Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Football World Cup: The Beginning

The idea of staging a world cup for football was entertained even at the time of the establishment of the FIFA in 1904. But until the 1920s it did not receive considerable support because there was no real need for it. The Olympic football tournament served as a world because there was no question of eligibility for the players. Those days, the game was played by amateurs.

However, by the 1920s, some major football powers such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria introduced professionalism to their game. Therefore, their best players suddenly found themselves ineligible for the Olympics. Moreover, there was serious doubts regarding the amateur status of some of the South American teams participating in the tournament which undermined the credibility of the Olympics as a world cup for football.

The decision by the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics organizing committee to drop football from the tournament due to the lack of popularity in United States was the turning point. In the 1928 Amsterdam congress of the FIFA, its president Jules Rimet put proposed a motion to hold a separate world cup of their own, open to any FIFA member. The motion was passed with a majority of 25-5.

Holland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay were initially enthusiastic about hosting the inaugural tournament. But the South Americans who were the reigning Olympic champions eventually received the honour to host it. In 1930, they were celebrating the centenary of their independence and rather over generously, they offered to provide the travel and accommodation expenses of all participants. Meanwhile, the other countries systematically withdrew their initial offers after realizing the financial burdens of staging such a tournament.

Only thirteen-including just four European-countries participated in this tournament which was the only world cup football tournament to be held entirely in one city, Montevideo. Although France realized that their team was not up to the standards of the South Americans, they were obliged to send a team because they were instrumental in making the tournament a reality. Romania is said to have participated due to the support of their football loving monarch, Carol. However, many wondered why Belgium and Yugoslavia chose to embark in the long voyage when all European countries which initially offered to host the tournament did not send their teams.
The tournament started when the French met Mexico and Belgium met USA in two simultaneously started matches on the 13th of July 1930. The Frenchman Lucien Laurent was the first to score a goal in World Cup football history.

As expected, the South American rivals Argentina and Uruguay met at the Centenary Stadium on the 30th of the same month for the final. Argentinian supporters who arrived in Uruguay crossing the river Plate to watch the match were searched for weapons, which dampened the sporting spirit of the game. The rivals met in a hardly fought battle in and the hosts emerged as winners.

Despite the low participation from European nations which led the Uruguayans to boycott the 1934 tournament, the inaugural football world cup was considered a success. It was the beginning of a great sporting event which captivates the whole world every four years.

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