The List

Blood Sport

The Georgetown-Chinese Army basketball brawl is pretty tame compared to these five geopolitical ballgames that spilled over into off-field violence.

Update: On Feb. 1, 2012, more than 70 people were killed in fighting between rival groups of soccer fans during a match in Port Said, Egypt. Organized Egyptian hooligan groups, known as Ultras, were heavily ivolved in the demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak's regime, clashing with police and often turning peaceful demonstrations violent. 

In August, 2011, FP looked back at some of the notable occasions when political violence has spilled over onto athletic playing fields.

The Blood in the Water Game

Water polo, a wildly popular sport throughout Eastern Europe, is already a pretty rough game. Throw in a bitter Cold War rivalry and you have the makings of a literal bloodbath.

The 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, took place just days after Soviet forces invaded Hungary to brutally suppress an anti-communist revolution. Several European countries boycotted the games to protest the Soviets' actions. Things came to a head in a semifinal water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union, which turned into one of the roughest games in Olympic history.

Players were expelled throughout the game for illegal headlocks, holds, and punches. Late in the match, star Hungarian forward Ervin Zador was sucker-punched by the Soviet player guarding him and was pulled from the pool with a bleeding cut below his eye. Australian police were called in to prevent the heavily pro-Hungarian crowd from rioting.

The Hungarians won the game 4-0 and went on to defeat Yugoslavia for the gold medal. But nearly half of the country's 100-member Olympic delegation defected rather than return home to communism.      

The Football War

The 1969 conflict between Honduras and El Salvador, made famous by Ryszard Kapuscinski's book, The Soccer War, had its roots in conditions that existed long before the two countries took the field for a fateful series of World Cup qualifying matches in June of that year.

After decades of heavy immigration, Salvadorans accounted for about 20 percent of Honduras' peasant population by 1967. Spurred by local resentment, the Honduran government passed a land reform law displacing thousands of Salvadorans.

With tensions high, the two countries met for the first match in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. The night before, Honduran fans had surrounded the hotel where the Salvadoran players were staying, keeping them awake throwing stones and firecrackers. El Salvador lost the game 1-0, prompting the suicide of a young Salvadoran fan. Her funeral became a national event, attended by the president.

At the return match, held one week later in El Salvador, the home fans' rage was so intense that Honduran players had to be taken to the stadium in armored cars. Instead of a Honduran flag, the Salvadorans raised a dirty dish towel on the flagpole. The home team won that one 3-0. A tiebreaker was held in Mexico City with both countries' fans separated by 5,000 baton-wielding Mexican police. El Salvador won the game 3-2, and hours later severed diplomatic relations with Honduras. Two weeks later, Salvadoran planes began bombing Tegucigalpa. The war ended four days later with a ceasefire arranged by the Organization of American States.

The Old Firm

One of the world's bitterest sports rivalries, known collectively as the "Old Firm" because of the cash raked in by the team's owners thanks to the rabid enmity of their fans, involves the two biggest Scottish soccer clubs, Celtic and Rangers. Of course, the rivalry is much bigger than football, or even Scotland for that matter. Celtic supporters tend to be Irish Catholics while Rangers are supported by Protestants -- making the regular meetings between the two teams a kind of proxy battle for the Northern Ireland conflict. Irish tri-colors and British Union Jacks are far more common at Old Firm games than Scottish flags.

Violence has been a part of the rivalry since at least 1909, when fans, upset that a replay match had ended in a draw, proceeded to tear seats from the stadium and set turnstile booths on fire. In 1980, following a Scottish Cup final won 1-0 by Celtic, both sides' fans met on the pitch and began a massive brawl that had to be broken up by police on horseback. The fight led to the banning of alcohol at Scottish soccer matches.

In an infamous 1999 game, fans threw projectiles at players and invaded the field following a controversial foul call. Some have accused the teams' owners of pandering to the most violent elements of their fan base to generate controversy and interest.

