History Of Soccer / Association Football
Ancient Foundations:Outside the United States, the game is known simply as football. In the U.S., American football had staked its claim on the term, and so soccer became the (considerably older) sport’s name in America. In this article, we shall refer to the sport as football.
Football Banned By English Kings The beginnings of football are tough to nail down, at least its most rudimentary origins. Many have traced the game to China during the Han Dynasty, in the 200s C.E. The Chinese played a game called “cuju,” literally “kickball,” which bears some resemblance to the modern game. It was played with a stitched ball which was often kicked into goals. Its resemblance ends there. From there, similar games sprouted up in Asia, from the Malay Peninsula and Japan to the Pacific Islands and Australia. Across the oceans, in the Americas, and particularly Central and South America, ball games were standard throughout just about every civilization from the centuries B.C.E. all the way to Cortez. Mesoamerica also had the only ancient balls that bounced – because only Mesoamerica (at the time) had rubber. Europe, on the other hand, had little to no ball games in its ancient cultures. The lone standout was the Celtic-speaking cultures of northwestern Europe. During the period between the 1400s and 1600s in England, football, which had sprung out of various Celtic ball games, was actually banned by the English kings several times – it was a game of peasants, and thought to incite sin and violence.
Football in England:First FA Cup 1871 But like baseball in the U.S., football existed without a single set of rules for years, played in various forms throughout the country (and the world), primarily by the lower class. However, football came together under a more formalized set of rules due largely to its presence in schools. In 1863, a group of London-based schools came together to draw up an agreed upon set of rules. 11 schools formed the Football Association (FA), and modern football was more or less officially born. In 1871, England saw its first FA Cup, a competition between various football clubs. 15 clubs participated in the first tourney, with Wanderers winning the first championship. Some of the initial aspects of the game remain today – both sides used 11 men on the pitch and touching the ball with the hands was illegal (save for the goalkeeper). However, other things in those first games have long since disappeared: teams switching sides after each goal and passing only as a last resort.
First Teams Formed Though the game began as a lower-class sport, its official presence in the country was within the upper classes, through its play in English schools. Working class, industrial cities all over the U.K. began forming their own Football Associations in the late 1800s, from the Scottish Football Association in 1873 to Lancashire FA in 1878. Teams still in existence began popping up, some with the help of the Church; for example, Aston Villa was founded in 1874, Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1877, Bolton Wanderers in 1874 and Everton in 1878. The divide was also growing between amateur teams and professional ones. The last amateur squad to win an FA Cup was Blackburn Rovers in 1886; in fact, no amateur team would even make another FA Cup final.
Football League Created with 12 clubs Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Everton, Preston North End, Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers Despite the London FA’s codification of the official rules of the sport, there were still challenges, leading to the formation of the International Football Association Board. The name was slightly a misnomer, as its first meeting was between the FAs of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales in 1886. At that meeting, the group agreed upon the Laws of the Game, setting the standard for football from then on. Two years later, football in England had its first league, the aptly-named Football League, made up of 12 clubs: Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Everton, Preston North End, Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Of those 12 teams, only Accrington is no longer in existence (having only lasted until 1893).
League Two Divisions and 20 teams From the formation of the Football League up through World War I (1914), the League was the pinnacle of football in the country. Teams petitioned the League to join; various competitor leagues, including the Football Combination and the Football Alliance, sprung up among teams who had been denied admission. However, no other league would ever truly challenge the League; over time, the League expanded into two divisions, and by 1914, there were 20 teams in each division.
Game Attracts Bigger Crowds As the league grew, so did football’s popularity. The crowd at the FA Cup final in 1888 was 17,000; in 1913, it had swelled to over 120,000. The total attendance in the first year of the League was 600,000, which climbed to 5 million by the 1905-06 season, and was 9 million in Division I matches alone in 1914. Admittance in 1890 was generally around 6d, which in today’s money would be £1.50, or around $2.30. The players themselves were earning around £3 a week, about £179 (or $285) today. By the early 20th century, footballers were being used to sell products, anything from cigarettes to lotions. Football had become big business, years ahead of many of its sporting counterparts.
The Global Game:The British Empire Effect Football’s global spread was both encouraged and hampered by Britain’s empire. Places where the game took hold (Central America, South America and Europe) were far more often locations where Britain’s influence was through trade, and not conquering. In countries of acute British imperial muscle (India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand), Britain’s despised might was inextricably tied to British football. In those countries, football never really took hold as a truly popular sport; cricket and rugby became the sports of the people.
Football and Class It is interesting to note, however, that while football in England was shared by all the classes, receiving a large portion of its players from the lower classes, the sport was spread worldwide by the upper classes. One of the few studies on the matter examined the Dutch national team. From 1894 to 1905, 96% of the team came from the upper class, and only 1% from the lower class. By 1918, that 1% had only risen to 4%, though the middle class rose from 3% to 18%.
