The Fédération Internationale de Football Association
(FIFA) was founded in the rear of the headquarters of the Union Française
de Sports Athlétiques at the rue Saint Honoré 229 in Paris
on 21 May 1904. The foundation act was signed by the authorized representatives
of the following Associations:
France - Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports
Belgium - Union Belge des Sociétés de Sports UBSSA
Denmark - Dansk Boldspil Union DBU
Netherlands - Nederlandsche Voetbal Bond NVB
Spain - Madrid Football Club
Sweden - Svenska Bollspells Förbundet SBF
Switzerland - Association Suisse de Football ASF
Representing France were: Robert Guérin and André Espir;
Belgium: Louis Muhlinghaus and Max Kahn; Denmark: Ludvig Sylow; Netherlands:
Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschmann; Switzerland: Victor E. Schneider; the Madrid
Football Club: André Espir; Sweden: Ludwig Sylow.
Where it all began: rue Saint Honoré 229 in Paris
The first official international matches took place on the continent
at the beginning of the century. The idea of founding an international
federation began taking form. In general, one intended recognizing the
leading role of the English who had already founded their Football Association
in 1863. Thus, Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschmann, secretary of the Netherlands
Football Association, turned to the Football Association. Its Secretary
did accept the proposal but until the Executive Committee of the Football
Association, the international F. A. Board and the Associations of Scotland,
Wales and Ireland had given their opinion about the matter, a great deal
of time went past. Robert Guérin, Secretary of the Football Department
of the Union Française des Sociétés de Sports Athlétiques
and journalist with the "Matin" did not want to wait any longer. He greeted
the Football Associations on the continent in writing and asked to study
the possibility of founding an umbrella organisation. After an intensive
exchange of correspondence, the first thoughts were made on the subject.
Belgium faced France at the first official international match in Brussels
on 1 May 1904. On that occasion, both Association secretaries Muhlinghaus
and Guérin had a discussion. It was now definite that the Football
Association, England under its President Lord Kinnaird would not be participating
in the foundation of an international federation. So Robert Guérin
took the opportunity and sent out invitations to the founding assembly.
The services rendered by the founders were enormous. One began organising
international football at a higher level.
First FIFA Statutes
The first FIFA Statutes were laid down. The following points were determined:
the reciprocal and exclusive recognition of the National Associations represented
and attending; clubs and players were forbidden to play simultaneously
for different National Associations; recognition by the other Associations
of a player's suspension announced by an Association and the playing of
matches according to the Laws of the Game of the Football Association Ltd.
Each National Association had to pay an annual fee of FF.50. Already in
those days, one thought about staging a big competition and Article 9 stipulated
FIFA alone was entitled to take over the organisation of an international
competition. It was decided that these regulations would only come into
force as of 1 September 1904. Moreover, the first Statutes of FIFA were
only of a provisional nature, in order to simplify the acceptance of additional
members. The Deutscher Fussball-Bund (German F. A.) announced itself by
cable on the foundation day still.
The first FIFA Congress held two days later on 23 May 1904 elected
Robert Guérin as President. Victor E. Schneider (Switzerland) and
Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschmann (Netherlands) were made Vice-Presidents.
Louis Muhlinghaus (Belgium) was appointed Secretary and Treasurer, with
the assistance of Ludvig Sylow (Denmark). 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
On 14 April 1905, the Executive Committee of the Football Association
Ltd. recognized the National Associations affiliated to FIFA and joined.
This was FlFA's first big success, thanks to Baron Edouard de Laveleye.
With great personal efforts, the President of the Union Belge des Sociétés
de Sports Athlétiques dissipated the last misgivings and doubts
of the English. The Baron became the first honorary member of FIFA.
The second FIFA Congress took place in Paris from 10 to 12 June 1905.
In the meantime, the Associations from Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary
had joined FIFA; Scotland, Wales and Ireland would follow England's example.
And one was already talking about an international competition to take
place in 1906. It would consist of four groups and Switzerland would be
in charge of organising the semi-finals and the Final. According to its
meaning, one first thought of staging it with the best club teams. Moreover,
the Swiss Vice President Victor Schneider had already donated a trophy.
