Military Review

Hundred-hour football war

The tradition of the cessation of hostilities during sports competitions, laid down by the ancient Greeks, unfortunately, is not always respected by countries whose athletes are rivals in sports arenas.

Hundred-hour football war

Alas, but in stories there are even examples of how the outcome of a peaceful and seemingly harmless team competition caused serious military conflicts and numerous casualties. One of the clearest examples of this turn of events was the hundred-hour war between El Salvador and Honduras, which broke out after the qualifying matches between the football teams of these countries on the eve of the 1970 World Championship.

It is well known that football in Latin America has always stood and stands in a special place. However, considering the history of this conflict, it should be noted that the football confrontation was not in itself the true cause of the outbreak of tragedy. Many preceding events slowly but inevitably led to the sad end of relations between the two Central American states, but it was the final qualifying match between the teams of these countries that was the last straw that filled the burning cup.

There are a number of theories regarding the emergence of the name of the state of Honduras, but none of them today have scientific evidence. According to one legend, the name of the country comes from the phrase Columbus uttered in 1502-th year during his fourth and last voyage to the New World. His ship managed to survive in a violent storm, and the famous navigator said: “I thank God for giving us a chance to get out of these depths” (Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de estas honduras). This statement gave the name to the nearby Cape Gracias a Dios (Cabo Gracias a Dios) and the area to the west of it - the country of Honduras (Honduras).

El Salvador, being a small, but most densely populated Central American state, had a developed economy in the second half of the last century, but lacked arable land. The main part of the land in the country was controlled by a narrow circle of landowners, which led to the "land hunger" and the resettlement of the peasants to a neighboring country - Honduras. Honduras geographically was much more populated not so densely and poorly developed economically.

Relations between neighbors began to escalate in the early sixties, when numerous migrants from El Salvador began to occupy and cultivate neighboring lands, illegally crossing the border in different places and actually taking work away from the indigenous people of the country, causing their well-founded discontent. By January, 1969, the number of such defectors, seekers of a better life in Honduras, according to various estimates, ranged from one hundred to three hundred thousand people. The prospect of domination in the economy and the domination of Salvadorans gave rise to strong public irritation, fearing for a possible territorial redistribution of lands illegally seized by Salvadorans, nationalist organizations of Honduras tried to draw the attention of the authorities to the current situation by organizing strikes and rallies, as well as conducting mass civilians from 1967. . In parallel with this, the peasant population of Honduras more and more insistently demanded the reform of agriculture and the redistribution of land throughout the country. The dictator of the classical type, Osvaldo Lopez Arellano, who came to power through a coup d'état, seemed clever to look for those who were displaced from Salvador in the face of the majority of the country's inhabitants.

After a couple of years, Arellano, with his inept management, finally put the country’s economy into a corner. The main cause of all the economic problems in Honduras, lower wages and high unemployment were again uninvited neighbors from El Salvador. In 1969, the authorities refused to extend the immigration agreement 1967, and in April of the same year, the government passed a law according to which all immigrants who worked the land without legal documentary evidence of ownership were deprived of property and could be expelled from the country moment. It is worth noting that at the same time this legislation passed around the land of oligarchs and foreign companies, among which the United Fruit Company was one of the largest at that time.

United Fruit Company or United Fruit Company was a powerful American corporation delivering tropical fruits from the third world to the United States and Europe. The company was created by 30 March 1899-th year and had support in the ruling circles of the United States. It flourished in the beginning and middle of the last century, when it controlled many agricultural territories and transport networks in Central America, the West Indies, Ecuador and Colombia. The main patrons worth noting are the Dulles brothers (CIA director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles) and President Eisenhower. The company had a strong influence on the political and economic development of a number of Latin American countries and was a typical example of the impact of a transnational corporation on the life of "banana republics".

The current successor to the United Fruit Company is Chiquita Brands International. 14 March 2007 was fined by the US Department of Justice for 25 million dollars for allegedly collaborating with Colombian military groups on the list of terrorist organizations.

The Honduran print publications contributed to the heightening of passions, in which articles about immigrants constantly appeared, depicting them as cruel, illiterate, and degrading the local population of illegal immigrants. At the same time, seeing the serious threat to the peaceful life of wealthy Salvadorans in returning homeless and unemployed compatriots to their homeland, El Salvador’s media published articles about the deprived state of their immigrants in Honduras, their harsh treatment and the increasing number of killings in the neighboring territory. As a result, relations between the two border states became extremely strained, suspicion and hatred grew.

Fearing for their own lives, who lost their income from farming, Salvadorans began to go back to their homeland. Screening of refugees and their frightening stories filled with television screens and Salvadoran newspaper pages. Rumors of the violence of the Honduran military expelling immigrants were spread everywhere. By June 1969, the number of those who had returned reached sixty thousand, and the mass exodus created a tense situation on the Salvador-Honduras border, where things sometimes reached armed clashes.

At the same time, the Salvadoran state services were not ready for the arrival of such a large number of refugees, while the political situation was sharply aggravated, discontent intensified in the society, which threatened to lead to a social explosion. In order to regain popular support, the government needed success in confronting the Republic of Honduras.