Kjøbenhavn Boldklub The first European football club outside of Britain and Ireland was Kjøbenhavn Boldklub, a Danish squad formed in 1876. Denmark also gave continental Europe its first football association in 1889. The Danes, in fact, had a leg up on every other continental European country in football all the way to World War I, winning the silver medal at both the 1908 and 1912 Olympics (losing both times to England). Denmark was not the only country to embrace football, however; the Netherlands was a decade behind their northern neighbors in establishing football, with Sweden a decade behind them. Part of what helped those countries adopt the sport was its popularity among the lower classes; while the professional ranks swelled with upper class players, the fans were distinctly made up of the working class. Switzerland’s primary donation to the game of football came through its representatives in other countries and its established neutrality. Swiss-born men helped lead the earliest national football teams in Spain, France and Italy, while Switzerland became the home for FIFA and UEFA.
Spanish Early Clubs Football in Spain was initiated by British immigrants, in Spain to work mines and railroads. Over the last two decades or so of the 19th century, the game slowly transitioned from the Brits to the native Spaniards, fostered by the Spanish king, Alphonse XIII, who in 1902 created the Coronation Cup, a tournament held between teams from the Basque region, Catalonia and Madrid, the capital. Initially, however, football’s power in Spain was not in its capital, but on the coasts, particularly in Bilbao (in Basque country) and Barcelona, with Athletic Bilbao winning four King’s Cups in its first decade. However, national Spanish football did not come together as easily. Spain faced the challenge of establishing a national identity, instead of regional ones. While Spain was a founding member of FIFA in 1904, they did not have a football association until 1913, and did not field a national team until after World War I.
Italian Early Clubs Italian football grew out of British, Swiss and Italian upper class foundations, and while the game today is purely run by Italians, upper class leaders still control the sport. Italy’s path towards football followed roughly the same timeline as Spain’s; the first football clubs appeared late in the 1800s, and the first “national” tournament, the Italian national championship, was played around the turn of the century, in this case in 1898. Italy’s first powerhouse squad was Genoa, which won the first three championships. Between the start of the century and World War I, the game spread throughout the country, though notably not very south – the first teams south of Perugia to play in the national championship did not do so until 1913.
France and Germany Soccer While the timeline for foundation of the sport in France and Germany were roughly similar to Italy and Spain, football faced a different challenge in those two countries: namely, another sport with which to compete. The Spanish and Italians simply lacked large-scale sports; France and Germany had cycling and gymnastics, respectively. In France, the first teams were founded by Scots and Englishmen living in Paris, with some French students founding their own squad around the same time. The first national championship (played only by six teams) was held in 1894. From there, more and more teams sprouted up, primarily in cities with significant English or Swiss influence. However, like Spain, France had no national organization until after World War I. In Germany, the sport, which took almost thirty years to catch on at all, then exploded over a period of only about ten years. The first recorded football matches in Germany took place in 1874, but the Laws of the Game were only finally translated into Germany in 1891, around the time serious German football clubs were created. Between 1891 and 1900, around 200 clubs were created, with over 10,000 regular footballers. Germany’s first national championship was held in 1903, with Leipzig winning the title. However, prior to World War I, despite the large number of teams and players, football in Germany was still considered a lesser sport.
South America In South America, as in Spain, Italy, France and Germany, the game was initially picked up not by the indigenous people, but Britons who migrated to those countries for work. Large groups of immigrants from England came over to work on the continent’s mineral supply, and the game followed. The first football game played under the FA rules in Central or South America was in 1867 in Buenos Aires by a group of British workers. 26 years later, the Argentine Association Football League was formed, again using primarily British immigrants, which still exists today as the Argentine national championship (though now obviously played by Argentineans). In Brazil, while the first teams (formed in the late 1800s) were British, the city of São Paolo, the greatest hotbed of football in the country, saw German, American and native Brazilian teams sprout up by the turn of the century. It was the early 1900s that finally saw the tide turn in South America, as the British teams dwindled and teams played by the indigenous people of the continent rose to prominence. The football associations in Argentina and Uruguay changed from their English names to Spanish by 1905 (though it took until the 1930'sfor football to become fútbol). In one area, South American football surpassed its European/English counterparts – international unification. Forty years before the establishment of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), Europe’s organization, the CONMEBOL was founded in 1916 in South America, the Confederacíon Sudamericana de Fútbol.
Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Founded As international football grew, so did the need for an international governing body. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in Paris in 1904 by representatives of the football associations or football clubs from France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Great Britain did not join because the FA dragged its feet, forcing the other countries to move forward without them (though they would join a year later). Its first president was a French journalist and secretary for France’s football association, Robert Guerin.
Football in the U.S.:US Game played by Immigrant Communities In the U.S., the game developed primarily among the immigrant class. While there were attempts to establish a national league (the American League of Professional Football Clubs) in 1894, the league fell apart within 3 months. Universities declined to take up the sport, and it survived mostly in neighborhoods, primarily in New England, though immigrant communities in big cities like New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia helped the game thrived there, and St. Louis in particular had a strong football presence. In the 1904 Olympics held there, football was a demonstration sport, and St. Louis’ players represented the U.S. In 1912, two different organizations petitioned FIFA for recognition as America’s football governing authority; FIFA told the American Football Association and the American Amateur Football Association to merge, which they did, becoming the United States Football Association (USFA).
