Almost 40 years ago, in July 1969, El Salvador and Honduras fought the "Soccer War", so-called because of tensions triggered by World Cup soccer qualifying matches played between the two countries that summer. Forty years later, those old animosities have subsided, and the countries played another World Cup qualifying match as this article describes:
I went inside, the only gringo in the room, and ordered a beer and sat down next to a big guy named Pedro. He was a Salvadoreño who had lived most of his life in the American capital, where virtually all the handiwork, construction, delivery, and gardening is done by men from the Latin republics, yet Pedro's passion for his fatherland -- and for football -- had never waned. Like all the others in the gaudy club, he had come to watch a World Cup qualifying match between his country and its neighbour, an important step on the path toward a place in next year's finals in South Africa, but more meaningful -- to me, at least -- as proof of the healing power of time.
It was exactly 40 years ago -- during the summer of Apollo 11 and of blissed-out Woodstock -- that El Salvador and Honduras went into combat for three deadly days in what came to be known as the Football War. The Salvadoran army pushed deep into Honduran territory before its supply lines were obliterated by the enemy's propeller-driven air force. Thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed and the enmity persisted for decades. But now the men of both countries could sit together in a foreign tavern and watch a rematch without fear.
The history books say that the Football War began as a dispute involving hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans who had migrated from their tiny, overcrowded republic to neighbouring Honduras, seeking land to till. Tensions simmered through the decade, then erupted into rioting during World Cup qualifying matches in each country in mid-July, 1969 -- the very week that Neil Armstrong was making his "giant leap for all mankind" on the Sea of Tranquility.
Honduras won the World Cup qualifying match this week, defeating the Salvadorans 1-0.