Six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker put tennis into perspective when he famously said: “I haven’t lost a war. No one got killed. I just lost a tennis match.”
But despite the racket-throwing, tears and tantrums, tennis has always had a veneer of prosaic gentility about it. The same cannot be said about soccer.
After all – though the roots of the cause behind the conflict were far deeper – a brief war known as La guerra del fútbol was fought between El Salvador and Honduras over the results of World Cup qualifiers.
In June 1969, Honduras and El Salvador met in a two-leg 1970 Fifa World Cup qualifier. There was fighting between fans at the first game in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on June 8, which Honduras won 1–0.
The second game, on June 15 in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador, which was won 3–0 by El Salvador, was followed by even greater violence.
In the highly politicised world we live in, the passions which stir the very ethos of soccer run increasingly parallel to today’s emotion-filled politics of upheaval. The most emotive political overtone is the debate on self-determination.
Brexit is a prime example with the largely satellite Scots government steadfastly refusing to accept joining England in a split from the European Union despite the Scottish people voting to stay within the umbrella of Whitehall.
But by far the most iconoclastic and violent schism is the crisis Spain has found itself in in the resolute manner of the call for Catalan independence.
The sporting undertone in this seemingly intractable conflict has seen one of the world’s richest and most famous football clubs FC Barcelona being drawn in.
Barca have already suffered the ignominy of having to play a league encounter against Las Palmas behind closed doors when the Spanish authorities saw the risk of violence as being seriously threatening.
Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta stepped in this week, urging dialogue.
“I have never before publicly commented on situations that are so complex and involve such diverse emotions, but this situation we are experiencing is exceptional,” the 33-year-old said.
“One thing I know for sure: before we do any more harm, those who are responsible for all this must hold dialogue. Do it for all of us. We deserve to live in peace.”