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Rio Olympics 2016: History of Olympic football

Everything you need to know about the history of football at the Olympic Games

Rio will be the 26th time football will be played at the Games

Rio De Janeiro is the name on everybody’s lips as Brazil prepares itself for the hosting of the grandest event of all, the Olympic Games. There will be a number of sports taking place at the Games spanned across 17 days. But football is the event that could stand-out when the Brazilian team takes the field.

The hosts have always been known as a footballing nation, but it is the first time they will be playing football at the Olympics in their own backyard.

How football made its way into the Olympic Games as a major sport:

Out of the 28 Olympic Games that have taken place, football has been a part of it for 26 of those Games. The first Olympic Games did not have football as one of its sports. But in the 2nd Olympics held in 1900, football was included. Although FIFA does not recognize the 1900 and 1904 Games, the Olympic Games recognises football as a proper sport which has been played since 1900. 

The reason FIFA gives for the exclusion of the previous editions is that very few teams had participated in the event, coupled with no proper rules and regulations being followed. However, in the 1908 London Games, the Football Association of England organised a proper competition where six teams took part. This event played a huge part in transforming football into an Olympics’ sport as well. In 1912, Sweden hosted the games where 11 football teams participated.

The Olympics did not take place during the World War I in 1916, but when it resumed in 1920, Czechoslovakia got famous as they walked off the field in the final due to the biasness of the referee, John Lewis.

In 1924, two South American teams were included, namely Argentina and Uruguay. The latter started dominating world football and won both the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games. But FIFA was not happy that only amateurs were allowed to participate at the Games. Hence, the FIFA World Cup was conducted in 1930. As a result of that, the Olympic Games decided not to include football at the 1932 Games. 

But in 1936, hosts Germany decided to include football at their Games and full strength teams were finally allowed to compete. This started a new era for football at the Games. Since then, barring 1944, when the Games did not take place due to World War II, football has been an integral part of the world’s biggest event.

The rules have, however, changed over the years as it was decided that only players under the age of 23 will be allowed to participate at the Games, including 3 over-age players. This rule came into existence from 1996 to give other minnow nations a chance to compete with the best football nations.

List of Olympic football winners
YearWinnerHosts
1900Great BritainFrance
1904Galt F.C (Canada)USA
1908Great BritainUnited Kingdom
1912Great BritainSweden
1920BelgiumBelgium
1924UruguayFrance
1928UruguayNetherlands
1936ItalyGermany
1948SwedenUnited Kingdom
1952HungaryFinland
1956Soviet UnionAustralia
1960YugoslaviaItaly
1964HungaryJapan
1968HungaryMexico
1972PolandWest Germany
1976East GermanyCanada
1980CzechoslovakiaUSSR
1984FranceUSA
1988Soviet UnionSouth Korea
1992SpainSpain
1996NigeriaUSA
2000CameroonAustralia
2004ArgentinaGreece
2008ArgentinaChina
2012MexicoUnited Kingdom

Some facts about Olympic Football:

  • Number of teams who participate in the Olympics currently: 16 (from 6 confederations)
  • Most successful teams: Great Britain and Hungary. Both have won three times.
  • The women’s tournament was included in 1996. No age limit applies to the women’s teams.
  • The number of cities which will host football at Rio 2016: 6 cities
  • The number of footballs to be utilised at Rio 2016: 400.
Mexico beat Brazil 2-1 in the gold medal match at London 2012

Last Olympic Final Match:

The final match in last year’s Olympics was played between Mexico and Brazil at Wembley Stadium in London, where the Mexicans won the game by 2-1. Current Brazil captain, Neymar, featured in that game but could not impress with his display.

The Mexicans were granted an early lead by their striker Oribe Peralta in the very 1st minute of the game. The Brazilians could not force their way back into the game, and Peralta scored again in the 75th minute to secure the gold medal for his country. Hulk did score a consolation goal in the added time, but Brazil could not capitalise and win their first Olympic football gold.

Neymar and co. will be looking to win their first gold medal in Rio

This year’s favourites:

Brazil will be hosting the Olympics for the very first time in their history and will be looking to win their first gold medal at the Games when they host the likes of Argentina, Germany and Sweden.

With Neymar Jr., Douglas Costa and Fernando Prass featuring as the three over-age players, the hosts look set to win the gold medal for the very first time in their history as they have quality youth players in their squad.

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