The Free World Cup: What if the World Cup began in 1906?

Who do you think will win the 1906 World Cup?

  • Scotland

    Votes: 2 66.7%
  • Austria

    Votes: 1 33.3%
  • Argentina

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Denmark

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .
Imagine a world where Australia and the United States are formidable powers in international football.
Imagine a world where the United Kingdom isn’t the only country with multiple teams in FIFA.
Imagine a world where football is the dominant sport in India, Canada and the Caribbean.

Imagine a world where the the World Cup began in 1906.

This is the world of the Free World Cup, where FIFA is more open and less corrupt, smaller teams get a chance to shine, and “unofficial” teams become official. International competitions abound, and there is no one true dominant force in the football world.

NOTE: This timeline will NOT be about club competitions. It will be solely focused on international football.
Before FIFA

Before FIFA​

The first ever international football match was organized by one Charles W. Alcock, honorary secretary and treasurer of the Football Association, and the future founder of the FA Cup. The match, held at The Oval on 5 March 1870, drew from English and London-based Scottish-based players, and ended with a 1-1 result. 4 subsequent matches were played from 19 November 1870 to 24 February 1872. However, the match was criticized due to not drawing Scottish players that played for Scottish clubs.

Alcock then offered a challenge to Scottish clubs, to play by English rules but on Scottish turf. In 30 November 1872, the first ever truly representative international football match was held, between a representative English side made up of multiple players from different clubs chosen by Alcock, and the Scottish side being entirely made up of Queen’s Park players, the leading Scottish club at the time. The final result was 0-0.

Over the years, England and Scotland would butt heads over multiple friendlies, with England winning 2, Scotland winning 1 and 1 match being tied. In 25 March 1876, Wales, a country where association football had struggled to become popular, played their first international, a friendly game against Scotland, which ended with a score of 4-0 and a loss for the Welsh. The Scottish side claimed victory in front of a crowd of 17,000 people, a record number at the time.

England, Scotland and Wales would keep playing each other, until, on 18 February 1882, Ireland made their international debut against England, being blown out 13-0 by the English side. Over time, these international friendlies would become more and more frequent, and a schedule of international matches gradually developed, until the first British Home Championship in 1884, where all six possible matches were played in one year. However, recognition of this as one tournament came slowly, as the main focus was the rivalry between two teams in each match, instead of any overall tournament. Talk of recognizing these friendlies as a tournament and using league tables to show their results began in the 1890s, and by 1908 everything from 1884 onward was considered a British Home Championship.

Over time, more nations would adopt football and found their own teams, national leagues and, of course, national assocations. Additionally, regional associations appeared, like the Isle of Man and Catalonia. However, international football using representative composite teams was still not a popular idea.

More representative football teams would emerge as well. During the 1891-92 season, a representative American-Canadian team toured the British Isles, going up against not just local clubs but also representative sides of all 4 Home Nations, not succeeding in defeating any of them. In 1900, teams representing France and Belgium participated in that year’s Olympic Games along with a team representing all of the United Kingdom.

In 1902, history would be made once again: on the 20th of July, Argentina and Uruguay played each other in the first international match ever held in South America, ending in a 6-0 blowout by the Argentines. On the 12th of October, Austria and Hungary played each other, which ended in a 5-0 scoreline and a victory for Austria. The next year, on the 5th of April 1903, Bohemia would play its first international against Hungary, with a 2-1 loss. In May 1904, 20 days before the foundation of FIFA, France and Belgium would play their first truly representative football match against each other, which ended in a 3-3 draw.
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21 May 1904 – The Foundation of FIFA

21 May 1904 – The Foundation of FIFA​

OOC NOTE: This is where the divergences begin.

As football was spreading, international matches were being held more and more, often unofficially and not involving truly “national” selections of players. Because of this, the need for a global governing body to regulate these matches emerged. The Home Nations, although initially against the idea, eventually caved in after some convincing, and multiple federations from both Europe and South America were invited to a meeting in Paris, at the rear of the headquarters of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques.

