Uruguay advances determined to host the Soccer World Cup in 2030. If the Uruguayan aspiration materializes, the country would add its fields to those of Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, with which it launched the official candidacy last February. On the other side of the Atlantic, Spain, Portugal and Morocco will also bid to keep the organization of the championship. “This is the opportunity for Uruguay,” Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou said recently. FIFA’s decision will be announced in 2024, 100 years after the legendary Uruguayan team led by José Nasazzi, the Mariscal, won its first soccer world championship at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
With 3.4 million inhabitants and fans of La Celeste, Uruguay is convinced that it has enough credentials, sporting and historical, to host the defining matches of the tournament in 2030. The Uruguayan team was twice world champion, in 1930 and 1950, which amount to four if the football victories in the Olympic Games of 1924 (Colombes in Paris) and 1928 (Amsterdam) are taken into account. Uruguay also lifted the Copa América 15 times, the first in 1916 and the last in 2011. Closer in time, the U-20 sky blue team was crowned champion in the 2023 World Cup, with players who will try to repeat the feat in 2030. But if this were not enough to get the votes of FIFA, Uruguay can boast of having the founding piece of the most popular sport on the planet: the Centenario Stadium, where it all began in 1930 with the celebration of the first Soccer World Cup.
Declared a World Soccer Historic Monument by FIFA, the Centenario Stadium was built in Montevideo in barely six months, between February and July 1930, when it was inaugurated and named as a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the first Uruguayan Constitution. “The Centenario Stadium is a milestone due to its physical construction, as a symbol and as the setting for the First World Championship. These three aspects make it the starting place for international professional football”, Mario Romano and Alberto Magnone point out in the book El Estadio Centenario, templo del fútbol (Planeta, 2019). For its construction, the authors explain, around 1,100 workers worked divided into three shifts, including night shifts, in a thriving Uruguay and with progressive social laws, where the eight-hour law had been in force since 1915. Almost without machines, the thousand workers , mostly immigrants who had fled from a Europe in crisis, erected the four stands and shaped the large ring of reinforced concrete that would be crowned by the 100-meter Tower of Tributes.
The Centenary work was designed and directed by the Uruguayan architect Juan Antonio Scasso, initially to accommodate 120,000 spectators, but due to lack of time that number was reduced to 72,000. Ricardo Lombardo, president of the Centennial Administrative Commission, explained to EL PAÍS that the total bill for the Stadium was around 600,000 Uruguayan pesos at the time and was largely financed by the State. Today its construction, Lombardo calculates, would not fall below 120 million dollars. “For this country that had almost two million inhabitants and was a republic lost in the immensity of America, that was a very strong event,” he says. The organization of the first Cup was possible because Uruguay had surprised the world with its game in 1924 and 1928, Lombardo continues, but also because it enjoyed a prosperous economy, political democracy and an integrated society.
When it was chosen to host the FIFA World Congress in Barcelona in May 1929, Uruguay promised not only to build the stadium in record time, but also to cover the expenses of the attending delegations. He took charge of all the first class tickets, accommodation and per diem, according to the authors of the aforementioned work. Several European countries, including Spain and Italy, decided not to attend the event, dissatisfied with FIFA’s choice. Finally, 13 teams played in Montevideo: Belgium, France, Romania, Yugoslavia, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. On July 30, 1930, the Centenario Stadium witnessed the first World Cup final, played between Uruguay and Argentina, a classic of classics, in which the host won 4-2.
Aerial view of the Centenario Stadium.Anadolu Agency (Getty Images)
“Football arrived in Uruguay with the English in the 19th century, who played football between the railroad tracks that would be unrecognizable today,” says Lombardo. That English game was a long pass, a cousin of rugby, more individual than collective. “At the beginning of the 20th century, the game began to be played differently here, the long pass became short in the Scottish style, and that changed football,” he adds. Lombardo remembers, among many, the legendary Uruguayan soccer player José Piendibene, creator of the false nine in 1910, “who came from behind creating plays, short passes and goal options” and the genius of José Nasazzi, captain of the champion teams in 1924, 1928 and 1930, which inaugurated the figure of the libero or defense without a fixed position. “In the 1920s, the Uruguayans surprised the world with their innovative way of playing,” he notes. That “art soccer”, its tactical revolution and positional innovations, forced a change in the rules of the game and laid the foundations of modern soccer, says Lombardo, citing the renowned Uruguayan coach Ondino Viera.
A century after that feat, Lombardo considers it natural that the World Cup returns to its sources in 2030. “The essence of football is here and the Centenary is its history,” he says. In this sense, President Luis Lacalle Pou himself recently referred to the organization of the championship in 2030 as a matter of “national interest”. “Uruguay is the country that is, by far, more involved and interested in taking this forward,” Lacalle Pou told the Sport890 radio station. And he added: “It is the opportunity. If it is not done in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup, it is very difficult to get on another bus (bus)”.
With our sights set on 2030, a Centennial remodeling project was presented on August 17, in a meeting organized by the magazine Búsqueda. If approved, the reforms would include increasing its capacity to 80,000 spectators, lowering the playing field and building a new ring, preserving its original architectural design. “It all started here in Uruguay, we feel the responsibility because we have to represent South American soccer and honor the memory of the people who had the courage and courage to organize the first World Cup,” said Alejandro Domínguez, president of the South American Soccer Confederation, in that opportunity. Among his tasks, he remarked, is to seek an agreement with Spain, Portugal and Morocco, so that the championship is played on South American soil. Where it all began in the 1930s.
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