By Lindenberg Junior | Translation: Leandro Saueia

Played by millions of people in hundreds of countries soccer is, without a doubt, the most popular sport in the world and large sums of money are spent and generated because of it. Sports merchandising companies like Nike, Adidas, Puma and Umbro, and some of the biggest breweries on the planet like Brahma in Brazil, Quilmes in Argentina and Corona in Mexico, invest heavily in the soccer world.

Every four years national teams from many countries get together and play for the World Cup. A lot of network giants such as Globo television (Brazil), Univision (USA) and the RAI (Italy) get into disputes for the rights of transmission of the event in their countries. And, as expected, they have to pay high prices, for the privilege. The reason is clear: soccer is the sport for the masses and, of course, the commercial interests are awoken. What makes soccer so popular is the simple way it is played, the controversies that arise from some results, and naturally, the thrill and emotion that the sport is able to create.

A little bit of history

According to some historians, a game named “gioco del cálcio” in Italy during the middle ages kick started the game of soccer that we know today. It was played in the piazzas with 27 players on each team in which the players would take the ball to two poles at opposite ends of the plaza. The game was prohibited as a consequence of the lack of organization, noise and violence that was generated. But that didn’t stop the sport; members of the aristocracy created a new version of the game with rules that didn’t allow for violence.

Historians have concluded that the “gioco de cálcio” left Italy and arrived in England in the 17th century. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign the sport gained some new rules and was codified.

The field would have a measurement of at least 180 meters, and at each end of the field two rectangular arches, called goals, would be installed. The ball would be made of leather and filled with air. Students and the sons of the British noblility played the first games until it became more and more popular. In 1871 the goalkeeper position was created. Four years later the 90-minute playing time was created, in 1891 the penalty was established to punish the fouls inside the field area, and in 1907 the off side rule was developed. An interesting fact happened in 1897: soccer left Europe, when the British team called “Corinthians” did an overseas tour, something that definitively contributed to spread the soccer around the world.

Fifa and the International Tournaments

The International Federation of Associated Football was created in 1904, and up until now, it is the greatest authority in the soccer world, organizing and administrating every aspect of the game around the world. Besides the organization of the World Cup, created by a Frenchmen named Jules Rimet in 1928, the entity is also responsible for other international tournaments like the “Libertadores da América”, the UEFA Cup, the European Champion League, and the South American cup among others. FIFA has international federations that are its affiliates, like COMEBOL (Football Confederation of South America), which includes among its associates the CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation).

In Brazil

Charles Miller first introduced soccer to Brazil in 1894 when he brought the first ever soccer ball and book of rules to the neighborhood of Bras in Sao Paulo when he returned home from England where he had been studying. The first game ever played in Brazil was on April 15, 1895 and the players were the employees of the British companies. In the beginning soccer was property of the upper classes and they didn’t allow the participation of Afro-Americans in the first national teams.

And the show has begun

Uruguay was the country chosen to host the first ever Word Cup in 1930. With only 16 national teams, all invited by FIFA, and without a pre-eliminatory, the Jules Rimet Cup was won by the Uruguayans who kept it for four years. Italy got the 1934 and 1938 titles. The following competitions 1942 and 1946 were cancelled due to the WWII. In 1950, Brazil was chosen as the country to receive the games. With the enthusiastic Brazilians feeling confident, the “Maracanã Disaster” took place. With a high-class selection, the team went as far as the finals to play against Uruguay in front of a crowd of 200 thousand fans and let everybody down. They lost the game (2 to 1) when a simple draw would have given the cup to the Brazilians.

In 1954 the Germans won and, finally, in 1958 Brazil lifted up the cup for the first time. In Chile, in 1962, Brazil again ended up winning first place. In 1966 the British won playing at home, and in 1970 it was Mexico’s turn to host the games and everyone had the chance to see the Brazilian “dream team” (Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Gerson).

Brazil became the first team to win 3 times after a final game against the Italians and acquired the right to keep the Jules Rimet trophy forever at home. In 1974 the Germans won for the second time playing at home. Also playing on their own field, Argentina, commanded by Mario Kempes won the cup for the first time in 1978, becoming the third South-American country to achieve such a feat.

In 1982, in Spain, and with a team that in my opinion was the greatest of my generation, Brazil impressed the world not just playing well, but also by giving a true spectacle. However, it was Paolo Rossi and their Italians colleagues who eventually became the champions of that year.

Mexico was the firstcountry to host another World Cup in 1986 and the Argentine team, led by Diego Maradona won its second title. In Italy, in 1990, one of the least satisfying World Cups ever, technically speaking, was won by the Germans again. USA was the home of the 1994 cup, and Brazil, after 24 years waiting for a new title, finally won in a final game against the Italians (after a tied game without goals and after penalty kicks).

Even the Brazilians were taken by surprise, and thanks to players like Dunga, Branco, Romário and Bebeto, the Brazilians got their 4th world soccer championship. I can still remember it like it was yesterday: Colorado Blvd in Pasadena closed to cars and the crowd partying on the street. There were Brazilians, Americans, Mexicans and plenty of foreigners, all lovers of the artful Brazilian soccer enjoying the same happiness of those who know how to party.

In 1998, the match took place in France. Even today I cannot understand how Brazil lost the final game in Paris against the French. But the waiting wasn’t that long: four years later, in Japan/Korea in 2002 with Ronaldo and Rivaldo in their prime, the Brazilian team beat the

Germans and won their 5th World Cup. After 75 years of Soccer World Cup the always favorites is Brazil, Germany, Italy, England Argentina and France, and the surprises in the new era should be Japan, Mexico, USA, Holland, Spain, Portugal or an African Country.

And the Show Continues

Soccer is art, soccer is passion, soccer is controversy, and soccer is a show for many folks in the world. For Brazilians, soccer is a national mania. It’s a reason to fight with your wife (or girlfriend), to have a few beers, to have good times, and to travel and know the new city – that’s hosting the cup. It’s a good reason to stay home positioned in front of the television, to laugh and have fun. It’s a good reason to entertain your sons and to buy a yellow shirt. The show must go on, new Ronaldos and Robinhos will appear, and Brazil will keep on singing: “Olé, Olé, Olé, Brazil, Brazil”.

In the history of the World Cups:

• Brazil is the only country that was in every championship.

• The World Cup is the second largest sporting event on the planet, second only to the Olympic Games.

• The fastest goal ever to be scored in a World Cup took place in the 2002 Korea/Japan Cup. The Turkish lineman Hakna Sukur took only 13 seconds to score against Korea in the game that decided 3rd place.

• Never before had a previous champion frustrated the expectations so much as the French in 2002. Zidane’s and his cohorts were already eliminated in the first phase, and even worse, without scoring a single time.

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