Dinamo Zagreb-Red Star Belgrade Riot

Two weeks before this Yugoslav league match on May 13, 1990, Croatia had held its first-ever democratic elections, which were swept by pro-independence parties. Both clubs were supported by notoriously violent hooligan groups -- Belgrade's Delije and Zagreb's Bad Blue Boys -- and when they met for this match in Zagreb, both sides began brawling and tearing out seats in the stadium with little interference from Yugoslav police. The brawl soon spilled out onto the field, where, in the most famous image of the day, Dinamo Captain Zvonimir Boban karate-kicked a policeman who he saw attacking a Croatian fan.        

One year later, the Yugoslav football league -- along with the rest of the country -- was no more. The Delije and Bad Blue Boys members went to play prominent roles in their countries' armies and paramilitary groups during the civil war that followed. Delije-leader-turned-warlord Željko Ražnatovic -- better known as "Arkan" -- was indicted by the United Nations for war crimes but assassinated in 2000 before he could stand trial.

A plaque outside Zagreb's Maksimir stadium today reads, "To the fans of the club, who started the war with Serbia at this ground on May 13, 1990."

The Arab Winter

Almost exactly one year before the demonstrations that would lead to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship, young Egyptians took to the streets for a different reason -- a simmering football rivalry with rival North African power Algeria. When the Algerian national team arrived in Cairo on Nov. 12, 2009, for a World Cup qualifying match, its bus was attacked by Egyptian fans and several players were bloodied.

Rioting followed the first game, which was won by Egypt, and inaccurate media reports that Algerian fans had been killed in the melee sparked attacks against Egyptian business in Algeria. After the second match was won by Algeria, a tiebreaker was held in Khartoum, Sudan, attended by the sons of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Algeria won the game 1-0 and Egyptian fans were reportedly attacked on the way to the airport. Responding to the incident, Egypt briefly withdrew its ambassador from Algeria.

At the time, Ursula Lindsey wrote in Foreign Policy that "the soccer frenzy may have served the interests of both autocratic regimes, whose populations might otherwise be striking over living conditions or demonstrating for greater political freedom." One year later, they would be.  

The List

Little Is the New Big

From Angry Birds to crowd-sourced science, the "micromultinational" corporation is here.

For centuries, huge multinational corporations have dominated the world of business. From the British East India Company to Sony, these industry giants span the globe, with manufacturing centers, production lines, and executive headquarters spread across continents. In most cases, it's taken years for these megacorporations to globalize. But now, due to technologies that have leveled the playing field, there's a new trend on the horizon: small businesses that are international from the get-go. With little more than a good Internet connection and a solid business model, these "micromultinationals" -- as Google's Chief Economist, Hal Varian, writes in Foreign Policy's Future Issue -- are proving that size doesn't always matter. These five start-ups aren't merely market flukes, but rather, the future of business.


In 2003, Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennstrom and his Danish counterpart, Janus Friis, who had recently sold the file-sharing website Kazaa, founded Skype. Within the first six weeks of its initial release, 1.5 million users had downloaded the software, which allows video and voice calls, instant messages and file transfers to be made over the Internet. Zennestrom claimed that charging for calls was so "last century" -- Skype allowed people to place calls from one edge of the globe to the other for almost nothing.

Skype grew quickly, and now employs around 500 people in Estonia, Sweden, the United States, Japan, and China, among other places. Skype's founders sold the company to eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion, and in 2009, the technology investment group Silver Lake bought 40 percent of Skype's stake. Just 18 months later, in May 2011, Microsoft took the company under its wing for $8.5 billion. Skype today boasts around 700 million users, but the company is hoping its new partnership with Facebook will bring in enough new users to hit the one billion mark.



Angry Birds has become a global obsession. Rovio, the developer of the hugely popular mobile-phone game, in which birds armed with slingshots battle green egg-stealing pigs, was founded in 2003 by three Finnish students. A team of only a handful monitored and developed a series of games for the first several years, but in 2009, when Angry Birds made it to the iTunes store, their success spread like wildfire. The game hit No. 1 in 68 countries, and remains a personal favorite of Justin Bieber and David Cameron. In May, CEO Mikael Hed told Reuters he expected the Rovio's revenue to be in the range of $72 million to $143 million this year.

