Allow Me to Change Your Mind: FIFA’S Worldwide Soccer Showdown


John Huber, Reporter

Soccer season may have ended at Misericordia, but the world has turned its attention to Qatar (for better or worse – more on that later) because of one sporting event that occurs every four years and is just as big, if not bigger, than the Winter or Summer Olympics – the FIFA World Cup. The World Cup is a soccer tournament where the best nations from all over the world gather for a chance to win the coveted cup.

How did this tournament get started? Let’s turn back the clock and see how it grew to the sporting powerhouse it is today.

FIFA attempted to organize an international football tournament between nations outside of the Olympics in 1906 which took place in Switzerland. Those were very early days for international football and the official history of FIFA describes the competition as having been a failure.

In 1930, FIFA made the decision to stage its own international tournament. With Uruguay now a two-time official world champion and due to celebrate its centenary of independence in 1930, FIFA named Uruguay the host country with 13 nations participating, seven from South America, four from Europe, and two from North America.

The tournament wouldn’t encounter its first major snag until 1942 when the it was canceled due to World War II. When the war ended in 1945, it was clear one year of planning wouldn’t suffice for a world event so the 1946 edition of the World Cup was canceled, as well. Competition returned with the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, the first to be televised. Twelve years later, in the 1966 edition in England, marketing was embraced for the first time, featuring a mascot and official logo.

Fast forward to the 1982 World Cup in Spain. After the narrow opportunity to qualify four years prior in Argentina, the tournament expanded to 24 teams, with teams split into four groups of three. After security concerns led Colombia to drop the 1986 World Cup, Mexico took up hosting rights, becoming the first nation to host twice. The 1994 tournament, held in the United States, saw the first World Cup final decided on penalties. The 1998 edition in France expanded the roster from 24 to 32 teams. The year 2002 also saw the first tournament held between two nations (Japan and South Korea) in Asia and, in 2010, the World Cup was played on African soil for the first time.

One final fast-forward to the next World Cup in 2026 – the tournament will see major changes in the number of teams, expanding from 32 to 48 teams. It will also be the first time the event is held across three nations with Canada, the USA and Mexico all getting that opportunity.

So Allow Me to Change your Mind!

I like to watch major worldwide tournaments or events like the Olympics. I like the cultural aspect of what the nation has to offer. But with this current tournament in Qatar, I must issue the most glaring controversies – its stance on numerous rights, including women’s rights and LGBT rights. Qatar’s laws make these issues illegal.

I expected this because sometimes the culture has conflicting views compared to what we are used to, but that shouldn’t be a deciding factor for any host. To further prove my point, official sources have said the World Cup has been played before in a nation with laws against the LGBT community, citing the Switzerland in 1954.

As for women’s rights, I’m shocked this is getting attention now rather than when Qatar was chosen as host back in 2010. However, I’m willing to consider it wasn’t the first thing on everyone’s mind at the time.

This flurry of controversies shouldn’t pull focus from the World Cup. My views are a bit like the Beijing Olympics controversy back in February. Every country should have the opportunity to host the event, no matter its political and cultural views. Even if we don’t agree on the host country’s laws, they should be respected, not challenged.

This column is a wrap on Season 3. I took a new direction with the column this semester, hoping to make it even more unique.Special thanks to the crew at The Highlander for helping me come up with ideas. You guys rock!

Happy Holidays! See you in January for Season 4.