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.