Football War

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Football War
Honduras-CIA WFB Map.png
Map of Honduras, where most of the fighting took place
Date14–18 July 1969
Result Status quo ante bellum
Ceasefire by OAS intervention
Flag of El Salvador.svg El Salvador Flag of Honduras.svg Honduras
Armament support:
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua
Commanders and leaders
Flag of El Salvador.svg Fidel Sánchez Hernández Flag of Honduras.svg Oswaldo López Arellano
30,000 (Ground forces)
1,000 (Aerial forces)
23,000 (Ground forces)
600 (Aerial forces)
Casualties and losses

900[ citation needed ](including civilians)

3 aircraft destroyed
2,100[ citation needed ](including civilians)

The Football War (Spanish : La guerra del fútbol; colloquial: Soccer War or the 100 Hours War) was a brief war fought between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. Existing tensions between the two countries coincided with rioting during a 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifier. The war began on 14 July 1969, when the Salvadoran military launched an attack against Honduras. The Organization of American States (OAS) negotiated a cease-fire on the night of 18 July (hence "100 Hour War"), which took full effect on 18 July. Salvadoran troops were withdrawn in early August.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

War Organised and prolonged violent conflict between states

War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.

El Salvador country in Central America

El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador's capital and largest city is San Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a population of approximately 6.34 million.



Although the nickname "Football War" implies that the conflict was due to a football match, the causes of the war go much deeper. The roots were issues over land reform in Honduras and immigration and demographic problems in El Salvador. Honduras is more than five times the size of neighboring El Salvador, but in 1969 the population of El Salvador (3.7 million) was some 40% higher than that of Honduras (2.6 million). At the beginning of the 20th century, Salvadorans had begun migrating to Honduras in large numbers. By 1969 more than 300,000 Salvadorans were living in Honduras. These Salvadorans made up 20% of the present population of Honduras. [1]

Association football Team field sport

Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a team sport played with a spherical ball between two teams of eleven players. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field called a pitch with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal.

Honduras republic in Central America

Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. In the past, it was sometimes referred to as "Spanish Honduras" to differentiate it from British Honduras, which later became modern-day Belize. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

In Honduras, as in much of Central America, a large majority of the land was owned by large landowners or big corporations. The United Fruit Company owned 10% of the land, making it hard for the average landowner to compete. In 1966 United Fruit banded together with many other large companies to create la Federación Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Honduras (FENAGH; the National Federation of Farmers and Livestock-Farmers of Honduras). FENAGH was anti-peasantry (against the campesino) as well as anti-Salvadoran. This group put pressure on the Honduran president, Gen. Oswaldo López Arellano, to protect the property rights of wealthy landowners. [2] :64-75

United Fruit Company American corporation

The United Fruit Company was an American corporation that traded in tropical fruit, grown on Latin American plantations, and sold in the United States and Europe. The company was formed in 1899, from the merger of Minor C. Keith's banana-trading concerns with Andrew W. Preston's Boston Fruit Company. It flourished in the early and mid-20th century, and it came to control vast territories and transportation networks in Central America, the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Ecuador, and the West Indies. Though it competed with the Standard Fruit Company for dominance in the international banana trade, it maintained a virtual monopoly in certain regions, some of which came to be called banana republics, such as Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.

A tenant farmer is one who resides on land owned by a landlord. Tenant farming is an agricultural production system in which landowners contribute their land and often a measure of operating capital and management, while tenant farmers contribute their labor along with at times varying amounts of capital and management. Depending on the contract, tenants can make payments to the owner either of a fixed portion of the product, in cash or in a combination. The rights the tenant has over the land, the form, and measure of the payment varies across systems. In some systems, the tenant could be evicted at whim ; in others, the landowner and tenant sign a contract for a fixed number of years. In most developed countries today, at least some restrictions are placed on the rights of landlords to evict tenants under normal circumstances.

Oswaldo López Arellano President of Honduras

Oswaldo Enrique López Arellano was a two-time President of Honduras, first from 1963 to 1971 and again from 1972 until 1975.

In 1962 Honduras successfully enacted a new land reform law. [3] Fully enforced by 1967, this law gave the central government and municipalities much of the land occupied illegally by Salvadoran immigrants and redistributed it to native-born Hondurans as specified by the Land Reform Law. The land was taken from both immigrant farmers and squatters regardless of their claims to ownership or immigration status. This created problems for Salvadorans and Hondurans who were married. Thousands of Salvadoran laborers were expelled from Honduras, including both migrant workers and longer-term settlers. This general rise in tensions ultimately led to a military conflict.

Land reform changes to land ownership

Land reform involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution, generally of agricultural land. Land reform can, therefore, refer to transfer of ownership from the more powerful to the less powerful, such as from a relatively small number of wealthy owners with extensive land holdings to individual ownership by those who work the land. Such transfers of ownership may be with or without compensation; compensation may vary from token amounts to the full value of the land.


