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Recalling Ireland's Heady Days As The Unofficial World Football Champions

Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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The aristocrats of the unofficial football world championships meet in Wembley tomorrow. Scotland and England lie at the top of the roll of honour of the unofficial football world championship (in that order). The pair contested the first five unofficial world championships.

The unofficial football world championships has risen from humble roots. Its founding document was a 2003 Four Four Two article by journalist Paul Brown in which he outlined the rules and regulations of the UFWC.

He was inspired to create the UFWC by Denis Law's famous claim that Scotland should be crowned world champions after defeating then Jules Rimet holders England in Wembley in 1967. England had 'unified' the FIFA World Cup and the UFWC the year before, a feat Germany repeated in 2014.

Brown, and to a lesser extent, Law are the spiritual fathers of the UFWC. When he does pass on - and we're sure that's a long way away yet - we're sure that the unofficial world championship trophy will be named the Paul Brown trophy.

For those who still aren't aware of how the UFWC works, it is wonderfully simple. Brown began with the Scotland-England match of 1872. It was the first international football match ever played and was also the first ever Unofficial Football World Championship match. It finished in a draw, which necessitated a rematch. England won the London rematch 4-2 and were crowned the first unofficial world champions.

They held the trophy until the next Scotland-England match in Glasgow in 1874, which the Scots won 2-1. And so on and so on. The pair monopolised the trophy for the rest of the nineteenth century, building up a lead in the roll of honour which has yet to be overhauled. They had a vice-grip on the UFWC until 1903 when Ireland (a united one) beat Scotland 2-0 in Glasgow.

What about the Republic of Ireland's record? Ireland have twice been crowned the unofficial world champion. We won our first historic UFWC in March 1977. It was a 1978 World Cup qualifier and unofficial world champions France came to town.


Liam Brady stabbed home the only goal after 11 minutes and the UFWC came home to Mary Horan country. The profile of the UFWC was much lower then, Four Four Two not having been founded yet. The achievement probably wasn't celebrated as vigorously as it might have been.

Mick McCarthy's first game as Ireland manager was simultaneously a simple pre-Euros friendly and a momentous UFWC bout. However, the holders Russia marched on, beating us soundly 2-0 on our own patch.


But we finally re-claimed our unofficial football world championship title in early 2004. Brian Kerr boasts one of the strongest winning ratios of any Ireland senior manager, chiefly a consequence of his status as the king of the friendly. Ireland overperformed in friendly after friendly in 2004 and 2005, a run of success that sadly didn't translate to the games where points were at stake.

In one friendly, UFWC holders Czech Republic came to town and were beaten 2-1. Robbie Keane turned and slotted the dramatic winning goal in the fifth minute of injury time. The championship returned to Dublin. We held onto it through a draw in Poland and a 1-0 win in Roy Keane's return game against Romania in May 2004. We surrendered the UFWC with an abject 3-0 loss to Nigeria  two days later.

We haven't got within a sniff of a UFWC title match in the twelve years since. But there could be one looming on the horizon.

Uruguay reclaimed the UFWC with a 4-0 win over Paraguay in September and have held for two subsequent matches.

Ireland are assigned to meet in Dublin in June next year. It's a tall order (these day the average length of time a team holds on to the UFWC is about two months) but if the Uruguyans can cling onto the title until that time we could have a monster UFWC title match coming to Dublin.


The stats are compiled and maintained at www.ufwc.co.uk under the supervision of Paul Brown.

Read more: WATCH: The Famous Scotland Wembley Win Which Was Both Victory And Moral Victory

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