Sports Heritage Along the SILK ROAD (FIFA World Cup)

GSHA (& MUSEUMVIEWS) were delighted to be invited to join in the celebrations of the first annual Silk Road Week (June 19-24, 2020) to mark the inscription of the Silk Road – from Chang’an to the Tianshan Corridor -, onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List, in June 2014.

MUSEUMVIEWS and GSHA (Global Sports Heritage Association) have been delighted to participate in the inaugural Silk Road Week 2020, June 19-24. Our week-long engagement may be regarded as an invitation to celebrate the histories of various sports – football (cuju), martial arts, equestrian sports, archery, wrestling, horse polo, board games, weight lifting, etc. – and their origins and practices along the Silk Road. Particularly true for our readers in the West where insufficient attention is given to the arts, cultures and sports traditions beyond our sphere of interest, often over-burdened by financial priorities.

FIFA Fédération Internationale de Football Association was founded in 1904, in Paris, France. Seven  European countries – France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland –  were the original signatories of the associations’ foundation act.

Today, headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland, 211 national associations comprise FIFA membership. 

FIFA’s six confederations represent different regions around the globe including : UEFA (Europe), CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (North and Central America), CONMEBOL (South America), OFC (New Zealand and South Pacific island nations) and AFC (Asia).


The first Women’s World Cup which was founded in 1991, and appropriately held in China, the original home of football or cuju where women played football for centuries.

Guangzhou, Foshan, Jiangmen, Panyu, and Zhongshan hosted 510,000 (19,615 average per match) fans cheering for the participating teams from USA, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, China PR, Japan, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand. Team USA defeated Norway in the final match of the inaugural Women’s World Cup.

Women’s World Cup (1991) is predated by the the Women’s Asian Cup, first held in 1975. The competition is organized by Asian Ladies Football Confederation (ALFC) which is part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Du Jin (杜堇, c. 1465-1509), Ladies playing cuju (蹴鞠 football), 15th century, Shanghai Museum, China

Since its establishment in 1930, seventeen countries have hosted FIFA Men’s World Cup in twenty-one tournaments.

Until today, only once have non-Western countries hosted a World Cup. The 17th FIFA World Cup 2002 was held in Japan (ワールドカップ 韓国/日本) and South Korea(월드컵 한국/일본), from May 31 to June 30, 2002. The final match hosted by Japan at International Stadium in Yokohama.

The 2002 World Cup was the first to be held in Asia, that is the first to be held outside of the Americas or Europe, and the first to be co-organized by more than one nation. In addition, China, Ecuador, Senegal and Slovenia made their World Cup debuts.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is the governing body of Asian football and one of FIFA’ six regional Confederations. The AFC was founded in 1954, with fifteen founding member signatories: Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), Republic of China (Chinese Taipei), Hong Kong, Iran, India, Israel, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore and South Vietnam.

The first edition of the AFC Cup, with four teams taking part, was held in the then British administered Hong Kong, in 1956.

With the tagline One Asia, One Goal, the AFC is now headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has 46 Member Associations in addition to one Associate Member Association (The Northern Mariana Islands).

Two decades after Japan and Korea made history as the first non-western countries to host the FIFA World Cup, Qatar is two years away from making history by being the first country in West Asia (and the Middle East) to host the twenty-second World Cup, November 21-December 18, 2022.

Though the smallest nation to ever host the international tournament, Qatar spares no time, energy, resources or focus on aiming to make World Cup 2022 an unforgettable event.

FIFA and World Cup 2022 host Qatar are aiming to “set a benchmark for environmental stewardship” during the next football World Cup “by implementing leading sustainable building standards, waste and water management practices and low-emission solutions”.

According to FIFA, the organisers’ objective is “to reach carbon neutrality before the tournament kicks off and leverage the event to leave a climate legacy for Qatar and the region.”

When Qatar bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, it did so with a vision to use the tournament as a catalyst for sustainable, long-term change in Qatar and across the Arab world. From the start, we believed in the power of football and the FIFA World Cup to inspire innovation, to build bridges between cultures and peoples and to accelerate positive social transformation. Our measure of success for the tournament in Qatar will ultimately be the legacy it leaves behind. This strategy will help Qatar to realise that vision and ensure its success,” SC Secretary General & Q22 Chairman, HE Hassan Al Thawadi.

More on FIFA & Qatar’s FIFA World Cup Sustainability Strategy.

This brief review of FIFA World Cup history is a powerful reminder of how a global sports event has the potential to bring humanity ever closer in peacefulness & equality, and to lead by example in sustainability & future development.

Personal Note from the Editor:

My first introduction to FIFA World Cup 2022 was a decade ago, in December 2010, when I was invited by Art in America (est. 1913) to travel to Doha for the first time to attend the opening of Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art. This was ten days after FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) announced that Qatar had won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, on December 2nd 2010. The excitement at Mathaf’s opening was palpable. I look forward, once again, to visit West Asia and Qatar before if not for the World Cup 2022.