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Football: just a game - or war with a ball?
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Football: just a game - or war with a ball?
As the World Cup progresses in South Africa, NATO Review looks into how the world's game - football - links with security, conflict and politics. This edition describes some outstanding examples of when football has been more than just a game. For football and security enthusiasts, there are some fascinating stories. For footballphobes, the next World Cup is four years away...
Can football be used to bring people together? Or is it the cloak behind which crimes hide? NATO Review looks at how football has been used in both these ways around the world and looks at the differing attitudes to the game.
Whether it's civil wars, ethnic conflicts or simply occupations, football has helped highlight differences, overcome them or been used in protest. Here are a few examples.
Football's links with war and peace go back almost to the founding of the game. This selection of photos show some of the key moments when security and the game overlapped.
The UK forces in Afghanistan have made a video showing how important the World Cup is to them. They took time between operations there to send this message to their team.

'Although sometimes we don’t remember it, (the World Cup) is the biggest world stage there is.' Quite a build up. And that description came from the President of the United States, Barack Obama, as he wished his team good luck at the White House in May.

It's an event few leaders can afford to ignore now. It can bring the world's attention to your country for 90 crucial minutes.

But the game has not always been such a celebration. It has played its part in starting wars and ending them: its been used to divide people and unite them.

The World Cup is also a major security concern now too, offering one of the biggest and highest profile targets in the world.

In this edition we look at how the paths of football and security have overlapped over the ages. And it throws up some interesting links, including the revelation of which team Osama bin Laden supports.

Paul King

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