For a game that has become an exercise in nostalgia – fandom being counted out in players and matches remembered – football can forget its humble origins. FIFA, the game’s governing body, has come a long way since its foundation in 1904 as a small Continental association, after having been rejected by the Home Nations. Yet even early on, it never underestimated the importance of football’s symbiotic relationship with politics.
Before the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Enrique Buero, Uruguay’s minister plenipotentiary to Bern, recognised that footballing success had a greater significance off the pitch than on it. He declared, ‘A victory for the Uruguayan team in the 1924 Olympics would have great repercussions in the sporting world, which nowadays links all the politicians and leaders of these old societies.’ When Uruguay was chosen to host the inaugural World Cup, many of the European footballing superpowers declined to take part. Uruguayan diplomats began a round of entreaties, in which compensation was offered to those professionals whose livelihood might be affected by spending two months abroad. The FA, which had been begged to attend, did not even offer up an excuse for declining the invitation