At this meeting, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) would be created. It was idealized as a united governing body that had overarching power and regulated all member associations. The initial statutes that were decided on were the following:
  • Any association with substantial recognition from other associations will be accepted into FIFA.
  • FIFA was to be in charge of organizing all major international matches and friendlies.
  • Players could only play for 2 national associations total.
  • A player suspended by one association would be suspended from all associations.
  • Non-FIFA matches from its foundation onward would not be recognized by the federation.
Associations representing the following nations signed the charter and joined FIFA during the day of its creation:
  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bohemia
  • Denmark
  • England
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • The Netherlands
  • Scotland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Uruguay
  • Wales
While many ideas during the meeting were debated on and rejected, one of them was particularly popular: the organization of a tournament between all nations in FIFA, to be known as the World Cup of Football, within the next 2 years. The idea was originally proposed by the Scottish and Belgian representatives, and was unanimously voted to pass. Therefore, in 1906, all FIFA member nations would travel to Scotland and play a 16-team tournament in knockout format. Due to the long distance between Europe and South America, all travel expenses would be paid for Argentina and Uruguay by FIFA.

Although things in FIFA appeared to be smooth sailing, issues soon arose. As in, mere hours after its creation soon.
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The Gibraltar Problem and Regional Federations

The Gibraltar Problem and Regional Federations​

Gibraltar. A very contentious geopolitcal issue between the Spanish and the British. How does it relate to football, though?

Well, Gibraltar has a football association. It has had one since 1895, and an established national side since 1901. The president of the association caught wind of the news of the creation of FIFA, and requested to join 9 hours after its creation, seeing as the Home Nations, despite not being countries, were allowed into the budding international footballing federation. The Gibraltar side had already played a multitude of matches against British military teams, and had played against Spanish, Portuguese and Maltese clubs previously. These matches would prove that Gibraltar had enough international recognition as a football association to be allowed to join FIFA.

However, the Spanish delegation was not happy about Gibraltar’s attempts to join. They argued that Gibraltar, as it is a colony and lacks a national league, should not be allowed to join. However, the British delegations argued that Gibraltar had enough football history to do so, and that to not accept it but accept teams like Ireland into FIFA would be a mistake. After enough back-and-forth, things calmed down, and the Swiss delegation was chosen to mediate the conflict. The Swiss ended up ruling in favour of Gibraltar, and the association was allowed into FIFA.

This bout, however, brought up other issues. Would all colonies be allowed to join provided they had a football association? That would let nations like India, Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong join. Likewise, what would they do about independent regional associations? Catalonia and the Isle of Man have their own football federations and clubs that play as if they were a separate nation altogether. Should those be allowed into FIFA, if colonies are?

Over the next month, the member nations of FIFA (minus Gibraltar, who was given a mere observer role in the meetings) debated on these issues. This led FIFA to initiate a research operation to catalogue all regional federations around the world, and see how to deal with them individually.

The first country that was looked into was Portugal. Portugal was not one federation; rather, it was three – Lisbon, Portalegre and Porto – and these organizations barely interacted, but still showed interest in joining FIFA. In other cases, there were no major federations at all, and matches were just… played. The intent of FIFA was to include all nations of Europe within it, but this was difficult. While the three Portuguese federations were in fact willing to cooperate and join as one, other times they weren’t so lucky, especially when it came to Brazil.

Brazil is a massive country, and many of its federations were willing to join FIFA. Due to its enormous size, it was impossible to organize country-wide tournaments. Instead, state championships ruled the land. Trying to get every state federation represented while also having one team for all of Brazil was impractical, and the federations did not want one big entity to represent them all as Brazil, as they thought that entity would put too much focus on states like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro while ignoring everything else.

There was also the issue with certain countries having federations for a specific region within the country and not interacting with the rest, as was the case with Catalonia. Spain, already mad about Gibraltar, did not like that this was even in consideration, and threatened to leave. However, FIFA threatened back by saying none of the members would play against Spain and Spain would be left out of all FIFA-organized events if that were to occur. They backed down, and began discussing the possibility of admitting Catalonia into FIFA. It had an established league, stable teams and had already requested to join during the first week of FIFA’s creation.

It was decided that these headaches would be sorted out after the World Cup is finished. For now, the initial 16 members + Gibraltar would be the only ones allowed into FIFA, with everyone else being under consideration for membership. The World Cup would be held with 16 teams as planned and Gibraltar would have to be content with playing friendlies.
1904, 1905 and 1906 – Preparation Matches and the Imperial Cup

1904, 1905 and 1906 – Preparation Matches and the Imperial Cup​

The years between the foundation and the World Cup went by without a hitch… for the most part.

