Wednesday, October 14, 2009

There's a number of important World Cup qualifiers taking place today. In amongst them are two teams who have failed to qualify from European Group 5 and have nothing to play for except pride - Turkey and Armenia.

Well perhaps a little bit more than just pride. Symbolic is probably a better word.

With the two countries signing a historic accord to end over 100 years of hostilities on Saturday, the timing of this game is Bursa in Turkey could not be better.

It may be an uneasy truce, with more than a few kinks still to iron out, if you can call the admission of genocide just a kink, but the war between the two neighbours has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and civilians from both sides are glad to see a recognised end to hostilities and the chance to build better relations.

Once again football is the tool that can kick start the process off in fine style.

Turkey sit third in the group, Armenia bottom. They have already met in Armenia in the sides' first match of the campaign last year, with Turkey triumphing 2-0 in Yerevan. The score today is irrelevent on many counts. The fact that two countries and their supporters can celebrate a historic moment in both of their histories with a game of football is what makes this match special.

To me, seeing football still played in times of adversity and times of reconciliation is what the game should be all about. Bringing together people across the world. Putting aside differences, faiths, colours of skin, just to enjoy a game.

Whether it's Iraq starting off again as a democratic footballing country or Palestinians forgetting Israeli brutality and oppression for 90 minutes to cheer their countrymen on. It brings a smile to my face.

Those soldiers who had the historic game of football on Christmas Day in 1915 had it sussed with their impromptu kickabout. Interestingly, 1915 was the year when the Turkish Armenian genocide was starting.

People who don't "get" football and football fans should look deeper. Why does it means so much to so many? It unites so many across the world and helps so many to forget their cares and worries. That's really why football is that much oversued phrase, the beautiful game.

Let's hope today's match between Turkey and Armenia is just the first of many years to come of games between the two countries being played in a whole more peaceful environment. And let's just hope that some other countries follow suit.


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