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Monday, 26 December 2016

The Road to the First World Cup by Joe Faerstein.

[Note: This is an abridged version of the text that was transcribed from the Youtube videos 'The Road to the First World Cup - Parts 1, 2 and 3'. Published with the permission of the author.]


Paris 1924 – These are ''les années folles'' (the roaring twenties).  

The First World War well behind, the modern world is now in the midst of a great economic and cultural boom, and Paris is right at the center of it. 

May 4, 1924 – The Opening of the Paris Games of the VIIIth Olympiad at the Stade de Colombes. 

These will be the last games for the founder of the modern Olympics Baron Pierre de Coubertin... 

The Paris Games are achieving great success in terms of athlete participation and fan appreciation. 

Meanwhile... FIFA is holding its second post-war congress, with another driven Frenchman, Jules Rimet, in charge. 

La Federation Internationale de Football Association was born in Paris back in 1904 for the express purpose of organizing international football tournaments. 

And now, after 20 years of nurturing its ideals, establishing and growing ties with national football associations, FIFA is about to fulfil its mandate by organizing the football tournament at these Olympic Games. 

These are the men who formed the backbone of FIFA at this pivotal time: 
Jules Rimet (France) - president of the French Football Association since 1919 and FIFA's President since 1921. 

Henri Delaunay (France) - Rimet's right-hand man in this and other endeavours. 

Louis Østrup (Denmark) - President of Danish Football Association and Vice-President of FIFA. 

Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschmann (Netherlands) - General Secretary of FIFA and the man most responsible for FIFA's survival through the World War. 

Rodolphe Seeldrayers (Belgium) - future Vice-President and President of FIFA and another active supporter of Rimet's cause. 

The Olympic football tournament in Paris marks the first time that national teams from North and South Americas take part, and the skilful and intricate play of one of them – Uruguay – captures the imagination of fans and the press alike. 

Uruguay move comfortably through the tournament... defeating France in the quarter-final 5-1 before 45,000 fans. 

June 9, 1924 Olympic Tournament Final – Uruguay play Switzerland. 
Uruguay win [3-0] and oblige the adoring fans by a lap of honor, joined by their match opponents. 

Fans gather in Montevideo harbour to await the ship bringing their national team back from Paris. 

After winning the biggest international football tournament to date, Uruguay can be rightfully considered world champions. 
The ship finally arrives, and this small South American nation of 1.5 million can celebrate with their football heroes. 

Amsterdam 1928 
July 28 – The Opening Ceremony of the Amsterdam summer games of the IXth Olympiad. 

However, as far as football was concerned, the critical events affecting it take place much earlier in the year... 

Due to scheduling and accommodation issues, the 1928 Olympic football tournament actually takes place two months before the Official Games Opening from May 27 to June 13 – at the new Amsterdam Olympisch Stadion. 

The popularity of the sport has brought money into football and gave rise to professionalism in several countries since the 1924 Olympiad. 
FIFA finds itself in an untenable position of trying to bridge the Olympic ideal of amateurism with the reality of some of the best football players and associations turning to professionalism. 

After delicate negotiations, the IOC and FIFA have come up with a definition of acceptable amateur status, prohibiting ''broken time'' pay (compensation for lost work wages) but for some ''exceptions''. 

Even so, the writing for FIFA is on the wall, as expressed by Henri Delaunay at the 1926 Congress: 

''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.'' 

On May 26th 1928, one day before the Olympic football tournament is to start, FIFA convenes its 17th Congress... in Amsterdam. 

Absent are the four British associations, who three months earlier quit FIFA citing their determination to ''be free to conduct their affairs in the way their long experience has shown them to be desirable.'' 

In truth, the Home Nations already had well developed professional leagues and they felt that their amateur footballers could not compete with teams from other countries with dubious status of ''sham-ateurs''/pseudo-professionals (for example, the Mussolini fascist state-sponsored Italian team). 

The Congress votes to adopt in principle its Executive Committee proposal for a world championship to be held in 1930 – open to all member countries and players irrespective of professional status. 

Out of the 20 countries who signed up for the Olympic Football Tournament, three – Bulgaria, Greece and Estonia – pulled out just before the tournament start. 

Europe, despite missing some countries with professional leagues – the British, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary – still has strong representation by 10 other countries. 

South and Central Americas are represented by Argentina and Uruguay (respectively winners and runners-up of the last South American Championship) as well as Chile and Mexico. 

Also coming back from the Paris Olympiad are Egypt, Turkey and USA. 
Italy comes into the tournament with high aspirations, having lost only one of seven friendlies since January of 1927 and leading in the inaugural Central European International Cup. 

