How a Football Match Turned to All Out War Between Honduras and El Salvador

How a Football Match Turned to All Out War Between Honduras and El Salvador

Qualification for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico - where Brazil lifted the trophy - was the spark that caused the war.

On 8 June 1969 Honduras and El Salvador began a three-game elimination contest determining qualification for the 1970 football World Cup in Mexico. It inflamed nationalist antipathies and precipitated a 100 hour military conflict. It took 6,000 lives, injured 12,000 and rendered 50,000 homeless.

Even by the elevated standards for passion and theatre of football in Central and Latin America, this was unprecedented.

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Football rioting turns to military mobilisation

In the first game in Tegucigalpa, hosts Honduras managed to snatch a 1-0 victory in the final minute of the first game. Heavy rioting was a portent of further violence to come. The return fixture, on 27 June in San Salvador, rapidly spiralled out of control.

The night before the game the Honduran team’s hotel was set abaze, and after losing the game – they were understandably distracted – the players fled for the border. Although rioting, looting and arson rocked the streets, the players escaped unscathed. On 24 June, the Salvadoran government mobilized the military, and two days later declared a state of emergency. In reaction, on 27 June, Honduras broke diplomatic relations with El Salvador.

It was clear that the final fixture, scheduled for 14 July in Mexico City, would strain a delicate peace. Before the game could start, however, the Football War had broken out.

The background to the conflict

El Salvador, although it gained independence from Spanish colonial rule 1821, retained a feudal tradition of landed gentry that saw 14 prominent families hold a preponderance of land, and leaving a huge peasant majority landless. It’s inelastic, one crop (coffee) economy, another legacy of colonial rule, exacerbated already rife poverty.

This prompted a gradual, massive exodus of Salvadorans to less competitive areas in Honduras. Honduras was one of the poorest and least developed of the Central American countries, but it had extirpated the colonial influence to ensure a more equitable spread of wealth and land.

However, it was not without its problems. A huge peasants’ revolt in 1932 was put down by the army. Indeed political instability was a central feature of Honduran life. Although the military did not have an absolute or institutionalised monopoly on political power, it often contrived to install its preferred candidates.

Popular antagonism toward a sequence of military junta saw Dr. Ramon Villeda Morales appointed President in 1957. However, in October 1963 a military cabal deposed Villeda in a bloody coup. General Lopez Arellano was installed as leader of a widely despised new junta. A poor economic situation prompted a general strike in mid-1968, and by 1969 the government was on the precipice of a major revolt.

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Honduras Blames Salvadoran Migrants

The Honduran government passed a land reform act opted to deflect criticism from itself onto the Salvadoran migrant population. At around 300,000 strong, this illegal community was a visible if largely benevolent presence in Honduran society.

In January 1969, the Honduran government took heavily publicised steps to regulate the flow of immigrants crossing the common border with El Salvador, and in April 1969, announced the expulsion of all persons who acquired property without fulfilling legal requirements.

It also used the media to cultivate a hysterical, paranoid hatred immigrants. They bore the burden for wage drops and unemployment increases.

By late May 1969, dozens of Salvadorans were killed or brutalized, and tens of thousands began streaming back over the border – into an already overpopulated El Salvador. Possibilities for forced repatriation/deportation alarmed El Salvador, given the extensive demographic and social ramifications a return of 300 000 peasants would elicit. Its reaction was therefore reciprocal, with El Salvador targeting a largely fictional population of immigrant peasants from Honduras.

Most of the fighting took place in Honduras.

Early Salvador success

Football became a vessel for militant nationalist rhetoric, and by July 14 1969 it triggered actual fighting. In the late afternoon the Salvadoran air force attacked targets inside Honduras and the Salvadoran army launched major offensives along the main road connecting the two nations and against the Honduran islands in the Golfo de Fonseca.

At first, the Salvadorans made fairly rapid progress. By the evening of 15 July, the Salvadoran army, which was considerably larger and better equipped than its Honduran opponent, had forced the Honduran army into a retreat.

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The attack stalls

Thereafter, the attack stalled, and the Salvadorans began to experience fuel and ammunition shortages. A major reason for the fuel shortage was the action of the Honduran air force, which, in addition to largely destroying the smaller Salvadoran air force, had severely damaged El Salvador’s oil storage facilities.

While its army was small, and less-well equipped than Salvadoran, Honduras’ air force was in a better shape, because the national defence strategy was based on air power.

The OAS called for a ceasefire on July 15, which the Salvadorans ignored, but a ceasefire was then arranged on 18 July, taking effect on 20 July. Alongside the horrific casualty figures, the economies of both countries suffered terribly, as the trade had been disrupted and the mutual border closed.

Depending on sources, between 60,000 and 130,000 Salvadorans should have been forcibly expelled or had fled from Honduras, producing massive economic disruption in both countries. It was a terrible result for both sides.


Honduras v El Salvador: The football match that kicked off a war

It was 2-2 after 90 minutes at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. This was the third game between Honduras and El Salvador in as many weeks qualification for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico was at stake, a competition neither country had ever competed in before.

Honduras won the first leg 1-0 in their capital Tegucigalpa, only for El Salvador to triumph 3-0 at home in San Salvador. Reports of violence marred both games.

As the deciding match entered the 11th minute of extra time, El Salvador's Mauricio "Pipo" Rodríguez sprinted into the penalty area to meet a cross and slid the ball past Honduran goalkeeper Jaime Varela.

"When I scored the goal, I thought it's not possible with so little time left for them to draw with us," Rodríguez says, 50 years after the critical match. "I was sure with that goal we would win."

El Salvador held on to triumph 3-2. The players hugged, shook hands, and left the pitch.

