Of course, in 1930 the Football League was still the World's most successful league, already almost 40 years old providing some of the greatest teams the game had ever seen, like Herbert Chapman's Huddersfield Town and later Arsenal sides as well the FA Cup. Globally the late 1920s had finally supplied the football fans from Italy and Spain with their own leagues, known respectively as Serie A and La Liga. German football would also continue to develop in the 30s, even with the dark shadow of Nazi Germany lurking over it.
However, within England political and social tensions were quite scarce, the Great Depression not having too greater impact on British life, in comparison to the conditions across the pond in the US and elsewhere in Europe, particularly Germany. The 1930-31 season saw Chapman's Arsenal win the title for the first time since their establishment, finishing above the ever-present Aston Villa. Second division champions Everton with frontman Dixie Dean would go on to triumph in the following season's First Division, which was no mean feat, edging out Arsenal by 2 points and even recording a massive 9-3 victorious scoreline against Sheffield Wednesday! Dixie Dean scored 5 in the match, and 44 in total over the course of the season.
Elsewhere within the British Isles, the 1930s provided a complete turnaround in fortunes for Welsh clubs after a prosperous past decade which famously brought the FA Cup to Cardiff. The Bluebirds by 1931-32 season found themselves languishing in the Third Division South a league below South Wales rivals Swansea Town, also the winners of that season's Welsh Cup. By the 1933-34 season Cardiff had come bottom of the Third Division and were fortunate to be re-elected, unlike Thames two years previous. The mid-30s are still fondly remembered today in football terms due the dominance of Arsenal.
Elsewhere around the globe came perhaps football's greatest innovation in the 1930s, the FIFA World Cup. The 1930 tournament, set up by Jules Rimet and hosted by two-time Olympic champions Uruguay proved a success leading to a resulting tournament in Europe in order to involve a greater number of teams from Football's prominent continent after only four attended in 1930. The 1934 World Cup was held in Italy, a nation whose sporting success was overlooked harshly by dictator, the fascist Benito Mussolini.
The Italian side was spear-headed by striker Giuseppe Meazza, already an Inter legend, as well as Bologna forward Angelo Schiavio. The Italians would go on to beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the Final and begin their global domination of the sport. England were absent from the '34 championship and for many would have won had they been there, the 3-2 scoreline in favour of the three lions in November 1934 proving it for the British public. Again the English were absent in 1938 but notable inclusions were the Cubans and Dutch East Indians (now Indonesia) to the main draw.
|Double World Champions|
At club level in Italy the football was also played at an all-time high. Juventus were the leading lights of Italian football, winning the league five seasons in-a-row between 1930-35 under manager Carlo Carcano. Their main challengers were the aforementioned Inter and Bologna, the latter of which halting the Juve express train by claiming the 1936 and 1937 titles. Under Mussolini, sport, unlike most other things, thrived. Historian Bill Murray even writing that, "Mussolini’s Fascist regime was the first to use sports as an integral part of government....In addition to draining marshes and building roads, the stock in trade of dictatorial regimes, the Fascists built modern soccer stadiums as monuments to their glory.”
In Germany, the Nazi regime would attempt to follow in the example of Italy and use football as a means of improving and highlighting the power of their nation. On the other hand, the Germans were still slow to grasp the game and still used an outdated knockout system and final, rather than the league formats seen around Europe. In 1934, the Germans, now under the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, changed to a group-stage and knockout system which began a mid-30s dominance of Schalke 04 as they triumphed on four occasions in the increasingly totalitarian and right-wing state.
|A frightening sight|
Aside from the European game, football began to capture the minds of the Americas and Asia in the 1930s. As mentioned, Indonesia and Cuba represented Asia and the Caribbean respectively in the 1938 World Cup and the South American game was beginning to produce the forefathers of the golden-age of Brazilian and Uruguayan football. Despite being absent in the 1932 Olympics, the Nazi games of 1936 saw football once again on the Olympic agenda and once again an international victory for Italy. The games included Japan, China and Egypt, further exemplifying the global emergence of football. The British team only made the quarter-finals after a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Poland. For the Germans, once again the "great Aryan race" was beaten by Norway in the quarter-finals much to the Fuhrer's disappointment!
"The Führer is very excited, I can barely contain myself. A real bath of nerves." - Joseph Goebbels
Our best match of the 1930s? We would have to give that title to the "Battle of Highbury", an international encounter which highlights not only the growth of international football, but the political tensions which Europe was dominated by in the 1930s! Read about it here!
|Let battle commence|
Footballers At War: 1939-45
Footballers At War: Royal Air Force