The first FIFA World Cup was held 86 years ago, in 1930. This means that knowing everything about the tournament can be difficult. But one thing we do know is that, like today's editions, the tournament had an official poster. This poster announces that the competition took place between 15 July and 15 August. However, these dates don’t match the official records..

A close up of the 1930 FIFA World Cup poster, seen in the museum, clearly says '15 Julio Agosto 15' (15 July August 15) on the bottom | ©FIFA Museum

In fact, the tournament actually began on Sunday, 13 July with two matches played at the same time: one at the Pocitos Field stadium where France hammered Mexico 4-1 - with Lucien Laurent bagging the first ever World Cup goal. Elsewhere, the United States put in a convincing performance of their own as they defeated Paraguay 3-0 at Parque Central.

The tournament's Final was also way off the scheduled end date of 15 August as hosts Uruguay actually faced Argentina for the Victory trophy on Wednesday, 30 July.

So, why are the dates so wrong?

Well, in the third session of the 18th FIFA Congress, held on 18 May 1929, the European contingent (Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary and Italy) withdrew their candidacies to organise the competition. They said that Uruguay should host the tournament instead. On that same day, it was decided that Uruguay would host the World Cup and, at the request of Uruguayan representative Dr Enrique Buero, it would be contested between 15 July and 15 August.

In his book on the history of Uruguayan football, La Crónica Celeste, Luis Prats explains: “In order to bolster the bid, the parliament hastily passed a vote to provide state support for the tournament. The draft law was approved by a broad majority in the chamber of representatives on 10 May 1929, the senate unanimously voted it through on 15 May and Uruguay’s National Council of Government passed it 24 hours later, just in time to send the news to the delegates gathered in Barcelona”.

The Uruguay team from 1930, the first ever winners of the FIFA World Cup, as seen on The Timeline exhibit in the museum | ©FIFA Museum
Until then, everything had been running according to schedule, but then during the third session of the 19th FIFA Congress, held in Budapest on 7 June 1930, it was confirmed that: “despite the efforts of the Committee, only four national teams from Europe have registered: Belgium, France, Yugoslavia and Romania”.

Ideally, the organisers would have hoped for more European competitors but, initially at least, the low number of participants seemed to pose no real threat to the already agreed upon dates. This wouldn't last and on 4 July 1930 the organising committee issued a statement announcing that the championships would actually begin on 13 July.

The US and Mexican national teams had arrived in Montevideo on 1 July and then on 5 July, Jules Rimet, the FIFA World Cup trophy and the teams from Brazil, Belgium, Romania and France all arrived. That night, it was decided that the draw would be held on 7 July. 

So, the threat of European withdrawals went on to put the first FIFA World Cup in jeopardy and then forced the competition dates to be changed. This meant that the official poster, which had been designed based on the proposed dates of 1929 and then created that same year, was now a little out of date. Organisers didn't change it and it seems that nobody else has noticed until now - some 86 years later.

The competition

Although the dates are wrong, the 1930 poster has actually become quite iconic as an early representation of the first FIFA World Cup. But it almost wasn't used at all.

Historian Rony Almeida Jr, who inherited the official poster of 1930 from his father, recalls: “On 3 October 1929, (the organisers) published the results of a contest held in advance to determine the official poster of the first football world championship.

"Five posters made it to the final shortlist, of which two had been submitted by the winning artist, Guillermo Laborde ”.

You can see each of the four runners up below.

Second place, scanned from 'Memorabilia - Primer Campeonato Mundial de Fútbol - Montevideo, Uruguay 1930' by Rony J Almeida | ©Rony J Almerida
Third place, scanned from 'Memorabilia - Primer Campeonato Mundial de Fútbol - Montevideo, Uruguay 1930' by Rony J Almeida | ©Rony J Almerida

Fourth place, scanned from 'Memorabilia - Primer Campeonato Mundial de Fútbol - Montevideo, Uruguay 1930' by Rony J Almeida | ©Rony J Almerida
Fifth place, scanned from 'Memorabilia - Primer Campeonato Mundial de Fútbol - Montevideo, Uruguay 1930' by Rony J Almeida | ©Rony J Almerida

 

These images were scanned from 'Memorabilia - Primer Campeonato Mundial de Fútbol - Montevideo, Uruguay 1930' by Rony J Almeida.