By Sooin Choi
By the 20th century, soccer became a popular sport around the world. In May of 1904, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was established in Paris and included France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. At this time however, the World Cup did not exist. Back then, the main global soccer tournament was integrated into the Olympics and was performed by amateur players. The map above showcases which countries participated in the World Cup tournaments over time.
Just over 25 years later, in 1930, FIFA finally decided to host an independent international soccer tournament. The 1932 Summer Olympics scheduled to take place in Los Angeles did not include soccer that year, as the sport was not popular in the U.S. at that time. The first World Cup ever held was in Montevideo, Uruguay, which was meant to celebrate Uruguay’s past two victories as well as the 100th anniversary of its independence.
During the first few decades of the World Cup, the events were held in either Europe or South America. The tournaments were also led by teams from both continents. After World War II, during which the World Cup was put on pause, other countries beyond the traditional geographical peripheries began to participate. By the 1960s, African countries were consistently participating in tournaments. Australia didn’t enter the tournaments until 1974.
Moreover, in 1970, Mexico hosted the first tournament held outside of Europe and South America. The honor of hosting the World Cup was later enjoyed by Asia in 2002 when South Korea and Japan co-hosted Asia’s first tournament. South Africa, the first African host, followed by hosting the 2010 World Cup.
This year, Qatar will be the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup. Since being nominated as host country however, Qatar has been subjected to a series of controversies, from concerns about its labor practices, to its subtropical high climate, to its conservative local culture. Yet, Qatar has been addressing its challenges. Given the country’s hot climate, the World Cup is being hosted from November to December this year. These dates stand in contrast to the typical summer World Cup timeline.
An estimated $220 billion was invested into the 2022 World Cup, which sets the record for being the most expensive World Cup ever held. Many of the stadiums were built from scratch, and a new metro line was constructed to provide transportation for the World Cup.
One may ask, why would a country invest so much just to host the World Cup? Qatar, in particular, sees the World Cup as an opportunity to showcase their wealth to the world. As the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup, Qatar hopes to share their culture with the world. A mega-event like this also sustains economic development, as foreign investment into the host-country often increases. Hosting a World Cup tournament will also remain a long-standing legacy in the country.
The World Cup has been a global event since 1930, and the process of hosting continues to evolve and adapt based on the host country. The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is certainly not the last anomaly. For the next World Cup in 2026, the United States, Canada, and Mexico will jointly host the World Cup across 16 cities. 2026 will be the first time Canada will host the tournament. The logistical difficulties of hosting such a large-scale event across geographically separated stadiums will pose challenges to come. Just like Qatar, these cities will come under international pressure to address labor rights, safety concerns, and transportation and accommodation needs.