This Day in History (30-Jul-1930) – The First Football World Cup Crowns a Champion in Montevideo, Uruguay

Beginning at the 1920 Summer Games in Antwerp, FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, oversaw the football competition. The popularity of the tournament was evident from the start, motivating FIFA President Jules Rimet even more. Finally, at meetings during late May 1928, members of the governing body agreed to have a world championship, after successfully managing three tournaments at the Summer Olympics. Due to the success of the Uruguayan national team – two-time Olympic champions – and the nation’s upcoming centennial, FIFA governors elected to award the tournament to the tiny nation in South America in 1929.  Funds were immediately appropriated for the construction of a new stadium, the Estadio Centenario, which would end up being the site for a majority of the matches.

Uruguay’s location, however, would end up causing more problems.  Nestled along the central coast of eastern South America between Brazil and Argentina, the travel cost for many nations ended up being too much.  The British, Germans and Italians all baulked at a trip to the Southern Hemisphere, but Rimet only grew more determined to get some European participation.  With just two months to spare before the first match, Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia agreed to send teams by sea.  However the organisers were disappointed that only four European sides had participated. The anger in Montevideo was so intense in fact that four years later, world champions Uruguay became the first and only team to refuse to defend their title.

From the first match, a 4-1 victory for France over Mexico, to the Uruguay’s 4-2 win over archrival Argentina in the final, more than 585,000 spectators packed the venues.  The event was, without a doubt, a hit.  The seven South American, four European and two North Americans put on a show that caught the imagination of soccer fans the world over.