Two British Home Championships were played, with England winning the 1905 edition and England and Scotland sharing the victory in the 1906 edition.

Football did come to the Olympic Games again, but due to the nature of the St. Louis games, only 3 teams played; 2 American and 1 Canadian. The Canadian Galt F.C. beat out both American teams to take the gold medal. The only effect this really had was increase FIFA’s interest in North America.

Every FIFA member association played a few friendlies against nearby teams in preparation for the cup, save for the Home Nations. These were officially labelled as “preparation matches” and had 2 legs each. All matches were played on the same date in different years: August 15th of 1904 and 1905.

Hungary v Austria 5-3/2-0
Argentina v Uruguay 1-2/0-0
Belgium v Netherlands 5-0/1-3
Sweden v Denmark 1-0/2-2
France v Switzerland 0-9/3-2
Germany v Bohemia 2-2/4-2

The teams played other friendlies, but these were not officialised by FIFA.

One new competition arose during this brief period: the Imperial Cup, played between football teams representing the various kingdoms and counties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Strangely, this tournament was actually recognized by FIFA, despite mostly featuring teams that were not part of the federation at the time. The teams that participated in this cup represented Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Galicia and Lodomeria, Bukovina, Croatia-Slavonia, Dalmatia and the Küstenland, known in English as the Austrian Littoral. The tournament was played entirely during June 1905.

This tournament was used to test the knockout system in international competition; the 8 teams were randomly drawn (except for Austria and Hungary, who were put at the far ends and were not allowed to meet until the final) and put into a bracket. The results were... shocking, to say the least:

Round of 8
Austria v Bukovina 4-0
Bohemia v Croatia-Slavonia 1-0
Dalmatia v Galicia and Lodomeria 1-6
Hungary v Küstenland 1-2

Austria v Bohemia 5-0
Galicia and Lodomeria v Küstenland 2-5

Austria v Küstenland 3-1

This tournament was a shock to everyone, who expected an Austria v Hungary final. The success of the Küstenland team in this competition helped legitimize regional associations in the eyes of many and how they could sometimes be better than the national teams, and made FIFA further consider what stance to take in regards to them. There was a lot of pressure on FIFA to make a choice, but they stood by their decision to discuss it after the upcoming World Cup.

1906 was completely empty in fixtures save for the British Home Championship, to give the teams preparation time and the associations to pick who they will send out to the Cup.
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A FIFA World Cup-Timeline! Finally! There are way too many TLs on this site based around this weird egg-ball-sport called "football".
I'm following this project with great interest, that said, if you are going to build a timeline where big clubs from big cities in big countries aren't dominant I feel like it's not going to be realistic.
I'm following this project with great interest, that said, if you are going to build a timeline where big clubs from big cities in big countries aren't dominant I feel like it's not going to be realistic.
This project won't be dealing with clubs. It will only be about international football. And by "no true dominant force in the football world" I meant that there is no truly dominant team in the world of international football; it would be far more competitive and most teams on the WC would be likely candidates, as overall footballing quality around the world is increased.
The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – Round of 16

The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – Round of 16​

And so, the day finally came. The 21st of May 1906, FIFA’s 2-year anniversary. All teams travelled to Scotland, and were put into a draw. The draw had some prerequisites for things that couldn’t happen: no Home Nation could be paired up initially, Austria v Hungary and Argentina v Uruguay could not occur in the Round of 16, and the host nation was to be drawn at the top of the bracket. These are the results of the draw:

All matches per round were to be played in the same day, in different locations across Scotland. Some of the pairings, like Hungary v Ireland, were predicted to end in a very obvious manner, and others, like England v Argentina, were a complete toss-up.

The first match played was Scotland v Uruguay, which started 1 hour before the rest. The Uruguayan selection, having travelled all the way from South America, was still exhausted from days of training aboard a ship in the sea, and one of the players, the goalkeeper, became seasick during the journey. Because there were no substitutions at the time, the team’s coach subbed in for the goalkeeper. This would end up being a disastrous decision, which costed Uruguay the game, as they were demolished 8 goals to 1; although the Uruguayan side had scored first in 6’, the Scottish counter-attacked with a quick flurry of 5 goals in between 10’ and 19’, with 2 more during the rest of the first half. In the second half, only one goal was scored, but, notably, it was by the goalkeeper: the Scottish side, already bored destroying Uruguay, decided to let the goalkeeper try for a goal during a penalty, which he scored.

