Getting entry in the Olympic calendar is considered to be the pinnacle of achievement for any sport. And why not? It is an indicator of the sport’s global popularity and acceptance. In fact, an Olympic entry ensures that the sport grows exponentially at an international level.
While some sports have had the fortune of becoming a part of the Olympics by default, since the very beginning, there are other sports that have made their way gradually, in a very interesting manner. One such Olympic sport is soccer, which has a very interesting Olympic history.
Do you know that soccer was not a part of the inaugural Olympics at the 1896 Athens Games? In this article, we discuss how and when soccer made it to the Olympics, and the ups and downs the sport has seen in Olympic history. Let’s start.
Soccer’s First Tryst with Olympics
After being omitted from the 1896 Games, Soccer first entered the Olympics in the very next edition, held in Paris in 1900.
However, it entered just as an exhibition event, with just three teams in the fray. Certainly, soccer was not given much importance in that edition of the games.
In the next Olympic edition held in 1904 in St. Louis, soccer got some more prominence in the multi-sport event and was played in a round-robin format involving a few of the North American club sides.
After this, the sport gained some more momentum in the Olympics and the first Olympic soccer tournament recognized by FIFA was held in the 1908 London Olympics.
Full Bloom of Olympics Soccer
The 1916 Olympics games were called off due to the First World War. However, after the games resumed with the 1920 edition, soccer made an interesting comeback in the Olympics.
In a dramatic series of events, the host nation Belgium ended up winning the Gold medal by default, after the other finalist team Czechoslovakia left the game midway, protesting the “biased” English referee!
In the 1924 Paris games, Uruguay, the first South American Soccer team made its debut in the Olympics.
This edition turned out to be the largest ever international soccer competition with over 22 teams in the play, a record that could not be broken up until the 1982 World Cup.
The Exit & The Return
The game saw another major rebuke in Olympic history when it was dropped from the 1932 games. By this time, the Jules Rimet trophy was introduced in the international climate of soccer. The format of this tournament was such that it allowed both professional soccer players and amateurs to compete.
This became the reason behind the sport being dropped from the 1932 games. However, soccer could not be kept out of the Olympics for long. The sport’s increasing commercial viability and widespread popularity forced the Olympic authorities to reintroduce it in the 1936 games, held in Berlin.
In fact, the Nazi regime back then was very enthusiastic about the hosting of soccer matches in the games. So much so, that Hitler himself came to attend the first-ever soccer game held there.
Soccer in Olympic history went on to face several interruptions on account of World War II. However, the journey of soccer in the Olympics history has been rather smooth since then, thanks to the unmatched global popularity of the sport.
The Bottom Line
The history of Olympic soccer has been as eventful and as interesting as it could be. In fact, these historical ups and downs in the game have contributed immensely to igniting the deep interest of the Olympic fans in the sport.
Needless to say, soccer is here to stay as the prime attraction of all the Olympic games in the future, and there’s hardly any chance of the sport getting dropped anytime soon!