The FIFA World Cup. The football fiesta that the world waits for, for four years. A time when most of us have our eyeballs glued to every digital screen we spot. Ever wondered how this magnificent event came into being? Read on.
Turn the hands of the clock all the way back to 1872. That’s the year when the first official international football match took place between England and Scotland. If you’re wondering, the match ended in a draw—0-0, to be accurate. These were the times when football was barely known outside of Great Britain. The sport really gained popularity only nearly three decades later, in 1900, when many football associations were formed. In a landmark event in 1902, Argentina defeated Uruguay 6-0 in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, in the first football match played outside the British Isles. In May 1904, the footballing world saw a massive development with the formation of FIFA in Paris, thanks to Robert Guérin. Football associations from Belgium, France, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland joined in. Germany joined a few months later, giving FIFA its eight founding nations.
Illustration of the first official international football match in 1872. Image source: scottishsporthistory.com
The current FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Image source: geographical.co.uk
Gradually, the game started to become popular. So popular, that it was made an Olympic sport. FIFA recognised the Olympic Football Tournament as a ‘World Tournament for Amateurs’ in 1912 and took responsibility for organising it. Eventually, in 1920, the world witnessed its first intercontinental football tournament at the Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, with the home team emerging victorious. The success of the tournament seeded the idea of a ‘World Cup’, an international tournament where the best teams worldwide competed for a championship title.
Football continued to feature in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris and in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, with Uruguay winning gold both times. However, behind closed doors, there was a storm brewing. Too dramatic? Ok, let’s move on.
The winning Uruguay national football team at the 1928 Summer Olympics. Image source: commons.wikimedia.org
These good times continued for close to a decade, until the 9th Olympic Congress, where the committee decided to scrap football (or, should we say ‘soccer’?) from the 1932 Summer Olympics to be held in Los Angeles. The decision came as an effect of the low popularity that football enjoyed in the USA at the time. This decision spurred FIFA to act upon its plans of launching its own international tournament. The first FIFA World Cup was scheduled for 1930, and Uruguay, being 2-time Olympic champions, and considered the world’s best team at the time, were the obvious choice to host it.
The first FIFA World Cup differed greatly from the format that we all know and love today. For starters, there was no rigorous qualification process for the teams. FIFA just wrote to its member nations, requesting for an RSVP. USA, South America and Mexico were eager to participate, but Europe was reluctant due to the distance to Uruguay. Also, another challenge for Europe was that most of its players at the time had full-time jobs. Finally, thanks to the intervention of then-President of FIFA, Jules Rimet, France, Belgium, Yugoslavia and Romania agreed to take part and they embarked on their journey to Uruguay. And just like that, it was July 13, 1930. France played against Mexico and the USA against Belgium. France’s Lucien Laurent scored the first ever goal in World Cup history, and the FIFA World Cup had kicked off to an amazing start.
Inaugural champions of the FIFA World Cup: the Uruguay national football team. Image source: pinterest.com
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