Few people would contest the fact that football is the truly global game. It is viewed, played, debated, loved, and reviled with an intensity that no other sport can rival from Baghdad to Buenos Aires.
Its widespread presence also confers great power. From Argentina’s military junta, which used the 1978 World Cup to inspire the kind of loyalty that its regime had failed to, to current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who both feared and respected football’s capacity to spark change, dictators and politicians have long sought to use its capacity to inspire unity and national pride for more nefarious political purposes.
On the other hand, significant social and political transformations have occasionally been sparked by a single match. CNN lists some of the games that influenced history before to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.
Secretary’s XI vs President’s XI (1864)
Nobody could have predicted the global sporting revolution. That would occur when 22 men met in Battersea Park in London in the winter of 1864 to play a game of football. This was the first match played under the Rules of Association Football, which were established by the fledgling English Football Association in an effort to unify and regulate the sport’s various, not to mention conflicting, strands.
Despite the lack of the forward pass, crossbars, and the offside rule (which would not be implemented for another three years), the British Victorians’ desire for order and approval made it simple to export the 13 laws that made up the streamlined, simplified regulations. In their colonies and the rest of the world, the British did this with a zealous preaching effort.
Charles William Miller was one of these football missionaries. In the middle of the 1890s, he travelled to Brazil with a football and a copy of the regulations, where the sport took off like wildfire.
And the actual match? Charles William Alcock, who would eventually organise the first-ever international match between England and Scotland seven years later, scored both goals as The Secretary’s XI won 2-0.
West Germany vs Hungary (1954)
Germany after World War II was a damaged, divided, and haunted country. Germans were in a soul-searching funk over their role in the Second World War, despite the fact that the nation had been financially decimated by the folly of Nazism and divided into east and west by the rise of the Iron Curtain. The nation’s new, despised flag was rarely seen, and singing the national anthem was intentionally discouraged. Then the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland saw the “Miracle of Bern.”
West Germany advanced to the World Cup final to play the same team despite losing 8-3 to Hungary in their opening game. Only amateur football players made up the roster. Hungary, the finest team in the world at the time, included players like Ferenc Puskas. Nobody gave them a chance, but they managed to win 3-2, inspiring scenes of joy across West Germany and the first constructive display of collective nationalism since the war.
From that point on, West Germany experienced an economic boom and rose to prominence in Europe. Before an unified Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup, the publication Der Spiegel noted that “modern-day Germany was born in one 90-minute contest against Hungary.”
Rangers vs Bucks (1966)
Nelson Mandela was the most admired prisoner on Robben Island, making it notorious. However, the prison, which housed the political inmates that the apartheid South African state deemed to be the most dangerous. Gave rise to an unexpected football league.
The Makana FA had a more significant effect than just giving the prisoners hope during difficult times: it helped South Africa’s future leaders hone their administrative abilities. The current president, Jacob Zuma, was a hard-hitting Bucks defender and a future Makana FA referee.
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.
group, and Red Star’s “Delije” — led by the brutal war-lord Arkan.
Arkan’s Tiger’s, the paramilitary group he ruled during the war, recruited heavily from the Delije. Arkan himself was indicted by the United Nations for war crimes, but was assassinated in 2000 before he stood trial. Later, Boban explained what was going through his head.
“Here I was, a public face prepared to risk his life, career and everything that fame could have brought. All because of one ideal cause: the Croatian cause.”
Iraq versus Saudi Arabia (2007)
Younis Mahmoud sprinted the length of the field to join the few spectators who had traveled far to the big. Empty stand at Jakarta’s Bung Karno stadium in celebration.
Back in Baghdad, tens of thousands of Iraqis flooded the streets. Shooting celebratory bullets into the air while many held the Iraqi flag. Which had not been widely seen since Saddam’s downfall.
However, the victory had a cost. In the semifinal, shortly after South Korea had been defeated by Iraq on penalties. A suicide bomber detonated himself amid jubilant spectators, killing 50 people. The winning team at the Asian Cup sat in shock in the locker room and debated skipping the championship game. But after that, the athletes watched the bloodshed on television.