The match between Switzerland and Bohemia, meanwhile, was not as exciting; both teams came very prepared, which made the first half a bit of a slog as no goals were scored and there was a constant back-and-forth. However, the Bohemians kicked into gear and scored 3 goals during the second half, dominating the Swiss side, as they could only get 1 goal in.

The match between Austria and France was another curbstomp, in favour of the Austrians. The French side was very underdeveloped, and had already been completely humiliated at home by the Swiss during the preparation matches. Austria, meanwhile, had kickstarted the Imperial Cup, had an established and reputable league, and had made excellent choices with their players, adopting many from the Küstenland side that caused a lot of buzz during the Imperial Cup. The Austrians scored 4 goals in the first half, and 4 in the second half, while the French could get none in. This was the goalkeeper’s last match ever, as he retired from footballing out of shame.

Sweden vs. the Netherlands was up next, and this one was very messy; neither side was particularly precise at hitting the goal, so it took a record amount of failed attempts during a FIFA match (29 failed shots from the Swedes, 23 from the Dutch, for a total of 52) to get only 2 goals during the game, which were both Swedish.

The Wales vs. Germany match was relatively standard for the most part; however, it caused the first ever World Cup controversy. Neither side had scored a goal by the final minute, so the referee simply let the game go on. No-one in the field was keeping track of the time besides the referee, as the stadium in East Kilbride was very underdeveloped and had no other method of tracking time. The match ended up lasting 125 minutes, with the Welsh scoring one goal at 121’ and taking the victory.

The England vs. Argentina match was highly anticipated, as both teams were considered to be in equal footing in terms of ability. However, this perception was crushed when the Argentines started with 2 goals from the outset in 4’ and 7’. The English struck back with a goal just before the end of the first half, and things looked to be amping up for a very competitive match. But, alas, the Argentines scored a further 4 goals, with the English once again getting another goal just before the clock stopped, absolutely ruining any prospects of exciting football.

The Belgium vs. Denmark game was described as particularly dull. Despite ending in a 3-3 draw, everything but the goals was not exciting, as it seemed the forwards on both teams were not keen to shoot at the goal too frequently; at the very least, Denmark had a 100% accuracy rate in their attempts at goals. Due to the draw, and there being no rules by FIFA in place to break ties at the time, the match was replayed the next day. This match was even more boring, as the players were exhausted from the game the previous day. In the end, Denmark managed to score a goal, and they advanced further into the tournament.

The final match was Hungary vs. Ireland. Due to Ireland being widely regarded as the worst team in FIFA, everyone expected this game to be a complete embarassment for them. And it was. Hungary, eternal rivals to Austria, broke the Austrian record of most goals scored during a World Cup match on the same day it was set. They scored a barrage of 14 goals, and the Irish team was completely hopeless; they didn’t manage to score a single goal, and the Hungarians wouldn’t even give them any mercy.

By the end of the 22nd of May, the results were the following:
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This project won't be dealing with clubs. It will only be about international football. And by "no true dominant force in the football world" I meant that there is no truly dominant team in the world of international football; it would be far more competitive and most teams on the WC would be likely candidates, as overall footballing quality around the world is increased.
As a side-note to this I won't be completely excluding any mentions of specific clubs, but I won't talk about club competitions themselves.
The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – Quarter-finals

The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – Quarter-finals​

And so, the players got 4 days of rest, and, on the 25th of May, the matches started back up again. The quarter-finals were about to begin.

The first match was Scotland vs. Bohemia. Both teams had had plenty of practice before the cup, playing in the British Home Championship and the Imperial Cup respectively. Nobody expected what happened to these teams, though; both teams had gone out drinking the night before the match, and ended up going to the same pub. The Bohemians, with their poor grasp of English, accidentally offended the Scottish team with their words, and they got into a bar fight. Two Bohemian players, a defender and a forward, ended up with broken bones, and could not play the match. Bohemia had to bring in not just their coach but also a Bohemian ship captain that came with them to play. The Scottish team, meanwhile, only received facial injuries, and nothing major on their bodies. On match day, the teams met on the field, and an event known as the Battle of Edinburgh took place, with both teams fouling each other constantly and injuring themselves repeatedly. The first half ended with no goals. During half-time, the teams were told to calm down, and, if they didn’t, they would be disqualified from the competition. They agreed to behave, and, during the second half, Scotland thrashed Bohemia 8 to 2, and advanced to the semi-finals.

