Field of Battle: FIFA’s World Cup and Geo-Political Conflict

By Andrew Howe.

Published by Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: April 13, 2016 $US5.00

Sport has long served as an arena whereby belligerent nations and cultures have been able to contest one another non-violently. That’s not to say that these contests have always been conflict-free. This study examines two models of conflict as witnessed in the World Cup since its inception in 1930: colonial disputes and border conflicts. Arguably, the most famous goal in World Cup history is Diego Maradona’s “la mano de Dios,” or “hand of God,” scored during the 1986 semifinals. This goal was historically important in that it propelled Argentina to victory over England, who only four years previous had prevailed when the two nations warred over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). Conflict over colonial land possessions gave way to conflict on the soccer pitch four years later, and ever since the simmering political rivalry between these two nations has historically run hottest during the World Cup. This soccer match and others like it illustrates the manner in which the people’s game can serve as a prism refracting the cultural and political anxieties of the day.

Keywords: Soccer/Football, Politics, Conflict Studies

Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities, Volume 7, Issue 2, June 2016, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: April 13, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 706.868KB)).

Dr. Andrew Howe

Professor, Department of History, La Sierra University, Riverside, California, USA