The Catholic who founded the World Cup

Jules Rimet (left) presents the first World Cup trophy to a representative of Uruguay in 1930 (Catholic Herald)

While the English may have invented the world game, they did not invent the World Cup – that was the work of Catholic Frenchman Jules Rimet, writes Michael Duggan. Source: Catholic Herald.

Rimet was a successful lawyer and self-made man. He was also a Catholic whose view of society, and the role of sport within it, was heavily influenced by Church teaching.

The appearance in 1891 of Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII’s encyclical on labour and capital, came at a critical juncture for the 17-year-old. Jules and his friends were as appalled as the pope was by the misery endured by the working classes.

Rimet and his companions formed an organisation offering social and medical help to the poorest. He became a social reformer in the Catholic mould, seeking to reconcile Church and republic.

In the turmoil surrounding the passing of the law of separation between Church and state in 1905, Rimet seems to have re-directed his activist energies towards football, seeing it as a powerful way of promoting social harmony. His career as a sports administrator had begun with the creation in 1897 of the Red Star club which would grow to become one of the top clubs in France.

After World War I, he became president of the Fédération Française de Football and then, in 1921, of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa).

Under his leadership, Fifa proposed a world championship for national teams. Rimet, who believed that football could “propagate understanding and reconciliation between the races of the world”, travelled by ocean liner to the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930, carrying the trophy that would later be named in his honour in his bag.

He served as Fifa president for 33 years and in 1956, the year he died, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Russia 2018 will play out under all kinds of political storm clouds, but Rimet believed passionately in placing football at the service of friendship between the nations. Now hardly seems to be the time to give up on his ideal.


The Catholic visionary who founded the World Cup (The Catholic Herald)

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