This trip we are going back to the beginning and one very small link to Tottenham. The idea of a world tournament was discussed at the first meeting of FIFA in1904. I suspect that none of the delegates realised that when the first competition finally took place 26 years later it would involve unfinished stadiums, a ref who couldn't tell the time and a one armed hero.
The home nations had declined to take part in the 1924 Olympic football competition after a dispute about their professional players and the Olympic amateur status. The final in Paris was watched by an estimated forty thousand who saw Uruguay beat Switzerland. This success led to FIFA deciding to hold its own tournament to be held in 1930. The first problem was where should it be played. Today we have a multi-million pound bidding competition. Back then four European countries expressed a willingness but the fifth country, Uruguay, offered to pay traveling and hotel expenses and at a conference in 1929 it was decided they would host the competition. None of the four European countries would compete.
In an attempt to encourage European teams, the Uruguayan FA invited England to take part, even though they were not members of FIFA at the time. The FA met in November 1929 and declined to accept the invitation.
Seven South American countries agreed to participate in that first tournament, along with Mexico and the USA. European countries were less keen on traveling to South America. With less than two months before the competition was due to start FIFA persuaded four to take part, France, Belgium, Rumania and Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavs traveled separately. The other three countries traveled to South America on the same ship. Also on board was Jules Rimet, FIFA’s President carrying the trophy and a Belgium, John Langenus, who would referee the final match. The ship then stopped in Brazil on route to pick up their team.
Another difference from today’s tournaments, hopefully, when the first goal was scored by France it was snowing. The first of many controversies over the years came two days later. France were trailing to Argentina. The French were through on goal when the Brazilian ref blew for full time, six minutes early! The teams finally returned to play out the last few minutes but the Argentinean team held on. Argentina had another stroke of good luck when one of their players dropped out after the first game so he could sit his university exams. His replacement was a chap called Guillermo Stabile who scored a hat trick in the 6-3 win over Mexico. He would go on to be the competitions top scorer with eight goals as Argentina reached the final against the hosts Uruguay. After the group stage another draw was held to decide the line-up for the semi-finals.
It is estimated 30,000 Argentinean supporters crossed the River Plate for the final. The stadium gates opened in the morning and by the kickoff that evening different sources put the crowd between 68 and 80,000.
The last surviving player from that first ever World Cup final died at the age of 100 in 2010. Francisco Varallo, played for Argentina’s famous Boca club and is their second highest scorer. Known as 'Canoncito' or little cannon because of his powerful shot he said in an interview shortly before his death “I achieved a lot of nice things in my career. I represented the national team and was Boca's record goalscorer. However, in my life I've never felt such a bitter pain as losing that World Cup final. How I cried”.
The USA team finished that first competition in third place. I expect Jurgen Klimsman and the current USA team would settle for that this summer.
England weren’t one of the original members when FIFA was founded in Paris in 1904. Two years later The FA ‘formally approved’ the existence of the FIFA, however they later withdrew their membership over the problem of ‘broken time’ payments to amateur players. It wasn’t till 1946 that the decision to rejoin FIFA was taken.
Thanks to FIFA, The FA, England on Line, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and the BBC
Images - Top,1 & 2 - FIFA, 3- Getty Images.
About the author:
Keith Harrison, Nilgiris, TN
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