From the time it was formed in 1904, FIFA claimed the rights to organize the football World Cup but it took 26 years to hold the first mega tournament. Economic depression, lack of interest in a professional global tournament, and the long travel times to South America meant most top European footballing nations refused to take part in the inaugural World Cup.
In the only world cup where all member nations were invited to participate without any qualification criteria, seven of the 13 teams were from the Americas. Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia were roped in less than two months before the tournament.
All four teams arrived in the host city of Montevideo on the same vessel and missed out on a crucial training period due to their cross-Atlantic journey.
Coming into the tournament on the back of two consecutive Olympic gold medals, and being the host nation, Uruguay was clear favourite and lived up to expectations by remaining unbeaten.
The final saw a heated contest between the hosts and Argentina, both on and off the pitch. Thousands of Argentinian fans arrived in the Uruguayan capital on boats and were searched for weapons at the stadium.
The hosts opened the scoring but went into halftime trailing 2-1. Uruguay kept the pressure and eventually sealed a 4-2 win to become the first world champions.
After more than 20 years of running the sport’s global operations, FIFA brought 13 countries under its banner despite economic, political and logistical difficulties.
The participation of footballers in a professional tournament led to the elevation and recognition of the sport around the world. Employers were persuaded to let the players keep their jobs after the tournament.
The tournament itself showcased the talent of some lesser-known footballing nations, such as the United States and Yugoslavia, who reached the semis.
Capacity crowds packed the stadiums in the thousands and the matches drew great interest from fans all across the world. The first-ever World Cup hat trick was scored by Guillermo Stábile.
Elite European nations stayed away and deprived the players of a chance to display their talent on the world stage. Fans, too, missed the opportunity to watch some of the best footballers from the continent.
Prior to the final, players and fans from Argentina felt threatened by the home fans. Some visiting fans complained of harassment from their Uruguayan counterparts during the final.
This led to attacks and vandalization of the Uruguayan embassy in Argentina and the souring of relations between the two countries.