5 times Football proved that it can change the world!

Marco Materazzi and Rui Costa share a light moment when the fans started throwing flares into the pitch.
Shambhu Ajith

Football is the ballet of the masses,” remarked Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. The roll of the ball on freshly cut blades of grass can kick-start a reaction in a human dome more profound than one set off by prescription drugs. In the disappointments, the rousing stories of triumph against all odds, sworn loyalties and even the unappreciated hooliganism, football has made a mad, mad world for itself.

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that,” said Bill Shankly once and he couldn’t have been more accurate. More than just the beautiful game, Football and the emotions that have been soldered into its soul have the innate power to bring together people with nothing more than just the bare human body in common.

Here we look at five instances where Football proved that it has the power to change the world.

#5 The Little Pea of Peace

Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez celebrates after scoring a goal for his country.

Mexico is a country that is often in the bind owing to the sheer petulance of the drug cartels that essentially run the country. Close to 15,000 people die every year as a result of gang/cartel violence. But as it turns out, football and particularly Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez has the clout to provide a new lease of life in Mexico every time he steps on to the pitch.

In 2012, the baby-faced lethal weapon possessed by none other than Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United had more pull in Mexico than political icons. ‘Chicharito’ (little pea), as he is lovingly called by the Mexicans was a ‘ Mr Fox In The Box’ for the Red Devils and his glittering performances made him a source of immense joy and pride for his motherland.

In the words of Mexico City top cop Jorge Carlos Martinez, ‘Crimes like car jacking, muggings and robberies go down. It seems even the criminals want to take time off to see our hero play.’

Martinez would also add that he hoped Fergie keeps Chicha off the bench as they need all the help they can get. Hernandez would go on to play for Spanish giants Real Madrid and is currently a valuable asset to Bayer Leverkusen where he was the top goal getter in his debut season.

#4 Breaking the German wall

The first unified German 11

Saying that the Germans were at the heart of the second war would be an insensitive understatement. But once the arms were laid to rest and rust so the world could entertain the possibility of peace, Germany was torn and divided into three nations: West Germany, East Germany and Saarland. Saarland eventually became a part of West Germany.

The West Germans never missed a chance to showcase their much heralded footballing prowess and went on to win three World Cups while East Germany only ever qualified for one. But when they did, they didn’t pass up the chance to put the West Germans to a beating by securing a 1-0 victory.

Nations are usually divided by cultural barriers or barbed wire fences but they had a literal ‘wall’ that made sure only pole-vaulting Germans could snatch a view of their neighbours. The German wall was demolished to the ground in 1989 but a reunification was not possible until 1990.

After the East Germans narrowly lost out on qualifying for the 1990 World Cup, the magic of football would go on to write a fresh chapter in the history books. The love for the game and an inspiring sense of fraternity brought millions on either side together to cheer for the West Germany side who would go on to win the World Cup.

In the qualifying stages of the 1992 Euros, both sides were drawn together and before the teams faced off, Germany had become one nation. A certain Franz Beckenbauer had predicted that East Germany and West Germany combined would make a force that is invincible.

And in the years to come, it certainly rings true as several players of East Germany became mainstays in the unified German National team. In their first match with a combined 11, ze Germans celebrated the concord by thrashing Switzerland 4-0. In the 1994 World Cup, there were, in fact, more East Germans in the side than there were Germans from the west.

In 1996, Germany won the Euros and were already more of a force to be reckoned with than ever before. Matthias Sammer who was an East German would go on to win the Ballon D’or winner in 1996.

And finally, in the summer of 2014, the unified German side won their first ever-so-elusive World Cup.

‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’

#3 The Makana Football Association of hope

When FIFA honoured the Makana Football Association.

Imprisoned without trials during the apartheid regime, inmates of Robben Island prison spent their days as hope would slip perilously through their fingers. Forced to work in lime quarries and subjected to brutal physical and mental abuse by the white guards, the black inmates were constantly looking up into the sky for a ray of hope.

Well, apparently, God works in mysterious ways and didn’t send them a ray of hope. But send them something he did, and that was a book.

One of the few inhabitants of the shelves in a deficient library was quite interestingly a FIFA rule book. To escape the banality of the humdrum prison life, inmates would beg and plead to be allowed to play football every week. The guards were unrelenting and the requests laughed off and the advocates of the beautiful game would normally end up with a rear-whooping.

Well, perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th. And eventually the guards caved in and the Makana Football Association League became a reality.

The prisoners worked with anything they could get; adorning goal posts with nets that washed up on the shore. The league brought together a faction of people who were otherwise divided by their political allegiances and bloc loyalties.

Football helped them empathise and see the humane side in their fellow men who were caught up in awfully unfortunate struggles of their own. The MFA documented all the match details including disciplinary records. The league’s adherence to the FIFA rules was astonishingly uncompromising. The dignified manner in which the players and the managers conducted themselves and subjected themselves to a system showed how they understood ‘due process’ in a place where it was not afforded to them.

