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FIFA (in full, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, French for International Federation of Association Football) is the international governing body of football (soccer). Its headquarters are in Zürich, Switzerland, and its current president is Sepp Blatter. FIFA is responsible for the organisation and governance of football's major international tournaments, most notably the FIFA World Cup, held since 1930. FIFA is the largest sporting governing body and the second largest international organization in the world, after the United Nations, with over two hundred member associations split between six continental regions (see Structure below).


The need for a single body to oversee the worldwide game became apparent at the beginning of the 20th century with the increasing popularity of international fixtures. The Football Association had chaired many discussions on setting up an international body, but was perceived as making no progress. It fell to seven other European countries to band together to form this association. FIFA was founded in Paris on May 21, 1904 — the French name and acronym persist to this day, even outside French-speaking countries. Its first president was Robert Guérin.

FIFA presided over its first international competition in 1906, but this met with little approval or success. This, in combination with economic factors, led to the swift replacement of Guérin with Daniel Burley Woolfall from England, by now a member association. The next tournament staged, the football competition for the 1908 Olympics in London was more successful, despite the presence of professional footballers, contrary to the founding principles of FIFA.

Membership of FIFA expanded beyond Europe with the application of South Africa in 1909, Argentina and Chile in 1912 and the United States in 1913.

FIFA however floundered during World War I with many players sent off to war and the possibility of travel for international fixtures severely limited. Post-war, following the death of Woolfall, the organisation fell into the hands of Dutchman Carl Hirschmann. It was saved from extinction, but at the cost of the withdrawal of the Home Nations, who cited an unwillingness to participate in international competitions with their recent World War enemies.

The FIFA collection is held by the National Football Museum in England.

The World Cup

Jules Rimet became the third President of FIFA in 1921. He presided over another two successful Olympic competitions despite the absence of England and Scotland, but the success of the competitions, combined with the rising profile of the game, allowed FIFA to seriously consider, for the first time, staging its own regular World Championship.

Talks on the matter began in 1928, and the first World Cup took place in Uruguay in 1930 and was won by the home nation. Despite the reluctance of participation from European nations due to the travel time required and the ongoing economic depression, the tournament was considered a success and plans were laid for the next World Cup in 1934, in Italy. Excluding a break for World War II, the World Cup has been held once every four years.

The current World Cup champions are Italy, who won the most recent edition (the 2006 FIFA World Cup) defeating France in a penalty shootout. The next tournament will be held four years hence, as the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Other tournaments

Aside from the World Cup and Olympic competitions, FIFA organises World Championships for players at under-17 level and under-20 level. In addition to this, it has introduced the Confederations Cup, a competition for the champions from each confederation (plus the hosts and World Cup Winners), every four years. Originally organised by and held in Saudi Arabia every two years as the King Fahd Cup, it now serves as a prelude to the World Cup, with the World Cup host staging the tournament as a test of facilities. The current Confederations Cup champions are Brazil who defeated Argentina 4-1 in Germany.

With the development of the women's game, FIFA introduced the Women's World Cup in 1991 and the Women's Under-20 World Championship in 2002 (started as U-19, is now U-20 from 2006). An U-17 women's championship will start in 2008.

FIFA's only major club competition is the FIFA Club World Cup. It was slated as the natural progression of the European/South American Cup (which itself ran under a variety of names) to include clubs from all confederations. The tournament was not warmly received on its debut in 2000 and its 2002 edition was cancelled. Three years later, with a shorter revised format, the tournament returned for its 2005 edition in Japan.

FIFA also presides over World Cups in modified forms of the game including beach football (the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup) and futsal (the FIFA Futsal World Championship).

Laws of the game

The laws of football that govern the game are not solely the responsibility of FIFA; they are maintained by a body called the International Football Association Board (IFAB). FIFA has a 50% representation on its board (four representatives); the other four are provided by the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, in recognition of the unique contribution to the creation and history of the game of the nations now comprising the United Kingdom.


Map of the World with the six confederations.
Map of the World with the six confederations.

FIFA is an association established under the Laws of Switzerland. Its headquarters are in Zurirch.

FIFA´s supreme body is the FIFA Congress, an assembly made up of a representative from each filiated national federation. The Congress assembles in ordinary session once every fourth year, and extraordinary sessions have been held once a year since 1998. Only the Congress can pass changes to FIFA´s by-laws.

Congress elects the President of FIFA, its secretary-general and the other members of FIFA´s Executive Comittee. The President and secretary-general are the main officeholders of FIFA, and are in charge of its daily administration, carried out by the General Secretariat, with its staff of 208 members.

