National Identity and Sports in Latin America: The Hundred-Hour Football War between El Salvador and Honduras

Ella Adriana Chirinos


“La Guerra de Fútbol,” Spanish for The Football War, erupted after a qualifying match in Mexico City between El Salvador and Honduras for the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Despite El Salvador winning the match, the state dissolved diplomatic ties and invaded Honduras on July 14, 1969. However, a football match was not the primary cause of the war. Instead, the sport was used a political tool by the government of El Salvador to direct the attention of its frustrated citizens towards the actions of its neighboring state in expelling and attacking Salvadoran immigrants while attempting to remain in power. This paper argues that citizens of El Salvador could be motivated to invade Honduras because of the build-up of tension between both states, providing an optimal opportunity for the Salvadoran government to create an “us vs. them” mentality surrounding the events of the 1969 football matches. The role of the sport in Latin America is analyzed and considered how it could be used for a nationalist cause to invade another state. Moreover, the xenophobic feelings of Hondurans towards the Salvadoran immigrants (legal and illegal) is examined as is the economic distress and political tensions of both states and discussed how it ultimately played out in the football field because of a blurred line between sports and national identity.

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