Soccer, Politics, and Wargames

Greg CrescimannoContributor IJanuary 31, 2010

I am, obviously, a huge soccer fan. But for those of you who are regular soccerisfutbol readers, you also know that I am always deeply intrigued by soccer’s ability to slice through social and political unrest.

Every four years, the world has its cup, and every four years human barriers are broken down, walls are scaled, and animosities are least in the social and political spectrum, the games themselves are still rife with animosity, the good kind, that is.

And every two years we are treated to another spectacle of soccer vs. politics and soccer vs. society in the form of the African Cup of Nations.

At the African Cup of Nations, the life that exists outside the games is often much more important than the games themselves. I spoke briefly about this (and linked to a great article by Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated) in my earlier post found here , and I want to bring this issue to the forefront again as the tournament is nearing its conclusion.

As with my previous post, I must defer to a man I respect and admire as a sports journalist, Jeff Bradley of ESPN the Magazine. He writes on his blog ,

“We began the morning in search of football and it was easy to find. Maybe 100 yards outside the gate of “The Roux,” around 10 a.m., a group of men were playing a pickup game on a patch of asphalt that was sprinkled with sand, pebbles and glass. It hardly mattered as they flicked around a half-deflated “bola” as one of the goalkeepers, muscles glistening with sweat, barked out instructions. I knew this would be the case coming into Angola, having traveled to places like Guatemala, Mexico, and Brazil. A ball can do wonders.”

A ball can do wonders. So true.


A soccer game can change the world. If you are willing to look, you can find it everywhere. Such as when the Ivory Coast, caught in a civil war for years, called for a cease fire because their national team was playing in the World Cup; or when the Israelis and the Palestinians came together to demand fair TV subscription rates so they could watch soccer games on TV.

Imagine the jealousy governments and organizations that tirelessly pursue peace must feel at the ability of a 90 minute game to highlight humanity at its best.

Yes, maybe the peace and compromises last only until the game ends. And most likely the differences, the corruptions, and wars pick right back up where they left off, but remember that at least a handful of people are changed, a handful of people see peace and freedom and hope a little differently. That’s inspiring.