In the 21st Century, so many sporting tournaments have already been held in different countries multiple times. These executive decisions are no joke and often reflect a country’s economic viability as it exhibits one’s capabilities to host such significant events. The FIFA World Cup is not an exception to this. But in 1986, Mexico became the first soccer nation to host two World Cups.
Mexico’s FIFA World Cups In 1970 And 1986
The first time Mexico hosted the FIFA World Cup was in 1970, and the second time was in 1986. This marked the first time a country was able to host the tournament twice, a feat not to be shrugged off. These decisions to hold such essential events show the sports world’s confidence in Mexico’s ability to accommodate thousands of people, and more importantly, the players and the country they represent.
The first Mexico FIFA World Cup finals were held in the Azteca Stadium. The stadium has an official capacity of 114,465 spectators, making it the largest association football stadium by capacity globally.
In this first international event, there were only 16 participating countries, and due to a political decision, several of them didn’t participate, including USSR, Spain, and others. As a result, 19 countries participated in the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.
The first match was between Mexico and the Soviet Union, on May 14th at Azteca Stadium with a 3-1 win for Mexico. During that time, only ten games were played simultaneously since the technology wasn’t as advanced as today. There were no official broadcasting channels either, but it is said that around 400 million people around the world watched the games in Mexico.
The World Cup finals were played between the South American nation Brazil and the European team, Italy in Azteca Stadium with Brazil winning 3-1. However, many fans worldwide found it challenging to watch the final game during that time since there were no live streaming options.
Brazil won 7 out of 8 games during this World Cup, including previous matches against Italy, Czechoslovakia, etc. They scored 25 goals and conceded 6 throughout the tournament.
The second World Cup held in Mexico City was ultimately faced with issues affecting all the participating countries. In 1986, the Chernobyl disaster leaked radiation into many countries surrounding Ukraine, including Poland. Due to the dangers the catastrophic event presented, other European teams were unsure if they should participate in the World Cup.
However, there were no real effects from the radiation on the players or their ability to play. In retrospect, players were still able to show their passion for the FIFA World Cup, despite the negative cultural impact that the Chernobyl disaster entailed.
In addition, many players and fans saw this as an opportunity to forget about World War II which ended in 1945. But besides the effect of the Chernobyl incident, other interesting events occurred that ultimately led to Mexico’s second hosting of the FIFA World Cup.
Second Hosting Of FIFA World Cup
The decision to hold the World Cup in Mexico again mainly was a political one, involving the economic downfall of Colombia and the rise of rebels within the country. This put doubt on the country’s government in hosting such an important event while guaranteeing the player’s safety in the country. In the end, Colombia forfeited its claim to hosting the World Cup.
The ones left to bid on the chance to host were Canada, the USA, and Mexico. Unfortunately, Canada had never won a World Cup match, and their bid was denied. And though the USA had a reasonable bid for the hosting, Congress ultimately rejected the opportunity, thereby handing the bid to Mexico.
Earthquakes During The 1986 FIFA World Cup
Although Mexico had experienced a win with their bid, the 1986 World Cup had many problems outside of politics affecting the event’s overall experience. Earthquakes disrupted Mexico City during this time, including the events surrounding the World Cup itself. Because there were multiple earthquakes around Mexico City, some were concerned if everything would come together properly before they arrived at the games.
In the end, though, the country proved there was no cause to worry. This was Mexico, their home turf, and they had experience dealing with earthquakes before. The earthquakes did not stop the fans from cheering for their countries, nor did they affect the grand stadium that was the Azteca.
The 1986 World Cup caused issues with its lack of organization and unfortunate accidents. But in this case, one of the things that held it back was the aftereffects of such tragic events. One of the motivators of FIFA relocating the event to Mexico was to eclipse the people’s attention from the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Though the incident marked the end of the Cold War, the sense of safety lacking from those years was still at a slow pace, and FIFA’s attempt to unite the countries was still in an awkward, tentative phase.
First Middle East World Cup
The new FIFA World Cup finals will be hosted in Qatar from November to December 2022. This marks the first-ever tournament to be hosted in the Middle East region in World Cup history. You’d think that by now, all countries in the entire world would have hosted a World Cup, but unfortunately, these kinds of decisions are never taken lightly. They are often riddled with politically motivated choices in the deciding committee and the countries that bid for the chance to host the event.
Next Country To Host Two World Cups
Mexico was the first country to hold two FIFA World Cups. It was no small feat, despite the numerous unfortunate occurrences that preceded and succeeded the event. One to note is Colombia’s eventual forfeiture of the event. During the same period, a volcano eruption in Armero and a guerilla seizure of Bogota’s Supreme Palace of Justice caused by the already broiling political turmoil marked the instability of the country that affirmed the country’s decision to forego the hosting.
For the 2026 World Cup finals, FIFA has already awarded the bid to the USA, Mexico, and Canada. In 2030, the centennial of the World Cup will be celebrated, and because of this, it is predicted that Argentina and Uruguay will make a combined candidacy for the centennial championships. Columbia, however, has confirmed its bid to host alongside Ecuador and Peru.
No one’s sure how this will turn out. FIFA may or may not sway on Colombia’s World Cup bid in 2030, but it is safe to say that a good redemption story is always a game-changer. The bidding process must be declared by the end of 2022, and the host nation/s will be selected at the 74th FIFA Congress in 2024.
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Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!