Sportsdesk | November 10, 2013
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.
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.
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.