Founded in 1904 to provide unity among national soccer associations, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) boasts 204 members, rivaling that of the United Nations, and is arguably the most prestigious sports organization in the world.
As organizers of the biggest event in the world, the World Cup, a record 197 countries (or 97% of FIFA’s members) took part in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup in Korea Republic and Japan. Germany hosted a successful World Cup in 2006 and in 2010 South Africa staged the first World Cup to be played on the African continent. Preparations are underway for the next edition of the World Cup in 2014. Five-time champions Brazil will host for the second time; the last competition hosted by Brazil was in 1950.
FIFA was established on May 21, 1904, by seven national associations — Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland — to “promote the game of Association Football (as opposed to rugby or American football), to foster friendly relations among National Associations, Confederations, and their officials and players, by promoting the organization of football matches at all levels, and to control every type of association football by taking steps as shall be deemed necessary or advisable.”
FIFA’s birth was a result of the growing number of international games shortly after the dawn of the 20th century. Soccer leaders in Europe felt that such expanded competition required a governing body, and under the leadership of Robert Guerin, a French journalist, the seven founding members gathered in Paris to shape the future of the sport. Guerin, FIFA’s first president, presided over the organization from 1904 to 1906. Seven other men have also served as FIFA president, including Jules Rimet for 33 years from 1921 to 1954.
Currently Switzerland’s Joseph (Sepp) Blatter serves as FIFA president and is currently in his fourth term in office after being reelected in 2002, 2007 and 2011. Blatter replaced Dr. João Havelange of Brazil in 1998, who was elected to his post in 1974 and served six terms. The current FIFA secretary general is Jérôme Valcke who has served in that role since 2007.
Almost 100 years after FIFA’s creation, soccer is the world’s most popular sport, played by more than 150 million registered athletes — including 10 million women — and viewed by billions of fans in stadiums and on television worldwide.
As soccer’s ultimate administrative authority, FIFA governs all facets of the game: regulating the rules of play, overseeing the transfers of players internationally, organizing international competitions such as the FIFA World Cup, establishing standards for refereeing, coaching and sports medicine, and encouraging soccer’s development around the world.
Among the six official world championships staged by FIFA are the World Cup, the Women’s World Cup, the World Youth Championship (Under-20), the Under-19 Women’s World Championship, the Under-17 World Championship and the Futsal World Championship. FIFA have also periodically staged the FIFA Confederations Cup, a competition between each of its confederations champions, and the FIFA Club World Cup, which was held at the beginning of 2000 for the first time and is entering its ninth year in 2012.
Joseph S. Blatter
Director of Communications
Walter De Gregorio