One-hundred years ago, the world governing body of football (soccer) was created to help players from around the world compete in what is known as the 'beautiful game.'
In 1904, travel between countries was often difficult. Language and monetary differences made extensive journeys even harder. Television did not exist. But a common link existed 100 years ago in the sport of football, which was thriving and growing despite the lack of instant communications and modern travel. Regional football leaders recognized the need for a global alliance to help make common rules and promote international games.
Current FIFA president Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter talks about the creation of the sport's world governing body.
"The idea of the foundation of FIFA in 1904 was to install international connections, to have international matches," he says. "It was also for the transfer of players. This was the reason why seven (national football) associations came together on the May 21, 1904 in Paris."
FIFA has grown from its original seven member associations to its current total of 204. The first FIFA World Cup tournament was hosted and won by Uruguay in 1930. The event, held every four years to determine which nation has the best football team, has grown into the most popular single sports event in the world.
FIFA is celebrating this week with games at the Stade de France near Paris on May 20, the eve of its anniversary. The participating teams will represent the three reigning champions, 2002 World Cup champion Brazil, 2003 Women's World Cup winner Germany and Euro 2000 champion France. The German women's team will take on an all-star team of players from the rest of the world and that match will be followed by Brazil against host France. Nearly 90,000 tickets for the event were sold out within a couple of days. The match is to be shown live in more than 100 countries in all six football confederations.
Mr. Blatter says world football has come to mean much more than just trying to kick a ball into the goal.
"It is a school of life based on individual discipline, respect to the others, teammates, the opponent, referee," he explains. "It is a fighting game with a fighting spirit. But a good spirit. And this game provokes a lot of hope. Not only to become a better footballer, but to become a better human being."
FIFA has been based in Zurich, Switzerland for the past 70 years. On May 14, the foundation stone was set for the organization's new home near the Zurich Zoo, which is expected to open in 2006. The building's foundation stone contains a one-point-three meter diameter steel football into which 204 Zurich schoolchildren each placed a bag containing earth from one of FIFA's 204 member associations.
Also as part of the Centennial celebrations, FIFA has produced a series of television programs and DVD's (digital video discs). FIFA calls them "cutting edge products" that "re-live the drama, passion and excitement of the game's greatest moments and highlight the work and development of football's governing body over the last 100 years."