Football is a game that is over 150 years old. The first match took place in 1872 in Glasglow. The two competing teams were Scotland and England. Back in July 1902, Uruguay and Argentina in Montevideo became the first to play an international match outside of the British Isles. In the year 1900, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized football as an Olympic sport. That was the kick-start to the most prestigious football association called FIFA.
The Founding of FIFA
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in Paris on May 22, 1904, under President Robert Guérin. It started as a non-profit organization and an international governing body of football, fútsal, and beach soccer. However, during the 1908 summer Olympics, football became an official FIFA-supervised Olympic competition.
In the ensuing years, FIFA decided to take the game beyond the European founding member countries. It expanded its membership to South Africa (1909), Argentina (1912), Canada (1913), Chile (1913), and the United States of America (1914). In 1929, Jules Rimet, the President of FIFA, passed a vote for more members from different nations to join international men’s football competitions. Finally, when the 1932 Summer Olympics, in Los Angeles, refused to include football as part of the competition, Jules Rimet set about organizing the inaugural World Cup tournament. Hence, originated the highpoint of football, the FIFA World Cup that was first officially held in 1930. Uruguay was the host for the 1930 World Cup and also went on to win the tournament.
6 confederations, 211 national teams
Today, the FIFA World Cup boasts of a 32-team final tournament preceded by a two-year qualifying process that receives over 211 teams worldwide.
The World Cup is held every four years (except in 1942 and 1946). To date, there have been 20 World Cup tournaments.
FIFA has set up six confederations to oversee the game in the different continents. National associations become members of FIFA through these continental confederations. They are:-
- Asian Football Confederation (AFC; 47 members)
- Confederation of African Football (CAF; 56 members)
- Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF; 41 members)
- Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL; 10 members)
- Oceania Football Confederation (OFC; 14 members)
- Union of European Football Associations (UEFA; 55 members)
The FIFA shining and dull stars
The FIFA World Rankings are updated monthly. It ranks each team based on its performance at international competitions, qualifiers, and friendly matches. FIFA also updates the world ranking for women’s football four times a year.
Currently, Brazil ranks at No.1 with five World Cup wins. It has won 70 games at the tournaments. Brazil also holds the record for the most wins in one tournament, winning seven matches in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan.
Trailing in the second position are Germany and Italy, both with four World Cup wins. Except on two occasions in the 1938 and the 2018 World Cup, Germany has always made it past the group stages. Additionally, retired German striker Miroslav Klose is the highest total goal scorer in the World Cup, with 16 goals.
Consequently, Mexico is the team with the most losses, having lost 25 different matches since the World Cup started. Indonesia has played the least amount of World Cup matches, having played only one in 1938.
Football has given rise to numerous legends like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, David Beckham, Pele, Diego Maradona, Eric Cantona, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Ronald Koeman and more.
FIFA holds the most prestigious annual football awards ceremony since 2016. There are awards for The Best FIFA Men’s Player and The Best FIFA Women’s Player. Furthermore, they also recognize and award The Best FIFA Football Coach.
FIFA added two more awards in 2000 – the FIFA Club of the Century and the FIFA Player of the Century. Real Madrid won the club award. Diego Maradona and Pelé jointly shared the FIFA Player of the Century.
Fun facts and Milestones of FIFA
This World Cup in Italy was the first World Cup to include a qualification stage. Sixteen teams qualified for the tournament, which remained unchanged till the 1982 expansion.
The World Cup, held in Switzerland, was the first-ever to be watched by millions on television. It was also the highest ever scored in a World Cup match as Austria defeated Switzerland 7 – 5.
World Cup, in England, was the first to feature a mascot and an official logo. Funnily, the trophy was stolen in the run-up to the tournament but was found a week later by a dog called Pickles.
Introduce a new trophy design for the World Cup in West Germany.
In 1982, ever since the first expansion in 1934, Spain hosted the expanded World Cup consisting of 24 teams. The teams were divided into six groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the second round, where they split into four groups of three.
Adopted an anthem composed by the German composer Franz Lambert. They play it at the beginning of every official FIFA sanctioned match.
The World Cup held in France featured an expanded format of 32 teams.
The World Cup 2002 was the first to be held in Asia and the first to be hosted by two different nations, South Korea and Japan. This World Cup also had the fastest-ever World Cup goal (10.89 seconds after kick-off) scored by Hakan Sukur of Turkey against South Korea.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was the first cup hosted in the African continent. That year Spain took the trophy home.
Almost 3.2 billion people tuned in to the 2014 World Cup.
Saw the first World Cup in Russia. During the opening ceremony in Moscow, Russia, the current FIFA flag was first flown and is in use ever since.
World Cup hosted by Qatar will be the first tournament not held in the summertime. The dates are November 21 to December 18, 2022.
In 2026, the number of teams qualified for a World Cup will jump up from 32 to 48.
The game must go on…
FIFA has had its share of corruption and scandal. American sportswriter Dave Zirin in 2014 said, “corruption is endemic to FIFA leadership and that the organization should be abolished for the good of the game.”
But the game must go on. FIFA is one of the largest sports organizations and will continue till the time fans cheer for football.
A new development
During its annual congress on Friday, May 21, 2021, Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s Director of Development proposed changing the current four-year cycle to a two-year cycle. 166 out of 209 member nations voted in favor. Only time will tell what the future holds for FIFA.