By Roy Hay
Amidst the euphoria of qualification for the East Asia Football Federation tournament late last year, most people seem to have been unaware that Australia missed the chance to be the Unofficial World Champion (UFWC) in football. In the qualifying tournament in Hong Kong, Australia led DPR Korea by a goal to nil scored by Archie Thompson. Had they held on to win, instead of conceding an equaliser to An Yong-Hak, Australia would have been on top of the World once again. The last and only time it reached this eminence was in June 1992 in South America when the Socceroos beat the United States by a goal to nil, scored by Warren Spink in the 85th minute, to claim the title. That only lasted one game as Australia was knocked off its perch by Argentina. Australia’s only UFWC holders were: Robert Zabica, Milan Blagojevic, Mehmet Durakovic, Ned Zelic, Alex Tobin, Paul Wade, Tony Vidmar, Ernie Tapai, Vlado Bozinoski, Mike Petersen, Warren Spink, Aurelio Vidmar and Jason van Blerk. Eddie Thomson, a Scot, was the coach.
For those who are bemused by all this, the story of the Unofficial World Championship began in 1967 when Scotland beat England at Wembley in the Home International Series by three goals to two. Since England had won the FIFA World Cup the previous year, and hence were official World champion, many Scots, like me, claimed that since we had knocked off the reigning champion we should now be regarded as their legitimate successor. The idea has a long historical pedigree in football, as the FA Cup in its very early days in the 1870s was played on a similar challenge system. The Cup holder sat out the qualifying matches and the team which won the knock-out games would then challenge the holder in a one-off match for the Cup. FIFA, a bunch of spoilsports, did not accept this idea should still hold so the Unofficial World Championship remains unofficial. A country only retains its title until it loses its next match and then the accolade passes to the victor. The current holder is and remains DPR Korea.
The keepers of the flame have recalculated the UFWC back to the very dawn of the game in the mid-nineteenth century and you will not be surprised to know that Scotland remains the country to have held the UFWC most often. Scotland has been champion 86 times and England only 73, followed by Argentina on 51 and Holland on 49. Mighty Brazil languishes in sixth place on 29. Spain the current official World and European champion can only manage eleventh on 17.
You can follow up the work of the dedicated calculators of the UFWC on their website – click here.