Ping pong famously brought the Chinese and US together during the Cold War, while America sent athletes to Russia and Iran in past times of tension.
Could love of the round ball help smooth the often choppy waters in North Asia?
Bringing North Korea and its neighbours together is a feat of diplomacy at the best of times, especially if Pyongyang is lobbing missiles around the region.
But next year Australia will host North Korea, South Korea and Japan together in one place – on the football field for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
The draw was announced on Wednesday for the 15 nations, including Australia, who qualified for the tournament.
Japan, North and South Korea aren’t the only countries who could face off in awkward circumstances depending how the cup plays out.
A lot could be riding on a match between China and Japan, given they’re engaged in a territorial dispute over a string of remote islands.
Iran and Iraq may be friendly now, but their shared past is anything but amicable.
Even South Korea and Japan, united in a common foe, needed US President Barack Obama to broker talks this week to try and get their frosty relationship back on track.
Soccer alone can’t heal these wounds, most of which have festered on and off for decades.
Nonetheless, the Australian government on Thursday welcomed the opportunity to unite the region “through the common language of sport”.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop noted that sport diplomacy provided a “unique opportunity” to broaden and deepen Australia’s engagement with Asia.
In a statement, she said Australia would use its role as host to further promote local businesses and “enhance relationships” across the region.
Games played in five cities across the country next January.