The birth and jour­ney of the World Cup

Stabroek News Sunday - - SUNDAY SPORT -

Show on Earth’.

Much credit must be given to Jules Rimet, the long­est serv­ing pres­i­dent of foot­ball’s world gov­ern­ing body FIFA, whose vi­sion and in­sis­tence are chiefly re­spon­si­ble for the birth and early evo­lu­tion of World Cup foot­ball. The French­man, who was the third elected head of FIFA, served at the helm be­tween 1921 and 1954 and was also in­stru­men­tal for cre­at­ing the first French Na­tional League in 1910 and nine years later for the for­ma­tion of the French Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion of which he was the first elected pres­i­dent.

It was at the 1920 FIFA Congress in An­twerp, Bel­gium, where Rimet first shared his dream to cre­ate an in­ter­na­tional foot­ball tour­na­ment that was to in­clude pro­fes­sion­als who were de­barred from par­tic­i­pat­ing at the Olympics.

The thought of pro­vid­ing a plat­form to unify and rec­on­cile na­tions through the sport also mo­ti­vated Rimet, and, with loyal sup­port from com­pa­triot and sec­re­tary, Henri De­lau­nay, he per­se­vered pas­sion­ately, even in the wake of the Bri­tish dis­ap­proval of the World Cup and their sub­se­quent with­drawal from FIFA. How­ever it was agreed in Am­s­ter­dam in 1928 that the first World Cup would be staged two years later. The fol­low­ing year, when Uruguay was awarded the rights to host the de­but World Cup tour­na­ment, there were more with­drawals from Euro­pean na­tions. Italy, Hol­land, Spain and Swe­den, who lost the bid at the 1929 Congress held in Barcelona to de­cide the host na­tion, promptly pulled out.

Uruguay, who was cel­e­brat­ing 100 years of In­de­pen­dence in 1930, of­fered to pay travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­penses for all the teams as well as build a brand new sta­dium. Added to that, they were the reign­ing ‘back-to-back’ Olympic cham­pi­ons. Hence, the 25 to 5 votes in fa­vor of the South Amer­i­cans.

The God­fa­ther of the World Cup had to use all his diplo­matic skills to per­suade four Euro­pean coun­tries to make the two-week boat ride to Uruguay to be part of the his­toric open­ing. Rimet, with the tro­phy in a bag, joined the teams of Bel­gium, France, Yu­goslavia and Ro­ma­nia on board the Ital­ian steam­boat, Conte Verde bound for Uruguay’s cap­i­tal, Montevideo: On their way, they were joined by the Brazil­ians. The other na­tions to chal­lenge for the in­au­gu­ral Cup were USA, Ar­gentina, Chile, Mex­ico, Paraguay, Bo­livia, Peru and the host who tri­umphed over Ar­gentina in the first Cham­pi­onship fi­nal

On July 13th 1930, France con­fronted Mex­ico while the USA matched skills with Bel­gium to si­mul­ta­ne­ously, kick start what has now be­come the big­gest sin­gle sport spec­ta­cle that is pas­sion­ately looked for­ward to and fol­lowed like no other.

This phe­nom­e­nal ex­pe­ri­ence gifted to the World over eight decades now, has surely evolved be­yond the wildest dreams or ex­pec­ta­tions of the God­fa­ther who handed over the win­ners’ tro­phy for the last time in 1954, the same year he re­signed as the head of FIFA and also crowned the first hon­orary pres­i­dent of the body. Fit­tingly, the tro­phy was aptly named after him ear­lier in 1946, but, un­for­tu­nately, was stolen in 1983 from the Brazil­ian Foot­ball Mu­seum. Brazil had won the tro­phy for keeps, in 1970, when they be­came the first coun­try to win three cham­pi­onships (1958, 1962 and 1970). The Jules Rimet tro­phy also went miss­ing in 1966 while on dis­play in Lon­don, though it was found two weeks later by an Al­sa­tian dog named ‘Pick­les’.

The up­com­ing 21st edi­tion set for Rus­sia, will no doubt add more records to the al­ready rich and un­end­ing his­tory of the ‘Beau­ti­ful Game’.

There are some who will ques­tion why the world is so en­grossed with what is hap­pen­ing dur­ing the World Cup and some who will also query what it is about the ‘Peo­ple’s Game’ that con­tin­ues to attract par­tic­i­pa­tion like no other sport.

Al­though there is no con­clu­sive ev­i­dence as to the ori­gin of foot­ball there have been many myths and claims as to its birth­place or where the first sem­blance of the sport was prac­ticed. There is enough ev­i­dence, how­ever, to show that or­ga­nized foot­ball in­deed orig­i­nated in Eng­land where the first set of Laws of the Game were put to­gether and writ­ten at a Freema­son’s Tav­ern in Lon­don in 1863. Those Laws, with some mod­i­fi­ca­tions, are still used to­day.

The root-cause for the love of the ‘Beau­ti­ful Game’ must be in our genes and whether we wish to ac­knowl­edge that as fact or not we can­not deny that dur­ing cre­ation we con­stantly kick in our mommy’s stom­ach, on ar­rival into the new world we con­tinue to kick as one of our first ac­tion and in like man­ner when we at­tempt to make our first step in life it is led by a kick­ing ac­tion. As sim­pli­fied as it is we can agree that we are all off-springs of the ‘Beau­ti­ful Game’ and be­ing at­tracted to the sport is, per­haps, a nat­u­ral hu­man be­hav­ior since we are all born with the abil­ity to kick.

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Jules Rimet tro­phy

Jules Rimet

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