Football

Facts

Discipline of Football
Participants 6119
NOCs 92
Competitions held 32 (Venues)
Distinct events 4
IF Fédération Internationale de Football Association

Description

Football (soccer) is the world’s most popular sport, played in more countries than any other. The World Cup of football, the quadrennial competition played in the even year between Olympics (last in 2014), is considered by some as the most watched single sporting event on the planet, possibly surpassing even the Olympic Games. The sport is governed internationally by the Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA), which was formed on 21 May 1904 in Paris, with seven founding members: Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain (represented by Madrid Football Club), Sweden, and Switzerland. As of 2018 FIFA has 211 members.

The origins of football are vague. The Greeks played a game that loosely resembled its modern counterpart, as did the Romans. By the 14th century it was so popular in England that King Edward II issued a proclamation on 13 April 1314, forbidding the game “forasmuch as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls from which many evils might arise which God forbid; we commend and forbid, on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city of the future.” In 1349, Edward III objected to the game because it prevented the practice of archery, necessary for the military strength of the country. Banning the game had little effect, however, as similar edicts had to be issued in 1389 (Richard II), 1401 (Henry IV), 1436 (Henry VIII), 1457 (James II), and again in 1491.

Gradually, despite attempts to ban it, football spread throughout the world, becoming popular almost everywhere, with the United States being a notable exception. Football was first contested at the 1900 and 1904 Olympics. The sport has been played at every Olympics since, with the exception of 1932 in Los Angeles.

The World Cup began in 1930 and brings together the world’s top professional players. Olympic eligibility has always been problematic. After World War II, Eastern European countries stated that they had no true professionals, although their players were state supported. Thus they often entered similar teams in both the World Cup and the Olympics, and the Eastern Europeans were dominant in Olympic football from the 1950s until the fall of Communism in the early 1990s. Recently, however, eligibility rules have changed as other countries may be allowed to use some of their professional players who have competed in the World Cup. The problem is not yet fully resolved. Currently, professional players may compete at the Olympics providing they are not more than 23 years old, although each team is allowed three exceptions to the age rule. There is some sentiment among International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials to change this and allow all professionals to compete.

Football (soccer) for women is now becoming more popular, with the first women’s World Cup being contested in 1991. Women’s football appeared on the Olympic Program for the first time in 1996.

Presidents of the Fédération internationale de football association:

All-time medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States USA 4 2 1 7
Hungary HUN 3 1 1 5
Great Britain GBR 3 0 0 3
Argentina ARG 2 2 0 4
Soviet Union URS 2 0 3 5
Uruguay URU 2 0 0 2
Brazil BRA 1 5 2 8
Yugoslavia YUG 1 3 1 5
Poland POL 1 2 0 3
Spain ESP 1 2 0 3
Germany GER 1 1 4 6
Sweden SWE 1 1 2 4
East Germany GDR 1 1 1 3
Nigeria NGR 1 1 1 3
Czechoslovakia TCH 1 1 0 2
France FRA 1 1 0 2
Canada CAN 1 0 2 3
Italy ITA 1 0 2 3
Norway NOR 1 0 2 3
Belgium BEL 1 0 0 1
Cameroon CMR 1 0 0 1
Mexico MEX 1 0 0 1
Denmark DEN 0 3 1 4
Bulgaria BUL 0 1 1 2
Japan JPN 0 1 1 2
Austria AUT 0 1 0 1
Paraguay PAR 0 1 0 1
People's Republic of China CHN 0 1 0 1
Switzerland SUI 0 1 0 1
Netherlands NED 0 0 3 3
Chile CHI 0 0 1 1
Ghana GHA 0 0 1 1
Mixed team MIX 0 0 1 1
Republic of Korea KOR 0 0 1 1
West Germany FRG 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Christie Pearce-Rampone USA 3 1 0 4
Shannon Boxx USA 3 0 0 3
Heather Mitts USA 3 0 0 3
Heather O'Reilly USA 3 0 0 3
Brandi Chastain USA 2 1 0 3
Joy Fawcett USA 2 1 0 3
Julie Foudy USA 2 1 0 3
Mia Hamm USA 2 1 0 3
Kristine Lilly USA 2 1 0 3
Cindy Parlow USA 2 1 0 3
Kate Sobrero-Markgraf USA 2 1 0 3

Event types

Name Gender Still contested? Times held?
Football Men 27
Football Women 6
Football Boys 2
Football Girls 2