But all eyes are on the Uruguayans who have not been seen in Europe since winning the Paris Olympics and whose brilliance is still remembered. 

[Note: On June 10th 1928, Uruguay met Argentina in the Final and the match ends in 1-1 draw. Three days later, in a replay, Uruguay retain their Olympic title with a 2-1 win. Italy beat Egypt 11-3 in the bronze medal match] 


On August 3, 1928 with the Olympiad in full swing, the International Olympic Committee issues a statement that rejects FIFA's use of the Broken Time Rule, thus sealing the fate of Olympic football. 

Barcelona May 19, 1929: years in the making, the grandiose Barcelona International Exposition (World Fair) opens on Montjuic hill. 

The National Palace, with fronting waterfalls and fountains, is the centrepiece of the Exposition. 

With the excitement of the Exposition as a backdrop, FIFA is holding its 18th Congress whose mission is to produce the detailed background framework for the 1930 World Championship and decide who is going to host it. 

Early sessions of the Congress concern the proposed financing of the tournament. 

Rodolphe Seeldrayers of Belgium drives the discussions that produce the important decision that the host country must assume all organizational costs, including housing and transportation of all officials and teams. This is a significant departure from how Olympiads are organized at this time. 

May 18th is the final day of reckoning. 

Holland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay have all expressed interest in organizing the first World Championship. 

Uruguay's bid has its origin in a chance meeting in 1925 between Jules Rimet and Enrique Buero on Quai des Bergues in Geneva where the latter was Uruguay's delegate to the League of Nations. 

In those years, the diplomat Dr Buero doubled as his country's representative to FIFA and was instrumental in bringing Uruguay into the Association and to the Paris Olympiad. 

As per Rimet's memoirs, at that meeting in Geneva, their conversation touched on a possibility of Uruguay hosting the tournament, providing that it would cover all participants travel costs, and Buero promised to do his utmost to get the consent of his compatriots. 

Other South American participants – Argentina, Paraguay and Peru – had agreed at their Confederation meeting earlier in the year to support Uruguay's bid to bring the tournament to the continent. 

Now, at the Third Session of the Barcelona Congress, it is becoming increasingly clear that Uruguay, backed by its populace passion and guarantees from its government, has the best-prepared bid for hosting the 1930 Championship. 

As talks progress, one by one, other countries concede their candidacy to the South Americans. 

The finishing touch is actually applied by Argentina's delegate Dr Adrian Beccar Varela who presents a compelling argument why Uruguay should be chosen. 

Third Session  
(18th May at 15.45) 

International Championship. 

The President submitted the project of the Commission to study the institution of an International Championship and remarked that some principal points should be fixed only valid for the tournament in 1930. One of the main things was that the idea should be realized. 

Fixing the place for the World's Championship in 1930. 
Netherlands (KIPS) informed that it withdrew its candidature. 
Sweden (JOHANSSON) retired in favour of Italy. 
Argentina (Dr BECCAR VARELA) pleaded for Uruguay using the following arguments: 
  1. The excellent results obtained by that country in the two last Olympiads; 
  1. Enormous development of football in South America and Uruguay; 
  1. Celebration of the centenarian of Uruguay's political independence in 1930; 
  1. In charging Uruguay with the organization all the South American Associations would feel honoured. 


Finally, Hungary, Italy and Spain follow suit in withdrawing their bids in favour of Uruguay....who are unanimously chosen to host the 1930 World Cup. 

Sadly, Dr. Varela dies just a few weeks later. 

Montevideo 1929 

The capital of la Republica Oriental del Uruguay is a bustling city of some 650,000 located in the River Plate delta on the Atlantic and fueled by its strategic importance as a center of international trade and immigration. 

During the first three decades of the 20th century, the country has gone through major economic and political transformations. 

Politically, Uruguay has been guided through much of this period by Jose Batlle y Ordanez, a prominent journalist, leader of the Colorado Party and three-time President of the country. 

Wary of geopolitical aspirations of its two much larger neighbors and rivals in Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay's government courted and received economic and quasi-military support of the United States of America. 

Batllistas' admiration of North Americans' ways resulted in a number of social initiatives in Uruguay in the 1910s and 1920s which put this small country (1929 population – 1.7 million) at the forefront of progressive and welfare reforms in the Western hemisphere. 

The port of Montevideo [was] through which British sailors and immigrants introduced football to Uruguayans in the late 1800s. 

Fueled by government funds from beef and hide exports and import tariffs and by people's passion for the game, Uruguay sets about preparing for the upcoming World Championship. 

