Football at the 1920 Summer Olympics

The 1920 Olympic tournament was the first time that the early matches were spread around the host nation, rather than centered in the host city. This was the forerunner of the modern style which is still used at the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Most of the matches were held in Antwerpen, using two different stadia, but some early round matches were also held in Ghent and Saint-Gilles, a municipality of Bruxelles. From the quarter-finals onward, and including the second- and third-place matches, most of the matches were played in the Beerschot Stadium, the main Olympic Stadium.

The Stade de AA La Gantoise was built in 1919-20 for the Olympics, and was later renamed the Jules Ottenstadion. It was in use until 2013 when it was demolished and KAA Ghent (Koninklijke Atletiek Associatie Ghent / Royal Athletic Association Ghent) moved to Arteveldestadion. Stade de Union St. Gilloise was opened in 1919, and is still in existence (as of 2014) in Duden Park in Bruxelles. The Antwerpen sites were the Stade Royal Antwerp Football Club, which hosted the Royal Antwerp Football Club from 1908-23, and the Beerschot Stadium, the main Olympic Stadium for the Antwerpen Olympics.

There were some controversy about who could compete in 1920 Olympic football. Germany and Hungary, top football nations, were excluded from the Olympics entirely because of their recent role in World War I. Great Britain almost did not compete. In early 1919, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales withdrew from FIFA and formed their own federation, the Federation of National Football Associations. Surprisingly, the United States protested Britain’s presence in the 1920 football tournament, since Great Britain was no longer a FIFA member. Belgium and France supported this motion, but Great Britain was allowed to compete. Among the original 15 entries, Switzerland withdrew for financial reasons, leaving 14 nations in the field.

The biggest controversy of the 1920 football tournament took place in the final between Belgium and Czechoslovakia. When a foul was called against a Czechoslovak player at the 39-minute mark, Czechoslovakia protested and eventually left the field, withdrawing in anger over the officiating. They would not return to the field and Belgium was declared the Olympic champion by default.


Event Status Date Participants NOCs
Football, Men Olympic 28 August – 5 September 1920 190 14
190 (190/0) 14 (14/0)


Event Gold Silver Bronze
Football, Men BelgiumBEL SpainESP NetherlandsNED

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Belgium BEL 1 0 0 1
Spain ESP 0 1 0 1
Netherlands NED 0 0 1 1