The next match was more in the interests of fair play. The Swedes and Austrians traded shots constantly, and the Austrians managed to score one. Sweden’s horrible accuracy cost them the match this time. The Austrian players began to gain confidence that they would be world champions, and celebrated their victory overtly, to the annoyance of the Swedes and local Scottish that came to see the match.

Wales vs. Argentina was very interesting. Argentina, having already knocked England out, was expected to beat Wales pretty heavily. Also, the Argentines were emboldened by national pride, as the 25th of May was an important day of celebration for the nation. Wales, meanwhile, was afraid to square up against the Argentines, after seeing what happened to England. Both teams were very fierce on the field, with the first half ending in a 2-2 draw. The second half was mostly goal-less, but, in the last 12 minutes of the match, the Welsh scored a goal, followed by 2 more Argentine goals, granting them the victory.

The match between Hungary and Denmark seemed very one-sided, at first. Hungary’s extreme beating of Ireland, coupled with their energy and determination to face Austria in the Cup, gave them a lot of confidence to defeat Denmark, which was exhausted after playing 2 games, both of which were described as extremely lacklustre. Of course, nobody expected the Danish to win the match. The Hungarians came out into the field… and were brought back down to Earth. The Danish goalkeeper blocked every single one of their constant barrage of shots, save for one, while the rest of his team snuck past the Hungarian defense twice, leaving them dumbstruck. Interest in Denmark rose, and all Irishmen in Scotland began to root for them.

By the end of the day, these were the results:
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The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – Semi-finals

The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – Semi-finals​

By this time, news of the World Cup had reached all of Europe, and had just begun to reach South America. Hearing the stories, match breakdowns, looking at the results and looking at pictures of the event made all football fans across the world excited for who would be crowned champion of the world. Attendance rates were skyrocketing, and Scottish stadiums became packed to their absolute limit, with people gathering outside the stadiums if they didn’t fit. At this point, every nation that wasn’t represented in the semi-finals was rooting for one of the 4 remaining teams: Scotland, Austria, Argentina and Denmark.

And so, on the 29th of May, the semi-finals began.

The first match was contested between Scotland and Austria. The poor Aberdeen stadium could barely contain the large crowd that had gathered to watch the game, and the chants were deafening. The two teams came out on the pitch, and the crowd was certainly not expecting the match to be a shining example of shithousery. The Scottish played a dirty, dirty game, and the poor Austrians could not stand a chance. The amount of fouls in this game exceeded every other international football match at the time, and the number of fouls would remain a record for a very long time. Of course, the mostly Scottish crowd still supported their team, but the most diehard of supporters could feel that something was up. In the end, Austria made a valiant effort to fight back, but the Scottish were as good at scoring goals as they were dislocating legs. The match ended with a 4-2 scoreline, and a win for Scotland, letting them advance into the final.

Argentina vs. Denmark was the other semi-finals match. This match-up, while not as intense as previous ones, still provided some good entertainment. After a lot of close calls and missed penalties, Denmark shot in a goal at 49’, and another at 61’. The rest of the match was a constant attack by the Argentines, while the only choice for the Danish was to go on the defensive and try to counter-attack. The Argentines possessed the ball the most during the game, but, in the end, they were unable to score a goal against the goalkeeper, and the Danes advanced to the final.

After these games, it was announced that Austria and Argentina would play a match for 3rd place as compensation for getting this far into the competition. While this match would obviously not get a lot of attention with the final coming up, it was a good thing for the Argentines, who had travelled such a long way to get to the tournament.

Here are the final fixtures:

The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – 3rd Place Match and Final

The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – 3rd Place Match and Final​

It was decided that the 3rd place match would be played a few days before the final, so as to not take attention away from it. Argentina and Austria, both evenly matched, played a mixed game on offense and defense. However, the match itself was less exciting than the rest, as neither team was putting up their best act due to being tired from all the matches and playing for what is essentially nothing. Both teams completely wore each other out, but Austria crumbled first and the Argentines managed to sneak in a goal, and won themselves 3rd place. They won nothing but “prestige” and the only thing both sides were happy about was that the match was finally over.

