bad Blue Boys” extreme group in Zagreb.
For Arkan’s Tigers, the paramilitary group he headed during the conflict, he mostly recruited among the Delije. The UN accused Arkan of war crimes, but he passed away in 2000 before he could stand justice. Later, Boban disclosed what had been running through his head.
Here I was, a public figure willing to jeopardise his life, career, and all fame could have offered in the name of the Croatian cause.
For the rest of the soon-to-be-gone nation, it was a crucial time. According to Dr. Neven Andjelic, author of Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy, “It was the most crucial game in Yugoslav history.”
The International Center for Transnational Justice estimates that 140,000 people died during the five-year conflict. Its repercussions may still be seen today, not the least of which is a statue of soldiers outside the Maksimir Stadium. “To the club fans who initiated the war with Serbia at this ground on May 13, 1990,” is written on it.