Nasazzi’s Baton

Who are the current football world champions? North Korea.

Well, let me explain that. After England won the 1966 World Cup, they went undefeated for nearly a year unitl they lost to Scotland in a British Home Championship match, on 15 April 1967. Scottish fans jokingly said that they thus were the ‘unofficial world champions’. Someone took this way too seriously and decided to start calculating this alternate title from the very first officially recorded international match, which again was played by Scotland and England on 30 November 1872. It was a draw, so the first match that assigned the title was their next friendly, in 1873, when England won 4-2.
The Unofficial Football World Championships (UFWC) were born.

For thirty more years the title would only be swapped between Scotland and England, until Ireland snatched it in 1903. This was largely a British internal affair until 1931, when England lost it to Austria. It first travelled overseas during the 1950 World Cup, when England again lost it to the United States. Nigeria first got it for Africa in 2004 and now, after expanding to Asia in 2011, it is held by North Korea, who won it from Japan in a World Cup qualification match last November.

There’s also another informal world football title called Nasazzi’s Baton, named after José Nasazzi, the captain of the Uruguay national team that won the first FIFA World Cup in 1930. Aside from starting with the first friendly match after that tournament, it has slightly different rules in that it only considers the result of matches after the regulation 90 minutes. In case of a draw, the title doesn’t swap hands.

The current holder of Nasazzi’s Baton is Spain, but interestingly the two titles were unified up until the latest World Cup final: the Netherlands had them both and thanks to a draw after 90 minutes they kept Nasazzi’s Baton, but lost the UFWC after conceding a goal in extra time. Nevertheless, the Baton is still held by Spain, who regained it from Italy in the UEFA Euro 2012 final.

Wikipedia even has a chronology of UFWC title matches. The next defence? A friendly between North Korea and Iran, to be held in Tehran next 9 October.

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