Within three weeks, their countries were at war.

El Salvador - roughly the size of Wales - had a population of about 3 million in 1969. Most of the country was controlled by a landowning elite, leaving very little space for poorer Salvadoran farmers. Honduras - similarly dominated by a small number of landowners - was five times as large, and in the same year had a population of about 2.3 million.

As a result, throughout the 20th Century, Salvadorans had been moving to Honduras to take advantage of the more available farmland, and to work for the US fruit companies which operated in the country. Roughly 300,000 were living in the neighbouring state by that year.

El Salvador's small landowning elite had supported the mass emigration, as it eased pressures on their land and calls for it to be redistributed. But the migrant arrivals caused resentment among Honduran peasants who were fighting for more land from their own elite at the time. So the Honduran government passed an agrarian land reform law to ease the tensions.

The authorities focused not on the land owned by the elites and US fruit companies however, but on lands settled by the migrants. Honduran President Oswaldo López Arellano began to deport thousands of Salvadorans home.

On top of this were simmering land and sea border disputes, including over a number of islands in the Gulf of Fonseca - a small body of water on the Pacific Coast shared between both countries and Nicaragua.

"To a very large extent this war was all about available land, too many people in too small a place, and the ruling oligarchy simply fuelling the fire in connection with the press," said Dan Hagedorn, author of The 100 Hour War, which details the conflict.

Salvadoran President Fidel Sánchez Hernández's government struggled to cope with the large numbers of returning migrants, while the country's land owners began pushing for military action, and inflammatory reports about persecution and even allegations of rape and murder appeared in the newspapers.

It was in the midst of this rising anger that the countries met on the football pitch.

"There were much bigger political matters," said Ricardo Otero, a Mexican sports journalist at broadcaster Univision. "But there was this coincidence of three games to qualify for the 1970 World Cup. It didn't help. Football here [in Latin America] is very, very passionate - for good and for bad."

"We felt we had a patriotic duty to win for El Salvador," Rodríguez said. "I think we were all afraid of losing, because in those circumstances it would have been a dishonour that followed us for the rest of our lives.

"What we didn't know was the significance of that win and the historical importance of that goal - that it would be used as a symbol of a war."


The Football War: Honduras vs El Salvador, 1969

In 1969, the world witnessed what has come to be known today as the first “football war”. Following a qualifier match for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico between Honduras and El Salvador, a fleeting but remarkable conflict, with football rivalry at its heart, sprung into life. It was June 8th 1969 in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Fans were lining into the national stadium ahead of the first leg of qualifiers against El Salvador. The two teams were set to play in two legs to find out who will take on the winners of USA-Haiti for the final place in the World Cup. This was more than just a football however - The two Central American countries have a less than amicable relationship off the pitch. The US government had heavily invested in both countries, with El Salvador receiving significantly more capital than their Honduran counterparts leading to a rapid increase in births, which left many Salvadoran farmers unemployed. The poorer Honduras was in a position of richer and less inhabited lands, leading to what seemed like a perfect solution. In 1967, the two dictators Fidel Sanchez (El Salvador) and Oswald Lopez (Honduras) signed the “Convention of Bilateral Immigration”. Soon, nearly 300,000 Salvadorans crossed the border, establishing themselves as farmers in Honduras, unaware of the danger lurking around the corner. The Honduran “campesinos” did not willingly accept the arrival of the Salvadorans (given the conditions of poverty already gripping the country), and the tension all culminated in 1969. In an attempt to appease his local farmers without angering the American multinationals that were propping up his dictatorship, Oswald Lopez decreed the expulsion of the 300,000 Salvadorans living in Honduras. This was the political climate between the two countries ahead of their crucial qualifying legs for the World Cup. Tensions could not have been higher. The first leg was played on June 8th, and the Salvadoran players tried to stay in Honduras for as little time as possible. Throughout the night their hotel was pelted with stones, and the continuous hum of car horns. Despite playing a mentally exhausted El Salvador, Honduras only scored the winning goal of the first leg one minute from full time. In the meantime in El Salvador, the defeat was seen as absolutely devastating, causing Amelia Bolanos, the 18-year old daughter of a general, to kill herself. The young girl became viewed as a heroin, and was given a state funeral. The Salvadoran government did not to hesitate to use the occasion for propagandistic means. One week later, with the return leg in San Salvador, the situation got worse. Paper bombs, eggs and rocks were thrown at the Honduran players’ hotel window throughout the night, forcing them to seek refuge on the roof, awaiting the police’s arrival. They made the next day's trip from the hotel to the Estadio de la Flor in military tanks. Once the players finally made it into the ground, the Honduran national anthem was greeted by a plethora of whistling, as their national flag was burned in the Salvadoran home stand. In the end, the game was all too easy for the home side as a terrified Honduran team lost 3-0, while fighting in the stands left two away fans dead and dozens injured. At the time, goal difference was not a factor, so a final playoff was needed in the Azteca stadium in Mexico City. It was June 26 at this point, and the mix of tensions off the pitch combined with the dramatic performances on it turned the situation into a powder keg. Regular time ended 2-2, and in the 101’ minute Mauricio Rodriguez scored the winning goal, putting El Salvador through to the next round where they would eventually qualify for the World Cup after defeating Haiti. In Mexico City, however, the police failed miserably at preventing crown troubles, as the 5,000 police officers proved insufficient and incapable of preventing disorder within and around the stadium. It was a prelude to what would happen between July 14 and July 19, 1969. El Salvador attacked Honduras without warning, justifying the action as a necessary preventative defence of its national borders. The conflict would last 100 hours, killing 6,000 people and injuring another 50,000. The eventual cease-fire came after the Organisation of American States was able to negotiate a treaty which guaranteed the withdrawal of Salvadoran forces from Honduras in exchange for reparations made to farmers who had been displaced as a result of the conflict. Was all this really a consequence of a game of football? The truth is, football helped to strengthen the chauvinism and patriotic hysteria that is always needed to unleash a war and strengthen oligarchies. The two governments were satisfied with the war because for a few days Honduras and El Salvador made global headlines. The "Football War" will go down in history as one of the darker moments of the beautiful game. It is a reminder that football can also bring out the worst in us and our tribalistic nature. On this anniversary, we should remind ourselves of the original function of the game - as a teacher of respect, fair play and friendship.


