When El Salvador and Honduras face each other Friday night at Sun Life Stadium in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, it will mark almost 44 years to the day that war broke out between the neighboring nations.
It was known as the Football War.
Though the name suggests that the war was rooted in the outcome a soccer match, the causes were actually much deeper.
Growing tension between the two countries was based on immigration and land reform law. Though El Salvador was geographically smaller than Honduras, its population was greater, leading many Salvadorians to immigrate to Honduras. In 1967, when land reform laws that were passed five years earlier were fully enacted, the land that many Salvadorians had settled on in Honduras was handed over to the government.
Two years later, Honduras and El Salvador were facing each other in the CONCACAF qualifier for the 1970 World Cup. Following the first two games of the series, in which each team won the game played in their home capital city, there was growing rioting and violence amongst fans.
In a third and final match held in Mexico City, El Salvador defeated Honduras 3-2. Following their victory, El Salvador cut all diplomatic ties with Honduras, claiming 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.”
On July 14, 1969, El Salvador launched an attack on neighboring Honduras. Fighting lasted for four days until the Organization for American States ordered a cease fire. Though short, the battle resulted in high number of civilian and military casualties for both sides.
A lasting impact of the battle was felt, as many Salvadorans were forced to flee Honduras, and return to El Salvador, where their native land was unable to assist them due to overpopulation. Furthermore, trade was disrupted, and the economy of both nations was impacted negatively.
An official peace treaty was not signed until October of 1980, and tension between the El Salvador and Honduras remained for many years to follow.
To see the next chapter in El Salvador and Honduras’ storied history tomorrow night in CONCACAF Gold Cup play, click here.