103 years, 61 congresses, and seven presidents later…

Every month, the museum team will dig out and research an item from the FIFA archives. This month we feature one of the oldest photographs of a FIFA Congress, taken in 1913.

So these are predecessors of the delegates at the 2016 FIFA Extraordinary Congress?

Yes. In fact, this is one of the earliest photos we have of any FIFA Congress. It was taken in Copenhagen in 1913. The bearded gent sitting to the left of the railing at the bottom, on the second step, is FIFA President Dan Woolfall. Remarkably, the new president elected at the 2016 Congress, in Zurich 103 years later, will be only the seventh after Woolfall and the ninth in all.

It looks a big gathering…

It is. But it’s a misleading picture. The Copenhagen Congress included 23 delegates representing only 12 countries – but there are 65 people in the photo! We simply don’t know who the others are. If you recognise someone in the picture, please tell us about him.

So how global was FIFA in 1913?

Well, not very. Twelve countries is not a lot. And they were all European, with only Russia from beyond Western and Central Europe. There again, not all of FIFA’s 20 member associations were represented in Copenhagen. Argentina and South Africa – the only two from outside Europe – were obviously not keen on a long boat trip for a two-day gathering.

So FIFA wasn’t really that important then?

Actually it was. Despite appearances! It was growing stronger every year – and at this Congress, FIFA discussed the admission of four new members: Canada, Chile, Spain and the USA. Also, the four British associations had invited FIFA to join the International Football Association Board. A significant move.

Why significant?

Because the Board controlled the Laws of the Game. In 1913, The Football Association in London was celebrating its 50th anniversary. In contrast, FIFA was just nine years old. The FA drew up the Laws of the Game at its founding in 1863. In 1886, it agreed to share control of the Laws with the Irish, Scots and Welsh. By 1913, the British were convinced that FIFA had a critical role to play in the future of the game, so they were invited to join.

How did that work?

The Copenhagen Congress chose two FIFA representatives to be present at the 1913 IFAB meeting at Portrush in Ireland two weeks later. They were Belgium’s Baron De Laveleye (in the photo, he’s next to Woolfall on the other side of the railing) and C.A.W. Hirschman from the Netherlands (sitting directly behind Woolfall).

And who were they?

De Laveleye and Hirschman played key roles in the early years of FIFA. De Laveleye took part in skating, swimming, horse riding, tennis and wrestling – and he’d been instrumental in persuading the English to join FIFA in 1905. Hirschman was also a keen sportsman. His desire to play football against teams from other countries gave him the idea of creating an international federation. He was also the first to mention the idea of a World Cup...

Are there any other famous players or administrators in the picture?

Like Hirschman and De Laveleye, most football officials of that era were simply players who tried their hand at administration just to get a game! In the photo, the third from left in the back row is a young Austrian, Hugo Meisl, who went on to become an international referee and one of the great team managers of the first half of the century. The portly gentleman in the light coloured suit, fifth from the right in the back row, is Ludwig Sylow, Denmark’s first football icon.

It looks like he’d seen better days!

Well, this photo was taken years after he helped pioneer Danish football in the 1880s. Seven men founded FIFA in 1904. By 1913, only two were still involved with the organisation: Sylow and Hirschman. Another famous face – third from the left in the third row down – is Henri Delaunay, one of the most important administrators in the history of the game.

In what way?

Delaunay was involved in football until his death in 1955, 42 years later. His fingerprints were all over the creation of three of the most famous trophies in world football – the World Cup, the European Champions Cup and the European Championship. In fact, whoever wins EURO 2016 in France this summer will be lifting the Henri Delaunay Cup!

That’s some CV...

But that’s not all. As well as being the secretary general of the French association and working for FIFA, Delaunay was the first secretary general of UEFA, a confederation he helped to found in 1954.

Wow. They don’t make ’em like they used to! Anyone else?

Johnny Lewis, standing four to the left of Sylow, has an interesting story. In 1875, he and a friend founded Blackburn Rovers and played in their first match. He went on to become an administrator and a famous referee. At the 1920 Olympic Games, he took charge of the final. But age caught up with him (he was 65!), his decisions were disputed by Czechoslovakia, and their team walked off the pitch. Lewis was forced to abandon the match in favour of Belgium – the only time a major international final has finished in such drastic circumstances.

This photo really is a snapshot of a bygone age…

Indeed it is. Taken in front of Copenhagen’s original Langelinie Pavillonen, it features smiles all round. But the First World War was only 13 months away and tensions were simmering under the surface.

Such as?

In the photo, Germany’s Robert Hefner is sitting directly in front of Delaunay. Hefner was openly antagonistic towards the British. He proposed a motion that “the F.I.F.A. must become the unrestrained governing body in International Football” – effectively calling for the abolition of the IFAB.

Did he have much support?

Not quite. He was in a minority of one! Delaunay considered the motion “inopportune”, while Meisl went as far as to say that “If England would offer to the federation to make their own Laws of the Game, he would not accept the kindness”. Hirschman and De Laveleye then put forward a motion that “The Congress of Copenhagen recognizes the International Football Association Board as the body to make the Laws of the Game”, a motion which was carried unanimously. The situation remains unchanged today.