It is over one hundred years since FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, was formed in Paris, France, in 1904. This was really the start of the organised international game, and they must have got it right, because the ever increasing interest, in world football, is truly amazing.
From humble beginnings, the game has increased in popularity, to become the sporting phenomenon it is today. If horse racing is the sport of kings, then football is the king of sports! Every four years a national team are crowned world champions to the delight of their loyal subjects.
Since its inception in 1930, the World Cup has been won, in almost equal measure, by European and South American countries. However, talented players are emerging from other continents, Australia, Africa, Asia, and even the United States, who hosted the major tournament in1994. Surely, it will not be long before a team from one of these other nations, comes out on top.
Football clubs, such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and many others, reflect their host cities and have become household names, far beyond their city confines. The most famous, of the many professional players, are instantly recognisable. The sport has attracted rich, and successful men as chairmen, and the best players and managers command earnings comparable with those of pop singers and movie stars.
Soccer’s popularity has developed, not just from fanatical supporters flooding through turnstiles into enormous arenas. Vast sums of money are paid for live television and other rights. As a result, important games are watched by millions of armchair fans, many of whom subscribe to satellite, and related media services. Air travel has become less expensive and more accessible, so that supporters can fly to support their teams, wherever they are playing. International football stars, frequently sign for clubs outside their home countries, and command massive transfer fees.
There is no doubt that international football is a mammoth business. From gate money to mass media rights, sponsorships to replica team clothing, a sporting colossus has arisen. Children, and grownups as well, want to wear the colours of their preferred players or clubs. They kick balls around in sports fields, parks, wasteland and quiet streets. Young people practice and aspire to develop that extra bit of expertise, that would catapult them into a life of fame and riches. Most will go on to achieve other things but occasionally, a boy wonder will appear, to dazzle and entertain, with the world at his feet!