And now, the long-awaited final. The match to decide who would be the champions of the world: Scotland or Denmark. While Scotland was the stronger team and obviously supported by the local Scottish, Denmark was the favourite of the rest of the world. Scotland’s violent antics and extreme luck during their games made audiences think that they were not deserving of the title of best footballing nation on Earth. Denmark, meanwhile, had fought tooth and nail and, against all odds, managed to reach the final after beating out 3 formidable teams. At 13:00, 5 June 1906, in Glasgow, at Hampden Park, the first World Cup final began.

The Scottish immediately went on the offensive, but did not employ their previous tactics of fouling until the other team is exhausted, as FIFA was breathing down their neck at this point. Denmark, lacking confidence, played a very defensive and drawn-out game, attempting to block as many shots as they could. The first Danish attack was instantly repelled by the Scottish defense, and the Danish barely tried attacking the goal afterwards throughout the entire first half. Scotland, frustrated and unable of scoring a goal, began to get pushier and pushier and poked at the boundaries of what could and couldn’t be considered a foul. By the end of the first half, no goals had been scored and neither side was happy.

The Scottish crowd was getting louder and louder by the start of the second half, unhappy about the lack of scoring. This time, however, the Scottish were surprised by the Danes suddenly beginning to play more aggressively and up to their speed. The Danish made a shot that would surely have gone in, but a Scottish defender punched the ball with his hand to get it out of the way. The player was fouled, and the Danes were given a penalty kick. However, the Danish forward failed to score, completely overshooting the ball over the bar. At around this time, the match was about to hit the 90 minute mark and no goals had been scored. Common policy at this time was the golden-goal rule, which meant simply letting the game go on until someone scored a goal. And so, the game went on over the 90 minutes.

At this point, both teams were extremely nervous and started to get increasingly fatigued. The referee, pitying the players, allowed the teams a 15-minute break at the 103’ mark so they could rest for a short while. The crowd was very unhappy about this, but remained mostly civil. The game resumed after the 15 minutes, and went on until the 156’ mark, when the first goal was scored. A defender had broken formation and managed to dribble the ball throughout the entire field, going up to the opposing team’s goal, and running right around the goalkeeper, making the goal without even kicking the ball straight into the goalposts. Everyone is shocked…

Goal for Scotland.

The referee blows his whistle.

Scotland are World Champions.
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The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – Aftermath

The 1906 Scotland World Cup of Football – Aftermath​

The immediate aftermath of the final came with the coronation of Scotland as the best national team in the world, which the team and crowd celebrated vehemently. The Danish side, exhausted, dropped to the floor in defeat, but still felt glad they got as far as they did. The two teams shook hands, and the Scottish team got to lift the first World Cup trophy. The Scottish press printed it in large, bold letters at the front of every newspaper: SCOTLAND ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!

The news quickly reached the rest of the United Kingdom, and then the rest of the world. Many accepted the result, but others, especially the English, complained that the Scottish had gotten their victory unfairly, getting lucky against the Uruguayans, violently shutting down the Bohemians and destroying the legs of Austrian players. However, these complaints got lost in the sea of hype about the Cup, and the people began to ask when the next one would be.

FIFA organized an emergency meeting to discuss the future of the World Cup. With record-breaking attendance, international popularity and broadening of the sport, the World Cup was considered a success, and would be continued into the future. Now came the time to decide how frequently it was to be played: the speed of travel and player exhaustion would make it unlikely for it to be done yearly. Doing it every 2 years meant it overlapped with the Olympic Games, which had an upcoming football tournament to be organized by FIFA, and was thus out of the question. 3 years was an awkward lapse of time, and 5 years was too long, so it was eventually settled that it would be 4 years, and preparations for the next World Cup in 1910 began.

After all of this, a few questions remained. Who will join FIFA next? How will FIFA membership be determined? Should regional teams be brought into FIFA and into the World Cup?

FIFA was about to endure one of the largest headaches in its history.
1906 and 1907 – Headache Period

1906 and 1907 – Headache Period​

While FIFA was figuring everything out, a few friendlies were played across the FIFA nations. The FIFA member count was still 17 at the time, 15 of which were European teams, so there wasn’t a lot of variety in these friendlies. These friendlies weren’t particularly interesting or exciting, besides Gibraltar’s official FIFA debut against England in January 1907, which ended at a 12-0 loss for them.

