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The Magic Of The Unofficial World Cup

Everyone has heard of the FIFA World Cup but here Conor Heffernan gives us his insight into how it’s predecessor, the Unofficial World Cup came about.


When Germany lifted the World Cup for the 4th time last summer, it was the twentieth time a team had done so. Since 1930, the FIFA World Cup has been a fixture in the international footballing calendar. It has been used as a metric to determine the best team in the world, it’s highly sought after, and highly coveted.

There’s just one problem. The Official FIFA World Cup is nothing but a cheap imitation of the Unofficial World Cup (the UWC), the real metric of who’s the greatest team in the World. The UWC dates its history back to the birth of football itself but thanks to FIFA, it has been shunted out of the spotlight much to the dismay of Scotland, who have won the thing 86 times!

The UWC began as early as the 1870s when the first ever-international match was held between England and Scotland in 1872. The match sadly ended in a draw and it was not until England defeated Scotland in 1873 that we had our first ever UWC Champions.

Wales entered the competition soon after in 1876 when she began to play international football and Ireland entered proceedings in 1882. It wasn’t until 1903 that the UWC was wrestled from the grasp of England and Scotland when Ireland became the first nation, besides England and Scotland to win the UWC.

A momentous occasion in the history of the Irish game that is sadly largely unrecognised. Ireland’s success was not to last and she soon relinquished the title. As the world began to take notice of the UWC, teams in Europe wanted a piece of the action.

The British Isles was recognised at that time as having the highest standard of football. Since there was no World Cup, the holders of the UWC had a legitimate claim to be the best team in the World. Hungary was the first European team to take a shot at the UWC. They played England in 1909 but were beaten by the English 4-2.

Sadly the UWC was soon to face a pretender to the crown in the form of something called a FIFA World Cup. The Europeans, clearly angered by the reluctance of the Home Nations to expand the UWC, went and established their own tournament. Shocked at such a move, the Home Nations abstained from the World Cup from 1930 to 1938, leaving the UWC firmly in the British Isles.

But the UWC couldn’t be hoarded forever and in 1931 the Home Nations began to play with their European friends. In 1931, UWC champions Scotland lost 5-0 to Austria and with that, the UWC passed into European hands for the first time.

Thankfully order was restored the following year when England reclaimed the UWC in 1932 at Stamford Bridge. The 1930s saw the UWC pass mainly between England, Scotland and Austria. In what was one of the biggest slaps in the face to the Western World, the Axis Powers actually held the UWC for most of the Second World War.

Pride was restored to the English when she recaptured the crown in the 1950 World Cup but in a shock result, the UWC soon passed over to the United States when she defeated England in the same tournament.

As the decades progressed, the UWC began to travel all over the world with a number of teams winning the prestigious trophy. Netherland Antilles became the smallest nation ever to win the UWC when they defeated Mexico 2-1 in a CONCACAF Championship match in 1963.

An historic moment in UWC history came in 1967 during a match between World Cup champions England and Scotland. After Scotland defeated Alf Ramsey’s men, the idea of a formal UWC was formed amongst Scottish fans.

Before then it had been a vague notion, occasionally brought up in the pub. Now it was official, or as official as an unofficial title could be. Soon even more UWC records began to be made.

In 1974, West Germany became the first team ever to hold the World Cup, the European Championship and the UWC at the same time. A momentous achievement if ever there was one. The title would spend the next decade in Europe, apart from a one-year stint in Argentina.

1992 saw the UWC return to the United States before making it’s way through Oceania and South America. 1995 saw South Korea become the first Asian team to win the UWC when they defeated Columbia in a friendly match and although the South Koreans lost the title in their very next match against Yugoslavia, the Asian teams had announced themselves as worthy contenders for the UWC.

The trophy remained in European hands for the better part of the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Ireland even won the UWC once more when they defeated the Czech Republic in 2004. When Ireland lost soon afterwards to Nigeria, the UWC had its first African Champions.

It wasn’t until 2006, that Georgia managed to reclaim the UWC for Europe and when Scotland defeated Georgia in 2007, they became the most successful team in UWC history. It took until 2010, when Argentina defeated Spain, that the UWC would leave European hands.

Argentina’s subsequent loss to Japan in a friendly brought the UWC back to Asia once more. In 2011 North Korea became the first dictatorship in decades to win the title. Not only that, the North Koreans successfully defended the title for over two years, before finally losing to Sweden, much to the relief of freedom lovers everywhere. At the time of writing Brazil are currently UWC Champions. A great consolation I’m sure after missing out on the FIFA World Cup.

The UWC is more than just a title. It’s an institution dating back to the birth of football itself. Every match counts in the UWC and regardless of how well marketed the FIFA World Cup is, history shows it’s the UWC that counts.

We’ll end with a list of the ten most successful teams in UWC History

  1. Scotland – 86 wins
  2. England – 73 wins
  3. Argentina – 59 wins
  4. Holland – 50 wins
  5. Russia – 41 wins
  6. Brazil -31 wins
  7. Germany -28 wins
  8. Sweden – 28 wins
  9. Italy – 27 wins
  10. France – 25 wins

So there you have it. Proof Scotland is the greatest team in the World. As if there were any doubts.

Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena

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