During El Salvador’s civil war, between 1977 and 1989, the national team qualified for the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. It was one of the greatest sporting moments in Latin America history, considering that at the time of war ES had one of the worst Olympic systems in the Western Hemisphere. Few stadiums existed and much of the nation’s infrastructure had been devastated. Meanwhile, many foreign squads were forced to cancel their meetings in ES because of the violence. In spite of this, the Central American republic persisted and continued to train for the FIFA World Cup. By November 1981, its men’s soccer team beat the United Mexican States 1-0, and won the right to compete in the World Cup in 1982.
Country Profile: El Salvador
The Republic of El Salvador is located in Central America and is surrounded by Honduras, Guatemala and the Pacific ocean. It is covered by volcanoes, mountains and valleys. There are over 300 rivers and streams. The total area of the nation is 8,100 square miles, while it has a population of about 5, 740,000. On the other side, it has one of the most ethnically homogeneous populations in the Americas. Economically, it is primarily an agricultural nation. Coffee is the chief cash crop. Like other Latin American republics, football is the national sport in El Salvador.
ES was home to some notable personalities in the latter half of the 20th century: Arnulfo Romero Galdamez (an activist for democracy and human rights), Jose Arturo Castellanos (a campaigner for the rights of Jews), and Napoleon Duarte (ex Head of State).
This Spanish-speaking nation gained its independence in 1821. During Cold War, ES had one of the world’s most lethal wars. Politically, ES is a democracy since the mid-1980s. The Latin American republic maintains close diplomatic and economic ties with Europe and Washington. San Salvador -home to 70 percent of the population- is the capital city. SS -host city of the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2002 – is one of the most modern cities in Central America. Other major cities are Soyapango, Santa Ana, and San Miguel.
A Football-Loving Nation
During the Civil War, over 75,000 Salvadorans were killed, including children, and at least 1 million had left the country. Several refugees had fled to neighboring nations and the United States. In that time, a host of towns, roads, railways, and homes had been destroyed. Besides all that, El Salvador’s economy suffered inflation and was heavily dependent on American aid. Meanwhile, the health system was one of the worst in the Western Hemisphere. For these reasons, it became one of Latin American’s poorest republics in the 1980s and early 1990s, together with Haiti, Bolivia, Guyana and Honduras.
Although the nation boasted one of the best soccer teams in Latin America. By October 1968, against all odds, the Salvadoran team won the right to compete in the XIX Summer Olympic Games in the United Mexican States, alongside teams like Hungary, France and Brazil. Two years later, the men’s football team made international headlines when they qualified for the IX FIFA World Cup in Mexico City, together with 15 foreign teams. Because of this, ES was the first Central American nation to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
At the 1977 CONCACAF Tournament in the United Mexican States, the Salvadoran squad finished third, after Mexico (winner) and Haiti. During that event, it defeated Canada (2-0) and Suriname (3-2).
On November 6, 1981, El Salvador made history when it beat Mexico 1-0, and won the right to compete in the global tournament in Spain in 1982. At the XII World Cup, ES, one of the smallest members of the FIFA, sent a national delegation made up of 20 footballers: Guillermo Ragazzone, Miguel Angel Diaz, Eduardo Hernandez, Jose Luis Munguia, Luis Guevara Mora, Mario Castillo, Jose Francisco Jovel, Carlos Recinos, Ramon Fagoaga, Joaquin Ventura, Silvio Aquino, Jose Luis Rugamas, Ever Hernandez, Norberto Huezo, Magico Gonzalez, Francisco Osorto, Jose Maria Rivas, Luis Ramirez, Jaime Rodriguez, and Mauricio Alfaro.