The 61st FIFA Congress will be held in Zurich next week where representatives of all Member Associations gather for ‘football’s parliament’. The Congress, the organisation’s supreme body, bears a particular responsibility for developing the game, the nature of which has changed markedly since FIFA’s foundation on 21 May 1904, when representatives from France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Real Madrid, Sweden and Switzerland signed the foundation act in Paris. FIFA.com reviews the rich history of the FIFA Congress and just some of the many significant milestones through the decades.
1908: 5th FIFA Congress in Vienna
Over one hundred years ago, the Congress took it upon itself to set up international "A" matches. Twenty-three matches were arranged for the 1908/09 season with Hungary and Germany playing the most (seven matches each). These figures contrast noticeably with the modern day where well over 1,000 male and female matches are played annually.1908 also saw the first official Olympic Football Tournament staged in London under the auspices of The Football Association and FIFA.
1929: 18th FIFA Congress in Barcelona
Twenty-three associations were present by 1929 when the hosting of the FIFA World Cup was awarded for the first time. Just 12 months after it had first been discussed at the Congress in Amsterdam, Jules Rimet's dream of an international tournament began to take shape. Uruguay was announced as host of the inaugural FIFA World Cup and it was Argentina’s representative, Dr Beccar Varela, who successfully pleaded on behalf of his South American neighbours. Part of the rationale included the enormous potential for football to develop in the region; the celebration of Uruguay’s political independence, and recognition of the nation’s gold-medal performances at the preceding two Olympiads.
1946: 25th FIFA Congress in Luxembourg
The first FIFA Congress staged after the Second World War with the 34 attending associations passing several far-reaching decisions with the official minutes describing the gathering as ‘one of the most significant ever held’. Thanks to Jules Rimet's diplomatic skills, the four British associations - England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, returned to FIFA after an absence of almost 20 years. The British associations' return is celebrated the following year with a match between a UK team and a FIFA XI in Glasgow's Hampden Park, with the event acclaimed by the press as the "Match of the Century".
Further significant Congress decisions are taken that year with the FIFA World Cup trophy renamed the Jules Rimet Cup in the President's honour. Brazil were named hosts of the next FIFA World Cup (planned for 1949, but actually held in 1950) and Switzerland host of the subsequent tournament. Meanwhile, the delegates also approved CONMEBOL's proposal for Spanish to become an official language of FIFA.
2003: The Extraordinary FIFA Congress in Doha
The 2003 Congress, held 99 years after the foundation of the world governing body, was noteworthy for many reasons. It was the first to be attended by every member association, at that time numbering 204, while the location of Doha, Qatar, meant the 2003 FIFA Congress was the first ever to be held in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the most important item on the agenda was the ratification of the new Statutes which came into effect on 1 January 2004. The revised Statutes adapted the existing provisions to meet the needs of a constantly changing sporting and social environment. On the football front, the need for harmonising the international match calendar was presented, resulting in the successful adaption of the system in use today.