FIFA World Cup Background

The FIFA World Cup has taken place every four years since its first tournament in 1930 – with the exception of 1942 and 1946 due to World War II – between the senior men’s national soccer teams of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Since its inaugural tournament, the FIFA World Cup – now also known as the Soccer World Cup, the Football World Cup, or simply the World Cup – has become the most widely viewed sports championship in the world, with an even larger television audience than the Olympic Games.

Since 1977 FIFA has also organized youth equivalents of the international tournament, as well as club football equivalents and equivalents for soccer variations including futsal and beach soccer. In 1991, FIFA also introduced a women’s soccer equivalent to the World Cup, called the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the first of which took place in the People’s Republic of China between twelve nations and was won by the United States and which now takes place between sixteen teams over the course of three weeks.

When the world’s first international soccer match had taken place in 1872, in Glasgow between Scotland and England, the creators of the game – as well as by the time the first international soccer tournament, the first British Home Championship, had taken place twelve years later in 1884 between Scotland and Ireland – the sport had still yet to gain much international attention and was played very little outside of the U.K. Nevertheless, the beginnings of soccer’s international popularity were budding. As other nations did come to acknowledge the sport in the years that followed, it was still only regarded as a demonstration sport, especially when it came to the Olympic Games; during the 1900 and 1904 Olympics, it was played as an event, but without the awarding of any medals.

In 1904, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in Paris as an official, organized international governing body that would represent the interests and advancement of soccer worldwide, and among its first orders of business was to attempt to establish a truly international soccer tournament outside of the context of the Olympics, although it took years for them to successfully achieve that goal. The World Cup would become the premiere international sporting event culminating in the most coveted sports award in the world.

Since 1966, each FIFA WC tournament has had its own mascot, typically reflective in some way of the given year’s host country; and more recently, each WC has also had its own specially designed official match balls for each year. The first mascot was World Cup Willie, a lion representative of that year’s hosts, England, wearing a Union Flag Jersey which read «World Cup.» In 1970, the mascot was Juanito, a young boy clad in a kit and sombrero, as Mexico was the host of that year’s Cup. Since then, other mascots have included Naranjito (an orange) for Spain in 1982; Pique (a jalapeno pepper) for Mexico when they hosted again in 1986; Ciao (an Italian tri-color stick figure for Italy in 1990; Striker, the WC Pup for the United States in 1994; Footix (a rooster) for France in 1998, and Zakumi (a leopard) for South Africa in 2010.

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