American Soccer League Arguably, football’s strongest time in American history (before the present) was post-World War I, when Thomas Cahill, a football executive from St. Louis established the American Soccer League. The league lasted 12 years, enjoying a fair amount of success both financially and from attendance. The ASL began with eight teams and grew over its existence, with teams in big markets like New York, and smaller markets like Bethlehem and Providence. The league even had radio broadcasts, which were popular particularly in the smaller markets. Players from other countries were plied (monetarily) to come to the U.S. to join several ASL teams, and when an Austrian Jewish team that had recently won the Austrian football league championship came to tour the U.S. in 1925, almost the entire team was convinced to sign with various ASL squads. However, internal struggles tore the league apart. The USFA, after its creation in 1912, had established an Open Challenge Cup, a sort of tournament/league that never fared that well. The ASL wanted the USFA to hold the Cup after the ASL season ended; the USFA refused. The league, concerned some of the teams would move to the USFA Challenge Cup, ordered all its teams to refuse to participate in the Cup, threatening fines and expulsion. However, the league owners themselves were split, and when three ASL teams joined the Cup and started their own league (the Eastern Soccer League) in 1928, football’s death knell was near. The two watered-down leagues could not sustain the success of the one league, and with the stock market crash in 1929, the league soon died out, folding for good in 1933. Unlike other sports, which had more firmly entrenched leagues and/or a strong college presence, football nearly disappeared from the U.S. sports landscape.
Out of the Ashes of War:Booming Fan Numbers With Growth Of Radio In Britain The First World War changed the landscape of the world, and football was not immune to its impact. During the war, British football (and therefore almost all football across the world) suspended play, with the FA Cup Final in 1915 the last professional match played before the war ended. When the war started, football in Britain was played and watched by people of all classes, with professional teams the standard and big business intermixing in every way with the sport. Outside of the British Isles, however, professionalism in football barely existed and the game was ruled by, played by and largely watched by only the elites, with a few instances of middle class involvement. What the war did was tear down the walls between the classes within the sport. Countries lost millions of its men, and bullets and bombs did not distinguish between castes. The working class soldiers were exposed to the game on the front lines by their upper class comrades-in-arms, and when the war ended in 1918, football across the world became a sport across the class system. Attendance went up year after year after the war as more and more people joined the game, either as spectators or players. The booming ‘20s saw radio broadcasts come on the scene, with top football players becoming stars, even appearing in movies. While their salaries were still quite low, and in some places non-existent, players were asked to promote products, and big business finally made its mark on the game across the globe. The rest of the world finally caught up to British football.
Rest Of Europe However, it did not all happen at the same time. Some parts of Europe became primarily professional in the years immediately following World War I; the first professional European league on the continent was in the newly created Austria at the start of the ‘20s. The rest of central Europe was not far behind. Spain, Italy and France took longer, waiting until the latter half of the 1920's> to really legitimize professionalism and create national leagues. Germany and Denmark, however, halted before becoming professionalized. It took Denmark until after World War II to legalize professionalism, while Germany was at the precipice of professionalization when Hitler was named chancellor in 1933. The Nazis took control of every facet of Germany, including football, and professionalism had to wait until the Nazi government was toppled by the Allies in World War II.
Latin America Latin America took longer than some of their European counterparts. While the firm grip the ruling elite had on the game had been loosened by war in Europe, the iron fist by which the elite in Central and South America dominated the sport was not shaken in the same way. Ultimately, it was professionalization in Europe that led to Latin America’s change. As the ‘20s led into the ‘30s, more and more Latin football stars were lured away to Europe, particularly Italy, by the promise of far more money. As an example, Argentine footballer Raimondo Orsi left for Juventus in 1928 after the Italian side offered a weekly wage of 8,000 lire and a signing bonus of 100,000 lire and a new Fiat (which, in today’s figures, would be about $5200 and $66,000). Faced with losing their top players, the Latin American clubs switched from amateur to professional in the first half of the 1930s.
The Manager:Professionalism / Training and Managers Though professionalism had taken hold of football after the war, the game still lacked the kind of professionalism seen today. Training was almost non-existent; players were largely left to their own devices, both on the pitch and off. This changed with Herbert Chapman. Chapman had coached at Leeds City and Huddersfield Town before he joined Arsenal in 1925, and it was there he helped revolutionize the game. Chapman centralized control of the team; he chose the players, how they trained and how they played. Chapman also first began using actual tactics in the game, instead of just allowing the players to essentially figure things out as they went. He created specific roles for his forwards, creating different programs for developing the physique and skills for wingers, center-forwards and inside-forwards. Chapman also called for changes to the game outside of just coaching; he called for lights in stadiums, white balls, artificial pitches, numbered jerseys and stadium clocks which would count down the time for the public to see. The FA, in its tireless efforts to be immune to change, rebuffed all of Chapman’s calls for reform. And despite the success of his Arsenal squad, football in England was slow to come around to Chapman’s way of doing things; the first FA book on coaching wasn’t published until 1938, and the first English national team coach who managed following Chapman’s example was Alf Ramsey in the early ‘60s. Internationally, Chapman’s example was somewhat quicker to catch on. Coaches in Europe and South America began to carve out their own tactical style, styles associated today with the countries themselves. In Central Europe, the style relied on short passing and ball control; Latin America followed this mold, but added flare to the game, with flashy dribbling, and claiming the invention of the bicycle kick and the bending free kick. In Italy, a scheme called “la Sistema,” literally, “the system,” placed a premium on highly-specialized positions (even more so than Chapman’s method) and close marking, giving little space to ball handlers and playmakers.
