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1934 World Cup

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Six sporting events that should never have been held


1) Italy's first World Cup (1934)


Say what you like about Fifa; it's been a consistent shower. These days quite happy to select World Cup hosts with questionable human-rights records – try being a LGBT supporter in Qatar at the 2022 tournament – it was equally content to make morally dubious picks back in the day. The infant Fifa's first choice as a World Cup host, in 1928 for the 1930 staging, had been a progressive one: the up-and-coming port of Montevideo in briskly developing Uruguay. So it came as something of a depressing blow when, as a result of eight uneasy meetings between Fifa delegates, the second World Cup was eventually awarded to Italy.


Italy had been under Benito Mussolini's fascist yoke for more than a decade, the blackshirts running wild, the state picking off anyone whose face didn't fit. It therefore came as no surprise when Fifa was rewarded for its choice with an exceptionally grim tournament. Setting the tone, the opening match was played in the Stadio Nazionale del Partito Nazionale Fascista. Italy's 7-1 victory over the US was celebrated with a series of stiff-arm salutes in the direction of Mussolini, sitting in the stands, his bulbous head crammed into a ludicrous white sailing cap.


The hosts were permitted to pick four Argentinians and a Brazilian, previously capped by the countries of their birth, Fifa turning a blind eye to the dubious legitimacy of the selection. Italy – their shirts resplendent with the fasces, Mussolini's fascist symbol of choice – were also allowed to hoof the opposition hither and yon, thanks to some laughably lenient refereeing. Spain were reduced to seven men through injury during the quarter-final, while fellow finalists Czechoslovakia were subject to a barrage of waist-high tackles and punches to the gut. Italy prevailed, and were rewarded with a gold championship cup "so big that it took four men to carry it and its pedestal on to the field". Mussolini handed out the prizes to his fellow countrymen – and a special cup to the German team, who prominently joined the celebrations-stroke-rally despite coming third.

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Hadn't heard that before, FIFA indeed seem like "a consistent shower". I wonder has there been any good books published on their history? I'm sure it would make for a juicy TV documentary, all the shenanigans and power plays and skullduggery

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Very interesting that. Never heard about it before but it makes total sense.


That is a great piece in general actually. I can remember the 1978WC well -- it really was a memorable one. I can also remember parts of the 1968 Olympics, particularly the black power medal ceremonies -- fantastic stuff.

Edited by New York Red
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