Football is such a game where one can get the joy from mere goal to critical nuances of formation and strategy. That very nature has made the game ubiquitous and most popular. And World Cup football is without any doubt its biggest event, the greatest show on earth. The world comes to a standstill during the extravaganza with all the nuances of the tournament. The power of holding all possible human emotions have made the football World Cup, which is not confined to mere win and loss, the greatest. Its history is tantamount to human history. The 22nd World Cup will be staged at Qatar in a few days. Let us walk down memory lane. Today we will recall the first chapter of this great history.
The rules of football were first registered in 1863 in England. The game gradually became very popular among working class and disseminated throughout the world.
When the Frenchmen first established FIFA in 1904 the organisation neither had money nor political power but it had the desire to stage a world level tournament.
During that time the biggest attraction of the footballing world was the Olympic Games. FIFA understood football is one of its main events. So, they discussed the first World Cup during the Antwerp Council of Olympic Games in 1920 and the discussion got more intense in 1924.
Two Frenchmen - Jules Rimet and Henri Delaunay - were the fathers of the World Cup. FIFA president Rimet was romantic, diplomatic, a planner while Secretary Delaunay was a workhorse, passionate, a dreamer.
Football by then became global and Uruguay was the prime example.
The country of only 2 million people, unknown to most of the Europeans, with the first ever superstar in football, Andrade, won consecutive Olympic golds in football to mark their position on the football map.
Uruguay dreamt of arranging the 1930 World Cup. The country’s coffers were full thanks to huge export of wool, leather, and beef. Under the presidency of Ordonez, the profit from agricultural export was channeled to the development of progressive politics, improving the education system and prosperity of the country.
The country not only had a strong economy but its centenary of the constitution was supposed to be celebrated in 1930. As a result the country was keen to mark it by staging the inaugural World Cup. It approached FIFA and offered to carry all the costs and to build new stadiums. FIFA obliged. During the Barcelona congress Rimet announced Uruguay as the hosts of World Cup and promised to manufacture a golden trophy. The trophy, known as ‘Goddess of Victory’ was later named after Rimet. French sculptor Abel Lafleur was its manufacturer.
Only four European teams- Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia played in the first World Cup. Most of the big guns of Europe were reluctant as they were not chosen as hosts and also the global economic depression played a key part. The four participants agreed basically with the insistence of Rimet.
Seven South American countries- Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chili, Paraguay, Peru and hosts Uruguay took part in the tournament. Never again in World Cup history did so many Latin countries participate in a single edition. USA and Mexico joined from North America.
Despite the grudge of organisers with the lack of European participants, the tournament kicked on. Everyone, however, believed Uruguay plays the best football. The previous two Olympics in Europe proved it beyond doubt.
In front of 4,444 spectators, on Sunday, 13 July, at 3:30 the first match between France and Mexico created history. Lucien Laurent became the first ever goal scorer in World Cup after 19 minutes.
French had to take field after 48 hours. Their opponents Argentina, especially captain Luis Monti, played extreme physical football. Laurent took huge blow in his ankle the Frenchmen lost the game. The Argentines, however, may thank Brazilian referee Gilberto Rego. French were desperate to equalise Monti’s 81st minute goal but the referee, with utter shock of the spectators, blew his whistle to end the match in the 84th minute. Amid huge protest of French players and spectators, who took the field, the match restarted. But, by then the French lost their rhythm and failed to get the elusive goal.
Argentina’s next match was against Mexico. As their main striker Manuel Ferreira returned home for a university exam young Guillarme Stabile took his place. And how he did it! The Argentine scored hat-trick against Mexico en route to fetch eight goals and the pride of becoming the highest scorer of the tournament.
Brazil lost two Yugoslavia by 2-1 in their encounter of group B where only three teams were pitted. One has to keep in mind blacks and mulattos were still unwelcomed in Brazil side on that era.
Uruguay somehow won both the matches but clinched the semifinal in style beating Yugoslavia 6-1. USA, one of the pre-tournament favourites, lost to Argentina in the other semifinal by same margin and set up an anticipated, thrilling final.
As expected, the frontier of the two neighbours was boiling with tension and excitement. Not only the border guards had a tough time stopping the avalanche of people expecting to join the game at Montevideo but also the capital city of Uruguay became a pressure cooker anticipating a cliffhanger.
Even the robust Monti, who had the reputation of being fearless, said he was afraid of death threats. His countrymen told him they won’t allow him return alive with the ignominy of defeat while the hosts said disgracing Uruguay will be tantamount to his death sentence.
Monti as well as the other panicked one, John Langenus, who was the referee of that match, took field with the guarantee that they will board to a special boat for home straight after the match. And the match begun at 2:15 in front of a jampacked crowd of the newly built, state of the art Estadio Centinario.
Luckily, the match did not have many nasty incidents. But a strange thing happened nevertheless. The teams argued about the ball and in the end decided the first half would be played with the ball brought by the Argentina team while the second half will be played with another ball, which was little larger in size, provided by the hosts.
Pablo Dorado opened the scoring for Urugyay in 12th minute but Peucelle cancelled it eight minutes later. Argentina took lead with a Stabile goal before Sia equalised in the 58th minute.
Santos made the crowd ecstatic as he scored the third goal for the host 10 minutes later while Castro sealed the match with another goal in 89th minute. In the thrilling and the neat match Uruguay prevailed with their power and strength over an Argentine side that played with guile and imagination.
A dejected, depressed Monti was seen leaving the field with profound sadness. He did not know he would win the cup four years later albeit playing for another country. But could the man who lived for 82 years ever forget losing the match and chance of creating a glorious history?
Argentina could not. On the next day Montevideo was brimming with endless joy of euphoria. On the other side of the Rio de la Plata, Buenos Aires looked like a graveyard with excruciating grief. Some even vandalised in the Uruguayan consulate of the city.
The national heroes of Montevideo were receiving plaudits while the media deified them with lyrical waxes. On the other side, only curses and lampooning were all Argentine were receiving.
This is the tale of football; football after all tells the tale of life, doesn’t it?