Football in the shadow of conflict

IN JUNE 1969, AROUND THE TIME WHEN THE USA’S CAMPAIGN IN VIETNAM RAGED to epic proportions and caught the nervous attention of the watching world, a different conflict much closer to home was burgeoning dangerously.

El Salvador had just beaten Honduras 3-0 at home a week after Honduras had snatched a 1-0 victory in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, in a crucial two-legged affair to see which nation would travel to Mexico the following summer for the 1970 FIFA World Cup. With the absence of an aggregate score, a decisive third match was played at the Aztec City Stadium in Mexco City. El Salvador won a fiercely contested battle 3-2, thus advancing to the World Cup.

These were no ordinary football matches, however, as they sparked a four-day conflict between the two Central American countries commonly described as the ‘Football War’. Following El Salvador’s defeat to Honduras in the first match, Amelia Bolanos refused to endure the humiliation that went with the loss to their neighbours. She got up from the TV, ran over to a desk, pulled out her father’s pistol from one of the drawers and shot herself in the heart. The girl could not bear to see her country defeated in such heartbreaking circumstances.

Her death signalled the beginning of the conflict between Honduras and El Salvador, but remained strangely overlooked by the rest of the world. On the same day that saw El Salvador narrowly edge their rivals 3-2 in Mexico City, Honduras severed diplomatic ties with them.

To say the conflict was caused by football, however, would be naive in the extreme. Rather, the football matches were played against a backdrop of mounting tensions between the two nations, as political disputes flared over issues of immigration that stemmed from population density. In 1969, Honduras had a population of 2.3 million, while El Salvador – despite covering one-fifth of land as Honduras – had a population of 3 million, resulting in an overcrowded country that suffered from a poor quality of life.

As a result, in an attempt to find a better situation, thousands migrated to Honduras, and by the time the first qualifying match took place for the World Cup, there were approximately 300,000 Salvadoran immigrants living in Honduras. The resentment of rural Honduras in losing their jobs to immigrants led to simmering political tensions between the two nations and just as the football matches were poised to take place, the conflict was poised to explode.

The Salvadoran team arrived in Tegucigalpa on Saturday and spent a sleepless night in their hotel. The team could not sleep because it was the target of psychological warfare waged by the Honduran fans as a swarm of people encircled the hotel. The crowd threw stones at the windows and beat sheets of tin and empty barrels with sticks. They set off one set of firecrackers after another. They leaned on the horn of cars parked in front of the hotel. The fans whistled, screamed and sent up hostile chants. This went on all night. The idea was that a sleepy, edgy, exhausted team would be bound to lose. They were right.

Honduras snatched a 1-0 victory courtesy of a stoppage time goal from their star player, Enrique Cardona, an Atlético Madrid player at the time, and sparked rioting in the stands and the murder of two Hondurans outside their hotel. When the news of Bolanos’ suicide broke, the propagandistic Salvadoran media used it as an instrument to drive national pride into their people, simultaneously driving hatred towards the Hondurans into them as well. In the build-up to the second match in El Salvador, nationalist fervour and mutual antipathy at reached such a level it required the Salvadoran Security Service to hide the Honduran team at an undisclosed location.

It was the second match, won 3-0 by El Salvador as soldiers patrolled the stadium and players were escorted to and from the stadium in armoured cars, that sparked the conflict into life. It took place in took place in San Salvador, the beautifully named Flor Blanca stadium, a week later. This time it was the Honduran team that spent a sleepless night. The screaming crowd of fans broke all the windows in the hotel and threw rotten eggs, dead rats and stinking rags inside in an echoed foray into psychological warfare.

The players were taken to the match in armoured cars of the First Salvadoran Mechanized Division – which saved them from revenge and bloodshed at the hands of the mob that lined the route, holding up portraits of the national heroine Amelia Bolanos. Goals from Elver Acevedo, Juan Ramon Martinez and Mauricio Rodriguez brushed aside Honduras on a sweltering afternoon in San Salvador, but the match sparked a wave of violence that would grip the two nations for a brief but devastating 100-hour period. The fans, kicked and beaten, fled towards the border. Two of them died. Scores landed in hospital. One hundred and fifty of the visitors’ cars were burned. The border between the two states was closed a few hours later.

“We’re awfully lucky that we lost, otherwise we would have been dead,” said the Honduran coach Mario Griffin as his team fled home. According to Lorenzo Dee Belveal, an American writer who wrote a colossal six-volume account of the conflict said:

“When the futbolistas got back to Tegucigalpa and began recounting their experiences in the sister republic, righteous indignation burst into flame. Goon-squads of Tegucigalpa fans mounted a rumble against resident Salvadoreans that quickly turned into a very heavy scene. In addition to black eyes and cracked heads, bones were broken and people were killed.”

