All the Presidential Men (Part 5) Three Presidents in six years
The legendary Jules Rimet retired as President of FIFA following the 1954 World Cup and in so doing left his successor with a tough act to follow. Here was a man who led the organisation for thirty-three years in which a World War forced him to hide the World Cup trophy under his bed to evade the gaze of enemy soldiers. He ensured the World Cup competition got off to a safe and steady beginning and saw the number of member nations increase from 24 to 82 during his reign.
When Rimet stood down at the start of 1955, his replacement turned out to be none other than his Vice-President, Rodolphe Seeldrayers. Seeldrayers was born in Germany in 1876 but spent much of his life competing in and helping to develop many different sports in Belgium.
He officiated in the Olympic Games football competition in 1920 and seven years later was given the role of Vice-President at FIFA. During the time leading up to his appointment, Seeldrayers was a key figure in the ongoing debate about amateurism in sport, but though he preferred all players to be non-professional, he also accepted that in reality more and more players were turning their backs on the amateur ideals while still playing the game in the appropriate spirit.
Sadly, Seeldrayers never got to apply his ideas and beliefs to the post-war game to any great exent. Just a year after his election as President of FIFA, he died following a period of illness, aged 78.
In 1956, FIFA elected their second President in as many years. Arthur Drewry had been acting in a caretaker role following Seeldrayers death, but a year later he was given the top job on a permanent basis and immediately found himself planning for the next World Cup in Sweden in 1958.
He arrived as someone with experience of administrating in football yet had also flirted with controversy in his earlier days. Drewry had been appointed Chairman of the Football Association in 1955 and had previously been President of the Football League, but it was around this time that one of the most embarrassing episodes in English football history was credited to him.
In the 1950 World Cup Finals, England were due to play the United States. As far as the English were concerned, it would be a mere formality and there was realistically only one team in it. What few could have foreseen, however, was the 1-0 defeat the Americans inflicted on England, and when a scapegoat was being sought, the finger of blame finally pointed to Drewry.
Though Walter Winterbottom was the England team manager during the Finals in Brazil that year, it's said that Arthur Drewry (with his more senior authority) had appointed himself as the man to select the team instead. The end result left England desperately hanging onto a place in the competition which they soon lost.
Despite this, FIFA put Drewry in charge in 1956, but sadly he, too, was to enjoy an all-too-short spell as FIFA President when he also died in office, just before the fifth anniversary of his appointment in 1961. It would be a further six months before the world governing body would appoint a permanent successor, but when they did, they had somewhat better luck. The job was given to a former referee who went on to help rewrite the very Laws of the Game, and his name was Stanley Rous...
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