The Full 90

The World Cup is coming. Soccer gets serious

The future of Honduras goes up for grabs in just under two weeks. That's when this year's version of the World Cup begins.

As the saying goes: The ball is round. The game is 90 minutes. Anything can happen. Apparently, that applies to Honduras as well as their national team's games against Chile, Spain and Switerland in South Africa this month.

Mark this down as issues we simply don't have to deal with in the United States. But, consider that a year ago, Honduras was in the midst of a military coup (as even the victor has now acknowldeged).

Backers of Roberto Micheletti (who became the the defacto president until the January election of Porfirio Lobo Sosa) pushed then-President Manuel Zelaya out of the country on June 28. President Barack Obama called it illegal. Zelaya insisted he was still legally elected. There were protests in the street, and counter protests. It was ugly, and tense. And, frankly, reports are, it still is (ugly and tense).

So, a year on, what can Hondurans look to for hope? The soccer team.

As the Former Honduran national team coach Jose de la Paz Herrera, told Time Magazine: "If things don't go well and the results don't turn out like people hope, it's going to be dangerous. It would be a great blow to the spirit of Honduras...The great unifier in this country right now is the national soccer team... And if they make it to the second round, I think they are going to help fix a lot of problems here."

Of course, this isn't the first time Honduras has put way too much emphasis on soccer. Back in 1969, after losing a World Cup qualifier to El Salvador, Honduras engaged in a four day war with their neighbors. While soccer wasn't the root cause of the so called "Football War," it was the spark that inflamed it.

And Honduras is hardly alone in taking these games so seriously. The last World Cup halted a war in Ivory Coast. And this one will go a long way towards South Africa, and by extention sub-Saharan Africa, establishing itself as an international player (South Africa is the host, the first time an African nation has hosted one of the big two in world sport, World Cup or Olympics).

It doesn't end there, of course. The Serbian war was defined by a soccer rivalry. The sectarian animosity of Scotland (and Ireland) is played out a couple times a year between Glasgow Celtic and Rangers (the after game fights have resulted in death through the years).

Americans should prepare to sit back and enjoy a few soccer games in the coming weeks. The U.S.-England match on June 12 should be fun.

But, while enjoying ( or mocking) the action, spare a thought for the parts of the world where this soccer is deadly serious.

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