In the aftermath of the second match on July 14, the war officially began when three El Salvadoran fighter aircrafts made an incursion into Honduran airspace. Soon afterwards, the Salvadoran army made immediate advances toward Tegucigalpa and launched attacks on the main road connecting the two countries. The bombs that were dropped enveloped the city in panic and hysteria. The lights went out on the street and with the screams of worried mothers and bustling of worried merchants choking the atmosphere the capital was plunged into darkness.

The Honduran air force retaliated with strategic bombings of oil refineries and major power centres in El Salvador. With both sides running out of ammunition, a ceasefire was eventually called and went into effect on July 20. The conflict was brief, but the losses were devastating, and the impact lingers still today. Over 6,000 people were killed, while 12,000 were left wounded and the destruction of villages, homes and fields displaced approximately 50,000 people.

According to declassified intelligence reports from the CIA, El Salvador “bombed and strafed Honduran border positions and the airport at Tegucigalpa. El Salvador is expected to continue its attack in anticipation of an early cease-fire agreement.” The conflict remained overlooked, however, forced into the periphery of the global consciousness by other events at the time such as Neil Armstrong landing on the moon.

Before travelling to Mexico for the third match, President Fidel Sanchez Hernandez called the El Salvadoran national team to his house and treated them to soft drinks and a meal. But he had one important message for the Argentine head coach, Gregorio Bundio you are a foreigner but as a foreigner you must protect the national colours of El Salvador in the way you would if you were born here.

It showed that the president viewed the match not just as a sporting event against two bitter rivals it was, once again, an opportunity to express Salvadoran nationalism and boost national dignity. Bundio put the 3-2 victory down to buying new boots for the slippery Aztec pitch, not eating a pre-match meal in their hotel due to fear of food poisoning and ensuring that all players touched their testicles to show that they would not leave them in the dressing room.

Mexican journalist Luis Suarez claims: “[In Latin America] The border between soccer and politics is vague. There is a long list of governments that have fallen or been overthrown after the defeat of the national team. Players on the losing team are denounced in the press as traitors.” Such a quote goes a long way in explaining how expressions of nationalism and pride in the form of football still have the dark power to divide and trigger violence.

The ‘Football War’ was not caused predominantly by the sport, rather an amalgamation of socio-economic factors that had been threatening to rip the nations apart anyway. Nevertheless football, as the catalyst for fervent expressions of nationalism on the pitch, triggered the conflict and once again proved how sport, football specifically, has the capacity to influence and shape to politics. The war serves as a potent reminder of how football has the power to divide and initiate the horrors of war.


World Cup Countdown: 12 Weeks to Go - How a Match Between Honduras & El Salvador Started a War

​The beautiful game has suffered its fair share of controversies over the years, whether that be corruption in FIFA, Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God' and even how Qatar got the World Cup in 2022. However, what happened after a match between Honduras and El Salvador pales all of football's other misdemeanours into insignificance.

In 1969, football caused war.

'The Football War' as it is commonly known, occurred between the Central American countries El Salvador and Honduras following the countries' World Cup qualifiers in 1969.

Now, a war didn't just erupt solely due to a game of football - there were other circumstances. There were a host of issues at the root of the troubles, including disputes over migration, trade and land across the border of the two states, and social unrest followed.

The two countries were both under military dictatorships, and a strain on resources led 300,000 Salvadorans to cross the border into Honduras. Tension was fiercely growing, and amid all the political unrest between the two countries, you'd be forgiven for thinking that a simple game of football might facilitate diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Well, this was not to be the case. Football was the match (pardon the pun) that ignited the flame.

El Salvador and Honduras were playing in a best-of-three World Cup qualifier to see who would progress. The first game in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa witnessed minor disturbances following the host's 1-0 victory, but things worsened significantly come the second match.

The visiting Honduran players suffered a sleepless night before the game as rotten eggs, dead rats and a host of other distasteful items were thrown through the broken windows of their dilapidated hotel. Come the game itself, things managed to deteriorate even more. The away fans were attacked at the game, and the Honduran flag and national anthem were mocked.

Honduras inevitably lost the game 3-0, with their manager, Mario Griffin, citing the disturbances for the reason as to why they suffered defeat. Rather than focusing on the game itself, "the players had their minds on getting out alive", according to Griffin.

#OnThisDay in 1969: The 'Football War' began between Honduras and El Salvador two weeks after an ill tempered WC qualifier. #history pic.twitter.com/9eamKn5FON

— Samiran Mishra (@scoutdesk) July 14, 2017

It was therefore 1-1 in the series, and the victor of the third game would go the the 1970 World Cup. Tension mounted before decisive third match in Mexico, but on June 27th, the day of the play-off, Honduras broke off diplomatic relations with their neighbours.

The carnage was at fever-pitch, but El Salvador eventually triumphed 3-2 after extra time. Only two days later, however, El Salvador had invaded Honduras.

A ceasefire was negotiated on July 20th, but the damage was already done. Between 1000 and 2000 people lost their lives, and 100,000 more had become refugees. El Salvador withdrew their troops in August, but it took 11 years for a formal peace treaty between the two nations to be agreed.

Trade between the two nations had been totally disrupted and the border closed, damaging the economies of both nations and threatening the future of the Central American Common Market. A civil war then broke out in El Salvador in 1980, and the conflict would last 12 years before the International Court of Justice awarded much of the originally disputed territory to the Honduras.

The #FootballWar also known as the #SoccerWar or 100 Hour War, was a brief war fought by El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. #COS_Facts pic.twitter.com/r470eBkkkB

— Circle of Sports (@CircleofSports1) May 4, 2017

Over the years, football has provided a reminder that we are all similar who hold similar values. Football was used as a method of peace during World War One, when soldiers from Germany and Britain enjoyed a football match against each other on Christmas Day.

