Monday, April 2, 2012

Football and The Falklands

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands. Events are being held in the UK and in Argentina to commemorate the conflict that lasted 73 days and claimed the lives of over 900 military personnel  in total from both sides.

From a football point of view, it's easy to forget that the conflict began just two months before the start of the 1982 World Cup, a competition featuring England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and, of course, Argentina. The ongoing events in the Falklands would cast a shadow over the preparations being made by all four countries, and this is highlighted in a back page article from the Daily Mirror on 6 May 1982.

The main headline shouted 'We Won't Go!' with the sub-headline 'Brooking says he would back a World Cup walk-out.' Yes, England's modern-day Wizard of Dribble and Gentleman of The Beautiful Game appeared to be leading the call for his fellow team-mates to drop out of the Finals, at the time only 38 days away. A look at the text that followed, however, shows that the West Ham star had probably been picked out randomly for his opinion in order to generate a little sensationalism.

In the article by Kevin Moseley, Brooking says: "I shall be supporting the nation – the lads who are out fighting for us. I feel strongly about it. I support the principle that people should be against acts of aggression like Argentina's in the Falkland Islands." He went on: "I know it's only my view, but I am sure I speak for most footballers. It's my last chance to appear in a World Cup, but I would give it up if it was morally and politically right."

Moseley pondered on the possibility that a withdrawal by England could theoretically lead to Scotland and Northern Ireland doing the same. "So it now seems unlikely that the World Cup in its present form, will go ahead" said Moseley. "FIFA may have to choose between the banning of Argentina or a walk-out by the three home countries."

To make matters worse, the Daily Mirror journalist speculated further: "The competition could be completely ruined if Brazil and the other South American countries came out against any ban on Argentina."

Hindsight obviously tells us that no such course of action came to pass as all four countries participated in the World Cup in 1982. Quite what the repercussions might be if the same thing were to happen in the modern era is something for further discussion. Could a World Cup be postponed outright if the competing nations took sides with the warring parties? Let's hope we never find out.

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