A few small tournaments were played as well. One of them was the Lipton Cup, played between Argentina and Uruguay, held in 1906 and 1907, won both times by Argentina (2-0 and 2-1 respectively); another cup played between these two teams was the Newton Cup, also won twice by Argentina (and with a 2-1 scoreline both times). Another tournament was played at the 1906 Olympics (nowadays known as the Intercalated Games and not recognized by the IOC), oddly held between Denmark, Athens, Smyrna (Ottoman city) and Thessaloniki (Greek city under the Ottoman Empire). The Smyrna team consisted entirely of English, French and Armenian players. Here are the results of that tournament:

Denmark v Smyrna 7-1
Athens v Thessaloniki 4-0

Denmark v Athens 9-0

The Athens team withdrew from the final at half-time, and so a match between Smyrna and Thessaloniki was played to determine who would get the silver medal.

2nd Place Match
Smyrna v Thessaloniki 3-0

The 1907 edition of the Imperial Cup was also played, with all of the same teams returning. The eventual winner was once again Austria, with Bohemia in second place. Hungary and Küstenland were knocked out in the semi-finals.

As for the British Home Championship, Wales gained their first title in the competition during the 1906-07 edition.

On December 17, 1907, the FIFA Report on the Status of World Football was released, detailing the footballing situations in countries and territories all around the world and a few pointers as to what national associations would be accepted into FIFA in the future. The next chapter will delve into this report.
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FIFA Report on the Status of World Football – Europe

FIFA Report on the Status of World Football – Europe​

The report was sectioned into continents. The first continent inspected was Europe. The British Home Nations were not investigated, as their football status was fully known at the time.

Denmark had multiple regional associations, but only one was of interest: the Jutland association was mostly autonomous, and no players from Jutland were picked to play in the 1906 squad or any Danish national squad. Jutland was the first potential regional member noted down, and the Danish Football Union supports its entry. Then came the crown dependencies of the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Alderney and Jersey. Each had their own individual association and league, and the latter three had been playing against each other for the Muratti Vase since 1905. Due to all of these factors, they were considered as candidates for FIFA membership, with the support of the FA. Italy was also inspected, and it was unanimously decided that it would become FIFA’s next member. It had existed for almost a decade at that point, and was begging to join FIFA. Germany had multiple associations covering all of its internal divisions, but these were far too broad (with the exception of Brandenburg), so they were not considered for membership. Malta, a Crown Colony at the time, had had its own football association since 1900, and was fast-tracked to membership status due to its legitimacy.

Spanish local federations were up next. Many had formed in protest of the unified Spanish federation, which had recently formed after Spain’s almost immediate expulsion from FIFA due to not having one. Due to this, the Spanish federation only really covered the region of Castile (nowadays the Castile half of Castile-León, all of Castile-La Mancha, Madrid and La Rioja). What to do with these federations would be left up to a vote later on.

Norway’s federation was accepted into FIFA after it applied to join shortly after the World Cup. Finland, despite being under Russia at the time, was also accepted upon applying in 1907. Luxembourg and Romania entered later that year. FIFA then set its eyes on Austria-Hungary and its local teams. By the request of the Austrians, the Küstenland was not put into consideration. However, the rest of the associations were. It was eventually decided that each individual association would be put to a vote, much like in Spain.

As previously mentioned, the three Portuguese associations were willing to unite into one to form a national Portuguese association, which they did, and were accepted into FIFA. Russia, which had 52 footballing organizations, was planning to unite them all in one large Confederation; however, these plans would take a while to implement, so Russia stayed out of FIFA for the moment. Many other countries were surveyed, but most had fledgling associations that were not suited for FIFA play just yet.
FIFA Report on the Status of World Football – Rest of the World
In North America, the USA, Canada and Mexico already had quite active football scenes, but only Mexico had federated its regional associations. Both the USA and Canada’s associations were willing to federate if it meant getting into FIFA; however, in Canada, the Québec association saw that regional teams were in consideration, and opted out of federating with the rest of Canada. Central America wasn’t doing as well as their northern cousins, so they were left to their own devices to give them time to grow a proper footballing scene.

Meanwhile, in the Caribbean area, British Guiana, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago had founded their own football associations, and had prospects of joining FIFA. Meanwhile, in South America, Chile and Paraguay had had football federations for a few years now, but everywhere else on the continent still had unorganized tournaments, except for one: Brazil, which had many state-centric tournaments. FIFA decided to accept a few of the states of Brazil, with the hope that more would found leagues and join over time to eventually have a national Brazil team. For now, Bahia, Pará, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo would be admitted into FIFA.

