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Opinion / Editorial

Henry Kissinger, how he saw politics and diplomacy through football and the Olympic Games...

Henry Kissinger, how he saw politics and diplomacy through football and the

We all know the political and historical profile of Henry Kissinger, who passed away at the age of 100. He directed US foreign policy and was a defense adviser in the 60s and 70s. The man who was one of the managers of the Cold War between the US and the USSR, although today he is attributed an aggressive profile, at the time he was not exactly one of the 'hawks', always ready to detonate the bombs. He was a diplomat comparable to Machiavelli, Metternich or Molotov. Kissinger was involved in setting up dictatorships in South America and their dirty wars against their own people, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering a ceasefire in the Vietnam War that lasted until shortly after he received the award. It is perhaps less well known that he also has a relevant sporting profile. They are talking about someone who holds the "Pierre de Coubertin" medal from the International Olympic Committee; that was behind the 'ping-pong diplomacy' with which the US began detente with China. His role was key to making soccer a major sport in the US, an honorary member of the Harlem Globetrotters. In his light and shadow, Henry Kissinger was one of the few relevant figures of the 20th century who fully understood the importance of sport as a social fact of primary proportions and, therefore, sensitive to used in diplomacy, which was his professional field. It is possible that his love of football and sport in general was independent of diplomatic 'usefulness', but it is also possible that he perhaps became aware of this relationship in 1971 when he secretly traveled to the People's Republic of China to launched a detention. Earlier, the US table tennis team had traveled to China to play a series of matches, after officially casual contact between athletes at a tournament in Japan. Shortly after these meetings, blessed by the Chinese authorities, Kissinger officially fell ill during a trip to Pakistan. During his supposed hospitalization he secretly visited China and arranged for a Richard Nixon trip which was the beginning of the global 'rehabilitation' of the People's Republic of China. After that, Kissinger's relationship with the world of sports was never interrupted. In 1972 he had to mediate with Bobby Fischer so that the world chess final could be played against Boris Spassky, which paralyzed the world. "I did it in the name of world peace," Kissinger said. In 1976, the Harlem Globetrotters made him an honorary member as another example of understanding the importance of social 'synergies'. Those who denounce his connections with the criminal dictatorships of Pinochet and Videla do not fail to point out that he was a guest of honor at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. The Peruvian Oblitas recalled that Kissinger accompanied the Argentine general when he visited the Peruvian national team in the dressing room. before that controversial 6-0 that sent Argentina to the final (he was no longer, by the way, Secretary of State). The fact is that Kissinger was a football fan, regardless of whether he appreciated its socio-political importance. This is still surprising when, until the 1970s, soccer was a fairly marginalized sport in the US, played mainly by South American immigrants, although it should also be taken into account that Kissinger, who was born in Germany, immigrated to the US at the age of 15 years old, fleeing from Hitler's persecutions. At that age he might have already developed a love for football. It is known that he was impressed by the Italy-West Germany semi-final of "Mexico 1970" and that from that match he had a great admiration for Franz Beckenbauer, with whom he later collaborated. Also an admirer of Pele, he influenced both to end up playing in the USA. In addition, he was the commissioner - senior manager - of the NASL, the first major professional soccer league in the USA. In 1988 he organized a meeting between FIFA president Joao Havelange and US president Ronald Reagan, which led to the selection of the US as the host of the 1994 World Cup. This meant the opening of a very important market for football in the USA. He was, by the way, a member of Bayern Munich and Furth, his hometown club. Kissinger participated in several matches played at the "Santiago Bernabeu". He also pointed out that signing Zidane was expensive financially, but cheap in the long run, in terms of spectacle and promotion. With such a background, it was virtually inevitable that Henry Kissinger would not become attached to the Olympic world. Of course, through one of the larger doors, albeit in a turbulent time. Juan Antonio Samaranch called him to undertake the reforms of the Olympic Movement after the corruption scandal in Salt Lake City, for which he had to appear before the US Congress to account for the reforms carried out. Kissinger did the same. This happened in 1999. In 2000, at the age of 77, he was named an honorary member of the IOC, received the "Pierre de Coubertin" medal. Kissinger did not have the right to vote, but he was quite influential. Even in the last decade, Joseph Blatter used his experience and prestige to try to solve the problem of corruption cases involving FIFA. Due to age, Kissinger's Olympic work could no longer be as active as in other fields, but it can serve as his Olympic testament, published in the official journal of the IOC. The current president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, has said that Kissinger always approached matters with their purpose. Kissinger himself wrote this about the Olympic Movement: “When Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the ancient Olympic tradition in 1894, mistrust was the tone of world politics. The borders in Europe had been redefined and, mentally, there was a process of adjustment. Imperial ambitions were a source of unrest and conflict throughout the world. On the Old Continent, the unfortunate stability was anything but temporary, as it turned out. However, Coubertin managed to transcend his time thanks to a dream of friendship and faith inspired by a rite created in a very distant time and place. Throughout their history, the Olympic Games have proven capable of promoting human understanding even when political compromise has proved elusive. There are many cases in which the Olympic Games have acted as a political tool. Perhaps the most remarkable example of this is the eight years of joint competition between East and West Germany between 1956 and 1964, even during the height of the Cold War that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The Germans marched again behind a single flag. South Africa, leaving the darkness of apartheid behind, returned to the Olympic Games after an absence of three decades. The two Koreas also marched together at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics." Sport is a fundamental part of our world, Kissinger understood this way. He even applied it to his way of seeing, understanding and managing this world, in the high offices he held.