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 8 June 1969, which Honduras won 1–0. The second game, on 15 June 1969 in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador, which was won 3–0 by El Salvador, was followed by even greater violence. [4] On 27 June 1969, the day the play-off match took place in Mexico City, [5] El Salvador dissolved all diplomatic ties with Honduras, stating that in the ten days since the game in El Salvador 11,700 Salvadorans had been forced to flee Honduras. It said that as Honduras had "done nothing to prevent murder, oppression, rape, plundering and the mass expulsion of Salvadoreans", there was little point in maintaining relations. [6] It further claimed that "the government of Honduras has not taken any effective measures to punish these crimes which constitute genocide, nor has it given assurances of indemnification or reparations for the damages caused to Salvadorans". [2] :105 El Salvador won the decisive third game 3–2 after extra time.

Honduras national football team mens national association football team representing Honduras

The Honduras national football team nicknamed Los Catrachos, La Bicolor or La H, is governed by the Federación Nacional Autónoma de Fútbol de Honduras (FENAFUTH). To date, the team has qualified three times for the FIFA World Cup, in 1982, 2010 and 2014.

El Salvador national football team is governed by the Salvadoran Football Federation (FESFUT).

A total of 75 teams entered the 1970 FIFA World Cup qualification rounds, competing for a total of 16 spots in the final tournament. Hosts Mexico and defending champions England qualified automatically, leaving 14 spots open for competition.


Late in the afternoon of 14 July 1969, the concerted military action began. El Salvador was put on a blackout and the Salvadoran Air Force, using passenger airplanes with explosives strapped to their sides as bombers, attacked targets inside Honduras. Salvadoran air-raid targets included Toncontín International Airport, which left the Honduran Air Force unable to react quickly. The larger Salvadoran Army launched major offensives along the two main roads connecting the two nations and invaded Honduras. The invasion phase was perpetrated by three main contingents: the Chalatenago Theater, the North Theater, and the East Theater. The Chalatenango Theater was based on the northwest side of El Salvador, including the departments of Santa Ana and Chalatenango, across the mountain range close to the border, and the Sumpul River. This was a strategic region due to its rich soil and climate; however, this Theater would not see any fighting as it was to deploy only in case of Honduran penetration into El Salvador. The North Theater was composed of a small unit of armored vehicles and a large amount of manpower. The East Theater was to deploy in the departments of La Unión and Morazán. This Theater was composed of a large mechanized division, armored fighting vehicles such as the M3 Stuart and a large amount of artillery such as the 105mm M101.

Toncontín International Airport airport

Toncontín International Airport or Teniente Coronel Hernán Acosta Mejía Airport is a civil and military airport located 6 km (4 mi) from the centre of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Honduran Air Force Air warfare branch of Honduras military

The Honduras Air Force is the air force of Honduras. As such it is the air power arm of the Honduras Armed Forces.

Salvadoran Army land warfare branch of El Salvadors military

The Salvadoran Army is the land branch and largest of the Armed Forces of El Salvador. In 2006 the government of El Salvador approached the Israeli ambassador to El Salvador seeking assistance in modernising its army.

Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle helped Honduras by providing weapons and ammunition.[ citation needed ]

Initially, rapid progress was made by the Salvadordoran army within striking distance of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. The momentum of the advance did not last, however.

The Honduran air force reacted by striking the Salvadoran Ilopango airbase. Honduran bombers attacked for the first time in the morning of 16 July. When the bombs began to fall, Salvadoran anti-air artillery started firing, repelling some of the bombers. The bombers had orders to attack the Acajutla Port, where the main oil facilities of El Salvador were based. Honduran air-raid targets also included minor oil facilities such as the ones in Cutuco  [ es ; ceb ]. By the evening of 16 July, huge pillars of smoke arose in the Salvadoran coastline from the burning oil depots that had been bombed.[ citation needed ]

Honduran Air Force Vought F4U-5NL No. FAH-609 Corsair flown by Cap. Fernando Soto when he shot down three Salvadoran planes. Now on display at the Museo del Aire in Tegucigalpa Chance vought corsair f4u-5n FAH-609.jpg
Honduran Air Force Vought F4U-5NL No. FAH-609 Corsair flown by Cap. Fernando Soto when he shot down three Salvadoran planes. Now on display at the Museo del Aire in Tegucigalpa

Both sides deployed World War II era design aircraft. [7] All planes in the engagement were of U.S. origin. Cavalier P-51D Mustangs, F4U-1, -4 and -5 Corsairs, T-28A Trojans, AT-6C Texans and even C-47 Skytrains converted into bombers saw action. [8] On 17 July Honduran Air Force Corsair pilots Captain Fernando and his wingman Captain Edgardo Acosta Soto engaged two Salvadoran TF-51D Cavalier Mustang II who were attacking another Corsair while it was strafing targets south of Tegucigalpa. Soto entered a turning engagement with one Mustang and blew off its left wing with three bursts of 20 mm AN/M3 cannon, killing pilot Captain Douglas Varela when his parachute did not fully deploy. Later that day the pair spotted two Salvadoran FG-1D Goodyear Corsair. They jettisoned hard point stores before climbing and made a diving attack, Soto set one Corsair on fire only to find its wingman on his tail. An intense dogfight between them ended when Soto entered a Split-S giving him a firing solution which he used to shoot down Captain Guillermo Reynaldo Cortez who died when his Corsair exploded. [9] El Salvador continued to fly its surviving Corsairs into 1975; Honduras didn't retire its fleet until 1979. [10] The war was the last conflict in which piston-engined fighters fought each other.


