Fédération Internationale de Football Association

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Football's international ruling body, founded in 1904, in Paris, by representatives of sporting or football organizations of seven European nations: France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The football associations of the UK were conspicuous by their absence; led as they were by the FA (Football Association [of England]), and controlling the rule-making body the International (Football) Board, they arrogantly declared that there was no need for any international organizational body. Two years later, though, with the new initiative faltering, the British associations did join, taking up the leadership role when an Englishman became the second of FIFA's presidents. FIFA's presidents have been Robert Guérin of France (1904–6); Daniel Woolfall of England (1906–18); Jules Rimet of France (1921–54); Rodolphe Seeldrayers of Belgium (1954–6); Englishmen Arthur Drewry and Stanley Rous (1956–61 and 1961–74 respectively); Brazilian João Havelange (1974–88), and Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter of Switzerland (1998 onwards). Unlike the reformed International Olympic Committee, there is no limit to the number of elected four-year periods that a president can serve, nor any age limit for FIFA office-holders.

FIFA operated on a relatively low profile in its early years, but nevertheless contributed to sport's emergence as an expression of what Roland Robertson called the third phase of globalization. FIFA was essentially dormant during the years immediately following World War I, and organizational development was more noticeable in mid-Europe, with the Mitropa Cup attracting Austrian, Hungarian, and other clubs to compete in an international tournament. Football was becoming increasingly internationalized, featuring (in its amateur forms) in early Olympic Games, the British initially dominant. As the game grew in popularity around the world, Uruguay's calculated football triumphs in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics challenged, and superseded, the performance and competitive levels of any purist or idealist model of amateurism. The British associations, though, reviving their parochial insularity, withdrew from FIFA in 1926–8 in disputes over amateur status and Olympic eligibility.

FIFA's first World Cup in 1930 was both hosted and won by Uruguay, building on its double Olympic triumph. A South American federation, CONMEBOL (with ten member associations in 2008), could by then claim to have been in operation for fourteen years. By 1930, the power struggles and rivalry between Europe and South America were framing the worldwide development of the game. Jules Rimet was stubbornly and effectively resistant to the formation of continental federations, wanting to keep the world game under the control of the single body, based since the 1920s in Zurich, Switzerland. The end of his third-of-a-century tenure corresponded with the growth of political autonomy and independence for many colonized nations and territories, though, and the foundation of other continental federations after World War II both stimulated the worldwide growth of football in new markets and for new or previously neglected constituencies, and simultaneously generated intensified worldwide rivalries in the politics of the game. The European federation, UEFA, the Union des Associations Européennes de Football, dates from 1954 (53 member associations in 2008); as does the Asian federation, the AFC or Asian Football Confederation (46 member associations in 2008); Africa's confederation, CAF, the Confédération Africaine de Football, was established in 1957 (54 member associations in 2008); CONCACAF, the federation for the North and Central Americas and the Caribbean, was inaugurated in 1961 (40 member associations in 2008); and the Oceania Football Confederation, OFC, was recognized in 1966 (11 member associations in 2008). FIFA reported 208 members in 2008, and the higher total of all the listed member associations of the federations is explained by the lesser status of some member countries of the federations that do not qualify for full recognition in FIFA. How these member associations vote at FIFA Congresses determines the election of the president and matters of principle, statute, and policy, and some federation officers have pledged a commitment, and even boasted of an ability to deliver federation votes as blocs in favour of particular candidates. World Cup Finals are allocated by the FIFA Executive Committee, comprising 24 members.


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