The 21st World Cup gets underway next month in Moscow and billions around the world are expected to tune in during the monthlong tournament – a far cry from its low-key start in 1930 in Uruguay.
Back then, many European countries, including Germany and Italy, opted against making the multi-week boat trip to Montevideo, while England and the other three British associations had withdrawn from FIFA following a dispute over payments. In the end, only four teams from Europe made the trip.
A quarter of a century or so after the idea of a global soccer tournament was first suggested, 13 teams gathered in South America.
Uruguay, which had won the gold medal in soccer at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, was given the right to host the competition for the Jules Rimet Trophy, the World Cup’s original name in honor of the FIFA president who had done so much to make the tournament a reality.
France forward Lucien Laurent scored the first goal in World Cup history in the 19th minute of his team’s opening match against Mexico. Barely 5,000 spectators were present to witness that historic moment in sporting history.
“And it was snowing!” Laurent recalled years later.
Eventually, Uruguay faced off against Argentina to see who would become the first winner of the World Cup. The final at the Centenario Stadium started off fairly bizarrely, with a disagreement as to which ball to use. Eventually, it was agreed that an Argentine ball would be used in the first half and a Uruguayan one in the second.
The arrangement seemed to work for Uruguay, which came from behind with three second-half goals to win 4-2 in front of nearly 70,000 supporters. Others, however, estimate that the actual crowd was nearer to the 100,000 mark.
The World Cup had achieved liftoff.
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