In addition, football star Didier Drogba even used his hero status to stop a civil war in his home country of Cote D'Ivoire. Even two years prior to the football war, the sport was used as a ceasefire in the Biafran war. The opposing sides declared a two-day truce in September 1967 so that they could watch the magic of Pele and his touring Santos team play in two exhibition matches.

The World Cup play-offs between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 did indeed cause a conflict, but such a war would never had happened if the underlying tensions had never been there.

We all know that in the heat of the moment, football can seem like life and death, but in reality it is just a game. The events of 1969 should never have occurred, and thankfully, such conflict would never happen in the 21st Century as a result of our sport.

Well, let's just hope the US and North Korea don't play each other any time soon.


El Salvador vs Honduras - Facts about a rivalry that unleashed a war

If you ever wonder why sometimes we ask fans to take it easy, this matchup is quite a good example of how a football rivalry can turn out to be a bad thing.

Maybe El Salvador and Honduras are far from becoming two top-caliber teams in the world of football, but they sure made their way into history as the only teams to go to war over the outcome of a World Cup Qualifying match.

Back in 1969, as the world prepared for the first World Cup to be played in North America, El Salvador and Honduras played the first match between them. The winner of the tie would join Mexico as CONCACAF's representatives in the 1970 World Cup, and each team did their homework by defeating the other at their home ground. A third game was held at Azteca Stadium to determine the winner, and with political tension rising between both nations, El Salvador's win was just another argument for both countries to go to war.

Fire ceased four days later, but both teams were banned from the 1969 Central American Cup. Their next game took place eleven years later, which can give you a pretty good idea about how intense their fanbases can get.

Here are the stats & facts for the rivalry between El Salvador & Honduras.

Games played (all comps): 32

Wins for Honduras: 18

Biggest win for El Salvador: 3-0 (1969)

Biggest win for Honduras: 5-0 (2000)


World Cup Countdown: 12 Weeks to Go - How a Match Between Honduras & El Salvador Started a War

The beautiful game has suffered its fair share of controversies over the years, whether that be corruption in FIFA, Maradona&aposs infamous &aposHand of God&apos and even how Qatar got the World Cup in 2022. However, what happened after a match between Honduras and El Salvador pales all of football&aposs other misdemeanours into insignificance. 

In 1969, football caused war.

&aposThe Football War&apos as it is commonly known, occurred between the Central American countries਎l Salvador and Honduras following the countries&apos World Cup qualifiers in 1969. 

Now, a war didn&apost just erupt solely due to a game of football - there were other circumstances. There were a host of issues at the root of the troubles, including disputes over migration, trade and land across the border of the two states, and social unrest followed. 

The two countries were both under military dictatorships, and a strain on resources led 300,000 Salvadorans to cross the border into Honduras. Tension was fiercely growing, and amid all the political unrest between the two countries, you&aposd be forgiven for thinking that a simple game of football might facilitate diplomatic relations between the two countries. 

Well, this was not to be the case.ਏootball was the match (pardon the pun) that ignited the flame. 

El Salvador and Honduras were playing in a best-of-three World Cup qualifier to see who would progress. The first game in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa witnessed minor disturbances following the host&aposs 1-0 victory, but things worsened significantly come the second match. 

The visiting Honduran players suffered a sleepless night before the game as rotten eggs, dead rats and a host of other distasteful items were thrown through the broken windows of their dilapidated hotel. Come the game itself, things managed to deteriorate even more. The away fans were attacked at the game, and the Honduran flag and national anthem were mocked. 

Honduras inevitably lost the game 3-0, with their manager, Mario Griffin, citing the disturbances for the reason as to why they suffered defeat. Rather than focusing on the game itself, "the players had their minds on getting out alive", according to Griffin. 

It was therefore 1-1 in the series, and the victor of the third game would go the the 1970 World Cup. Tension mounted before decisive third match in Mexico, but on June 27th, the day of the play-off, Honduras broke off diplomatic relations with their neighbours. 

The carnage was at fever-pitch, but El Salvador eventually triumphed 3-2 after extra time. Only two days later, however, El Salvador had invaded Honduras. 

A ceasefire was negotiated on July 20th, but the damage was already done. Between 1000 and 2000 people lost their lives, and 100,000 more had become refugees. El Salvador withdrew their troops in August, but it took 11 years for a formal peace treaty between the two nations to be agreed. 

Trade between the two nations had been totally disrupted and the border closed, damaging the economies of both nations and threatening the future of the Central American Common Market.ਊ civil war then broke out in El Salvador in 1980, and the conflict would last 12 years before the International Court of Justice awarded much of the originally disputed territory to the Honduras. 

Over the years, football has provided a reminder that we are all similar who hold similar values. Football was used as a method of peace during World War One, when soldiers from Germany and Britain enjoyed a football match against each other on Christmas Day. 


The Honduras – El Salvador Soccer War of 1969

As dusk fell, a swarm of Honduras national football team fans gathered around the hotel. The mood was edgy, the sentiment bordering on mob fury. Barrels, sticks, sheets of tin, pebbles, stones … these were ready at hand. The men also eyed the cars parked at the side of the hotel.

As the evening stretched into the night, the crowd got into the act. The sticks were struck against the barrels and sheets of tin creating an incredible din. Rocks, stones and pebbles were pelted at the hotel windows. Firecrackers were set off. The fans leaned on the horns of the cars that stood outside the hotel. And there were whistles, chants and screams. The message, whether passed through missiles, noise or voice, was uniformly hostile.

The target was the El Salvador football team that were staying in the hotel. The idea was to deprive them of sleep and exhaust them with hostility before they took on Honduras in the first leg of their World Cup Qualifier showdown.