Soon the political elite of the country declared that the lands that the Salvadoran immigrants owned in Honduras would become part of El Salvador, thus increasing its territory by one and a half times. Local publications immediately began to present the resettlement of their compatriots “deceived by the government of Honduras” as expulsion from their legitimate lands.

The conflict came to its apogee, when the teams of two hostile neighbors came together according to the results of the draw in the qualifying stage of the world football championship. A special love, a kind of religion, with which every inhabitant of Latin America from a yard punks to political leaders belongs to football, contributed to the fact that the mood of the fans at any time could turn into a fierce celebration, and in a dangerous brawl. In addition, on the eve of the start of the World Cup qualifying games, the print media of both countries in every possible way ignited the growing political conflict, not being embarrassed in expressions and adding oil to the red-hot situation between the ruling circles and the population of El Salvador and Honduras.

When 8 June 1969 in Tegusigalpa (the capital and simultaneously the largest city of Honduras) during the first qualifying match, the Honduras team won thanks to a single ball that hit the Salvadoran gates in the extra time appointed by the judge, the fury of the fans of the losing team resulted in a serious collision. As a result of the conflict, which seized the rostrum and the playing field, the local landmark, the central stadium of the capital of Honduras, almost burned down.

After the first match of 15 June, the return match took place at the rival stadium in San Salvador (respectively, the capital of El Salvador). And although the hosts won a convincing victory, defeating the national team of Honduras and scoring three unanswered goals at its gates, this revenge could not be called clean. On the eve of the match, Honduran athletes, in their own stories, did not sleep because of the noise and unrest on the street. Moreover, on this night they practically had to leave their own rooms in their underwear and go outside. The hotel was on the one hand in flames. It is not surprising that in the morning the sleepy athletes were not at all ready to fight on the field.

The unrest that started after the match forced the losing team of Honduras, quite rightly feared for their lives, under the heavy guard of the military on armored personnel carriers to hastily carry their feet. A whole wave of pogroms and arson swept across San Salvador, and hundreds of victims turned to the hospitals of the capital in those days. Not only ordinary citizens of El Salvador were attacked, but even two vice-consuls of the country. The death toll on that day was not precisely determined. Of course, the events that took place further complicated the relations between the countries. Already a few hours after the end of the match in San Salvador, the President of Honduras filed an official note of protest, and the border between the states was closed. 24 June 1969 of the year in El Salvador announced the mobilization of reservists, and on the 26 of the 11th a decree was issued declaring a state of emergency in the country.

However, football has not been finished yet. The “draw” formed after the first two matches, according to the existing rules, required an additional third match, which was decided to be held on a neutral territory, namely, in Mexico. It should be added that the print publications of both countries at that time openly called on their compatriots to military actions. It is logical that the largest stadium in Mexico 27 June, the day of the last and decisive match, turned into a real field is not a sports battle. Many hoped that this football match could put an end to the many years of conflict of neighbors. But, alas, it turned out quite the opposite. After the end of the first half, the Honduran team was leading with an 2: 1 score, but within the second forty-five minutes, the Salvadorans managed to catch up with their rivals. As a result, the fate of the fight again decided extra time.

Emotions of the fans at that time reached extreme emotional stress, and when the attacker of Salvador scored the decisive goal, as a result of which his team went out to the next qualifying stage of the championship, leaving Hondurans behind, the events in the stadium and beyond began to develop rapidly and resembled a broken dam . Everywhere unimaginable chaos reigned, they beat everything and everyone. Instead of hoping for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the match completely eliminated such an opportunity. On the same day, the rival countries of the competition broke off diplomatic relations, mutually accusing each other. Politicians once again skillfully used football battles in their own interests.

After the mobilization announced in El Salvador in the shortest possible time, of the peasants trained and armed with an anti-communist organization called ORDEN, about sixty thousand people were put under arms. They were led by eleven thousand people (along with the National Guard) of the Salvador regular army. It is worth noting that these troops were well equipped and trained. They were trained by instructors from the CIA in order to deal with left-wing rebels. Against the background of a really powerful "mother infantry" aviation Salvador - FAS (Fuerza Agea Salvadorena) looked faint. There were only thirty-seven aircraft that Honduras received from the United States, and thirty-four were less trained pilots. They tried to solve the problem of the lack of pilots by recruiting mercenaries, but only five people were found. Huge problems were with the materiel, since all aircraft were quite outdated.

14 July 1969 th year in 5: 50 am started real fighting, during which Salvadoran aircraft, consisting of eleven propellers and five twin-engine bombers, launched an attack on several targets along the border with Honduras. The country began to panic: the shops were massively closed, and the residents, gathering the necessary belongings, searched for bomb shelters and any basements, fearing to be under fire. The Salvadoran army was successfully advancing along the main roads connecting the countries and towards the islands belonging to Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca. In 23: 00, Honduran military forces were ordered to retaliate.

