“Football more important than Berlin”: East German Football vs. NATO, 1960-64
In the early 1960s Portugal and the Netherlands confronted the problem of East German participation in the UEFA Junior Tournament and Olympic qualification. Although not very important tournaments, domestic governments feared they would cause a public backlash against themselves and NATO should the East Germans not be allowed to participate. These games became tied up with debates over NATO policies, national interest, and public opinion. The popularity of football prompted some states to attempt to use the national interest exception to the East German travel ban. These football matches brought the Cold War into the smaller NATO member states’ national boundaries. By hosting sporting events the Netherlands and Portugal engaged directly with their NATO allies over Cold War policies with which they did not fully agree or which they believed would cause public opinion problems at home and abroad. NATO diplomats, foreign ministries, and the leaders of national and international football federations spent months in protracted negotiations over whether minor football matches involving the German Democratic Republic would even take place during the height of the Cold War as each group attempted to appear blameless in the court of public opinion.
Citation : Dichter, H.L. (2020) 'Football more important than Berlin': East German Football vs. NATO, 1960-64. In: Dichter, H.L. (Ed.) Global Players: Soccer and Diplomacy, Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Humanities