No sporting event captures the attention of the entire planet like the FIFA World Cup. The international football tournament is held every four years and features 32 national teams (at least for now), attracts billions of viewers, and is a month-long showcase of national pride—if your nation qualifies. For all its pomp today, the event had relatively humble origins. The first one was held in 1930 in Uruguay and featured only 13 teams. It is the only World Cup held without qualification rounds, and the host nation won. The history and characters behind the World Cup—and the world of football/soccer itself—are fascinating and provide insight into the global growth of the sport. Here are some of our favorite places dedicated to its lore.
Speaking of the first World Cup, the stadium where the first event was held is still standing. Estadio Centenario in Montevideo began the tradition of host nations constructing stadiums specifically for the matches. At the time it was considered the largest football stadium outside the British Isles, with a capacity of around 90,000. Across the pond, in Stirling, Scotland, resides what’s believed to be the world’s oldest football. The leather ball, surrounding a pig bladder, was discovered in the ceiling of what was once the queen’s chambers in Stirling Castle, and is now housed in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum. From a tribute to one of football’s first international sensations to a replica of the Jules Rimet trophy, here are some of our favorite places to celebrate football lore, as some of its best players vie for the global title.