The FIFA Executive Committee was elected for a further year in the same
composition, but now the difficulties were accumulating. The first international
competition was a failure. Various National Associations had other major
worries. The French Football Association was split up internally. These
difficulties were a heavy burden for the FIFA President who had set about
his tasks with so much enthusiasm. Robert Guérin increasingly withdrew
from the sports life and handed over the administration to his Vice-President
Victor E. Schneider and André Espir, his personal assistant.
All the same, FIFA could now give a sign of its strength. When the
"English Ramblers", an improvised English football club, wanted to play
games on the continent without the authorization of the Football Association,
FIFA forbade its members from playing against this team. The English who
now had a good relationship with FIFA together with the 3 other British
Associations, were particularly impressed by this strict and uncompromising
This was clearly revealed at the next Congress in Bern in 1906. Victor
E. Schneider conducted negotiations in the absence of the FIFA President,
Robert Guérin. The Englishman, Daniel Burley Woolfall was elected
new President. He was a pragmatist and had gathered a great deal of experience
on the administrative board of the Football Association. Under his guidance,
English and continental football became more united. Moreover, he also
launched an inexorable battle for uniformity in the Laws of the Game.
England won the first Olympic Football Tournament in London in 1908
The idea of having a major international competition was still up in
the air and so the Football Association assumed the responsibility for
the administration and organisation of a tournament that took place within
the context of the Olympic Games in London in 1908. Some problems arose
in the organisation, which were still unsolved four years later in 1912,
when the tournament took place in Stockholm. The new, virtually unknown
sport was regarded suspiciously at the Olympics and was considered as a
show and not a competition. In connection with the Olympic Games, the problem
of professional players also arose - a thorny problem which would be pursued
in decades to follow. England won both the 1908 and 1912 tournaments.
The Congress which, in accordance with the Statutes, was to be held
in different cities on an annual basis, was always presided over by President
Woolfall. The will to impose uniform football rules on an international
level always figured at the top of the Agenda. This had a very positive
effect, resulting in the basic rules of the organisation, which are still
partly valid today and which allowed FIFA to create a solid base and develop
clear guidelines in those days already.
1913 FIFA Congress in Copenhagen
Under the guidance of the English President, obvious progress had also
been made in the administration. The first official FIFA bulletin was published.
It was agreed to have French as the official language. The application
of the Laws of the Game strictly established according to the English model
became compulsory. A clear definition was made of international matches
(selections and inter club) and outsiders were forbidden to organise matches
for lucrative purposes.
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 FlFA's
international activities. The long path towards full expansion had been
The start of the first World War (1914) caused a major interruption.
Who talked then about football and its mission to unite nations? And yet,
all the international relations were not broken, even if they were only
maintained on a small scale. International matches were still played, being
organised on neutral territory. However, some members were faced with difficulties
when having to cross frontiers and this prevented Congress being convened.
The dream of having an international competition seemed to have evaporated
forever. FIFA dozed on and President Daniel Burley Woolfall died in 1918.
That FIFA did not fade out completely, this was thanks to one man only:
Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschmann, who carried out his tasks as Honorary Secretary
from his offices in Amsterdam and carefully kept the organisation alive.
Within the scope of his limited possibilities, he maintained correspondence
with his foreign colleagues. This way, he looked after the FIFA Secretariat
on his own and at his expense. Hirschmann had an incredible capacity for
work and was very unselfish. He dedicated his life to sports and particularly
so to football. He served the Netherlands Football Association in various
functions and also belonged to his national Olympic Committee. One of the
founders himself, he took up contact with all the members at the end of
the war, on the initiative of the President of the French Football Association,
Jules Rimet. Hirschmann actually convened an assembly in Brussels in 1919.
However, negotiations advanced tediously. After a long, bloody war, wounds
had not yet healed. Many delegates, particularly the English, did not yet
want to accept yesterday's foes.
So, a new meeting was held in Antwerp in 1920. A new administrative
Board of FIFA was elected on a provisional basis. It was composed of the
following: Jules Rimet as Chairman, the Dane, Louis Oestrup as Deputy Chairman
and Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschmann as Honorary Secretary.
The results of this election were then submitted to all affiliated Associations
which unanimously gave their approval by mail. This was the last time that
such a procedure was employed, as the next Statutes excluded voting by
mail or by mandate.
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 materialize 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!
