The role of football in the Olympic movement is something to be proud of. The history of Olympic football starts from the first modern games in Athens in 1886. The first edition involved only 3 teams: Denmark, Izmir and Athens, where only one game was played and the Danish team won it by a huge margin. However, football was later added as a demonstration sport in the 1900 Olympics in Paris, and the team from England, Upton Park FC, secured a comprehensive win against France.
Later, in the 1904 St Louis Olympics, Galt FC, a team from Ontario, Canada, won the title in a competition comprising four teams from the North American region only. However, this time as well the sport was added as a demonstration sport only and had no formal presence. In 1908, London played the Olympics host and it was the first time that Football was added in the main roaster and a team from England comprising amateur talent secured the gold by beating Denmark 2-0 in the final. History repeated itself four years later as both sides met in the final again and Danish side again had to settle for the silver medal. Vivian Woodward, leading England and Nils Middelbeo, representing Denmark, both played for Chelsea later on.
Paris played the role of Olympics host in 1924, and it was the first time that a South American side participated in the competition. Uruguay (The first world champion) stunned the European sides with their strong and dazzling display of skills, for which the Europeans had no answer. The Uruguayan side, comprising some great players, defeated Switzerland 3-0 in the final to claim the gold. Four years later, Argentina participated in the competition for the first time adding more South American flavor. Uruguay claimed their second gold by defeating arch rivals Argentina in the final. The final gave a clear cut notice to the entire world that the South Americans were there and were there for good.
London has always been full of surprises and again in 1948, a fairly lesser known side, Sweden, emerged as the surprise winner of the tournament beating Yugoslavia 3-1 in the final. Yugoslavia came be known as “chokers” as they lost in the final once again this time to Hungry in 1952, Helsinki Olympics. This win by Hungary started the 24-year control or domination of Communism over Olympic Football tournament, which was brought to end by France when they won the gold in 1984, Los Angeles.
In 1992, Barcelona became the host nation and the tournament saw some amendments with new laws being introduced. The tournament was turned into an under-23 competition by FIFA allowing only 3 over-age players. However, the amendments made room for some unprivileged nations from Africa and Asia to emerge on top. The African success in Olympic Games is apparent from the fact that Nigeria in 1996, and Cameroon in 2000, turned out to be the eventual winners.
Argentina created history by equalizing the Uruguayan record of consecutive Olympics wins. 2004 and 2008 saw Argentina as the eventual winners. However, the Argentineans failed to display the same performance in London 2012 and their search for a consecutive third gold was over. Mexico emerged as the champions in the London 2012.
Brazil is a big name in the international circuit but has failed to win an Olympic gold, but this time around the team is being touted as the favorites to win their first Olympic gold. However, the challenge will be stiff but the host nation is positive to land their first gold in Rio.
Rio Olympic 2016 football event will also witness some exciting young talent that ensures amazing and thrilling encounters. There were people who were of the opinion that Olympic football has no relevance. If anything, with its rapid acceptance by the world’s youth, the sport is more relevant than ever before.