FIFA hits 105
© Foto-net

A study conducted in England last month found that almost 60 per cent of men think about football for over one hour each day. This addiction is not exclusive to those born in the birthplace or football, or indeed to men.

"Football is the greatest sport in the world," said Pele, its most famous disciple. "It's a global obsession embraced by men, women and children. It's the beautiful game."

Football is the greatest sport in the world. It's the beautiful game.
Brazilian legend Pele

O Rei is merely one of innumerable sources of infectious magic that have transformed football into the fixation it is today. Among the many others have been players such as Ferenc Puskas, Johann Cruyff and Zinedine Zidane; matches including Portugal-Korea DPR and Germany-Italy at the respective FIFA World Cups™ of 1966 and 2006, and the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 final between AC Milan and Boca Juniors; and goals such as the one scored by Argentina's Diego Maradona following an exceptional dribble against England at Mexico 1986, Rabah Madjer's for Porto against Bayern Munich in the European Cup final one year later, and Marta's for Brazil against USA in their FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 semi-final.

All of this is something we often take for granted. However, had it not been for the foundation of a governing body, millions upon million of enthusiasts the world over would not be able to revel in football's incomparable splendour. Today, that organisation, The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, celebrates its 105th birthday.

The institution of FIFA was indebted to four men: Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschman, who championed for the meeting in Paris in which it was incepted; Robert Guerin, its first president; and Henri Delaunay and Jules Rimet, both of whom played indispensable roles in the inauguration of the FIFA World Cup, which quickly became - and has since remained - the biggest event in sport.

Initially, FIFA had seven member associations all from Europe. It now has 208 from all six habitable continents. It was launched with the ambition of "developing matches between nations and eventually creating a European championship". Today it stages 14 competitions at both club and international level, involving teams from all over the globe, while its co-confederations organise countless more.

Moreover, football has, under FIFA's rule, helped to break racial barriers and has even caused wars to enter temporary recess. Indeed, despite freezing temperatures, British and German forces called a fleeting truce during World War I to play a friendly match on Christmas Day, and during the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, a 48-hour ceasefire was called and honoured to allow soldiers from both warring sides to watch a Santos side including Pele play an exhibition game.

Football brings people and groups together. It is a wonderful source of entertainment and emotion.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter

"Football brings people and groups together," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. "It can break barriers and give people hope. It is a wonderful source of entertainment and emotion that represents over one billion people."

With spectacles such as the UEFA Champions League final and the FIFA Confederations Cup on the horizon, and the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup just 385 days away, those billion-plus certainly have reason to celebrate. Today though, the organisation that presides over football has its own special reason for commemoration.

Happy birthday, FIFA.