Right from the start, Jules Rimet was not unknown. He had already participated
in the Congress in Christiania in 1914 as representative of the French
Football Association. The following proposal was ratified on that occasion:
" Under the condition that the Olympic Tournament take place in accordance
with the Regulations of FIFA, the latter shall recognize this as a world
football championship for amateurs." In order not to lose every possibility
of organising its own world championship, FIFA was ready to assume the
responsibility for the organisation of the football tournament for the
It was a great success right away and the results were surprising. 24
national teams entered. The English continued staying away from this tournament
but the Americans were there and a team representing faraway Uruguay showed
how football was played in South America, much to the delight of the public.
Uruguay's results were astounding: 7:0 against Yugoslavia, 3:0 against
USA, 5:1 against France, 2:1 against the Netherlands. 60,000 spectators
followed the Final between Uruguay and Switzerland, which was won by the
South Americans 3:0. Uruguay became the Olympic winners and were celebrated
as world champions in Montevideo. South America's predominance was even
more impressive at the Olympic Tournament in Amsterdam in 1928. Uruguay
did not want to relinquish their victory on that occasion either. The opponents
in the Final were Argentina.
This resonance at the Olympic Games intensified FlFA's wish for its
own world championship. Questionnaires were sent to the affiliated associations,
asking whether they agreed to the organisation of a world championship
and under what conditions. A special Committee examined this problem. President
Jules Rimet was the driving force in all sectors in the search for the
means to materialize this dream. He was aided by the untiring Secretary
of the French Football Association, Henri Delaunay.
Following a remarkable proposal of the Executive Committee, the FIFA
Congress in Amsterdam on 28 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.
Moreover, the Football Association was ready to take over all the costs
as for example, the passage and accommodation of the participants. Any
possible profit would be shared, while Uruguay would take over the deficit.
These arguments were decisive. The FIFA Congress in Barcelona in 1929 assigned
Uruguay as first organising country for the World Cup. The other candidates
This decision did not only meet acclaim. Europe was plunged in the midst
of an economic crisis. Participation in a World Cup did not only involve
a long sea journey for the Europeans; the clubs would have to renounce
their best, permanent players for two months. More and more associations
broke their promise to participate, thereby seriously endangering the organisation
of the World Cup.
Opening of the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930
Having nearly achieved his aim, President Jules Rimet was no longer
impressed. Thanks to his personal effort, at least four European teams
set off on the long journey: France, Belgium, Yugoslavia and Romania. The
first World Cup was opened at the Centenary Stadium in Montevideo on 18
July 1930. A new epoch had begun for world football.
The World Cup in Montevideo became a remarkable success, both in a
sporting and a financial sense. Of course, the organisers were disappointed
since only four national teams from Europe participated. The anger in Montevideo
was so intense that four years later, the World Champions - for the first
and only time renounced defending their title.
The Congress convened in Budapest in 1930 and thanked Uruguay for staging
the World Cup for the first time in difficult conditions. On the other
hand, it regretted seeing only a minimum number of teams participating
Another setback came in 1932. Before the Olympic Games in Los Angeles,
differences of opinion could not be clarified on the international Olympic
Committee regarding the amateur status of football players. So, FIFA decided
not to organise an Olympic Football Tournament.
Sweden and Italy applied as candidate countries for the 2nd series of
the World Cup at the 1932 Congress in Stockholm. The Executive Committee
decided on Italy. Qualifying matches had to be played in order to arrive
at the 16 finalists. Right from the start, the Cup system applied and so,
the national teams from Brazil and Argentina already had to return home
after their first defeat. Once again, the home team prevailed: Italy won
the Final against Czechoslovakia in extra-time. For the first time ever,
the World Cup Final was being transmitted on the radio.
Draw for 1938 World Cup in Paris. Jules Rimet helping his grandson
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.
Again, the tournament was plunged in shadows: Austria had disappeared from
the scene and so Sweden did not have an opponent in the 1/8 final. Uruguay
still did not want to participate and Argentina withdrew. This is why the
national teams from Cuba and the Dutch East Indies came to France. This
time, there was no home victory and Italy successfully defended their title.
The 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 which took place in Luxembourg. 34 Associations
were represented at the Congress there. They presented President Jules
Rimet who had been heading FIFA for a quarter of a century already, with
a very beautiful Jubilee gift. From now on, the World Cup would be called
the "Jules Rimet Cup". There was only one candidate for the next World
Cup, to be staged in 1949 (and postponed to 1950 for time reasons). Brazil
was chosen unanimously. At the same time, Switzerland was given the option
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. Both
would head FIFA in later years. Moreover, the event was celebrated later
with a match between Great Britain and 'Rest of Europe XI' played at Hampden
Park, Glasgow on 10 May 1947. Titled " Match of the Century" by the press,
it was attended by a total of 135,000 spectators and receipts amounted
to £35,000. As a sign of goodwill, this sum was placed at FlFA's
disposal in order to help the latter get over financial difficulties brought
on by the war years. The British won 6:1.
