This is the first in a weekly series of World Cup history lessons brought to you by our very own “Professor” Guy Bailey. He is not actually a professor; the only professor on staff is Jamie Clary. Well. sort of.
The 1930 World Cup – Uruguay
The first official World Cup actually came about because of the intransigence between the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, so no change there then.
Since 1914, when the rest of Europe had its mind on another, more localized excuse to stick it up the opposition, FIFA recognized the existing Olympic Football Tournament as the World Football Championship for Amateurs. The latter word is particularly important to remember when dealing with FIFA of the FA as it was to be a sticking point for British Football for many more years to come.
Given this alternative history of world football, the World Champions from 1920 were Belgium; Uruguay in 1924 and again in 1928. It was for this reason that the Uruguayans were given the honor of hosting the first official FIFA version of the World Championship after football was nixed from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics thus denying America its best ever chance of winning the big one. The reason being that professional football was being played in the States then and the Olympics didn’t want any suggestion that the Olympics could be tainted by the prospect of a professional athlete being involved and rewarded in monetary terms for taking part in the supreme pinnacle of athletic competition and achievement on the face of the planet. Think on that next time you see D-Wade and LeBron dancing around Wembley Arena like the only roosters in the hen house after dunking on some poor Azerbaijani point guard standing 5-foot-8 in his hi-tops.
The problem with Uruguay in 1930 and today as literalist readers will point out is that it’s a long way away from Europe where the majority of FIFA’s members called home. To this end, the majority of entrants in the first World Cup were from the Americas. Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the USA all made the relatively short trip to Montevideo where the competition would take place in the three stadia in the city. The hardy souls of Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia all made the three week voyage with training restricted to runs around the deck and little work on tactics or ball skills, the latter for fear of knocking it overboard and going two weeks without even seeing a ball. The Romanians in particular felt obliged to do well for the old country as the squad was picked personally by King Carol II. He picked the team, decided on the tactics and equally magnanimously, negotiated with the men’s employers to keep their positions open for them whilst they were maintaining the honor of the old world in the heat of the new. The British of course, didn’t send a representative.
The competition was split into four groups, one with four teams, the rest with three. The winners of each group going into the semi finals. Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and the USA were the seeds and kept apart. All three progressed to the semis with the exception of Brazil who fell to the battling Yugoslavs who upheld Europe’s honor to an extent and made the last four. Both semis had identical results – 6-1 – with Uruguay emerging victorious against the brave Yugoslavs who felt hard done by with a couple of decision, having a goal disallowed which would have given them a 1-0 lead; Argentina seeing off a physically wilting US team, the score being only 1-0 at half time.
93,000 spectators turned up to watch the first World Cup Final and also the first diplomatic incident. Neither team could decide on which ball would be used as different weights were in operation by the two FA’s. The solution was for Argentina to supply the ball for the first half and Uruguay to supply the ball for the second.
The match itself was a rarity in a World Cup Final in that it was a cracker. Uruguay took the lead before Argentina struck back twice in the first half to give them the advantage at the break. The hosts then scored twice more after 57 and 68 before sealing their inaugural victory in the last minute with the clincher.
The top scorer in the tournament was Argentina’s Guillermo Stabile with 8 in 4 games but the honor of the first World Cup Finals hat-trick eluded him. It was Bert Patenaude, from Fall River, MA who scored 3 against Paraguay. The honor eluded him until 2006 when FIFA finally reassigned one of his goals back to him. Stabile scored a hat-trick against Mexico two days later than Patenaude.
Only one man remains from the 22 who played in that final – Francisco Varallo of Argentina who turned 100 earlier this year. His present was a special screening of the game but it almost finished the poor guy off, he was still pissed about the result but admitted that the Uruguayans deserved it.
Jules Rimet, the President of FIFA awarded the cup to Dr Raul Jude, President of the Uruguayan FA. Given the evidence of this picture, you’d have thought Rimet had told Jude he only had months to live.
Amongst the important things to remember about this tournament is that as well as the best team winning and setting up the unrealistic expectations for most host nations since, is that when any knuckleheads start prattling on about “soccer” being a European or Un-American sport, remind them that they were getting to semis and scoring hat-tricks 80 years before the guy in the next trailer shinned in the open bedroom window after their dad had gone to Hooters for the night.
Guy Bailey is a staff writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.