The World Cup:First World Cup 1930 Uruguay While under the auspices of FIFA many international matches took place, no single global tournament existed for the sport of football outside of the Olympics. Jules Rimet, a Frenchman who became president of FIFA in 1921, sought to follow the guide of the Olympic tournament, and led the charge in creating the World Cup. The first World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930, to be played every four years. Its first winner was its home country, Uruguay, which topped Argentina to win the Rimet trophy (named for the FIFA president). It would be played twice more in the 1930s, in Italy in ’34 and France in ’38 (with Italy winning both), and was then halted for 12 years due to World War II. The first World Cup was played by 13 teams, while the second had 16, the third 15. The intended number of teams after the first World Cup was 16, decided by a 32-team qualifying tournament. However, in the 1938 World Cup, the number fell to 15 after Austria was annexed by Germany.
World War (Again) and Beyond:World War II While World War II was a severe down period for European football, it propped up the South American game as perhaps the best in the world. With its players no longer leaving for Europe (due to the war), Argentinean and Brazilian football dominated the continent, while a new league sprung up in the newly booming Colombia. Radio swept across the countryside in Argentina and Brazil, which helped bring the game to the rural areas of the country which had previously been shut out of the sport for the most part. It was also during this time that the famous Latin goal call (GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL) was first uttered, by Brazilian radio announcer Rebelo Junior. After their third place performance in the 1938 World Cup, Brazil was awarded the 1942 tournament; however, World War II intervened. The lone difference was Uruguay, which largely suffered in the period, primarily due to their struggles with the Depression in the 1930s.
While South American football reigned, football did not completely cease in Europe, as it largely had during the First World War. In the neutral nations of Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey, football continued throughout the war, and even some countries embroiled in the conflict, like Italy, Britain and the Soviet Union, continued to have matches into the 1940's. Germany played international matches as late as 1942 with other national teams from countries allied with Germany, occupied by Germany or neutral, and even had a national championship in 1944, which ended just a few months before Berlin fell. However, the quality was not there – it was impossible for it to be, as the teams were often short players, equipment and quality fields.
FIFA Restarts World Cup 1950 Brazil Despite the fact that once-every-four-year World Cup schedule would have had a tournament played in 1946, after the war, the FIFA congress that met that year decided to hold the next tourney in 1950, awarding it to Brazil (who had been chosen to host the never-to-be-played 1942 Cup). In response to FIFA’s decision, Brazil built a new football stadium in Rio de Janeiro, the largest in the world: the Maracanã. The huge white ellipse officially sat 160,000 patrons, but for the final of the 1950 World Cup, in which Brazil faced Uruguay, the reports said the attendance was over 200,000 – over 20% of Rio’s adult population, the largest crowd ever to watch a football match in person (to this day). However, the massive crowd would leave stunned and disappointed; Uruguay, in a shocking upset, beat Brazil 2-1. Brazil, however, would win the World Cup in the future (more than once). Uruguay has not been to another World Cup final since. The third- and fourth-place teams in the 1950 World Cup were Sweden and Spain, respectively. It was fitting, because they were two neutral countries in World War II; the European countries tore apart by war still needed time to heal.
Resurrection:Great Britain Attendance Skyrocket And heal they did. In Great Britain, the cradle of football, while their empire was being dismantled after the war, their empire of football was growing stronger. Attendance in the post-bellum period skyrocketed, reaching a peak of 41 million in 1949, and never dipping below 30 million until the 1960s (whereas the attendance high before the war was around 20 million). The British even unveiled the FA Amateur Cup in 1949, drawing 95,000 people. It would never reach that level of popularity again.
England Fail On The World Stage However, while British football in the League was gaining new levels of success, their international game did not measure up. England went to the 1950 World Cup believing they would win, considered heavy favorites at home. After managing to beat Chile, they lost their second game to the United States 1-0, one of the greater upsets in World Cup history (and considered by many to be to the greatest game in American international history). After being eliminated 1-0 by Spain, England went home only to find excuses explaining away their losses. Still, England’s excuses did not get them very far, and it would take years for them to finally break through on the World Cup stage.
Germany Wins 1954 World Cup The 1954 World Cup, held in Switzerland, was thought to belong to Hungary. Now belonging to the Communists, the country had built up their football program and, going into the final in ’54, were unbeaten in 31 straight matches, having scored 25 goals in their World Cup matches leading up to the final. Eight of those goals had come in a single first round match against West Germany – who Hungary faced in the final. But the script did not play out as written; the final match, forever after referred to as “the Miracle of Berne” saw the Germans topple the mighty Hungarian squad 3-2. Hungary had gotten out to a 2-0 lead in the first eight minutes of the match, and everything seemed over at that point. However, West Germany responded with two goals of its own within ten minutes of the second Hungarian goal. The two sides continued scoreless until Helmut Rahn put one through in the 84th minute, sealing victory for the West Germans. A major contributor to the German victory was an innovation in their shoes (or boots): screw-in studs that helped the Germans deal with muddy field conditions. The boots were designed by a new German company, Adidas.