Brazil lost their 1st World Cup title in the Final against Uruguay.
For the second time, the "Jules Rimet Cup" remained in Montevideo for four
Four years later, at the 5th World Cup in Switzerland, which was inaugurated
by Jules Rimet in Lausanne, the 80 year-old President retired at the Congress
in Bern. The delegates stood for one minute's ovation after his parting
speech. 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, Fritz Walter, with the "Jules Rimet Cup" and
so departed from the top rank.
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. This proceeded very positively and saw Brazil become the clear winners.
Arthur Drewry died on 25 March 1961 at 70.
FIFA operations were 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 World Cups, he did a great deal for
the world football federation.
SIR STANLEY ROUS
Sir Stanley Rous was elected 6th President of FIFA. He was an excellent
referee in his youth and was well acquainted with international football.
During his term of office as President, England won the 1966 World Cup
to his special joy. He was very popular throughout the world. 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.
FIFA was rather conservative in those days and reserved in its decisions.
Its means and possibilities were restricted. As a private institution,
it received neither governmental subsidies nor funds from other sources.
Funds strictly came from profits from the World Cup and this is how one
had to live and work for four years. 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 the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.
From the moment the South American Confederation, the Confederación
Sudamericana de Fútbol, presented his candidature for the FIFA Presidency
in 1970, he had looked for solutions to the major problems of world football.
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.
Dr. João 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 is now a
modern office building housing almost 100 employees coming to grips with
an ever increasing workload.
Back in 1974, FIFA was also flexing its muscles in readiness for
the tenth World Championship in those days, very much a trial of strength
between Europe with nine teams and South America with four. The ripples
created by political upheavals, particularly in Africa where many former
colonies had been granted independence, were beginning to be noticed on
the international sports scene. At that time Africa, Asia, and North/Central
America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) were each still sending one selection
to the world's greatest football fiesta. For the 1982 World Cup in Spain,
Havelange increased the table of competitors to twenty-four teams. Since
that decision, the unqualified success of teams that used to be derided
as also-rans has reinforced Havelange's notion that his policies were right.
For the 1998 World Cup in France, the number of participating teams was
increased to 32 finalists making it the largest in the history of the event,
and allowing even greater participation from all its confederations.
On the political level, he firmly followed the course of appeasement
and service, following the principle of universality to which FIFA has
committed itself. His personal integrity assured Havelange respect from
all the national associations and his word carries weight. Under his leadership,
the FIFA offices became the hub of sporting diplomacy. An example of this
was when representatives from Iraq and Iran, North and South Korea, Japan
and Saudi Arabia came face to face in Zurich in July 1993 to discuss the
organizational and administrative details for the Asian final qualifiers
of the 1994 World Cup in an atmosphere of friendship and peace. Prior to
that Havelange had shown a flair for taking advantage of the conciliatory
potential of football at exactly the right moment. After intense diplomatic
activity, visiting every association at least once and never mincing his
words, Havelange soon smoothed the way for the People's Republic of China
to return to FIFA. Then, in 1991, both Koreas sent a joint team to the
World Youth Championship in Portugal. And because of its particular situation,
Israel began competing with European teams in all FIFA qualifying competitions.
JOSEPH S. BLATTER
Over the past twenty-five 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.
The potential has yet to be exhausted, especially in Asia and North
America. As of mid-2000, FIFA has grown to include 204 member associations,
thus making it one of the biggest and certainly the most popular sports
federation in the world.
On 8 June 1998 Joseph S. Blatter (Switzerland) was elected as the successor
to João Havelange (Brazil) as the eighth FIFA President. This victory
at the 51st FIFA Ordinary Congress in Paris (France) elevated Joseph S.
Blatter, who had already served FIFA in various positions for twenty-three
years, onto the highest rang in international football. Joseph S. Blatter
is one of the most versatile and experienced exponents of international
sport diplomacy and is totally committed to serving football, FIFA and
the world's youth.