The Modern Era: FIFA

The Modern Era: FIFA

On the 21st of May 1904, representatives from seven European countries (France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland) met in Paris and formed the governing body called FIFA or Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

The French journalist Robert Guerin was appointed president at the first FIFA congress. Guerin set out to attract new members and convince the reluctant English to join. FIFA headquarters were moved to Geneva, Switzerland during the 1930’s.

At the second FIFA congress in June of 1905, there was already discussion about an international competition to take place in 1906. A number of organizational, financial and logistical problems including World War I delayed this plan for over two decades.

Since 1900, the Olympics included a soccer tournament whose winner was considered “world champion”. By the 1920s, however, professional leagues had evolved so that the Olympic Games, then restricted to amateur athletes, no longer represented the highest level of competition in the world.

In 1930 the first World Cup tournament was held in Uruguay. It was won by the host nation with a victory over Argentina in the final. Going to South America from Europe took nearly a month of sea travel so many nations from the old continent did not participate at all. Despite being shunned by many strong European teams, the tournament was a financial success and excited international interest. By the 1930s, most major European countries had become interested in the World Cup, except for the British Isles. England, Scotland, and Wales, which field separate national soccer teams would refuse to take part in the first three World Cup tournaments.

The 1934 tournament was held in Italy during Benito Mussolini’s regime. The World Cup proved so popular that 36 nations entered the 1938 tournament, and preliminary elimination games had to be played in order to determine the 16 finalists. France hosted the 1938 tournament and Italy repeated as champion.

Jules Rimet was president of the French football federation and FIFA at the time of the first World Cup. The original World Cup trophy was named in his honor. The trophy itself had a rocky history. During World War II, Ottorino Barassi, an Italian official hid it in a shoebox under his bed. Later, the trophy was stolen during a public exhibition just before the 1966 World Cup final, then recovered and stolen again seventeen years later in Brazil. The Jules Rimet trophy hasn’t been found seen since and some speculate that it may have been melted.

Updated: March 3, 2016
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