Kit Bag

5 cases of football and war
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 file photo, Egyptian riot police stand guard at the Borg El-Arab Stadium stadium near Alexandria, Egypt, before Egypt's Al-Ahly club takes on Tunisia's Esperance for a match in the first leg of the African Champions League final near Alexandria, Egypt. Two international football matches, including a World Cup playoff, are set to take place in Egypt’s turbulent capital, putting security there to the test after violent street protests and bloody security crackdowns followed a military coup. Egypt's home match against Ghana deciding which African team will go to Brazil next year will be Nov. 19, 2013 in a military-owned stadium in the capital. In a test run for security forces, Cairo's Al-Ahly club will host South Africa's Orlando Pirates in the second leg of their African Champions League final this weekend in the same stadium. (AP Photo/Mohammed Asad, File) *** Local Caption *** Mideast Egypt Fan Dilemma.JPEG-0f039.jpg
Mohammed Asad STR

5 cases of football and war


Today, Ian Hawkey takes a comprehensive look at the obstacles that have stood in the way of Egyptian football giants Al Ahly as they have traversed the football landscape while their home has been rocked by turbulence over the last three years.

Ahly have reached the final of the AFC Champions League, to go against South Africa's Orlando Pirates tonight with the clubs locked in a 1-1 draw after the first leg.

The Cairo side pulled off a Champions League victory last year as well, and, in light of the club that Hawkey credits with, "unusual spirit, great tradition and a hardy attitude to setbacks," we look at five other instances in which football has been a brief distraction from – or in some cases exasperated – troubling times.


The Christmas Truce

In December 24, 1914, German and British troops in the trenches around Ypres unofficially suspended First World War hostilities. They celebrated the temporary rapprochement with a game of football.

Honduras-El Salvador

The so-called "Soccer War". Tensions between the two countries, building up over immigration issues across their shared border, escalated when the countries' national teams were involved in a head-to-head confrontation for a place at the 1970 World Cup.

Dinamo Zagreb-Red Star Belgrade

In the penultimate season of the old Yugoslavia league, and just after elections had signalled the will of most Croatians to move to independence, there was violence, culminating in a pitch invasion, at the meeting of Croat club Dinamo and Serbia's Red Star. Dinamo captain Zvonimir Boban kicked a policeman who he saw attacking a Dinamo fan.


Since the 203 invasion, Iraq's national teams have consistently overcome a disrupted league, and everyday violence that has extended to fatal bomb attacks at football grounds. They reached the semi-finals at the 2004 Olympics, won the 2007 Asian championship, while the U20s made the last four of this year's World Cup.


Two months ago, Afghanistan won the South Asian Championship, a watershed moment for a sport damaged by various conflicts since the war with the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s, and marginalised under the Taliban. In August, neighbours Pakistan crossed the fraught border to play a match in Afghanistan for the first time since 1977. The hosts won 3-0.