O Rei do Futebol:Brazil Dominates World Stage Arguably, the next 16 years of international football belonged to Brazil. Out of the next four World Cups, Brazil won three of them. In 1958, 1962 and 1970, the Brazilians not only won, they conquered. One of the symbols of this Brazilian domination was a player named Edison Arantes do Nascimento, more commonly known as Pelé. While Pelé was his nickname, he had others, including “O Rei do Futebol,” the King of Football. Born in 1940, Pelé began playing professional football at age 15, and won his first World Cup with Brazil before turning 18 in 1958. Pelé would go on to be known as perhaps the greatest footballer of all time, recording 1,283 goals in 1,363 career games, scoring 77 goals in 92 international matches (and 12 in the World Cup). At the club level in Brazil, he did not merely break records; he shattered them. Playing for Santos F.C., Pelé scored 58 goals in 1958, 45 in 1959 and 47 in 1961. Compare those numbers to today’s game, in which the entire Santos F.C. squad scored a total of 58 goals in the most recent full season. Pelé’s career was marked by numerous awards, including named FIFA Player of the Century.
UEFA:Europe Clubs Rule World Though international football belonged to the Brazilians in the 1950s and 60s, club football belonged to Europe (and still does today). In the early 1950s, Europe saw their majority within FIFA dwindling as more and more football associations were added. South America already had a continental organization, CONMEBOL, for almost 40 years. Europe’s answer was UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, founded in 1954 at a meeting of Europe’s football administrators in Berne, Switzerland (during the World Cup). Within one year, UEFA established a continental football tournament, the European Cup (now known as the Champions League). The early success in the tournament belonged to Spain, and specifically Real Madrid. The Spanish capital side won the first five titles, winning its sixth 6 years after that. In fact, the early history of UEFA’s tournament is marked by repeat winners; the first 25 years of the tourney featured only 11 different victors, and the defending champions won the Cup 12 times, including three-peats from AFC Ajax (Netherlands) and FC Bayern München (Germany) in the 1970s.
Television Increases Popularity This period is also marked by the introduction of television to the game. Though the game itself on the pitch was relatively unchanged by TV, what the new medium accomplished was catapulting the sport to even higher levels of popularity, and helped changed the historical record. Prior to television, there was scant material available about football and its greatest stars; newspapers accounted for most of them, with magazines and radio chipping in. But television allowed for the visual record to exist, getting to actually see the game’s greatest stars and hold on to those images for posterity.
The Game Gets Larger:140 Countries Belong To FIFA From the end of World War II to João Havelange’s ascension to the FIFA presidency in 1974, FIFA had more than doubled in membership, from 54 countries to 140. Of those almost 90 new members, all but five came from four confederations: CONCACAF, AFC, OFC and CAF, with the bulk coming from the AFC and CAF. CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, added teams entirely from Central America and the Caribbean in this period. The OFC, Oceania Football Confederation, added three countries. AFC, the Asian Football Confederation, added 26 different countries, while CAF, the Confederation of African Football, added 37. The vast majority of additions came from Asia and Africa because, as the European colonial powers relinquished their territories, independent new nations sprung up across those two continents.
Red and Yellow Cards Introduced However, despite the inclusion of all these groups into FIFA, little changed in the late ‘40s and ‘50s regarding their involvement. Up to 1974, only three teams combined from those regions made the World Cup Final, none of them winning. The president of FIFA before Havelange, Sir Stanley Rous, had been a force for change, but focused his efforts on technical aspects of the game. As secretary of the FA (before becoming FIFA president), Rous had rewritten the Laws of the Game in 1938 to update them for the modern game. With FIFA, Rous championed the use of the red and yellow card system (which was first introduced at the Olympic tournament in 1968), set up the system of awarding the World Cup site years in advance as a way to cut down on conflict and created a training program for referees and coaches. However, Rous’ tenure was marred by his lack of leadership when it came to the political sphere.
