How One Match Dissolved a Country

Much of the language of football is derived from warfare: an ‘aerial bombardment’ in the last few minutes, a quick burst of goals being described as a ‘blitz’, or bringing the ‘big guns’ or ‘cavalry’ on from the bench.

Very rarely though do the two worlds overlap. Football tries its best to steer clear of external politics, while war has more prevalent worries than a mere game.

Sometimes though it is impossible to keep the two separate: we all know about El Salvador and Honduras’s ‘Football War‘, or Uday Hussein‘s misuse of the Iraqi national side.

However, while these examples made some minor waves in the international arena, there is one recent example that led to revolution, and the dissolution of an entire country. And it’s much closer to home.

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The Inventor of Modern Football

“We must free our soccer youth from the shackles of playing to order, along rails as it were. We must give them ideas and encourage them to develop their own.”

That could be the words of any number of observers in the United Kingdom over the last few years, while watching the fluidity of movement of the Spanish or German national sides with envy.

Far from it being a frustrated English youth coach bemoaning the state of football in its home country, these were the thoughts of an Austrian journalist reflecting on one of the greatest teams ever to play the game.

His name was Willy Meisl, and he was writing over half a century ago, in 1955.

The team he was describing, that allowed their players such freedom of expression, was actually coached by his brother: a man who could be described as the father of modern football. Continue reading