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The Football War

Football may have lit the spark, but this 100-hour spat between Honduras and El Salvador had little to do with sporting pride, says Gavin Mortimer
ABOVE: Salvadoran star player Mauricio Rodriguez goes for goal in the second play-o ; he would grab the winner in the third match LEFT: The war makes the US front pages – as does a small mission to land humans on the moon
GETTY X1, PRESSE SPORTS/OFFSIDE X1

Amelia Bolaños was like almost every other of El Salvador’s three million citizens: the 18-year-old was desperate for her country to beat Honduras and qualify for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The Salvadoran (top) and Honduran (bottom) teams; both suffered threats of violence from the other’s fans before the play-offs

Neither had ever appeared in football’s showpiece tournament, and the prospect of doing so cranked up the tension between the two small Central American nations. Their teams met for the first leg of their qualification semi-final play-o in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, on 8 June 1969 – and with diplomatic relations already at a low ebb, there was more than just sporting pride at stake.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

In this month's issue… Everything you ever wanted to know about castles The complete story of the greatest emblem of the medieval age: how they evolved from simple forts into impregnable bastions, how they were built without modern machinery and how you could break into one. Plus: the Women's Liberation Movement; the peasant who became Japan's second great unifier; top 10 ancient board games; the football match that sparked a war; and a graphic guide to London Zoo's most famous residents.