But Angry Birds isn't just an addictive diversion -- it could be the beginning of an empire. In March, investors including Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom and Accel Partners, one of Facebook's funders, backed Rovio with $42 million. Disney may be partnering with the company in the near future, along with Zynga, the creator of the wildly popular game Farmville, and Electronic Arts, the global video game behemoth. Rovio is currently considering taking additional funding from a yet-to-be-named entertainment company, valuing the company at a $1.2 billion. Clothing and stuffed animals depicting the animated birds may soon be sold in 200 Chinese stores, and an Angry Birds movie is even in the works. With only around 110 employees now based in Espoo, Finland, Rovio's success is remarkable -- especially considering the firm had only 17 people on staff until last year.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


Launched in 2004 from founder Brad Oberwager's California basement, Sundia -- a major U.S. fruit and vegetable provider -- now deems itself to be the "fastest growing produce brand in North America." Sundia's growers are scattered throughout the United States, its manufacturing hubs in China, Mexico, Thailand, and Turkey, and its distribution centers in Vancouver, Los Angeles, and New York. Its phone systems are based in the Philippines, accounting in India, and quality assurance in Pakistan. While Sundia remains a staple source for U.S. grocers, the company's backbone is nearly entirely international.

Sundia's web-based system, which CNN praised in 2006, allows for "a Sundia employee in the Philippines [to] take an order from a Philadelphia grocery store for watermelon juice made from Mexican fruit. The juice gets squeezed in Washington state, and payment goes to Oberwager in California, who then notifies his CFO in India that the money has been received."

The company's global network has translated into success, with Sundia now manufacturing all Sunkist and Jamba Juice fruit cups; 35 percent of watermelons in the United States bear the Sundia logo. In 2009, Forbes ranked Sundia as the sixth-most promising young company. As of last year, the company only had 15 employees, with revenue of around $15 million.



After finishing business school in Paris, American entrepreneur Robert Keane sought to start a printing company that would provide individuals and small businesses with the tools to market themselves cheaply and easily. In 1995, Keane did exactly that -- and built his firm into one of the leading online printing companies. In 2007, the company partnered with OfficeMax to introduce stations using Vistaprint technology in all of its U.S. and Mexican stores; it announced a partnership with FedEx two years later.

Vistaprint's competitive advantage is scale. In a matter of minutes, small companies around the world can create personalized logos and business cards using the company's online design studio for a fraction of the cost of what traditional printing companies charge. But small can be hugely profitable: CNN ranked Vistaprint No. 52 on its 2010 list of the 100 fastest growing companies, and the company's revenue for the 2011 fiscal year reached $817 million.

Vistaprint has three regional headquarters in the United States, Spain, and Australia, as well as facilities in France, Jamaica, Tunisia, and a handful of other countries. There are currently 24 versions of the Vistaprint website, and its products are shipped to over 130 countries. As Keane told CNN in 2006, "It's often hard for startups to find their way out of their home nation. But you have to -- it's not that type of world anymore."



Outsourcing may have become a dirty word, but Kaggle, which pools the expertise of more than 13,000 scientists worldwide, is unabashedly harnessing its power. The company describes itself as an "innovative solution for statistical/analytics outsourcing." By launching online data analysis competitions, Kaggle consults thousands of experts from over 100 different countries and 200 universities for what they say is "cheaper, faster and more powerful analytics" -- a 21st century approach to solving real-world problems. Kaggle's use of crowd-sourcing has created a healthy competition of ideas and data.

The Australian company, founded in 2010, is supported by a small team including Anthony Goldbloom, a former economic modeler for the Australian Treasury, and Jeremy Howard, a veteran of the consulting firm McKinsey. NASA, Deloitte, and Ford have all partnered with Kaggle to create data competitions, where prize money is awarded to the winning model. Experts have recently participated in competitions involving predicting the progression of HIV, developing better ways to detect when a driver falls asleep at the wheel, and measuring the shapes of galaxies to map dark matter.

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