This was common enough. Especially in Latin America. More so between two countries who were far from being friendly neighbours.

That El Salvador would lose the next day was also quite expected.

But there were things that were not quite normal in the scheme of things. Such as what happened in the Bolaños household when Roberto Cardona, the Honduran striker, netted the only goal of the match in the final minute of the match. Amelia Bolaños, a 18-year-old girl watching the match on television in El Salvador, was shattered. She got up, made her way briskly to the drawer where her father kept his pistol, and shot herself through the heart.

According to El Nacional, the Salvadoran newspaper, ‘The young girl could not bear to see her fatherland brought to its knees.”

Football tragic taken to the limits of fandom? Only the nation did not think so.

The funeral was televised across the country. The whole capital took part in it. At the head of the procession marched an army guard with the Salvadoran flag. Behind the flag-draped coffin walked Fidel Sánchez Hernández, the president of the nation. His ministers accompanied him. Behind the government officials walked the Salvadoran soccer team. They had just flown back on a special flight that morning, after being booed and spat on at the Tegucigalpa airport.

The death of the young girl had become a national issue.

It was in San Salvador that the return match took place. A week after the first game.

This time the Honduran football team could not sleep a wink the night before the game. The fans had hollered all night outside the hotel. They had broken all the windows and thrown rotten eggs, dead rats and rags that stunk the whole place up.

The route to the stadium was lined up with throngs of angry fans and patriots, holding huge portraits of Amelia Bolaños. The only reason the players were not lynched was because they travelled in the armoured cars of the First Salvadoran Mechanised Division.

The beautifully named Flor Blanca stadium looked like a war zone. Soldiers from a crack regiment of the Guardia Nacional, armed with sub-machine-guns, stood on the pitch. The Honduran national anthem was played, but was drowned by the roars and taunts of the crowd. The Honduran national flag was set on fire, much to the delight of the spectators. As the match got underway, beside the Salvadoran flag flew a tattered dishrag on the flagpole where the Honduran flag should have been.

The result was 3-0 in favour of the Salvadorans. The Honduras team were not really disappointed. Quite the contrary. All they cared about was getting back to their country alive. As Mario Griffin, the visiting coach, remarked, “We’re awfully lucky that we lost.”

The players, indeed, were lucky. The same armoured vans that had brought them to the stadium took them straight to the airport. They went home, thankful to be alive.

Many of the fans who had crossed the border to watch the match did not quite enjoy the same small blessing. In the stadium they were beaten, kicked, manhandled. Rushing for the border, many made directly for the hospital. As many as hundred and fifty cars of these fans were torched.

Within a few hours, the border between the two countries was closed.

Polish Press Agency journalist Ryszard Kapuściński was sitting with a Mexican political analyst named, coincidentally for soccer fans, Luis Suarez. This Suarez did not excel in the football field as his namesake was to do several decades later. Neither do we know of his mastication habits. But, he could foretell political developments. He had foretold the fall of João Goulart in Brazil, the fall of Juan Bosch in Dominican Republic and the fall of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in Venezuela.

Now, looking at the press reports of the football match, he told Kapuściński that there was going to be a war. And Kapuściński flew to Honduras. Good for him, because the prophecy came true.

The playoff took place in Mexico City on 27 June. The Honduran fans sat on one side of the stadium. The Salvadoran fans were placed on the other. They were separated by 5000 Mexican policemen armed with thick clubs.

El Salvador triumphed 3-2 in the match, scoring the deciding goal in extra time.

The same day, the Salvadoran government dissolved all diplomatic ties with Honduras. The official statement said that in the ten days since the game in El Salvador 11,700 Salvadorans had been forced to flee Honduras. It claimed that Hondurans had “done nothing to prevent murder, oppression, rape, plundering and the mass expulsion of Salvadoreans” and thus there was little point in maintaining relations. It further claimed that “the government of Honduras has not taken any effective measures to punish these crimes which constitute genocide, nor has it given assurances of indemnification or reparations for the damages caused to Salvadorans.” The Guardian published the story the next day, titling it Football’s Diplomatic Penalty.

Action began on 14 July 1969. El Salvador was put on blackout. The Salvadoran Air Force ( a glorified term indeed, as they used passenger airplanes with explosives strapped to their sides as bombers) attacked targets inside Honduras.

The war lasted 100 hours, and is often remembered both as the Soccer War and the 100-hour War. There were 6,000 fatalities and more than 12,000 wounded. About 50,000 people lost their homes and fields. Villages were destroyed.

The result was a stalemate. El Salvador finally withdrew its troops on 2 August 1969. On that date, Honduras guaranteed Salvadoran President Hernández that the Honduran government would provide adequate safety for the Salvadorans still living in Honduras. The tension around the border remained, even after the ceasefire.

In truth, it was not only football that led to the conflict. El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America and with the then greatest population density in the western hemisphere, had always had the problem of too much wealth in the hands of too few powerful families.

A lot of landless peasants emigrated to Honduras, a country almost six times as big. With more than 30,000 illegal Salvadoran settlers in Honduras, there was growing tension as the native Honduran peasantry demanded their own land in the 1960s. Things were not helped with the United Fruit Company, the American corporation, owning large banana plantations in the country, making redistribution of land next to impossible. There was pressure on the government to ask the Salvadoran ‘squatters’ to return home, whereas the Salvadoran government was bound to refuse entry to the emigrants because of the possibilities of an internal peasant revolution.

Thus, the tension between the two countries was at boiling point when the World Cup qualifiers took place. Hate, slander, aggression was everywhere. The hostilities around the football, aided by the suicide of Amelia Bolaños, lit the final catalytic spark to the time bomb.

