The most politically charged game in World Cup history
5 months ago, 13 June 17:18
- The 1998 World Cup served up “the mother of all games”
- The game did not disappoint with a dramatic late goal
- The game ended up doing more diplomacy than the governments of the two nations had ever managed to do
Football has a way of stirring up more emotions than any other sport in the world. The World Cup is set to kick off this week and football rivalries will take center stage.
The 1998 World Cup is a great example of this, when the U.S faced Iran. When the group stage fixtures were announced, the then president of U.S Soccer Federation dubbed it as “the mother of all games.”
The game ended up doing more diplomacy than the governments of the two countries had managed to do. The Iranian team walked in with white roses as a sign of peace and the two teams even took a combined team photo together.
The game itself didn’t disappoint. It was a full blooded but fair contest with Iran winning 2-1 courtesy of a dramatic late goal. The defeat condemned the USA to elimination but the players from both teams appreciated the part they had both played in the historic game.
Politics aside, neighbouring countries also have very emotional rivalries. Kenya and Tanzania will not be competing in Russia. But football fans were able to get a taste of what such rivalry would be like.
The two top teams from both countries, Gor Mahia and Simba SC, faced one another in Nakuru for the SportPesa Super Cup. Gor Mahia dominated and an early goal by Meddie Kagere helped them seize control of the game. Jacques Tuyisenge added another goal in the second half to make sure the Kenyan-based club would retain their title and claim regional bragging rights.
The winners were awarded KSh3 million and the chance to face Everton FC at Goodison Park in England. The Afraha Stadium in Nakuru, where the game was played, was packed to the rafters. This was a testament to how much people enjoy football, especially when neighboring countries lock horns.
These tournaments that bring teams from different countries together, help players raise and showcase their talents globally. This in turn improves their respective national teams.
As fans prepare to enjoy the footballing feast that is the World Cup, most will hope that we get to see more African countries competing at the biggest stage and rekindling more of these fierce rivalries.
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