Why Has Uruguay’s Football Team Been Awarded 4 Stars?

Gigantic Uruguay flag
Gigantic Uruguay flag | © Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr
Milena Fajardo

If you pay close attention to the t-shirt and crest of Uruguay’s National Team you will see that they sport four stars, symbolizing their four FIFA World Cup championship triumphs. However, Uruguay has only won twice: once in 1930 playing in their newly-built stadium against Sweden, and another in 1950 against Brazil on their field. FIFA is notoriously strict when it comes to the rules concerning official uniforms. Which raises the question: why has Uruguay been allowed to have four stars above its crest?

The two additional stars correspond to the Football Olympic Games of 1924 and 1928, but there is more to the story. Argentina, for example, won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986 as well as the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008, yet they are only allowed to have two stars above their crest, not four like Uruguay.

The official crest of Uruguay’s National Football Team

Originating in 1904, FIFA came up with the idea of organizing an international football tournament of national teams. After years of meetings in different countries to establish how this would be done, Jules Rimet, the head of the foundation at the time, finally managed to secure enough votes at the 1920s congress in Amberes to officiate the first World Cup.

At the time, FIFA was still a small organization and lacked both the logistics and funds to host the World Cup as an independent event. They decided to coordinate with the Olympic Games until they could do so independently, so starting in 1924 the Olympic Football competition doubled as the World Cup. Therefore, Uruguay won the first official FIFA World Cups in 1924 and 1928, which were hosted by the Olympic Games.

Juan Alberto Schiaffino’s decisive goal against Brazil

Before FIFA’s involvement, the Olympic Committee placed restrictions on who could play in the Football Olympics. For the World Cups these restrictions were lifted, and as soon as the deal was over they were reinstated. For this reason, only the winners of the 1924 and 1928 Football Olympic Games officially have the World Cup title. Other Olympic winners played the championship under different conditions and regulations that are not associated with FIFA or the World Cup.

In 1930 FIFA could finally host the World Cup independently. The first FIFA World Cup was hosted by Uruguay because of its two previous World Cup victories. As you can see, Uruguay’s Football history is very interlinked with the history of the FIFA World Cup.

Estadio Centenario, Uruguay’s main football stadium

In addition to having won four World Cups, Uruguay also won a more important competition: the World Champions’ Gold Cup. This tournament was held in 1980 and is celebrated every 50 years, so the next one will be in 2030. To take part in this tournament, all teams must have won at least one World Cup, with the exception of special invitations given to teams with a strong World Cup trajectory in the past 50 years.

Holding the World Champions’ Gold Cup trophy

Uruguay won against Brazil, crowning itself as The Champion of Champions. This Gold Cup didn’t add another star to Uruguay, but it’s possibly its most prestigious victory.

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