Henri Delaunay — the architect behind European Championship

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, May 12:

The idea of the European Championships was first thought of in 1927 by Henri Delaunay, who was the head of the French Football Federation. No one seriously entertained his idea, as football bosses at that time mostly concentrated on the World Cup. However, FIFA approved the formation of continental football associations at its congress in Paris in 1953 and Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) was duly formed on June 15, 1954, of which Delaunay became the general secretary. He set up two competitions — the European Cup for clubs and the European Nations Cup.

The following year European Cup was born. Qualifying for the European Nations Cup — later known as the European Championships and Euro since 1996 — started in 1958. The first finals were held in 1960. Sadly, Delaunay died in 1955 before he could see his dream come true, but the trophy was named the Henri Delaunay Cup in his honour. In 1960, 17 nations took part in the first European Nations Cup but Spain withdrew from the competition at the last minute. Victor Ponedalnik scored the winner for the USSR in extra-time to become the proud winners of the first European Nations Cup.

In 1964, the number of participants rose to 29 in Spain. Denmark, Hungary, Spain and the USSR battled in the semi-finals. Spain eventually beat the USSR in the final in front of 1,20,000 fans at the Madrid’s Bernabeau Stadium. In 1966, the European Nations Cup was officially renamed European Championships. In 1968, 31 teams entered the competition in Italy. They were divided into eight qualifying groups. The semi-finals saw Italy beat the USSR by spin of the coin, while Yugoslavia defeated England 1-0. The winner was decided in two legs. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw. Italy scored a 2-0 win in the second leg to lift the trophy.

In 1972, the USSR maintained their record of reaching a semi-final in every championship so far. They defeated Hungary in the semi-finals and in the final they met West Germany which beat the hosts Belgium. But the Russians failed miserably in the final as Gerd Muller scored twice in 3-0 win to give the Germans their first European title. In 1976, Czechoslovakia began the competition in Yugoslavia with a 3-0 loss to England. But a series of good results after this saw them reach the final, where they defeated West Germany 5-3 in first-ever penalty shoot out of the competition, after the normal and extra time ended at 2-2.