Football: The History of FIFA

Posted in Sport


The F?d?ration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in the rear of the headquarters of the Union Française de Sports Athl?tiques in Paris on 21 May 1904. The foundation act was signed by the authorised representatives of the following Associations:

  • France - Union des Soci?t?s Françaises de Sports Athl?tiques USFSA
  • Belgium - Union Belge des Soci?t?s de Sports UBSSA
  • Denmark - Dansk Boldspil Union DBU
  • Netherlands - Nederlandsche Voetbal Bond NVB
  • Spain - Madrid Football Club
  • Sweden - Svenska Bollspells F?rbundet SBF
  • Switzerland - Association Suisse de Football ASF

FIFA gets its shape

The first FIFA Congress held two days later on 23 May 1904 elected Robert Gu?rin (FRA) as President. Victor E. Schneider (SUI) and Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschmann (NED) were made Vice-Presidents. Louis Muhlinghaus (BEL) was appointed Secretary and Treasurer, with the assistance of Ludvig Sylow (DEN). These pioneers were faced with an immense task because FIFA only existed on paper so to speak. One had to give it shape, create Associations as true national representations and get hold of new members. In the first place, the English had to be convinced that their membership to this newly created organisation was indispensable.

FIFA only consisted of European Associations up until 1909. The first members from overseas joined in the following order: South Africa in 1909/1910, Argentina and Chile in 1912, USA in 1913. This was the start of FIFA's international activities. The long path towards full expansion had been sketched out.

More associations to follow

The start of the first World War (1914) caused a major interruption. And yet, all the international relations were not broken, even if they were only maintained on a small scale. Jules Rimet became 3rd President on 1 March 1921. FIFA became the life task of the then 48 year-old Frenchman. When he took over the world football federation, the latter which had been shaken by the I World War, counted 20 members. The British had left in unison and neither Brazil nor Uruguay were present. In the 33 years of his presidency, FIFA experienced an incredible upswing in spite of the II World War. One ought to talk about a "Jules Rimet Era" because he managed to reorganise FIFA and to materialise the dream of a World Cup. On passing on the reins of FIFA in 1954, when he opened his 5th World Cup in Switzerland, FIFA counted 85 members!

Planning the first FIFA World Cup

The resonance at the Olympic Games intensified FlFA's wish for its own world championship. Following a remarkable proposal of the Executive Committee, the FIFA Congress in May 1928 decided to stage a world championship organised by FIFA. Now, the organising country had to be chosen. Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Hungary submitted their candidatures. Right from the start, Uruguay was the favourite for important reasons: The country of the twofold Olympic winner (in 1924 and 1928) was celebrating its 100th anniversary of independence in 1930 at great expense.

The first World Cup was opened at the Centenary Stadium in Montevideo on 18 July 1930. A new epoch had begun for world football.

Four years later, the "Father of the World-Cup" Jules Rimet saw his wish fulfilled, when the 3rd World Cup took place in France, his home country.

The FIFA World Cup should have taken place for the 4th time in 1942. However, the appointment of an organiser was renounced at the Congress in Paris in 1938. The 1942 World Cup never took place. One had to wait until 1 July 1946 for the next Congress. There was only one candidate for the next World Cup Brazil was chosen unanimously.

Return of the British Associations

1946 saw the return of the four British Associations to FIFA. This was again thanks to the diplomatic talent of Jules Rimet who found in Arthur Drewry and Sir Stanley Rous farsighted partners in the other party.

Four years later, at the fifth FIFA World Cup in Switzerland the 80 year-old President retired at the Congress in Bern. He became the first Honorary President on that 21 June 1954. For the last time, the " Father of the World Cup" presented the captain of the victorious German team with the "Jules Rimet Cup" and so departed from the top rank.

50th Anniversary

The Belgian, Rodolphe William Seeldrayers was the fourth President of FIFA. In his new function, he could celebrate the 50th Anniversary of FIFA, which now counted 85 members. After having assisted Jules Rimet as Vice-President for over 25 years, he died in October 1955. His successor was Arthur Drewry who was elected on 9 June 1956, but had already headed FIFA for over half a year on an interim basis. He chaired the Study Committee for the new FIFA Statutes and opened the 6th World Cup in Stockholm in 1958 which proceeded very positively. Arthur Drewry died in 1961 at 70.

FIFA operations were then controlled by the Swiss, Ernst B. Thommen until the Extraordinary Congress on 28 September 1961. As Chairman of the Organising Committee for the 1954,1958 and 1962 FIFA World Cups, he did a great deal for the world football federation. Sir Stanley Rous was elected 6th President of FIFA.

Among the first steps taken by newly independent nations was their affiliation to FIFA. So, the number of members grew steadily. The TV transmission of the World Cup also considerably contributed towards the worldwide expansion. As a private institution, FIFA received neither governmental subsidies nor funds from other sources. Funds strictly came from profits from the FIFA World Cup. It hardly seemed possible to accomplish more without taking risks. Thus, with a great deal of self-sacrifice, one went about consolidating and maintaining the work. Sir Stanley Rous achieved all this. In recognition of his merits, he was made Honorary President of FIFA in Frankfurt on 11 June 1974. On that day, the Brazilian Dr. João Havelange took over the reins of FIFA. 

A New Era

When Dr. João Havelange was elected at the 39th Congress in 1974, he was ready to consider football not only as a competition, but also to try and find new ways and means to worldwide technical development and to prepare new generations for this.

Havelange's installation in FIFA's headquarters heralded the dawn of a new era. Previously, with survival depending almost exclusively on limited resources from World Championships in four-yearly intervals, FIFA had been somewhat conservative and reserved when it came to taking decisions. Administrative energy had been concentrated on consolidating and maintaining the status quo. In no time, Havelange transformed an administration-oriented institution into a dynamic enterprise brimming with new ideas and the will to see them through. The actual address in Zurich has not altered but instead of the romantic Derwald Villa on the Zurichberg, where in 1974 a staff of twelve used to coordinate the fate of world football, there are now five different office buildings housing more than 120 employees coming to grips with an ever increasing workload.


Over the past 25 years football has not only taken root as the world's major game in an ephemeral world but has also blossomed in other branches of society, commerce and politics. Football, more than any other factor, has enveloped whole regions, people and nations. With approximately two hundred million active players it now constitutes a substantial chunk of the leisure industry, having opened up new markets for itself and for the rest of the business world.

204 Member Associations

On 8 June 1998 Joseph S. Blatter (SUI) was elected as the successor to João Havelange as the eighth FIFA President. This victory at the 51st FIFA Ordinary Congress in Paris elevated Blatter, who had already served FIFA in various positions for 23 years, onto the highest rung in international football.

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