FIFA´s Executive Comittee, chaired by the President, is the main decisionmaking body of the organization in the intervals of Congress. FIFA´s worldwide organizational structure also consists of several other bodies, under authority of the Executive Committee or created by Congress as Standing Comittees. Among those bodies are the Finance Committee, the Disciplinary Committee, the Referee´s Committee, etc.

Aside from its worldwide institutions (presidency, Executive Board, Congress, etc.) FIFA has created confederations which oversee the game in the different continents and regions of the world. National federations, and not the continental Confederations, are members of FIFA. The continental Confederations are provided for in FIFA´s by-laws. National federations must claim membership to both FIFA and the confederation in which their nation is geographically resident for their teams to qualify for entry to FIFA's competitions (with a few geographic exceptions listed below):

     AFC - Asian Football Confederation in Asia and Australia
     CAF - Confédération Africaine de Football in Africa
     CONCACAF - Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football in North America and Central America
     CONMEBOL - Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol in South America
     OFC - Oceania Football Confederation in Oceania
     UEFA - Union of European Football Associations in Europe.

Nations straddling the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia have generally had their choice of confederation. As a result, a number of transcontinental nations including Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan have chosen to become part of UEFA despite the bulk of their land area being in Asia. Israel, although lying entirely within Asia, joined UEFA in 1994, after decades of isolation by many of its Middle Eastern neighbours. Kazakhstan was the latest nation to make the move from AFC to UEFA, in 2002.

Guyana and Suriname have always been CONCACAF members despite being South American countries.

Australia have been given permission to join the AFC instead of the OFC from 2006 onwards. Australia have long lobbied for a change, because their national team is very much stronger than the other Oceania teams. No team from the OFC is offered automatic qualification to the World Cup; instead the winner of their section must play a play-off against a CONMEBOL side, a hurdle at which Australia have traditionally fallen. Perhaps ironically, Australia successfully qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup by winning just such a playoff in a penalty shootout against Uruguay, just a few months after the clearance to move was granted.

In total, FIFA recognises 207 national federations and their associated men's national teams as well as 129 women's nationals teams; see the list of national football teams and their respective country codes. The FIFA World Rankings are updated monthly and rank each team based on their performance in international competitions, qualifiers, and friendly matches. There is also a world ranking for women's football, updated four times a year.

Recognitions and awards

FIFA awards, each year, the title of FIFA World Player of the Year to the most prestigious player of the year, as part of its annual awards ceremony which also recognises team and international football achievements.

As part of its centennial celebrations in 2004, FIFA organised a "Match of the Century" between France and Brazil, the most successful national teams of the last decade. In addition, it commissioned arguably the most famous player ever, Pelé, to produce a list of the greatest players of all time. This list, the FIFA 100, included 50 players who were still actively playing at the time of publication ( one of whom was female), and 75 retired players (including himself and one woman, but not including deceased players). The list was originally planned to be just 100 players long but Pelé is understood to have found it too hard to choose just 100 and so the list actually names 125 players.

Commercial activities

FIFA announced in April 2004 that it is expecting to earn $144 million profit on $1.64 billion in revenue between 2003 and 2006 (the 4 year cycle including the 2006 World Cup).

FIFA has licensed its name and copyrighted content to computer game designer EA Sports to provide a number of football simulation games for the PC and various game consoles. A new installment in this FIFA series of games is introduced each year, and additional versions are released with World Cup branding to coincide with these tournaments. 2005 saw an additional "urban football" video game franchise, FIFA Street and its sequel FIFA Street 2. In August 2006 EA & FIFA announced that they would be extending their exclusive deal for another four years, covering the 2010/11 season .

Allegations of financial irregularities

In May 2006 British investigative reporter Andrew Jennings' book Foul ( Harper Collins) caused controversy within the football world by detailing an alleged international cash-for-contracts scandal following the collapse of FIFA's marketing partner ISL, and revealed how some football officials have been urged to secretly repay the sweeteners they received. The book also exposed the vote-rigging that went on behind closed doors in the fight for Sepp Blatter's continued control of FIFA.

Nearly simultaneous with the release of Foul was a BBC television expose by Jennings and BBC producer Roger Corke for the BBC news programme Panorama. In this hour-long programme screened on June 11, 2006, Jennings and the Panorama team submit that Sepp Blatter is being investigated by Swiss police over his role in a secret deal to repay more than £1m worth of bribes pocketed by football officials.

All testimonies offered in the Panorama expose were done via disguise of voice, person, or both, save one; Mel Brennan, a university professor in the United States, former Head of Special Projects for CONCACAF and a FIFA delegate, became the first high-level football insider to go public with substantial allegations of financial malfeasance by CONCACAF and by FIFA. His book, The Apprentice: Tragicomic Times Among the Men Running - and Ruining - World Football is due out in late 2006 or early 2007.

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