Madrid, Nov 28 (DPA) In June 2010 the World Cup will finally arrive in Africa, after 80 years of travelling between America, Europe and Asia.
Now that Africa has finally been chosen to stage the finals, the tournament so long the property of Europeans and South Americans – can properly be called the World Cup.
FIFA, world football’s governing body, was founded in 1904 but it took the new organization no less than 26 years to start the World Cup. One major obstacle was the World War I and its acrimonious aftermath, another was the Olympic football tournament, considered to be the proper world championship by many people right up until the 1950s.
In 1926 Henri Delaunay, FIFA general secretary and right-hand man to president Jules Rimet, insisted on the necessity of the World Cup by saying that today international football can no longer be held within the confines of the Olympics, and many countries where professionalism is now recognised and organised cannot any longer be represented there by their best players.
Two years later, at the Amsterdam Olympics, Uruguay was chosen as the venue for the first World Cup, ahead of Italy, Spain, Sweden and Holland, partly in honour of a majestic Uruguayan side that had swept to victory at the 1924 and 1928 Olympic tournaments with a flamboyance that took the Europeans by surprise.
In addition, Uruguay promised to pay the travel and hotel expenses of the visiting teams. Even so, only 12 countries bothered to make the trip. Most of the Europeans, including the four unsuccessful bidders, stayed at home, put off by the prospect of a tedious three-week boat trip.
All of the matches were staged in Montevideo, the only time that just one city has hosted a World Cup. The impressive Estadio Centenario, whose name honoured 100 years of Uruguayan independence, was not ready for the early games because of heavy winter rain.
As expected, Uruguay and Argentina, the teams who had met in the 1928 Olympic final � also reached the 1930 final. Thousands of Argentines wanted to cheer on their team and special boats had to make the trip across the River Plate.
They would return home disappointed. Argentina, led by the fearsome Luis Monti, went into a 2-1 lead but were overwhelmed in the second half by an electric Uruguayan attack. The hosts won 4-2, Montevideo went wild �and the World Cup had been born.
The 1934 finals were awarded to Italy and the Mussolini regime was desperate for the Azzurri to triumph. And triumph they did, thanks to the wily managership of Vittorio Pozzo, thanks to home support and thanks to Argentine-born stars Monti, Enrique Guaita and Raimundo Orsi.
This talented trio were the first of 12 players to turn out for both Argentina and Italy, until this was banned by FIFA in 1963.
It was Orsi who saved Italy in the 1934 final against Czechoslovakia, making it 1-1 with an astonishing free-kick just nine minutes from time. Angelo Schiavio scored the winner for Italy in extra-time, to the delight of the watching Musssolini.
The following day Orsi tried to repeat his free-kick for the benefit of photographers and journalists but could not do so.
Uruguay had refused to go to Italy because of the Italians absence in 1930. Uruguay also refused to participate in 1938, in protest at the tournament being again awarded to a European country, France, instead of alternating across the Atlantic.
Sixteen teams participated in 1934 and eight cities were used. Brazil and Argentina made the long trip only to play one game, because a straight knockout format was used instead of a group system.
Pozzo changed his team drastically for the 1938 tournament in France but triumphed again, beating Hungary 4-2 in the final with two goals apiece from Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola.
Sadly, it would be the last World Cup match until 1950, because of the World War II.
The 1950 tournament, held in Brazil, was a box of surprises: England were beaten by the US and Spain, Italy were brushed aside by Sweden �and Brazil were turned over right at the death by underdogs Uruguay.
Bizarrely, there were no semi-finals and final but rather an unprecedented �and never to be repeated final group. Brazil only needed a draw in the last game against Uruguay to pick up the trophy and an all-time record crowd of around 200,000 packed into the massive Estadio Maracana to celebrate.
Friaca gave Brazil the lead but the defiant Uruguayans silenced the Maracana with goals from Juan Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia. A handful of Brazilians are said to have committed suicide in despair, and hapless goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa became a national hate figure.