Football and Politics:Politics In Football Football had (and has) often been closely tied to politics all over the world. Politics and football had gone as far back as the early 1900s in England, where the occasional political candidate would receive public support from football stars. In 1910, the owner of Middlesbrough FC ran for office, using his players to stump for him and even trying to bribe an opposing team to lose a match against Middlesbrough. After his lost the election and his plan was uncovered, he was kicked out of football for life by the FA. However, early in its history both Britain and FIFA sought to keep politics out of football, with FIFA trying to follow the Olympic mold. However, as it often failed in the Olympics, so too did it fail in football. Governments in Europe used football for military training; the people of Europe, along with their governments, often saw victory on the pitch as victory for the country, an indicator of might beyond simply sport. The 1934 World Cup, held in Italy, was used by Benito Mussolini as a grand tool of propaganda: Italy spent the modern equivalent of around $4.8 million dollars (which today seems small, but then was larger) on the tournament, even paying for transportation for fans of other countries and creating a trophy, La Coppa del Duce, to be awarded to the winners (which turned out to be Italy). Hitler saw football in the same way, seeking to dominate Europe in every way, including on the pitch. In South America, football and politics had been intertwined almost since the beginning of the sport in that region. Under Juan Perón, Argentina actually withdrew from the 1949 Copa América tournament and the 1950 World Cup; while Perón was instituting vast social change, he was worried that defeat in international tournaments would weaken him and his government in the eyes of the people. In the ’54 World Cup, the Hungarian team was publicly and loudly supported by the new Soviet communist government as a way to lessen unrest among the Hungarian people towards their new leadership. The Hungarian loss at the World Cup helped contribute to revolution in the country.
South Africa and Apartheid In the late ‘50s, during Rous’ administration, perhaps the biggest political battle in football became policy regarding South Africa. The country’s apartheid (begun in 1948) caused unrest within the football world, particularly in the rest of Africa. In 1957, when the first African Cup of Nations was played, South Africa was barred from the tournament, and then barred from the CAF. Its FIFA membership was also suspended in 1961. However, after an investigation by Rous, he determined that the all-white Football Association of South Africa (FASA) had to represent South Africa in FIFA. Throughout the remainder of his time as FIFA president, Rous continually rebuffed the efforts of other African nations and anti-apartheid representatives to impose sanctions on South Africa.
Havelange’s Business:João Havelange As football organizations around the ground grew increasingly dissatisfied with Rous, he lost the presidency to João Havelange, a Brazilian businessman and entrepreneur who had been a part of Brazil’s Olympic committee and later the International Olympic Committee (IOC). What helped Havelange’s bid for the presidency was Latin America’s concern over European domination in the administration of the sport. Backed by CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, Havelange sealed his election by gaining support from Asia and Africa, which now constituted the bulk of FIFA. In Africa, he specifically spoke out against apartheid, pledging to ban South Africa from FIFA were he elected. He campaigned vigorously, spending $21 million, the modern equivalent of over $91 million, to secure his election as FIFA president.
Havelange could not have been more different from Rous; Rous prided himself as a public servant, doing as much as he could with as little as his could. He worked with a shoestring budget and a skeleton staff. FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich held just 12 staffers when Havelange took office; under his leadership, it increased to over 100. Perhaps Havelange’s greatest impact on the game was on the World Cup. Prior to his tenure as president, the World Cup was an incredibly popular event, and broadcast for the first time in color in 1970, but not a cash cow. Havelange sought to change that, creating a new model for global sporting events of all kinds. Along with Horst Dassler, an executive from Adidas (and son of Adidas’ founder), and Patrick Nally, a Brit involved in global sports marketing and sponsorship, Havelange came up with a new paradigm featuring four components. First, the World Cup would only go after the largest sponsors whose reach was global. Second, the sponsors would be divided by type; only one soft drink sponsor, only one beer sponsor, only one financial services corporation, etc. Third, FIFA gained total control over TV rights, advertising and the like. Today, this is commonplace in the world of sports; Havelange, Dassler and Nally were directly responsible for making it so. Finally, FIFA would not negotiate the TV and sponsorship deals themselves, but rather simply give a guaranteed amount of money to a middleman who would mete it out; those middlemen would be Dassler and Nally.
World Cup Expanded To 24 Teams Havelange’s first chance to showcase this new formula came in Spain in 1982. The first World Cup he presided over was actually Argentina in ’78, but the Junta controlled that tourney, and Havelange (along with the rest of FIFA) had no desire to challenge them. In Spain, Havelange expanded the World Cup from 16 teams to 24; in addition, he wanted to make the games grand (not unlike Mussolini), and put it on Nally and Dassler to find the money from sponsors. Find that money they did, securing over 42 million Swiss francs, which in modern money is roughly $47 million. Additionally, Havelange backed the campaign of Spain’s Juan Antonio Samaranch for IOC president, using his influence in Latin America, Asia and Africa to secure Samaranch the post and gain Spain’s total cooperation. He even took apart a deal between Real Madrid and Pepsi to have Pepsi logos all over Real’s stadium, in order to please World Cup sponsor Coca-Cola. Havelange’s idea worked brilliantly; in the next two World Cups, television viewership over the course of the tournament exceeded 10 billion, then 20 billion (in ’86 Mexico and ’90 Italy, respectively), allowing Nally and Dassler to acquire sponsorships worth over 100 million francs ($118 million modern).
Under Havelange, FIFA grew further, adding 27 new nations, readmitted China and barred South Africa. Havelange proved to be a master at political maneuvering, even relocating Israel to the Oceania Football Confederation for a time while it had dispute with other members of the Asia Football Confederation. He further expanded the World Cup to 32 teams, giving more countries the opportunity for involvement. Still, success in the World Cup belonged (basically to this day) to Europe and South America: during Havelange’s reign from 1974 to 1998, the winners were Germany (twice), Argentina (twice), Italy, Brazil and France.
