The World Cup Alphabet – H is for…



Hosting a World Cup is an honour equal to the Olympics but with rather a chance to show off a country rather than a city. The process has always been controversial, political and subversive. Frank Lowy, the Gillard Government and us poor tax payers learned that the hard way in late 2010.

As touched on before, the awarding of the tournament to Uruguay in 1930 was met with many toys being thrown out of the pram in Europe. It only took pleading from the FIFA boss Jules Rimet to get some Europeans to go. Italy hosted the next tournament with a chance for Il Duce to show off his Italian Fascist Wonderland. Lucky for him the team won. The first host country to win the tournament.

France hosted in 1938 which upset the South Americans because of two World Cups in a row in a Europe about to be changed forever by World War II. When the tournament kicked off again in 1950 and with Europe still rebuilding and being carved up, Brazil hosted to keep everyone happy.

The Swiss hosted in 1954 unopposed. FIFA and the World wanted the tournament back in Europe and Switzerland had been untouched by the destruction of a war now nine years over. Now with the World back in a regular motion bidding  began again from different countries to host. It started to again get political and tactical. Sweden hosted in 1958 winning the vote after skillful negotiations with other bidders.

For 1962, Latin American threatened a complete boycott if the tournament didn’t leave Europe. Argentina were the favourites but Chile campaigned on a promise of political unity and safety. Argentina boasted that they could host the World Cup the next day and had it all. Chile won the bid and hosted, despite a massive earthquake decimating the country in the lead up.

From here the tournament would swing between the Americas and Europe. Football ‘went home’ to England in 1966 with the stadia ready made. History was made in 1970 when Mexico was the first CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) nation to host the tournament and it was considered the best to date. The stadiums were iconic and memorable, full of fans watching some of the greats at their pomp. To continue the swing Europe went again in 1974 with West Germany hosting and including West Berlin’s Olympic Stadium as part of the make up of venues. Australia would draw 0-0 with Chile at the infamous site of the 1936 Olympics.

Argentina hosted in 1978 in controversial circumstances before Spain finally got to host in 1982 after missing out to England and West Germany previously. Spain had done the deal to get this tournament by backing West Germany in 1974 who responded in kind. Back scratching at a diplomatic football level.

For 1986 the tournament was to return to South America and Colombia. It was a risky move for security and financial reasons which became realised in 1983 when Colombia admitted it couldn’t afford the tournament. Despite hosting 16 years previous and having to deal with a debilitating earthquake, Mexico stepped in once again and held another iconic World Cup. The stars of the game again not disappointing.

With FIFA only receiving two bids for 1990 it was easy enough to select Italy to host over the USSR which was about to see its bottom fall out. FIFA, with their now financial clout and global brand, now started to expand with not only the amount of teams (16 to 24 in 1982) but also where the tournament could go. The last great frontier – USA – was in its sights and was annointed host of the 1994 event. With the massive American football stadiums they had ready-made venues but would the locals take to it? OJ Simpson going for a drive in a Ford Bronco on the opening day didn’t help. Escobar being shot didn’t either but on and off the pitch the tournament was a massive success. From the strength of this, Major League Soccer came to being and the sport had some kind of foothold in the States.

For the second time a country would host for a second time in 1998, with France hosting the tournament.  It was also the fifth time the hosts won the whole thing. This would be the last time to date a host country would win the thing as well. When going away from Europe, FIFA took another risk for 2002. They wanted to go to Asia but China was still a bit iffy on the whole human rights and communist thing. Japan could and so could Korea but they bickered like little children. FIFA decided to lock them in their rooms by making them co-host, an unprecedented and very risky move. The tournament was a massive success with the Japanese tipped to be the leaders but South Korea would ultimately make all the headlines.

Germany hosted a very successful tournament in 2006 with the venue of Australia’s clash against Chile in 1974 now the venue for the final after redevelopment. For 2010, FIFA pushed for Africa to host. Sepp Blatter had wanted them to host 2006 but political wrangling saw it go to Germany. Despite economic and social issues South Africa got through the tournament. Their team though was the first in the history of the big dance to not make it out of the first round. Now the country plays host to some white elephant stadiums since. Rather than go back to Europe, FIFA went back to South America and Brazil that held itself together for the four weeks to bring it all together.

After this, it gets all corrupt and political to a level that decent people shouldn’t stomach. Russia will host to be followed by Qatar. Both bids were shrouded in controversy; bribery, human rights abuses and other questionable activity. All of it prompted the proof of obvious fraud that totaled tens of millions of dollars. From here on, FIFA says it is clean but who can host if they expand the tournament with more games. Australia may get there one day… (in the year 3000).



