new frontiers (issue 7)

Who Is The Best?

The World Cup was first held in 1930. England didn't enter until 1950 but they had been playing internationals since 1872 when they draw 0-0 with Scotland in Glasgow.

England were widely recognised as world's best football nation. England's first non British opponents were Austria, in Vienna, in 1908. England won 6-1, and 11-1 2 days later. 3 days later England won 7-0 in Hungary. Austria and Hungary staged the first European international between 2 non British sides in 1902. It would be 1929 before England lost to a team from outside the British Isles. Spain winning 4-3 in Madrid. Even then, England were considered the best in the world until 1953 and a 3-6 home defeat by Hungary.

The development of world football was hampered by countries using different rules and by the disdain shown by England to the rest of the world. In 1902, the Dutch FA wrote to the English FA asking England to organise an international body and tournament. They replied stating that they "cannot see the advantages of such a body". Dutch persistence saw The Federation Internationale De Football Association, or FIFA, formed in Paris in 1904. There were 7 founder members. England reluctantly became a member in 1905. However, they failed to see eye to eye with other nations over the next 40 years. After the Great War, England refused to play against countries who had fought against them. Later they disagreed over the definition of an amateur. This matter coming to a head in 1928 when the England withdrew from FIFA and the Olympic movement. They did not rejoin FIFA until 1946.

In 1920, the idea of a World Cup tournament was agreed. Serious planning got underway, prompted by the recognition that the Olympic soccer tournament was not a true test as it was limited to amateurs. In 1928, prompted by Uruguay retaining Olympic's soccer title, plans were proposed for a 1930 World Cup tournament. In 1929, Uruguay and 4 Europeans offered to stage the tournament. Uruguay offered to pay travelling and hotel costs of all the competing nations. They would also build a new stadium, only 8 months away, to host the final. In the face of such an offer, the 4 European nations withdrew their bids to stage the competition, and also scratched their competition entries.

Meanwhile, the Olympics had provided one world wide soccer competition every 4 years. The first two finals had seen Great Britain beat Denmark in 1908 and again in 1912.

Various club tournaments were held across Europe. One Italian competition invited 4 sides from European countries to compete for "The Thomas Lipman Trophy", sponsored by the tea baron. This competition was dramatised by ITV a few years ago. The story went that it was the intention was to invite England's best team, Woolwich Arsenal F.C. (WAFC) to represent England, but the invite reached the crack northern amateurs West Auckland. In 1911, against all odds, the West Auckland miners won the trophy and successfully defended it a year later. The TV play, starring Dennis Waterman, featured the immortal line, "have you noticed when you spit in Italy in comes out white and not black like back home". Another competition, the Mitropol Cup saw the cream of central and eastern Europe compete.

While all these international tournaments had been going on, British clubs regularly undertook extensive foreign close season tours. Oxford University travelling abroad as early as 1875. The clamour for a world competition was growing.

To be Continued ...


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