Wednesday 22 May 2024, 12:00

Paris the capital of world football again as FIFA celebrates 120th birthday

  • FIFA World Cup 1998™ winners among those joining FIFA President and French President to mark occasion

  • FIFA founded in the capital of France on 21 May, 1904

  • FIFA’s Paris office plays a central role in global football development through the FIFA Forward Development Programme

FIFA fittingly celebrated its 120th anniversary on Tuesday, 21 May, 2024, by returning to its birthplace, Paris, France, the city where world football’s governing body was founded by a small group of pioneers in 1904.

To mark the occasion, French President Emmanuel Macron received FIFA President Gianni Infantino, illustrious guests – including representatives of FIFA’s seven founder members – and international football legends at the Elysée Palace in recognition of the pivotal role that the French capital and France have played in the global game.

In his speech, President Infantino warmly thanked the French President for the invitation to the presidential palace and paid homage to those who raised the curtain on world football’s epic journey 120 years ago. It was in the City of Light at 229 rue Saint-Honoré, just around the corner from the presidential palace, that the establishment of FIFA was proclaimed by Robert Guérin, the first FIFA President.

“We have to give a big thank you,” said President Infantino. “We have to thank Jules Rimet, who created the most incredible spectacle on the planet, the [very first edition of the] FIFA World Cup in 1930.”

Rimet, the Frenchman who led world football’s governing body for more than 33 years and who gave his name to the original trophy of the most prestigious of competitions, was represented at the celebration by his great-granddaughter, Corinne Rimet-Ploujoux. “It’s an immense honour to see this tribute being paid to my great-grandfather at this meeting of great athletes and illustrious representatives from the world of sport and football,” she said.

FIFA World Cup winners Youri Djorkaeff, Bernard Diomède, Lilian Thuram and Thierry Henry, who raised the trophy aloft on home soil on 12 July 1998 and added a first star to the famous blue shirt, were among the legends who attended on the ceremony.

Henry, now France’s U-21 and U-23 coach, will endeavour to lead Les Bleus to victory at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024 in the hopes of seeing the country celebrate in the same spirit of unity and harmony as 26 years ago.

“I feel very proud at the idea of leading the French team during these Paris Olympics,” he said. “Experiencing a major international competition in your country remains a special, unique moment, where we feel the fervour of the French public. The images of the Champs-Elysées in ‘98, with millions of French people taking to the streets to celebrate our victory, are forever etched in my mind. I hope to relive these kinds of moments this summer.”

Off the pitch too, Paris has shone in its new role as FIFA’s Member Association Division’s home since 2022 and underpinning global football development, especially through the FIFA Forward Development Programme. FIFA Member Association presidents and other representatives have travelled to the office to have productive meetings with the FIFA President and hold in-depth discussions on football development in their country.

Kenny Jean-Marie, who runs FIFA’s Paris office in his capacity as Chief Member Associations Officer, was also present to celebrate this special day. “One hundred and twenty years is a milestone. It’s an extraordinary day. FIFA was founded in France,” said Jean-Marie, the former Chief of Staff of the French Football Association.

“The French have contributed significantly to developments over the years, including Robert Guérin and a lot of football legends,” he added. “It’s a nice symbol that FIFA is now back in the country where it all started; a country that is at the heart of major institutional and sporting developments and innovations that are central to football. Paris has been, is and must continue to be the stage for FIFA’s diplomatic relations,” he concluded.