First order of business for the Organizing Committee is an appropriate football venue. 

Back in February of 1929, when the initial proposal was being presented to the Uruguayan Football Association, it became clear that Montevideo lacks adequate stadium facilities for such an event. 

Its largest stadium is Club Nacional's Parque Central, a 30-year-old wooden structure that can be hold up to 20,000 people. 

Dr. Raul Jude, President of the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) and a prominent politician is put in charge of the Organizing Committee, as well as la Comision Administradora del Field Oficial (CAFO) - the commission that will oversee the construction of a new stadium. 

It is decided that to fit the occasion, the stadium must be grandiose in size and style and, in honour of the first Uruguayan Constitution it will be called Estadio Centenario. 

On a more practical note, with 16 or more teams expected to participate and the number of matches to be played in such a large venue, the gate receipts would go a long way to cover the costs of the tournament. 
Juan Antonio Scasso, a local architect who is known for his art-deco style school buildings is commissioned to design and supervise the building of the new stadium. 

A large tract of land is set aside in Parque de los Aliados at the east end of the Avenida 18 de Julio (again, fitting the Constitution theme), next to the athletics track. 

The venue will be the largest in South America with expected capacity of 100,000 spectators – about 20% of Uruguay's male adult population. 

It will also be only the second stadium in South America (after the recently completed Estadio de Independiente in Argentina), to be built with reinforced concrete for durability and safety from fires and collapses. 

Scasso and his young assistants Jose Domato and Pedro Danners decide to take advantage of the available space by getting away from the traditional stadium box and using instead a large ellipsoid shape. 

To accommodate 100,000 and minimize crowd trouble, plans call for four separated three-tiered tribunes and a moat around the pitch. To honor the country's great Olympic successes, three of the stands will be named OlympicColombes and Amsterdam. 

The ambitious proposals include a marble entry and la Torre de los Homenajes – a 100-meter-tall art-deco style winged Tower of Homage. 
The Tower will be adorned by a statue of a Greek athlete – to be created by Jose Luis Zorrilla de San Martin. 

On July 21, 1929, some 360 days before the tournament is to begin, the ceremonial foundation stone is laid on the site of the stadium. 
Cesar Batlle Pacheco, son of the former President of the Republic and representative of the National Board of Directors, makes the speech. 
The work begins in early September when earth-moving machinery and crews are brought in. 

Because the arena will be located in the middle of Montevideo, special consideration is given to minimize the visible profile – by excavating earth and dropping the field level eleven meters below ground level. 
The 160,000 cubic meters of excavated earth will be used to build up and support the lower seating rings. 

The delaying factor, however, is the reinforced concrete – there are no sources of cement anywhere on the continent, and the huge amount needed to create 14,000 cubic meters of concrete must be imported from Germany. 

Negotiating the purchase, and manufacturing and transporting the cement will take several months... 

On October 20, 1929, the popular former President and political figure Jose Batlle y Ordonez dies unexpectedly. 

Two days later, the public funeral is attended by tens of thousands of mourners. 

October 29, 1929: the Wall Street Crash signals the end of roaring twenties and the beginning of the long Great Depression that grips the lives and economies of peoples throughout the world. 

November 17, 1929: Argentina beat Uruguay 2-0 in the deciding game of  1929 South American Championship. 

December 1929 – as work continues on the stadium, trouble is brewing in Europe: invitations from the Organizing Committee sent out to all FIFA member associations on October 1 are starting to come back with polite refusals. 

Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, who were all expected to give the South Americans a stern test, decline citing conflicts with their domestic clubs and schedules. 

Then Poland, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Holland and Italy follow suit, giving as the main reason the inability of their players to secure releases from their day-job employers for what, due to lengthy trans-Atlantic crossing by boat and the tournament duration, would amount to two months. 

In an attempt to repair the relationship with the British, FIFA through the Organizing Committee sends special invitations to their Football Associations, but these too come back unaccepted. 

The reply from the English FA's Frederick J. Wall is: 'I am instructed to express regret at our inability to accept the invitation'. 

February 1930: the cement from Germany has arrived and, with winter approaching, the race is on to complete the stadium in time for the tournament opening only five months away. 

A hectic schedule is established to work several crews on different parts of the project in three shifts for a 24-hour workday and using portable floodlights at night. 

April 1930: Montevideo autumn this year is unusually damp and rainy, which causes massive delays in construction, especially where concrete drying is concerned. 

It becomes clear that the original project cannot possibly be completed on time. Also, in the current economic climate and with the European participation in doubt, pressures mount to curtail the already large construction expenditures. 

