The FIFA World Cup is an international Football (Soccer) competition that is held every four years and is the ultimate showcase for what is commonly referred to as "The Beautiful Game." Football is arguably the most popular sport on the planet, and this competition gives players across the globe the opportunity to perform at the highest level with billions of eyes watching their every move.
The first World Cup was hosted by Uruguay in 1930 as a way to capitalize on the sports growing popularity and influence in sporting circles. The Olympic Games had included Football as a main event up to that point and FIFA, the worlds governing body for the sport, took advantage of the opportunity. Uruguay had been a dominant figure in International Football competitions at the time and were awarded the honor of hosting the World Cup in no small part due to their success on the pitch. The host nation did not disappoint, earning several victories and claiming a 4-2 victory over Argentina in the final match of the competition.
There were many logistical difficulties in the early years of hosting a global sporting event. Travel was not as convenient and accessible as it is in today's world. In 1930, the tournament was held in South America and only 4 European countries made the long journey to participate. Conversely, the following two world cups were held in Europe and were sparsely populated by teams from South America. Unfortunately, politics and war also impacted the early history of the World Cup, cancelling the competitions that would have normally been held in 1942 and 1946.
Despite these early difficulties the World Cup has grown steadily over the years in popularity, participation and attendance. In the first three world cups there were between 13 and 16 teams competing for the prestigious trophy. In contrast, the 2010 world cup to be held in South Africa will boast a total of 32 teams fighting to be recognized as the world champion of the sport. In Uruguay there were roughly 30,000 spectators who were able to attend the match. The final in the next edition of the World Cup is slated for Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg, South Africa and will have a capacity of close to 95,000 people. Technological advances have also had a significant impact on the growth of the competition. The Internet provides a dynamic medium for keeping up with the news of your favorite team, and most people are able to watch the games as they are played as a result of television broadcasts carried live around the globe.
Brazil is the only nation to have appeared in every single World Cup competition. The only thing that rivals their consistency in participation is their dominance on the field, holding the record for most World Cups won by any country with 5. Other interesting points of interest regarding the World Cup include the following: El Salvador holds the record for most games played without a win or a draw (6), Lothar Matthaus of Germany has played in more finals matches than any other player (25), and Diego Maradona of Argentina has the most appearances as the captain of his side with 16.
The World Cup has the power to captivate the global population every four years like no other event. Since 1930, people from across the globe have counted the days until the next competition in hopes that their nation will rise to the top in glorious victory. Only time will tell which captain will hold the trophy high in Johannesburg, South Africa next summer, but there is no question that billions of people will be watching with hopes in their hearts and passion in their souls.