The FIFA World Cup has become the most popular sporting event in the world but without the support and enthusiasm of one man, Jules Rimet, the first FIFA World Cup might not have ever kicked off. And it was on this day in soccer history in 1873 that the Frenchman was born.
While he was not involved with the formation of FIFA on May 21, 1904 in Paris, Rimet had taken to football administration working to form France’s Red Star Club, and took note of the newly formed global organization.
Rimet’s focus was still on his home nation, however, as he worked to create the first Football Association in France in 1910 that later became the French Football Federation. He took the helm of the new national organization which gave him the perfect platform to work to put together his dream of an international tournament.
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After World War I, Rimet presented the idea of a global tournament at the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920 but there were many hurdles to overcome before his tournament became a reality.
Rimet became the head of FIFA on March 1, 1921 and by 1926 had formed a committee to evaluate a World Championship. This World Championship would be run by FIFA and outside the scope of the Olympics, which hosted recognized world championship of the game at the time. Rimet was insistent on this with the two organizations not seeing eye-to-eye on issue most notably the use of professionals in the tournament.
FIFA voted to host an quadrennial World Championship at the annual Congress in Amsterdam in 1928 and the following year set it was decided the inaugural event would be hosted by the Olympic Gold medal holders from 1924 and 1928 Uruguay and held in 1930.
Unlike the modern day tournament with teams battling through a two-year qualification process, Rimet had to persuade European teams to compete. The British teams decided not to play over a dispute over the amateur issue while other European nations balked at the long sea journey required to attend the tournament.
The dream was realized on June 21, 1930 when Rimet, the French, Belgian, and Romanian delegations boarded the Conte Verde liner headed to the first World Cup. And in Rimet’s bag was the inaugural trophy made by sculptor Abel Lafleur.
The trophy, which was re-named the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1948, was presented to Nasazzi, the captain of Uruguay, after they defeated Argentina 4-2 in the first FIFA World Cup final.
The excitement for the event was evident in Uruguay but not so much so in Europe. Rimet still had to sell the idea to many European nations and throughout his time as FIFA President had to appease national associations from the two continents.
Rimet stepped down after 33-years in charge of FIFA at the 1954 Congress in Berne with his last ceremonial act being to open the FIFA World Cup in Lausanne.
1873 – Jules Rimet, president of FIFA (d. 1954)
1968 – Matthew Le Tissier, English footballer
1970 – Pär Zetterberg, Swedish football player
1971 – Jorge Costa, Portuguese footballer
1978 – Steven Thompson, Scottish footballer
1980 – Paul Ambrosi, Ecuadorian footballer
1980 – Niels Lodberg, Danish footballer
1982 – Cosmin Curiman, Romanian football player
1985 – Digão, Brazilian footballer
1986 – Tom Craddock, English footballer
1988 – Will Atkinson, English footballer (Hull City)