Proposals for the marble gate and the statue are scrapped and, to Scasso's great disconsolation, the arena layout must be reconfigured to cut down on the number of sitting tiers, which would reduce the capacity by some 30,000. 

Given the progress that has been achieved so far, the eventual layout would consist of three tiers on the main Olympic Tribune, two tiers each on the Colombes and Amsterdam Tribunes, and only one tier on the America Tribune. 

Paris, autumn of 1929: 
As per FIFA Articles, Jules Rimet needs a prize - ''un objet d'art'' that will be awarded to the World Champions. 

Rimet commissions a fellow Parisian medalist sculptor Abel Lafleur to design and sculpt a worthy trophy. 

Seven months and 50,000 French francs later, combined labors of Lafleur and Rimet produce Victory – gold statuette depicting the Greek goddess Nike holding an octagonal chalice. 

The trophy... was a slim, almost delicate object weighing in total 2 kilograms (4 kg with elaborate case). 

Its total height was 30 centimeters, of 23 centimeters was the Nike statuette made of solid gold (with hollow middle). 

This was stated unequivocally at the time by Jules Rimet himself. 
The base was 7 cm tall with four beveled sides 9 cm wide. It was made out of a bright-blue semi-precious stone called lapis lazuli. 

…[A] contest is held to design the tournament poster. The winning entry, as selected by a jury of art critics and architects, is by Guillermo Laborde. In the art-deco titles are the dates July 15 – August 15 as specifically stated by FIFA's Article 7. 

As of the middle of April, none of Europe's 25 FIFA members accepted Uruguay's invitation. 

The few countries that have not yet officially refused are vacillating and considering to join those that did. 

With three months to go, the only confirmed participants are from the Americas –Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, USA and Uruguay. 

With FIFA's raison d'etre at stake, Rimet and Seeldrayers focus their efforts on convincing their own governments and Football Associations to send whatever teams can be assembled in the short time remaining and, hopefully, salvage the tournament. 

On April 23, 1930, Belgium officially accepts the invitation. 

On June 2, after much hand-wringing and posturing, France joins in. 

The last two teams to confirm their participation are Romania and Yugoslavia. 

Romania's inclusion is due to the extraordinary efforts of one man - King Carol II – who having ascended to the throne just days before, applies his royal powers to personally select players and charge past all obstacles to make sure that they make the trip. 

FIFA convenes its annual congress in Budapest on June 6, 1930.  

The sessions take place in a charged political atmosphere. 

The inability of most European members to generate enough interest in the tournament and overcome financial hurdles in their own countries is debated. 

Between that and the unreadiness of the Centenario Stadium, there are suggestions that Uruguay should not have been chosen or that the World Championship should be decided by having separate tournaments on each continent and pitting the winners against each other in a final match. 

Rimet forcefully reminds the assembly that all the decisions voted on were agreed to in Barcelona by the very same members. 

Two official resolutions are: 
  • FIFA regrets the absence of most of Europe's teams from the first World Championship. 
  • FIFA congratulates Uruguay on its extraordinary efforts to organize the tournament and wishes it all the success for its mission. 


Given the number of participants and the logistics of getting there, the tournament dates are set to July 13 to 30. 

With the success and the future of the World Championship very much on the minds, the meetings are closed. 

In 1930, trans-continental air service is still years away, so the long distance travel for the remote tournament participants from Europe and North America is limited to trains and steamships. 

Mexico has no direct maritime links to South America and, so, faces the most arduous journey of all the participants. 

To make its way South, it must first travel in the opposite direction, way North, to the USA. So, on June 3, after assembling in Vera Cruz, the Mexico delegation boards USS Orizaba to sail to Hoboken, New Jersey, via Havana.
The Mexicans arrive into Hoboken on June 7 and, after a six-day layover, join the USA team on board yet another ship, SS Munargo, which will take them to Montevideo via Rio de Janeiro. 

The ship arrives to its destination three weeks later, on July 1, in rainy Montevideo. 

For the Europeans, Uruguay charters cabins on board Italian steamship Conte Verde sailing out of Genoa on the Mediterranean on June 20. 

After a gruelling 2-day train ride from Bucharest to Genoa, the first footballing passengers on Conte Verde are the Romanians. 

On June 21, after a day's train ride from Paris, the French team comes aboard in Villefranche-sur-Mer. 

On June 22, the Belgian team comes aboard in Barcelona. 

The Conte Verde sails on into the Atlantic Ocean. Among other passengers on board for the same crossing happen to be two operatic stars – Fyodor Chaliapin and Marthe Nespoulous.  

