Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Soccer Diplomacy?

Tonight, Armenia's national soccer team will play against Turkey, in Turkey, for World Cup qualifying (amazingly, they are in the same qualifying group). This is a dicey situation, because the Armenian people suffered horribly during World War I under Turkish Ottoman rule. They argue that it was genocide, but the Turkish government bristles at the charge and throws its weight against anyone who supports it (including the U.S. government).  Political leaders on both sides are trying to keep violent fans at bay for tonight's match in Bursa. A Washington Post story suggests that the game is encouraging a diplomatic thaw between the two governments.

I'd love to do a research project on the "soccer leads to peace" thesis, a rival to the Democratic Peace theory popularized by Michael Doyle and the Golden Arches Theory popularized by Tom Friedman. There's probably research out there already testing whether global sports (e.g., the Olympics) contribute to peaceful diplomacy. It's a cliche, for sure. But is there evidence that a sporting event can bring political rivals together? The news from Turkey and Armenia suggests there is.


  1. I heard about this yesterday--who won the match? The post makes me think of the "Christmas Truce" soccer game between German, British, and French troops during WWI. (BTW, have you seen the movie Joyeux Noël? If not, you should this Christmas).

    On another note, are you planning on doing a blog for Blog Action Day? I just found out about it yesterday. You can check it out here if you haven't already:

  2. Joyeux Noel is one of my favorite movies of all time. Thanks for the word on Blog Action Day, which I hadn't heard about.