As we gear up for the sporting spectacle, FIFA World Cup 2018, let us have a look at where it all began.
The first meeting of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) took place in Paris, France, on May 21, 1904. At the first meeting, FIFA decided that they could organise a world championship. Frenchman Robert Guerin, a journalist and administrator, was one of the founders of FIFA and became its first president.
There was no British presence at the time. The English Football Association, along with those of Scotland, Wales and Ireland, refused to have any part of FIFA. They joined briefly when the Englishman Danial Woolfall became FIFA president in 1906, but withdrew shortly after the First World War in protest over the ‘broken time’ payments (compensation) to amateur players.
On June 12, 1910, Argentina won the first ever South American championships, beating Uruguay 4-1 in a three-team tournament in Buenos Aires. In July 1916, the South American Football federation (CONMEBOL) was formed during the second South American championships, which Uruguay won.
FIFA and the Olympics
As they did not succeed in starting a world championship, FIFA agreed to recognise the Olympic football tournament as a ‘world football championship for amateurs’ and took responsibility for managing the event at the next three Olympiads – from 1920 to 1928.
When the Olympics resumed after the First World War, FIFA felt that the world’s best football players were not participating. So at FIFA’s Antwerp session in 1920, the idea of staging a World Cup was discussed. This decision was also encouraged by the progress of football in South American countries.
By that time Spain, Italy, Hungary and Austria had accepted the concept of professional football and most of their leading players were being paid to play. Some countries like Britain did not enter their full’ professional’ international teams; instead, they used amateurs.
The first major international football tournament that featured European and South American nations took place at the 1924 Paris Olympics. These Olympics showed what colossal progress had been made in football by these countries, especially Uruguay. Their immensely gifted and tactically adroit team won the gold medal, beating Switzerland 3-0 in a one-sided final. In the early rounds, the skilful South Americans thrashed Yugoslavia, USA and France before disposing of Netherlands in the semi-finals, The top scorer was ‘Perucho’ Petrone with eight goals. Other players to excel were the attacking centre half Gestido and the black half back Jose L. Andrade. This tournament have a vivid indication of the potential for a World Cup.
Four years later, at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics both Uruguay and Argentina contested the final. Argentina had scored 23 goals in three matches to reach the final, but Uruguay was not the same dominant team of four years ago. In the semi-finals, Uruguay struggled to oust Italy 3-2. The final initially ended in a 1-1 draw, but Uruguay wont the replay (when a drawn match is played again to decide the winner) 2-1 to win the gold medal for the second time.
Bitter at Italy’s defeat, the Italian media complained that they could have won if they had not left two of their best players behind because they were professionals. Italy’s attacking centre half Fulvio Bernardini scoffed at this and said, ‘ Professional? Of course. But what about all the rest of us who had the good fortune to be chosen; what were we? How did we earn our living?
Why and How the World Cup Started
It was clear in the Olympics tournaments of the 1920s that football had outgrown the amateurism of the Olympics. A proper professional competition, for the best players in the world, was inevitable.
At the 1928, Amsterdam FIFA session, French Football Federation’s Secretary Henri Delaunay’s proposal that a World Cup be organised at the earliest was passed by a thumping majority of 25 in favour and five against.
There were five countries who volunteered to stage the inaugural World Cup – Italy, Netherland, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. So it was a battle between Europe and South America.
A Uruguayan diplomat Enrique Buero made a generous proposal that was difficult to resist. he said that Uruguay should be allowed to host the 1930 World Cup as they would be celebrating their 100th anniversary of freedom. and would meet the travel expenses of all the competing nations. They also offered to build a new Centenario Stadium in Montevideo for the occasion. It would not be fully completed in time, but then neither would the colossal Marcana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro when Brazil played hosts two decades later.
In May 1929 when the FIFA session was held in Barcelona, all the other four applicants graciously withdrew. So, Uruguay had 14 months to prepare for the inaugural World Cup, which was to be staged from 13 July to 20 July 1930. The european nations felt slighted at the World Cup beings held in Uruguay, a tiny nation of just two million.
(Text: The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide 2018 World Cup Special by Novy Kapadia)
Lead Image Courtesy: Sputnik International