50 players are part of a special club that have been able to take home a match ball. How do you take home the match ball? You score a hat trick. It’s a rare feat. An even rarer feat is the perfect hat trick. One with the left foot, one with the right, one with the head.

There has been a hat trick in every World Cup after the American Bert Patenuade scored the original in 1930 against Paraguay. The most scored in any one tournament was a whopping seven in 1974. Pele got one (the youngest) but Diego Maradona never did. Gabriel Batistuta, one time Perth resident and Argentine legend, is the only one to get one in two different World Cups.


Paolo Rossi’s one against Brazil in 1982 was probably the most memorable because it was so unlikely. Only one player has scored one in a final, Geoff Hurst in 1966 for England. Then there’s Miroslav Klose who scored all three of his one with his head in 2002. When Sweden and Cuba played in 1958 a player from each side scored one.

Laszlo Kiss came off the bench to nab a hatrick in seven minutes which is the fastest. Not one has been scored against Australia. Let’s keep it that way.



The 90s spat out some brilliant cult players. Some didn’t really set the world alight as a great and are more remembered for looks or smoking habits but some backed it up. Some like Gheorghe Hagi.

The Romanian battleaxe goes by the name ‘Commander’ or ‘The King’. A leader of men and one of the greatest and most unorthodox players of the 90s. Hagi was of a time when the playmaker could wander the field like Kane in ‘Kung Fu’. He was free range, a wandering spirit. Players like Messi or Ronaldo now are in rigid systems and have the flair strangled out of them by tactics more often than not as brilliant as they still are. One of the last players that was told just to do whatever and good things would happen.

Hagi is history’s most revered Romanian but he is actually Aromanian, a group who numbered a couple of million and were spread around that part of Europe. It was when they were turfed out of Greece following World War I that they were mainly based around Romania. Hagi got through squalid conditions at a training school for talented teenage footballers to emerge at Farul in his home town.

After leaving and signing for a more politically acceptable club for a brief period of time he emerged to be a star. He debuted at age 18 in the national side then was captain by 20. Continental giants like AC Milan and Barcelona tried to sign him but the Dictator Ceausescu refused to allow it. Juventus offered to build a FIAT factory in Bucharest to sweeten a deal to sign him but it was deemed ‘too capitalist.’

Speaking of cars, a near death experience in a car crash in 1989 saw him believe he now had a new life and held no fear. He said that, “that afternoon I was born for a second time.”

At only 5’9 and with an apparent heart and lung defect he was tough, nuggety and followed the ball around and influenced the game like a Labrador chasing a tennis ball. Moving the Steaua Bucharest just after they had won an unbelievable European Cup, he was the lynch pin in their amazing team for three years but he still couldn’t ply his trade in the West.

In 1990 the world outside of Europe took notice of Hagi. One of the players us Aussies would see as a sticker in a football book starting at us. We knew nothing of this guy apart from scant comments in a magazine but now he was showing us late at night on SBS what he could do with a ball. He was amazing for Romania at Italia ’90 as they somehow only made it as far as the second round. The team revolved around him like he was the sun itself, the bright yellow playing strip matched the same colour. From here he left his native Romania for Real Madrid with Ceausescu now ‘retired’ from leading the country and the iron curtain down. His club career was never what people spoke in hushed tones about, it was when he represented his country.

His goal against Colombia at USA 94 was one of the greats. Again, he led the team over the mountain and in to glory making the quarter finals as his spasmodic way of running around and delivery of the ball to teammates looked so Sunday morning in the park, so half arsed but deadly every time. At the age of 33 and now an established captain and mainstay at Galatasaray he again led Romania in 1998 as they topped a group with England and looked the goods. Unfortunately they would be upset by a Croatian team that would go through to third place.

That goal against Colombia.

He would play on until 2000 for club and country winning the UEFA Cup against Arsenal with Galatasaray, the first and to this date only European Trophy a Turkish team has won. Wherever he went he was adored for always giving his all and making good things happen even if it was passively.

He holds the record for most caps for an outfield player for Romania and even though he was a midfielder or defender for all of his time with the national side he is the top goalscorer.

A laconic icon of our times.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Dilettante. Traffic Nerd. Behind the Almanac World Cup 100. Keen Cat, Cardie, Socceroo/Matilda, Glory Bhoy.


  1. This is an epic series, Dennis.
    Very enjoyable reading – and I am full of admiration for your efforts.

  2. Mick Jeffrey says

    I’ll actually set foot in one of the “white elephant” World Cup stadia in Durban in less than 2 weeks time!

  3. Was there for a few games in 2010. It’s a tremendous stadium. They need another Rugby World Cup to fill it up. I think the Sharks still play across the road?

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