FIFA (Federation of International Football Associations) was founded in Paris in 1904. France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain were the first. It was designed to represent the interests of international football, but in 1921 Jules Rimet became FIFA’s president, and he brought the concept of arranging a world championship.
The Beginnings of the World Cup
There was an international football competition at the Olympics, but according to Henry Delaunty, Secretary of the French Federation, it was an amateur event, therefore a professional championship had to be organized. Members were looking for a definition of that professionalism. Britain submitted theirs, but in the end there was no agreement on one and Britain decided to leave FIFA.
The world championship idea was debated for a long time, until after the 1928 Olympics, with the approval of most members, it was agreed that such a competition would be held in Uruguay in 1930, for their Olympic Championships in 1924 and 1928. A French sculptor designed the Jules Rimet Trophy, a solid gold figure of the Victory Goddess.
World Cup Football Pre World War II
Uruguay 1930: As the first, many issues had to be solved. A big concern was the three week traveling time European countries would have to endure, and even though Uruguay offered to pay for all the traveling and housing costs, only four European countries attended: France, Romania, Belgium and Yugoslavia. Thirteen countries in four groups played for the Trophy, and the winner was Uruguay.
Italy 1934: Uruguay stayed home, piqued by the poor European entry in 1930 and other domestic issues. In Europe it became a big event and this time it was more competitive. The political Fascist environment made it hard for FIFA to agree on Italy as the hosting country, but after various meetings it was accepted. Sixteen finalists, not grouped, went into various rounds and the Champion was Italy.
France 1938: Uruguay again didn’t attend. And in Europe a dark war climate was inevitable. Germany absorbed Austria’s best players since it was now annexed to Germany, Spain did enter because of its civil war, and many American countries withdrew for various reasons. Again, sixteen finalists, not grouped, went into various rounds and Italy was Champion.
During the 1940’s these championships were put on hold. FIFA headquarters in Switzerland managed to keep its offices open. And the trophy was kept hidden in fear that the Nazis would confiscate it.
Soccer World Cups Post World War II
Brazil 1950: The world was still recovering from war, so it took place in South America, the least affected region. Germany was purposely excluded, India withdrew because they weren’t allowed to play barefooted, and there were other withdrawals. England entered for the first time. Thirteen finalists competed in four groups, and the Champion was Uruguay.
Switzerland 1954: Switzerland, the least touched by war in Europe, seemed as the perfect host, but ended up being somewhat disorganized. Technology though, made it possible for those with television to watch the games. It went back to sixteen finalists in four groups of four to start with, something that would not change until 1982. West Germany, recently admitted back, won the championship.
Sweden 1958: An emerging 4-2-4 system brought by the Brazilians and the rise of a seventeen-year-old named Pele. The champion was Brazil.
Chile 1962: Despite the earthquake devastation, Chile requested to be the host for that same reason, to bring something positive. The champion was again Brazil.
England 1966: European countries did better than South America, to the point that they accused Europe of being in some kind of conspiracy, but it stayed at that. The champion was home England.
Mexico 1970: Players where pushed too far in their performance with high altitudes and the Mexican summer heat when most games where arranged around noon because of some broadcasting agreement. Brazil won for the third time and took the Jules Rimet Trophy permanently.
West Germany 1974: A new trophy as designed – the World Cup Trophy. Following the Munich Olympic Games with the killings of athletes by terrorists, security was a big issue. The champion was West Germany.
Argentina 1978: After so many years of wanting to host, they finally got it, and they won the championship.
Spain 1982: Now it was up to 24 finalists grouped into six final groups. The champion was Italy, becoming the second nation to win a third time.
Mexico 1986: Even though the lesson was learned, still altitude and heat factors affected players’ performance. Argentina shows up with Maradona and they won the championship.
Italy 1990: West Germany became the third nation to win a third time, after Brazil and then Italy.
USA 1994: US professional soccer was still in its development and yet they hosted the event with great organization. The champion was Brazil for the fourth time.
France 1998: Now there were 32 finalists divided in eight groups. It was the most media covered World Cup yet and the champion was France.
Japan and South Korea 2002: The tournament with the most entries, 198, almost all of the 203 FIFA members. Brazil won, for the fifth time!
Germany 2006: Italy became the second nation to win a fourth time, After Brazil.
South Africa 2010: TBD
The Biggest International Sports Event
Every four years, the World Cup unifies the world celebrating a common interest – the love for soccer.