However, as Kapuściński writes: “Both the governments [were] satisfied [with the war]. For several days Honduras and El Salvador occupied the front pages of world press and were the object of interest and concern. The only chance small countries from the Third World have of evoking a lively international interest is when they decide to shed blood.”

The links between politics and football in Latin America are strong, and the borders fuzzy. A year later, in 1970, when Brazil won the World Cup in Mexico, and thereby the Jules Rimet Trophy, a sentiment was heard: “The military right wing can be assured of at least five more years of peaceful rule.”


Contents

The national team made its debut in the Independence Centenary Games held in Guatemala City in September 1921, losing 9–0 to Guatemala. [4]

During their first appearance at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1930, Honduras posted a record of two wins and three losses. Their only wins came against Jamaica (5–1) and El Salvador (4–1), while they lost two games to Cuba and Costa Rica.

The national association, the National Autonomous Federation of Football of Honduras (FENAFUTH) was founded in 1935. It joined FIFA in 1946 and co-founded CONCACAF in 1961. [5]

1970 World Cup and the Football War Edit

Prior to the qualification stages leading up to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador found themselves in what was called the Football War. This nickname was given to the situation after an play-off game was played between the two countries to decide which would qualify for the Finals. This political crisis eventually turned into a war that lasted approximately 100 hours.

Honduras had begun qualifying by defeating Costa Rica and Jamaica. Against Jamaica, they easily won both games, 5–1 on aggregate. They beat Costa Rica 1–0 in Tegucigalpa and drew 1–1 away. This set up a final match between Honduras and El Salvador, who had eliminated Guyana and the Netherlands Antilles.

In the first game against El Salvador, Honduras won 1–0 in Tegucigalpa on 8 June 1969. Honduras were coached by Carlos Padilla Velásquez and the only goal of the game was scored by Leonard Welch. Honduras lost the second game 3–0 in San Salvador, and a play-off was required in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on 27 June. El Salvador won 3–2 to qualify and eliminate Honduras.

1982 World Cup Edit

Honduras won the 1981 CONCACAF Championship and qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 1982. Despite drawing against the hosts Spain and Northern Ireland, both 1–1, they were eliminated in the first round after losing their last match to Yugoslavia 1–0.

Honduras finished second in the 1985 CONCACAF Championship, losing their final match 2–1 against Canada, who went on to qualify for the 1986 World Cup. Their next major accomplishment was being runners-up at the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup, losing against the host nation, the United States.

For the 1998 World Cup, Jamaica and Mexico eliminated Honduras at the third round stage. Despite Honduras's overwhelming 11–3 victory against Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Jamaica defeated Mexico at Independence Park, Kingston, allowing the Reggae Boys to advance to the next round.

2001 Copa América Edit

Since 1993, CONMEBOL has invited teams from other confederations to participate in their confederation championship, the Copa América. Honduras took part as one of the last-minute teams added for the 2001 tournament, as Argentina dropped out one day before the start. The team arrived only a few hours before the tournament's first game and with barely enough players. Despite the odds, Honduras progressed into the quarter-finals, where they defeated Brazil 2–0. In the semi-finals, Colombia knocked out Honduras 2–0.

Honduras advanced to the final round in the qualifying competition for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, but again failed to qualify after losing at home to Trinidad & Tobago, and away against Mexico in their final two matches. The match against Trinidad and Tobago saw Honduras hit the goal post seven times. [ citation needed ]

2010 World Cup Edit

On 14 October 2009, Honduras qualified for the 2010 World Cup after a 1–0 win against El Salvador gave them the third automatic qualifying spot from the Fourth Round of CONCACAF Qualifying. [6]

Honduras faced Chile, Spain, and Switzerland in their first round group. [7] In their first match they lost to Chile 1–0, to a goal from Jean Beausejour. They then lost 2–0 to Spain, with both goals scored by David Villa. In their last match they drew 0–0 against Switzerland and were eliminated in last place in the group.

2014 World Cup Edit

In the qualifying competition for the 2014 World Cup, Honduras were given a bye to the third round because of their third-place position among CONCACAF teams in the March 2011 FIFA World Rankings. They qualified for the final round by finishing first in their group, which included Panama, Canada and Cuba. After beginning with a home defeat against Panama, Honduras recovered and beat Canada 8–1 in their final match, allowing them to win the group ahead of Panama.

In the final round of qualifying, the Hexagonal, six teams faced each other in a home-and-away format. In their first two games, Honduras defeated the United States 2–1 and came back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2–2 with Mexico. They lost three of their next four matches before travelling to Mexico City to face Mexico in the Azteca. Honduras again trailed but scored twice in the second half for a stunning 2–1 win. They returned to Tegucigalpa, where they drew 2–2 against Panama, who escaped defeat with a last-minute goal by Roberto Chen. In the final two games, Honduras beat Costa Rica 1–0 at home and qualified with a 2–2 draw against Jamaica in Kingston.

In the Finals in Brazil, Honduras again finished bottom of their first round group, after 3–0 defeats against France and Switzerland, and a 2–1 defeat to Ecuador. The match against France featured the first use of goal-line technology to award a goal at the World Cup: an own-goal by Honduras's goalkeeper, Noel Valladares. Against Ecuador, Carlo Costly scored Honduras's first goal in the Finals for 32 years.

Honduras failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. In the Hexagonal stage they dropped into fourth place after Panama scored an 88th-minute winning goal in their last match against Costa Rica. Honduras had themselves dropped points by conceding late goals in their two previous games, against Costa Rica and the United States. They entered a play-off against Australia, and after a 0–0 draw at home, Honduras were eliminated when they lost the second leg in Sydney 3–1.