Try, Try Again:North American Soccer League (NASL) Without professional football since the 1930s, the United States nevertheless tuned in to watch the World Cup on television, particularly in 1966. As a result, a group of American sports owners and investors thought they saw an opportunity for growth of the sport, and set out to create a league. Unfortunately, failing to learn from the mistakes of the past, two leagues came into existence. One was the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL), which despite securing a TV deal did not affiliate itself with either FIFA or the U.S. Soccer Federation. The other league, the United Soccer Association (USA – if it can be believed), was better organizationally connected but less commercially connected. Still, both leagues suffered, primarily from the quality of play (or lack thereof). In 1968, just a year after they were created, they agreed to join, forming the North American Soccer League (NASL). This union did not fare any better except for a brief time, and that was due almost entirely to one person: Pelé.
Pelé Joins New York Cosmos Having already retired from Santos in Brazil, Pelé was encouraged to join the Warner Brothers-owned New York Cosmos of the NASL for a three-year contract paying him over $4 million (which would be worth $16 million today). Attendance pre-Pelé was minimal at best: the Cosmos often handed out Burger King coupons just to try to entice attendees. During Pelé’s time with the squad, they had to often close the doors, filling their stadium to capacity. The Cosmos followed the Pelé signing by inking other aging football superstars to contracts, and other teams followed suit. However, despite all the positive press, teams still lost money, and by the time the ‘70s turned into the ‘80s, the league was on the verge of extinction. ABC cancelled the TV deal, and Warner Brothers pulled out of the league after Mexico was awarded the 1986 World Cup (instead of the U.S.). The 1984 NASL season was its last; once again, professional football went dark in the United States.
European Shifts:Britain and German Clubs Rule For a period of over ten years from the mid ‘70s to the mid ‘80s, club football in Europe belonged to Germany and England. From 1974 to 1984, not a single club outside of those two countries captured the UEFA European Cup.
Heysel Stadium Disaster However, in 1985, in the final between Juventus and Liverpool at Heysel stadium in Brussels, a group of supporters from both sides clashes, leaving 39 dead and 300 injured. Following the disaster, English clubs were banned for five years and Liverpool indefinitely. The subsequent shift saw La Liga in Spain, Serie A in Italy, France’s Ligue 1 and the Dutch Eredivisie surge forward, improving the standing of their leagues across Europe, with clubs from their leagues winning seven UEFA titles in the 10 years following Heysel.
Soccer Hooliganism Football in England particularly declined from the early ‘80s to the early to mid ‘90s. Attendance fell across the board, due in large part to the sharp rise in hooliganism. British football fans had been staging football riots in and around their stadiums since the ‘70s, but in the ‘80s, those riots began to spread to matches around Europe. This movement heavily involved skinheads, but was not limited to them. This is not to say that the violence was limited to British football fans. Fights at matches took place all across Europe (and Latin America); it was simply magnified in Britain. Things culminated in England with the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. The government had instituted measures to curb violence at the matches, including spiked perimeter fences, security cameras and a heavily increased police presence. Unfortunately, this led directly to the disaster: 400 people were injured and 96 died when they were herded into the Hillsborough stadium for an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The central pens were full, and the perimeter fences were locked, crushing those inside the pens. A lack of order and control from the police failed to relieve the pressure, and English football had reached its low point.
Colorful Fandom Around this culture of hooliganism, however, rose the colorful fandom of football, a tradition which would outlast its vicious counterpart in popularity; its fans had always adhered to the origin of the word (fanatic), but in the latter part of the 20th century, football fans took their nationalistic fervor to new heights, adorning themselves in elaborate and vibrant costumes, travelling the continent and the globe to support their clubs teams and national squads.
African Football:African Rise In Football Talent As the last vestiges of colonialism disappeared in Africa in the 1970s and with the ascension of João Havelange to FIFA’s presidency, Africa appeared ready to breakout in the football world. At the World Cup in 1978, Tunisia secured the first African World Cup match victory 3-1 over Mexico. In Spain in ’82, Cameroon was unbeaten, playing Peru, Poland and Italy to draws, failing to advance out of their group by only a one-goal differential. Algeria beat West Germany (who would end up winning the Cup) in their first match, but still failing to advance. In 1986, Morocco became the first African nation to advance past the group stage of the World Cup, losing to Germany in the first round of the knockout stage 1-0.
Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, African football talent had gone to Europe, playing for European squads and joining European national teams. Those who did not could still not play for their African countries; until 1982, foreign clubs were not obligated to allow their African players to play for their African nations, keeping them with the club team. In the ‘80s, Africa finally begun to secure their own talent, and this directly correlated to African success on the world stage.
Africa’s rise was also helped by other factors. Through the sponsorship of Coca-Cola, João Havelange established World Cup tournaments for under-20 players and under-17 players. This involvement in youth sport helped Africa foster its talent further. Ghana and Nigeria have both won the U-17 World Cup title twice, and the first U-20 World Cup was held in Tunisia in 1977. Additionally, the ‘80s saw an influx of foreign coaches into Africa, helping even more the development of the game on the continent.