The sport wasn’t very present in Africa at the time. The only proper football association on the continent was South Africa, which was accepted into FIFA as soon as possible.

In Asia, Singapore, the Philippines, the Bengal Presidency and Hong Kong all had their own associations, and were accepted into FIFA to get more representation in Asia.

The final continent that was researched was Oceania. New Zealand had its own national football association and was accepted into FIFA, but Australia was another case of no central body governing the country, and with associations unwilling to cooperate. The 6 states of Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia) had to either be accepted individually or not accepted at all. FIFA, desperate for wider worldwide representation, chose to admit them all, hoping that they would compromise over time and join as one.

With this, FIFA concluded their report. Many new teams had been accepted into FIFA and would automatically and officially join on 1 January 1908. Three weeks later, FIFA would begin to vote on Spain and Austria-Hungary's regional federations.
1908 – Decisions and the Olympics

1908 – Decisions and the Olympics​

And so, upon 1 January 1908, FIFA was made up of the following associations:
  • Alderney
  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Bahia
  • Belgium
  • Bengal
  • Bohemia
  • British Guiana
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Denmark
  • England
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Gibraltar
  • Guernsey
  • Haiti
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Italy
  • Jersey
  • Jutland
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • The Netherlands
  • New South Wales
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Pará
  • Paraguay
  • The Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Québec
  • Queensland
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Romania
  • São Paulo
  • Scotland
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • South Australia
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Tasmania
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Victoria
  • Wales
  • Western Australia
With 53 associations, it was going to be difficult to get them all in one country for a World Cup. FIFA’s president at the time, Daniel Burley Woolfall, came up with the idea of holding qualifiers to leave 16 teams to qualify in the World Cup. Teams would be put into groups based on geographical location. Europe would get 7 spots, the Americas would get 6, and the rest of the world would get 3. Scotland received automatic qualification for winning the previous World Cup. The groups decided on were the following:
  • Group 1: England, Wales, Ireland
  • Group 2: Sweden, Norway, Finland
  • Group 3: Denmark, Germany, Jutland
  • Group 4: Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg
  • Group 5: Switzerland, Italy, France, Malta
  • Group 6: Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, Romania
  • Group 7: Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney
  • Group 8: Argentina, Paraguay
  • Group 9: Uruguay, Chile
  • Group 10: Bahia, Pará, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo
  • Group 11: British Guiana, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti
  • Group 12: United States, Mexico, Canada, Québec
  • Group 13: Hong Kong, Bengal, Singapore, Philippines
  • Group 14: South Africa, New Zealand
  • Group 15: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia
Every team played against each other once. The winner of each group would advance to the World Cup. The qualifiers would be played throughout 1909 and early 1910, and the World Cup would be held in England in mid-1910. These groups were seen as controversial, mainly due to the fact that they would leave out many teams that had been a part of the previous World Cup. However, no better system was proposed, so the groups remained. Gibraltar and Portugal withdrew from the qualifiers due to stadium renovations.

Then came the voting on what to do with Spain and Austria-Hungary. The local associations in these areas would not be accepted into the previously-decided qualifiers, but they would be accepted into FIFA nonetheless. Every association in these two countries that applied was voted on individually, and, in the end, the following were accepted into FIFA:
  • Andalusia
  • Aragon
  • Asturias
  • Basque Country
  • Cantabria
  • Castile
  • Catalonia
  • Croatia-Slavonia
  • Galicia
  • Galicia and Lodomeria
  • León
  • Valencia
After the end of this period, FIFA continued their very busy year with the organization of the football tournament at the 1908 Olympics in October. The results of that tournament were:

First round
France v Hungary (Hungary withdrew due to the Bosnian Crisis, so France advanced to the next round automatically)
Denmark v Netherlands 7-2
Sweden v Bohemia 3-2
Great Britain v Canada 0-6

Second round
Denmark v France 25-1
Canada v Sweden 3-1

Bronze medal match
The French were so shocked by their defeat against Denmark that they refused to play for the bronze medal; therefore, Great Britain played Sweden for third place.
Sweden v Great Britain 2-0

Gold medal match
Denmark v Canada 3-1

With Denmark taking the gold in this competition, they were seen as favourites to win the 1910 World Cup. The qualifiers for it would begin the following year, in 1909.
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