Honduras have won the UNCAF Nations Cup four times: in 1993, 1995, 2011 and 2017.

Honduras plays the majority of its home games at Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula. [ citation needed ]

The national team also plays at Estadio Tiburcio Carías Andino in Tegucigalpa. [ citation needed ] In the past, Honduras played their games in San Pedro Sula at Estadio Francisco Morazán. [ citation needed ]

Estadio Nilmo Edwards in La Ceiba has also hosted friendly exhibition matches since 2007. [ citation needed ]

The tables below include matches from the past 12 months as well as any future scheduled matches.

2020 Edit

Honduras v Nicaragua
10 October Friendly Honduras 1–1 Nicaragua Comayagua, Honduras
17:00 Paz 90+2 ' Report Chavarría 40 ' Stadium: Estadio Carlos Miranda
Referee: Óscar Donaldo Moncada (Honduras)

2021 Edit

2022 Edit

Current squad Edit

The following players were named to the squad for the friendly against Mexico on 12 June 2021. [8]
Caps and goals updated as of 13 June 2021 after the match against Mexico.

No. Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
18 1 GK Alex Güity ( 1997-09-20 ) 20 September 1997 (age 23) 1 0 Olimpia
22 1 GK Luis López ( 1993-09-13 ) 13 September 1993 (age 27) 31 0 Real España
2 2 DF Kevin Álvarez ( 1996-08-03 ) 3 August 1996 (age 24) 6 0 Norrköping
3 2 DF Maynor Figueroa (Captain) ( 1983-05-02 ) 2 May 1983 (age 38) 168 5 Houston Dynamo
4 2 DF Marcelo Pereira ( 1995-05-27 ) 27 May 1995 (age 26) 17 0 Motagua
5 2 DF Éver Alvarado ( 1992-01-30 ) 30 January 1992 (age 29) 31 1 Olimpia
15 2 DF Elvin Oliva ( 1997-10-24 ) 24 October 1997 (age 23) 0 0 Olimpia
16 2 DF Johnny Leverón ( 1990-02-07 ) 7 February 1990 (age 31) 37 3 Olimpia
23 2 DF Diego Rodríguez ( 1995-11-06 ) 6 November 1995 (age 25) 5 1 Motagua
6 3 MF Bryan Acosta ( 1993-11-24 ) 24 November 1993 (age 27) 48 2 FC Dallas
8 3 MF Edwin Rodríguez ( 1999-09-25 ) 25 September 1999 (age 21) 7 1 Olimpia
10 3 MF Alexander López ( 1992-05-06 ) 6 May 1992 (age 29) 37 4 Alajuelense
11 3 MF Rigoberto Rivas ( 1998-07-31 ) 31 July 1998 (age 22) 10 0 Reggina
13 3 MF Kervin Arriaga ( 1998-01-05 ) 5 January 1998 (age 23) 2 0 Marathón
14 3 MF Boniek García ( 1984-04-11 ) 11 April 1984 (age 37) 128 3 Houston Dynamo
19 3 MF Walter Martínez ( 1991-03-26 ) 26 March 1991 (age 30) 5 0 Motagua
20 3 MF Deybi Flores ( 1996-06-16 ) 16 June 1996 (age 25) 9 0 Olimpia
21 3 MF Jhow Benavídez ( 1995-12-26 ) 26 December 1995 (age 25) 6 0 Real España
9 4 FW Anthony Lozano ( 1993-04-25 ) 25 April 1993 (age 28) 35 9 Cádiz
12 4 FW Jorge Benguché ( 1996-05-21 ) 21 May 1996 (age 25) 6 2 Boavista
17 4 FW Jonathan Toro ( 1996-10-21 ) 21 October 1996 (age 24) 11 3 Chaves
24 4 FW Luis Palma ( 2000-01-17 ) 17 January 2000 (age 21) 0 0 Vida

Recent call-ups Edit

The following players have been called up to the Honduran squad in the last 12 months.


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Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski was one of the few foreign correspondents in the area when the invasion began. By his own account, he filed some of the first reports of the conflict from Tegucigalpa that night - taking his turn to use the country's only teleprinter machine, after President López Arellano, who was communicating with his ambassador in the US about the invasion.

Kapuscinski later wrote of his time in Honduras and immortalised the conflict's name in his 1978 memoir, The Soccer War. In it, he recounts seeing graffiti saying "Nobody beats Honduras" and "We shall avenge 3-0".

By the time the Organization of American States managed to arrange a ceasefire on 18 July, it was thought about 3,000 people had died - the majority Honduran civilians. Many more were displaced by the fighting. Under international pressure, El Salvador withdrew its forces from Honduras in August.

And the pain did not end there. Trade ceased between both nations for decades and the border was closed.

Dr Mo Hume, lecturer at the University of Glasgow, said the domestic problems in El Salvador that caused the Football War - a small landowning elite and large numbers of dispossessed farmers - would affect the country for decades to come.

"The bigger socioeconomic questions that were part and parcel of the football war were the ultimate cause of [El Salvador's] civil war from 1979 to 1992," she said. More than 70,000 people are thought to have died in the conflict.

There are still tensions between El Salvador and Honduras. Border disputes between both sides continue to this day, despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the issue . But for the man who scored the fateful goal for El Salvador, it was not rancour that he remembered.

"For me, that goal will always be a source of sporting pride," said Rodriguez, who is now 73. "What I am sure of is that the authorities and politicians made use of our sports victory to glorify El Salvador's image."

And despite what followed, Rodriguez said the El Salvador team retained an immense "appreciation and respect" for their Honduran opponents. "Neither from the Honduras players nor from our side were the games between enemies, but between sports rivals," he said.


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