Soccer: the new Religion


The organization of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was started in 1904. As its name would infer, it was a French-based association which sought to connect soccer played in different countries under one governing body. In its very first meeting, the association made clear its intention to dominate the soccer landscape. Immediately, they declared that they were the only ones with the right to organize a world championship in soccer. At the time, international soccer competitions were becoming a very intriguing and growing concept. Pursuing this idea, FIFA eventually tried to challenge the Olympic games. The Olympic committee felt that they could simply incorporate soccer into the summer games. However, for FIFA, this was not acceptable. Soon, there would have to be a separate event for the world championship of soccer (Gardner 20-21)

Initially, the situation seemed pessimistic. The Olympics had already accomplished a world championship in soccer during the 1924 Olympics. So, how could FIFA start something that was already there? Well, the reality of the situation was perfect for FIFA. First, the Olympics of 1924 revealed that international soccer was popular enough for a true world championship to be played. For example, in the final of the 1924 Olympics, 51,000 individuals went to the game ( a 3-0 victory for Uruguay over Switzerland). Secondly, and more importantly, the Olympics lacked one key element that all fanatics wanted. Everyone wanted to see the best of the best compete. However, the Olympics refused to allow professional athletes to participate. The belief was that the Olympics were for the amateur athlete. For FIFA, though, this was not the issue. On the contrary, this was exactly what FIFA wanted. They had envisioned seeing a global soccer event that made the best athletes compete for the ultimate prize - a world championship (Gardner 20-21).

The first ever World Cup took place in Uruguay in 1930. Many European countries did not participate in the competition because they felt that they deserved to host the event. There was a sense of resentment by these nations towards FIFA because of this. As a result, the first World Cup consisted only of four European nations: France, Romania, Belgium, and Yugoslavia. None of the soccer powerhouses were present. This included England, Austria, Hungary, and Italy. Besides the European teams that came, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and the United States joined Uruguay for the event. The FIFA organization decided on Uruguay because the country's government had promised to fund the whole event, including flying European teams to South America. FIFA was still a relatively young organization and, therefore, was worried about funding the event. With this setting in mind, the choice seemed obvious and an easy one to make (Gardner 21).

From that moment on, the World Cup was and has been held every four years, except during World War II. From this humble beginning, the game grew to the global spectacle of today. The majestic worldly phenomenon was born!