The 100 hour War - When a football match started a war between two countries!

Football is the most popular sport in the world. It is like a religion in many European and South American countries. People are so passi...

Football is the most popular sport in the world. It is like a religion in many European and South American countries. People are so passionate about this sport. But sometimes their passion can turn into riots and those riots can turn into an official war between two countries. In this article, we will have a look on one such war.

Quick Facts

  • Fought between : El Salvador and Honduras
  • Strength : 30000 ground forces and 1000 aerial forces (El Salvador) and 23000 ground forces and 600 aerial forces (Honduras)
  • Causalities : Around 1000 causalities for El Salvador and around 2000 for Honduras (including civilians) and thousands displaced.
  • Fought between : 14-18 July 1969
  • Result : 'The state existing before the war' and ceasefire by Organisation of American States (OAS) Intervention


How and Why did the War start?

  • Even though the war is nicknamed as Football war and football was one of the factor that caused the war, but there were more deeper causes of the war.
  • Honduras is more than five times the size of neighboring El Salvador, but in 1969 the population of El Salvador (3.7 million) was some 40% higher than that of Honduras (2.6 million). 
  • By the beginning of the 20th century, Salvadorans started migrating to Honduras in large numbers. By 1969 more than 300,000 Salvadorans were living in Honduras. These Salvadorans made up 20% of the peasant population of Honduras.
  • In Honduras, a large majority of the land was owned by large landowners or big corporations. The United Fruit Company of USA owned 10% of the land. 
  • In 1966 United Fruit banded together with many other large companies to create a union and it was anti-farmers as well as anti-Salvadoran. 
  • This group put pressure on the Honduran president, Gen. Oswaldo López Arellano, to protect the property rights of wealthy landowners.
  • In 1962 Honduras successfully enacted a new land reform law. Fully enforced by 1967, this law gave the central government and municipalities much of the land occupied illegally by Salvadoran immigrants and redistributed it to native-born Hondurans as specified by the Land Reform Law. 
  • The land was taken from both immigrant farmers and squatters regardless of their claims to ownership or immigration status. 
  • This created problems for Salvadorans and Hondurans who were married. Thousands of Salvadoran laborers were expelled from Honduras, including both migrant workers and longer-term settlers. 
  • This general rise in tensions ultimately led to riots and then to a military conflict.
  • In June 1969, Honduras and El Salvador met in a two-leg 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifier. 
  • There was fighting between fans at the first game in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on 8 June 1969 in which Honduras won 1–0. 
  • The second game took place on 15 June 1969 in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador, which was won 3–0 by El Salvador. It was followed by even greater violence.
  • On 26 June 1969, the day a play-off match was to take place in Mexico City, El Salvador dissolved all diplomatic ties with Honduras, stating that in the ten days since the game in El Salvador took place, no efforts had been made by Honduras to improve bilateral relations.
  • El Salvador won the decisive third game 3–2 after extra time. This led to even more violence.
  • On the evening of 14 July 1969, the war officially started.
  • Tanks, fighter planes, a large amount of infantry and a large amount of artillery was used.


The end of the war

  • The Honduran government called on the OAS to intervene because it feared that the Salvadoran Army would invade the capital Tegucigalpa. 
  • The OAS met in an urgent session on 15 July and called for an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of El Salvador's forces from Honduras. El Salvador resisted the pressures from the OAS, demanding that Honduras first agree to pay reparations for the attacks on Salvadoran citizens and guarantee the safety of those Salvadorans remaining in Honduras. 
  • A cease-fire was arranged on the night of 18 July. It took full effect only on 20 July. 
  • El Salvador continued until 29 July to resist pressures to withdraw its troops. Then a combination of pressures led El Salvador to agree to a withdrawal in the first days of August. 
  • Salvador finally withdrew its troops on 2 August 1969. On that date, Honduras guaranteed Salvadoran President Fidel Sánchez Hernández that the Honduran government would provide adequate safety for the Salvadorans still living in Honduras.
  • Even after around 50 years, the dispute still remains active even after the intervention of OAS.

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