Football and Politics
Africa Boycotts Tournament in England
This was the only World Cup tournament boycotted by an entire continent. FIFA’s Byzantine rules effectively left just one place for three continents: Africa, Asia and Oceania. This affected 12 Asian and African nations that were trying to qualify. Ghana, the first sub-Saharan nation to achieve independence, was also the top African footballing power.
At the time, the “winds of change” were swirling through Africa as nation-after-nation gained independence. FIFA and England were still engaging with apartheid South Africa, which enraged the rest of the continent. Hence, the boycott.
Two years after the 1966 World Cup, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos made arguably the most politically potent gesture in the history of sport, when they gave the “Black Power” salute at the Olympics.