An interesting fact is that at the time of the outbreak of hostilities, the aircraft of both sides consisted of American aircraft of the Second World War, half of which had long been out of service for technical reasons. "Football War" was the last battle, which was attended by propeller aircraft with piston engines. Air flights made F4U "Corsair", P-51 "Mustang", T-28 "Troyan" and even converted into bombers Douglas DC-3. The condition of the aircraft was very deplorable, these models did not have mechanisms for dropping bombs and they were manually thrown out of the windows. About accuracy could not go and talk, shells rarely hit the intended targets.

The command of Honduras was well aware that the swiftly launched offensive by El Salvador, the blocking of the main arteries and the rapid advance of the enemy troops into the interior of the country could lead to their total defeat. And then it was decided to organize a series of air strikes on the main oil terminals and the enemy oil refinery. The calculation was correct, going deeper eight kilometers into the territory of the neighbor and capturing the capital of two departments by 15 July, the Salvadoran troops had to stop the offensive, because they simply ran out of fuel, and new supplies became impossible due to deliberate bombing.

According to some information, the ultimate goal of advancing Salvadoran troops was the very same stadium in Tegucigalpa, where the first qualifying match between the teams of the warring countries took place.

The very next day after the outbreak of hostilities, the Organization of American States attempted to intervene in the conflict, calling on the warring parties to reconcile, end the war and withdraw the Salvadoran troops from the territory of Honduras. El Salvador first responded with a categorical refusal, demanding from the opposite side an apology and reparations for the damage caused to its citizens, as well as further security guarantees for Salvadorans living in the neighboring, now hostile, territory. However, on July 18, owing to the impossibility of further advancing the Salvadoran troops and creating a stalemate situation, a truce was reached, the parties made concessions under the threat of economic sanctions, and two days later the fire was completely stopped. Before the 29 number, Salvador persisted and refused to withdraw troops. The withdrawal took place only after serious threats to the Organization of American States to impose economic sanctions and the decision to deploy special representatives in Honduras to control the safety of Salvadoran citizens. With the onset of August, Salvadorans began to withdraw their troops from the territory of a neighboring state, which lasted almost until the middle of the month. And tensions between the countries persisted until 1979, when, finally, the heads of El Salvador and Honduras signed a peace agreement.

The resolution of the dispute over border lands was submitted to an international court, but the process was extremely slow with periodic unfriendly gestures from both sides. An international court ruled only thirteen years after the war. Two thirds of the land disputed lands were awarded to Honduras. Territories in the Gulf of Fonseca were only distributed in the 1992 year: the island of El Tigre went to the Hondurans, and Meangerit and Meanger to El Salvador.

Despite the agreement reached that the continued presence of Salvadorans on Honduran territory will be held in order to avoid repression under the vigilant control of international observers, it is not necessary to talk about the victory of Salvador in this incomprehensible and senseless war. In fact, the war was lost on both sides. The death toll of the citizens of both sides was from two to six thousand people according to different sources, but at the same time hundreds of thousands of inhabitants remained under the open sky and without any means of livelihood. The consequences, in spite of the transience and short duration of the military confrontation, turned out to be extremely difficult not only for these countries, but also for the whole of Central America. The border has become closed, bilateral trade has ceased, and the Central American common market has become an organization that exists only on paper. It is clear that this has further aggravated the already difficult economic situation of Honduras and El Salvador. And without that, the economy of both countries was almost completely destroyed.

Nevertheless, the end of battles was the beginning of an arms race in the whole region. In particular, in the 1975 year, Salvadorans purchased a batch of jet “Hurricanes” in Israel, and Honduras embarked on a strategic partnership with the United States, receiving enormous military aid from the latter. Among other things, their Air Force acquired F-86 Saber fighter jets and Dragonfly T-37 fighter jets.

31 May 1970, when the world football championship started in Mexico, the team of El Salvador, which won the playoff games, was accompanied by a large crowd of fans, including participants in the hourly war. The Salvadoran team fell into the same group with the USSR and, ironically, performed extremely poorly. They suffered three devastating defeats, failed to score a single goal, but they missed nine goals, two of which drove Anatoly Byshovets into the net. Soon after the start of the championship, the Salvador team was driving home - to a new hot spot on the planet.

The consequences of their own aggressive actions that caused the termination of trade relations with Honduras, the collapse of the economy, the increase in spending on army reform, as well as the return of thousands of refugees from the neighboring territory, brought back to El Salvador a large-scale civil war that broke out in the country in the eighties. Honduras has passed a similar fate, but the country remains one of the most impoverished in the entire region, for example, in 1993, over seventy percent of the population was below the official poverty level. In the eighties in the country to the fullest "earned" several groups of the "left" direction, committed many terrorist attacks against the Americans and odious figures of the regime.

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  1. solomon
    solomon 27 August 2013 17: 57
    You can quote Clausewitz in a "football" way.
    The "football" war is a continuation of the "football" policy by violent means.
  2. svp67
    svp67 9 January 2014 15: 50
    Extra evidence that if you want to fight, you will always find a reason ...