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The Story Of The First Ever World Cup: How Uruguay Became The Original World Champions

Uruguay celebrated in front of their own fans
Uruguay celebrated in front of their own fans

On this day in 1930, the globe welcomed the greatest sporting competition of all as the first ever World Cup got underway in Uruguay. The hosts would become the first ever nation to win the World Cup but it was the creation of the tournament by then FIFA president Jules Rimet that would leave a lasting impression on the footballing world.

There was a serious demand for a competitive international tournament to be held and when the upcoming Olympics in Los Angeles confirmed that they would not be including football as an event, Rimet took action. An international football tournament would be held in the summer of 1930 and as reigning Olympic champions, Uruguay were chosen as the host nation.

It was a landmark year for the South American country as it also marked 100 years since they became an independent nation. As part of their World Cup plans, they built the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo, the city where all the games would be played, across three stadiums.

There were issues with getting European sides to travel over to South America for the tournament. In fact, just two months before the first game was set to kick off, no European teams at all had confirmed they were sending a side, and many doubted that the inaugural tournament would even be played.

The Football Association - representing all the home nations at the time - were even invited over by the Uruguayan FA despite having resigned from FIFA at that particular point. They rejected the invite but once again it was Rimet who stepped up to the plate and convinced four sides from Europe to send squads over. Romania, Belgium, France and Yugoslavia would be the four nations who competed in the very first World Cup and became a part of football history.

Back then it was not as simple to hop over the Atlantic Ocean and so an epic voyage began. The SS Conte Verde was boarded by the Romanians and Italians in Genoa, before the Belgiums hopped on in Barcelona. The FIFA president, three teams of officials and three of the participating teams travelled for eight days across the pond before reaching Rio de Janeiro where the Brazilian squad also embarked. 

The whole party arrived in Uruguay on July 4, a whole two weeks after they had set off from Europe. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia did things their own way and after a tedious bus journey from Serbia boarded a mail steam cruiser which travelled from Marseille straight to South America. Imagine an international squad taking on this mammoth journey in this day and age and then attempting to win a World Cup! No wonder the host nation won.

France and USA kicked off the tournament simultaneously with wins before Uruguay began their campaign on their Independence Day with a win over Peru, followed by a 4-0 thrashing of Romania which saw them through to the semi-finals. Yugoslavia, Argentina and the USA also won their groups and qualified for the semi-finals and although the players on team USA made it through with ease, the physio didn’t. He reportedly knocked himself out when he ran onto the pitch to treat a player, dropped a bottle of chloroform and inhaled the fumes as he bent over to pick it up. He then had to be stretchered off. 

The semi-finals themselves were not without controversy, despite the one-sided scorelines. The referee from Brazil, Gilberto de Almeida Rego, had accidentally ended a group game six minutes early and was put under huge pressure in the last-four clash between hosts Uruguay and Yugoslavia, with accusations of match-fixing still argued to this day.

With the scores level at 1-1, a policeman kicked the ball back onto the pitch, the referee allowed the play to continue and Peregrino Anselmo put Uruguay ahead. Yugoslavia equalised but Rego ruled that goal out for no obvious reason. 

With photographers and policemen surrounding the pitch, the ball looked to have gone out of play but again he allowed play to continue and once more, Uruguay scored. The game may have had its contentious moments but the 6-1 full-time score looked comprehensive in favour of the home side.

That scoreline was repeated in the other semi-final as Argentina wiped the floor with a USA side that by that point looked homesick and out of their depth. That set-up a mouth-watering final between Uruguay and Argentina who had both impressed throughout the inaugural competition and it was a repeat of the Olympics final that occurred just two years previously. A niche bit of trivia is that two balls were used in the final, one picked by Uruguay in the first half, and one by Argentina in the second.

The hosts took the lead in front of a boisterous crowd of 93,000 but Argentina pegged them back before taking a 2-1 lead themselves heading into half-time. Alberto Suppici, the Uruguayan manager, masterminded a remarkable second half comeback that saw his side score three goals without reply, giving them a 4-2 win in the first ever World Cup final. Suppici still retains the record as the youngest ever World Cup winning manager, picking up the trophy at the tender age of 31. 

A special mention must be given to Argentine forward Guillermo Stabile who scored in every game and picked up the Golden Boot with a remarkable eight goals in four games. This is even more of an achievement when you consider that he never played for La Albiceleste before the tournament, didn’t start the first game against France, and never played again for his nation following the World Cup final. He only ever played four games for Argentina, yet he has a World Cup Golden Boot. A remarkable achievement.

So the host nation and pre-tournament favourites were sent into party-mode as the packed out crowd were able to call their heroes the World Champions. They watched their side lift the ‘Victory Trophy’, a gold trophy that was later renamed after the founding father of the World Cup, Jules Rimet and the overwhelming success of this tournament welcomed in a new dawn of football.

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