Jules Rimet elected FIFA President 100 years ago today
Frenchman served in the role for a record 33 years
He was the driving force behind the FIFA World Cup’s formation
One hundred years ago today, FIFA elected its third President. He would become the longest-serving leader in the organisation’s history, holding the role for 33 years, and even earned himself a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But for all his many achievements, it is as the father of the FIFA World Cup™ that Jules Rimet is best remembered. And given his extraordinary devotion to the global finals, he is unlikely to have wanted it any other way.
A born administrator
Though passionate about sport, Rimet – the son of a French grocer – was not an outstanding footballer. He did, however, hold a life-long fascination with the game’s organisation and, from an early age, dedicated himself to creating opportunities for others to play.
At 24, he helped found the Parisien club Red Star, and in the years that followed became president first of France’s first national league and then of the French Football Federation (FFF) – having been instrumental in the establishment of both organisations.
Within a year of taking up the latter role, Rimet was placed in acting charge of FIFA in 1920 and, at that year’s Olympic Games in Antwerp, presented his long-held vision of holding an international tournament every four years. He did not, however, find his idea greeted with universal acclaim.
Remarkable as it might seem now, the World Cup was not universally or even widely supported in its formative stages, and it took until 1928 – seven years after he was confirmed as President – for Rimet to gather the necessary support. Even then, the tournament’s early editions were not without their issues, as boycotts and then the Second World War threatened its very future.
Respect and recognition
Rimet, though, remained steadfast in pursuing his vision, and his dedication to a rapprochement of nations through sport led to him being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1956.
His unique contribution to the World Cup had been recognised a decade earlier when, to mark the 25th anniversary of his election, the Trophy was named in his honour.
When Rimet stepped down in 1954, at the age of 80, he ensured that one of his final acts as FIFA President would be to hand over that famous trophy for the fifth time. And while West Germany’s Fritz Walter was the grateful recipient on that day, everyone who loves the game’s greatest tournament have reason to be thankful for this Frenchman’s colossal contribution.