Among the association referees was Jacob Zuma who has gone on to become and still is South Africa’s president! Dikgang Moseneke, who was also among the organisers is now a revered judge in the Constitutional Court. Steve Tangana Tshwete, another inmate, served as Sports Minister during Nelson Mandela’s tenure.

Football had given them hope in a place where it was simply put, scanty. Anthony Suze, a political prisoner and one of the founding members of the association, at the Time said, “It is amazing to think a game that people take for granted all around the world was the very same game that gave a group of prisoners sanity and in a way glorified us.”

Another famous inmate of Robben island was none other than Nelson Mandela but he was, unfortunately, was not allowed to play in the league. He, however, returned to Robben Island in 2007 to stand witness as the Makana FA was awarded an honorary FIFA membership for all its contribution not just to football but to humanity itself.

#2 The Iraqi football team and the winds they set about.

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 29:  Iraq players celebrate winning the AFC Asian Cup 2007 final between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on July 29, 2007 in Jakarta, Indonesia.  (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
A war-torn Iraq defied all odds to lift the AFC Asian Cup in 2007

The stage was the 2007 AFC Asian Cup final and to bare eyesight, it looked like it was no big occasion. Only 60,000 people showed up at the Jakarta stadium that could house twice the amount of people for the final. However, the real story lied in the backdrop as Iraq, a country on its knees due to the US insurgency defied all odds to lift the Cup and rekindle the hopes and dreams of their countrymen.

The Iraqi football team brought back the gift of joy to a nation torn apart by internal conflicts, foreign invasion masquerading as freedom facilitators and the one and only Saddam Hussein. There was finally something the nation and its people could celebrate and it infused a sense of brotherhood which was a much-needed whiff of fresh air.

The events leading up to the Iraq-Saudi Arabia final were dramatic and intense. In fact, the game was nearly called off. Following Iraq’s semifinal victory over South Korea, a group of suicide bombers set themselves off and killed 50 people and injured more than a hundred unassuming individuals.

In the aftermath, Iraq were contemplating withdrawal. And that would have been it if not for the heart and determination of Iraq’s Younis Mahmoud, the captain of the side. He had seen a woman crying over the dead body of her 12-year-old child saying her son was the sacrifice for the Iraqi national team.

Younis decided that if at all Allah was throwing them a rope into the well, he was not going to turn a blind eye. The team was determined to win the cup for their motherland and their brothers and sisters. Younis led out a team of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, who had been killing each other under the manipulative regime of Hussein.

Fittingly, Younis Mahmoud went on to score the only goal of the final in the 75th minute and their team would become the brokers of a nationwide integration that saw all of its people coming out into the streets together to celebrate irrespective of their ethnicities and socio-political differences.

The victory made a definite impact and instances of ethnic violence reduced to half of what it was in the subsequent year. The football team was a spitting image of racial and ethnic harmony and a symbol of what could be achieved together in unity. After all, ‘differences were meant not to divide but enrich.’

#1 Didier Drogba stops a Civil War

Drogba on national television with his teammates begging for peace to be restored

‘Tall oaks grow from little acorns’

The year was 2005. The nation of Ivory Coast was wigging out on account of a civil war that was tearing its own people apart. The White Elephants had just qualified for the 2006 World Cup and Didier Drogba would go on to prove that football is no piddling affair.

An inspiring image of a never-say-die attitude, Didier Drogba was a success story from the streets where well-being was at a premium. A larger than life figure with humble beginnings, Didier would go on to conquer the footballing world and become a source of pride for all Ivorians, rebel or not. After all, a calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.

He was already a national hero having won the Premier League twice and making his homeland proud with his scintillating performances in Europe.

Following their qualification to the final rounds of the world cup, Drogba decided he was not going to mosey along or be a lost ball in the weeds as he decided to use his position of influence to heal the broken nation. He picked up a microphone on live television, went down on his knees and pleaded,

“An African country with so many riches should not be at war. Please lay down your weapons and call elections. Everything will be better.” He also added, “We want to have fun, so stop firing your guns.”

In one of the greatest turnarounds in any socio-political scenario which was on the verge of going postal, the rival clans obliged to Drogba’s request. They laid down their arms when Drogba requested. Didier – their son, brother and friendly neighbourhood demigod who was also one of the most lethal strikers in football at the time. Within a year the president declared that the war was over.

The message was heartfelt and less than two years later Ivory Coast would take on Madagascar in their rebel’s capital, once again on Drogba’s request in a bid to reunite the Ivorians.

The former Chelsea striker said, “Seeing both leaders side by side for the national anthem was very special.”

Drogba would go on to score a goal in the 90th minute of the game to put the icing on the cake of what is simply a testament to how a sport can change the world.

Once again, the power of the beautiful game and the great ones who heralded it was proven to the world. Didier Drogba stopped a civil war. Headlines more astoundingly welcome are difficult to come by.

‘Football, bloody hell!’

Edited by Staff Editor
Article image

Go to article

Quick Links:

More from Sportskeeda
Fetching more content...
App download animated image Get the free App now