The Honduran government called on the OAS to intervene, fearing that the nearing Salvadoran Army would invade the capital Tegucigalpa. The OAS met in an urgent session on 18 July and called for an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of El Salvador's forces from Honduras. El Salvador resisted the pressures from the OAS for several days, demanding that Honduras first agree to pay reparations for the attacks on Salvadoran citizens and guarantee the safety of those Salvadorans remaining in Honduras. A cease-fire was arranged on the night of 18 July; it took full effect only on 20 July. El Salvador continued until 2 August to resist pressures to withdraw its troops. Then a combination of pressures led El Salvador to agree to a withdrawal in those first days of August. Those persuasive pressures included the possibility of OAS economic sanctions against El Salvador and the dispatch of OAS observers to Honduras to oversee the security of Salvadorans remaining in that country. The actual war had lasted just over four days, but it would take more than a decade to arrive at a final peace settlement.


El Salvador finally withdrew its troops on 2 August 1969. On that date, Honduras guaranteed Salvadoran President Fidel Sánchez Hernández that the Honduran government would provide adequate safety for the Salvadorans still living in Honduras. Sánchez had also asked that reparations be paid to the Salvadoran citizens as well, but that was never accepted by Hondurans. There were also heavy pressures from the OAS and the debilitating repercussions that would take place if El Salvador continued to resist withdrawing their troops from Honduras.


Both sides of the Football War suffered extensive casualties. Some 300,000 Salvadorans were displaced, many had been forcibly exiled or had fled from war-torn Honduras, only to enter an El Salvador in which the government was not welcoming. Most of these refugees were forced to provide for themselves with very little assistance. Over the next few years, more Salvadorans returned to their native land, where they encountered overpopulation and extreme poverty. [2] :145-155

El Salvador suffered about 900 mostly civilian dead. Honduras lost 250 combat troops, and over 2,000 civilians during the four-day war. Most of the war was fought on Honduran soil and thousands more were made homeless. Trade between Honduras and El Salvador had been greatly disrupted, and the border officially closed. This damaged the economies of these nations tremendously and threatened the Central American Common Market (CACM).


El Salvador was eliminated from the World Cup after losing their first three matches. [11]

Eleven years after the war the two nations signed a peace treaty on 30 October 1980 [12] and agreed to resolve the border dispute over the Gulf of Fonseca and five sections of land boundary through the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In 1992, the Court awarded most of the disputed territory to Honduras, and in 1998, Honduras and El Salvador signed a border demarcation treaty to implement the terms of the ICJ decree. The total disputed land area given to Honduras after the court's ruling was around 374.5 km2 (145 sq mi). In the Gulf of Fonseca the court found that Honduras held sovereignty over the island of El Tigre, and El Salvador over the islands of Meanguera and Meanguerita. [13]

The dispute continued despite the ICJ ruling. At a meeting in March 2012 President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, President Otto Pérez of Guatemala, and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua all agreed that the Gulf of Fonseca would be designated as a peace zone. El Salvador was not at the meeting. However, in December 2012, El Salvador agreed to a tripartite commission of government representatives from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua that was to take care of territorial disputes through peaceful means and come up with a solution by 1 March 2013. The commission did not meet after December, and in March 2013 stiff letters threatening military action were exchanged between Honduras and El Salvador. [13]

See also

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  2. 1 2 3 Anderson, Thomas P. The War of the Dispossessed: Honduras and El Salvador 1969. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981.
  3. "La Gaceta Dec. 5, 1962 (Library of Congress)" (PDF). Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  4. Goldstein, Erik (1992). Wars and Peace Treaties, 1816-1991. Routledge. pp. 195–6. ISBN   978-0-203-97682-1 . Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  5. "Soccer 'War' Won By El Salvador, 3-2; Troops Still Alerted", Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1969, p1
  6. "Football's diplomatic penalty". The Guardian . 28 June 1969. p. 3.
  7. Tucker, Spencer C., ed. (2009). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. p. 2463.
  8. Overall, Mario (July–August 2005). "The Hundred Hour War: Honduras versus El Salvador". Air Enthusiast (118): 8–27.
  9. Lerner, Preston. "The Last Piston-Engine Dogfights". Air & Space Magazine. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  10. "The Last Gunfighters – History's Final Piston-Engine Interceptors". Military History Now. 16 October 2013.
  11. "1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico ™ - Groups -". FIFA. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  12. "Diario Oficial Nov. 13, 1980(Library of Congress)" (PDF). Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  13. 1 2 Kawas, Jorge (18 March 2013). "El Salvador: Sovereignty issues over Gulf of Fonseca". Pulsa Merica.

Further reading