The Premiership and Champions League:English Premier League From the ashes of the Hillsborough disaster arose a new edict in English football – stadiums that sat every fan that they could hold. This new cost combined with growing discontent among the owners of the top clubs over revenue from television. Up to the early ‘90s, football in England was shown on the BBC, with no competition. As a result, football clubs did not receive the kind of revenue they thought they could get by opening up TV rights to other bidders. After a group of the top teams in the FA met, they signed the Founder Members Agreement in 1991, laying the groundwork for the establishment of the Premier League. While the Premier League is still tied to the FA and the Football League on an organizational level (Premiership teams participate in the FA Cup and the Premier League and Football League Championship are involved in a promotion/relegation relationship), the new league disentangled itself from those bodies on a commercial level, selling their rights to Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Sports for £304 million over three years (equivalent today to roughly £459 million, or $732 million). This was an unheard of sum at the time, and only went up: in 1996, Sky paid out £670 million (£857 million/$1.36 billion) and in 2003 £1.1 billion (over $2 billion). This explosion in TV revenues did not stay in England; new deals in Germany, France, Spain and Italy all rose significantly in the 1990s and 2000s (though more slowly in Spain and Italy because of a smaller audience and pirated smart cards, respectively).
UEFA Champions League UEFA also sought to grow its brand, renaming the European Cup the UEFA Champions League in 1992 and adding a group stage, making the competition larger. Following the FIFA example, they also took control of the TV rights to the tournament, broadcasting Champions League football to the world, helping the prestige of the tourney reach new heights. No other continent currently boasts the kind of football quality and talent held by the leagues of Europe, and since the founding of the Premier League in 1992, only six leagues have had teams win the Champions League: La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, the German Bundesliga, Eredivisie and the Premier League. The top talent from all over the globe plays for teams from these leagues, hoping to showcase their talents on the world stage.
Domination in the Champions League by those six was also helped by the fall of communism. Teams in Eastern Europe and the Soviet bloc fell apart following the collapse of the USSR in the early ‘90s; without state financial support, they didn’t stand a chance. Only in recent years have some of these countries produced teams capable of competing at the highest European levels.
The MLS:Major League Soccer (MLS) After the dissolution of the NASL in the U.S. in 1984, football disappeared from the country save for the youth level. With American football, baseball, basketball and hockey dominating the sporting landscape, association football couldn’t gain a foothold. The game’s breakthrough came when the United States was awarded the 1994 World Cup. The tournament boasted the highest attendance in World Cup history, over 3.5 million. With the belief that there existed the possibility that America could make money off football, Major League Soccer (MLS) was formed two years later, in 1996, with ten teams. Still in existence, MLS is arguably the country’s most successful football league. It has bested its predecessors both in longevity and popularity, though it has still largely failed to capture the majority of the American sporting audience. Still, it has TV deals in place both on the club levels and as a league with ESPN. In recent years, in a move reminiscent of the old NASL, the league established the designated player rule, commonly called the David Beckham rule. In 2007, the rule was put in place so that teams could establish one player on their roster whose salary would not count against the salary cap: the designated player. David Beckham became tied to the rule because the league had put it in place in anticipation of his signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Since then, there have been 20 designated players, primarily aging stars from other countries, most recently (and notably) Thierry Henry, the longtime French star.
Where We Are Today:Soccer Continues To Grow It can be argued that football today is stronger than it’s ever been. Fans go out to see matches in record numbers around the world, and the television audience seems to get larger and larger. The money pouring in (and out) of football around the world seems to have no cap. The most recent World Cup saw a first time winner (Spain) and the first knockout stage victory for an African team in history (Ghana’s 2-1 win over the U.S.).
Increased Ticket Prices Make Soccer A Middle Class Sport There are still, however, issues within the sport. As big business continued its virtual takeover of the sport, more and more fans at the top clubs are being priced out. While the sport, particularly in England, was built on making it accessible to the lowest classes, today prices at the top clubs are generally in excess of £30 per game ($47). Additionally, while hooliganism has been significantly reduced, the most pressing social issue the game faces now is racism. Though major pushes have been made by FIFA to curb racism in the sport (particularly through its FIFA against Racism campaign), there still exists significant evidence of racism throughout the sport, especially in Europe.
Where To Next Yet, football moves forward. The history of the game details the rise and fall of teams and countries; Colombia made a push towards international greatness at the ’94 World Cup. Their subsequent defeat and the murder of star Andrés Escobar forced the sport’s collapse in that country. Africa is still considered a continent on the rise; will Asia ever be considered the same way? History tells us the world will be watching.
The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt (ISBN: 978-0670914807)
A History of the FA (http://www.thefa.com/TheFA/WhoWeAre/HistoryOfTheFA)
History of FIFA (http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/history/fifa/historyfifa1.html)
UEFA Champions League history (http://en.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/history/index.html)
Premier League History (http://www.premierleague.com/page/History)
Currency converter (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/results.asp#mid)
Historical Exchange Rates (http://www.measuringworth.org/exchangeglobal/)
Pound-to-Dollar converter (http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=pound+to+dollar&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8)