In the cabin of one Jules Rimet in his suitcase under the bed is the Victory trophy. 

Reaching South America on June 30th, Conte Verde makes the last stopover at Rio de Janeiro where the players spend two days visiting and shopping for fruits. 

In Rio, the Brazil delegation joins them on board for the last leg. 

On July 5th, the teams are enthusiastically greeted in Montevideo by Uruguayan crowds. 

The Yugoslavs or, more specifically, the Serbs (because the Croatians at this time are boycotting the Yugoslav Football Association due to internal politics) choose a different route to travel. After a two-day train ride from Belgrade to Marseille, they board the French liner Florida on June 20th. 

Florida is a ''Paquebot'', which in French means a passenger cruise liner (unlike the original English meaning of a mail ship) and, though not as large or fast as Conte Verde, it is quite well appointed. 

Although housed on the lower tourist deck, according to the letters sent home, the Yugoslavs are enjoying their adventure immensely such as dressing for the traditional masquerade ball.  

On July 8th Florida reaches Montevideo, where the by-now-tanned Yugoslavia delegation is met by Jules Rimet. 

On the Pacific side of South America, Peru's delegation takes SS Orcona from Callao to Valparaiso, Chile, arriving on July 1st. 

A day later they join Chile's delegation for the Santiago-Mendosa-Buenos Aires train ride across the Andes. On July 7th the two cross the River Plate into Montevideo where they are met by, among others, the Americans and Mexicans. 

The Argentina contingent makes the same boat crossing a day later, on July 8th. 

Although Paraguay finished second in the last South American Championship (ahead of Uruguay), it is one of the region's poorer nations and due to lack of finances, its participation in the tournament hangs by a thread until very late. On July 6th the extraordinary session of the Paraguay Congress approves the budget and the team hastily makes way to Uruguay, arriving on the 9th of July. 

Bolivia has just gone through a bloody military coup and its teams participation in the World Championship is also in grave doubt right up until July 4th  when the provisional junta government of General Carlos Blanco Galindo gives it the go-ahead to travel. Thus, the Bolivian delegation is the last to arrive on July 11th. 

Meanwhile, with the national championship cancelled to allow for the team selection and training, the Uruguayan host have been sequestered for the past two months in the posh Hotel del Prado in the middle of Montevideo's Prado Park with its large grounds and canals. 

However, they don’t have much time to enjoy the luxury as they follow a strict physical training regime which includes a nightly curfew. 

Uruguay's goalkeeper Andres Mazali is caught breaking the curfew and is banished from the team. 

Although this winter is unusually cold and damp with temperatures near 10 degrees Celsius, several teams choose to stay in the oceanside area of Pocitos. 

Belgium and Peru are staying at the Punta Carreta beach, while the USA along with Chile and Yugoslavia are at the Hotel des Anglais. 

The French with Jules Rimet are at the Rowing Club hotel. 

On July 8th representatives of FIFA and the Organizing Committee meet to draw up the four groups as prescribed by Article 6 of the Championship rules. The thirteen national teams that are either already on the ground or are expected imminently will be split into three groups of three teams each and one group of four. 

The balancing act is accomplished by keeping the four European sides as well as the three strongest South American sides away from each other in group play phase, resulting in these: 

Group 1 – Argentina, France, Chile and Mexico. 
Group 2 – Brazil, Yugoslavia and Bolivia. 
Group 3 – Uruguay, Romania and Peru. 
Group 4 – USA, Paraguay and Belgium. 

The President of the Republic of Uruguay, Juan Campisteguy and his aide Luis Dupuy personally welcome Jules Rimet and his compatriot referee Thomas Balway to the presidential palace.  

Balway's invitation is by way of offering condolences for the loss of his wife who passed away while he was en route to Uruguay, so his participation in the festivities and the tournament are muted and curtailed. 

Campisteguy and Dupay both have French ancestry and all four converse in the language of the country whose National holiday – Bastille Day, July 14th - is coming up. 

On July 10th Maurice Fischer and members of the Organizing Committee convene a meeting of all fifteen referees to go over the FIFA Tournament Rules and ensure uniformity of their application. 

Next, come the delegation's visit to the palace and a lavish banquet for all the participants. 

The week-long celebrations leading up to the Constitution Centenary begin on July 10th with a march honoring heroes of Independence. The procession by Campisteguy and Jude and joined by the footballing dignitaries and delegations makes its way along Avenida 18 de Julio to the Plaza Independencia.  

The delegations gather under the statue of Jose Gervasio Artigas, Uruguay's national hero. 

The momentous festivities are only starting – the first football World Championship is about to begin.