FIFA, which stands for Fe`de`ration Internationale de Football Association, or international Federation of association football in English, is the international governing body of association football. The FIFA World Cup was first held in 1930. Then president Jules Rimet instituted the international tournament in that year when only 13 invited teams competed for the trophy. Over the years the tournament has seen several expansions and changes to the format which currently sees 32 teams compete in the final tournament, following a two-year qualifying period which can involve in excess of 200 teams from all over the globe! In 1872 the first official international match was contested between Scotland and England in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Initially football was rarely played outside Great Britain but by 1900 national associations were being formed and the sport’s popularity was gaining ground. In 1902 the first official international match was played outside the British Isles between Uruguay and Argentina.
This match took place in Montevideo in the July of that year. In 1904 FIFA was born, on 22 May to be precise, in Paris France. The association comprised of representation from France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. At that time Germany also pledged its membership. Football’s popularity seen took off, so much so that it was recognized and contested as an Olympic sport at the 1904 summer Olympic games. At the 1908 summer Olympic Games it became an official FIFA supervised competition. Initially the sport was for amateur players only and it’s competitive worth as not highly regarded. In 1906 it was decided to try and organize an international football tournament outside the confines of the Olympic structure and this occurred in Switzerland. Initially this did not show signs of success and the focus remained on amateur events within the Olympics. Gradually professional teams emerged on the tournament scene and more specific events for them occurred where an individual club would represent a nation.
These tournaments didn’t exactly mirror the World Cup but helped to shape some of the format in an attempt to add a more serious, professional tone to the sport. In 1914 FIFA stated that it recognized the Olympic tournament as a world championship albeit for amateurs. They also agreed to organize the event. Thus, the world’s first intercontinental competition took place at the 1920 Summer Olympics which was won by Belgium. In1930 FIFA decided to put together their own international tournament. The 1932 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles had decided not to feature the amateur soccer game as its popularity in the US was not great. Jules Rimet the FIFA president at the time thus instituted the first world cup tournament. Uruguay was chosen as the host country and the selected associations were invited to send a team. Some countries found the distance to Uruguay prohibitive cost wise but eventually 13 teams were persuaded to commit to appearing. In 1934 the cup was held in Italy and was the first to include a qualifying requirement.
Sixteen teams went through a process that stood until 1982 when the tournament was expanded. Italy went on to be the first European team to win the tournament. In 1938 it was decided that the host nation and the title holders should qualify automatically. In 1942 the planned tournament was cancelled due to World War II and during the war FIFA struggled to exist with few personnel available and no finances to plan for peace time. After the war it was impossible to put together a tournament for 1946 thus it resumed in 1950 in Brazil. This was the first to include participants from Britain who had previously resisted the foreign influence on a sport they regarded as quintessentially theirs! In succeeding years, a host of changes including the advent of television helped to elevate the sport and the World Cup tournament to the level we see today. In 1982, 24 teams were featured and then in 1998 it expanded again to 32 making it one of the most significant and eagerly watched sporting events ever!