Philakorea 2002, Seoul

st_phil02_1_lThe catalog of exhibition



Foot- Ball During The First Olympiads (1896 - 1908)
by Michalis E. Tsironis (Greece)


The beginning of football apparition is lost in time. It is already known that several people such as the Chinese, the Hellens, the Romans during the Antiquity were playing a kind of football. Its main elements were the ball - made of soft skin stuffed with weed or wool - and the harshess during the game A reference in these times gives us the stamp and minuature sheet of the Hellenic issue of the 1994 (Fig.1)



It seems, however, that this dangerous, without regulations game, in combination with the violence of these old times rendered, The games hazardous even for the life of the players. For these reasons that went on in the following years, these games with the ball were stopped, interrupted for long time intervals, they were restarting only to stop again and so on and so forth. In England for example "football" continued to appear during the Middle Ages as well, eventhough.

Edward II banned it by in 1314; the ban was repeated in 1349 with reason that "it was unworthy of noblemen". Later it appears again, eventhough distinguished men of the spirit (Shakespeare, T. Elliot) used very strong names to characterise it.

There comes a period of decline, but in the first half of the 19th century, in the Universities and Colleges of the England appears the Dribbling Game whose subjection to regulations constitutes in England the foundation of the Foot Ball Association (1863).

Fig. 2

From now on there are rules and regulations for the way football must be played! Gradually there has been a spectacular increase in football's popularity, due to many reasons, such as the tamed force of the game, the beauty of the phases during it, the enthusiasm created by them, the emotion of the constant changes. Sometimes, in fact, it can offer a big social promotion and an equally great economic prosperity for the players. Nowadays, football appears in many International events and the tournaments take their name after them: eg. Championship or National Cup, and in extend by the name of Games of Continental Institutions such as the Trans - Asian Games ( Fig 2), the European Games; or even the Word Cup Tournament. Of course, football appears in Regional Games of the groups of states, for example the Games of Central America and the Carribean (Fig. 3) or the Balcan Games (Fig.4) The football definitely had to appear in the Olympic Games: it constitutes one of their main events.

st_phil02_6_lst_phil02_4_lFig. 3
Fig. 4


In the current article I will refer to the presence of the football in the Olympic Games and in particular during their first period of the 1896 - 1908. It is a Romantic period, when the Olympiads as well as football in then make their first timid steps in simplicity. While many times the score reaches even a double figure, today something unical, the number of spectators might have been even less than a thousand maybe less than same hundreds. The participating teams were only male, teams of clubs, not national. They were not authorised by the Olympic Commitee of their country but by the management of their Club and obviously they were not necessary the best. The Games were naturally games of the display and they have been characterised as Demonstration Matches rather, than real tournaments; only the football matches in the Athenian Olympiad in 1906 have been characterised as Unofficial Tournament.

1896, ATHENS, FIRST OLYMPIAD 25/3 - 3/4/1896
  (Julian Calander)

In 1896 there were not football matches - none the less, a number of journalists, mainly greek, out of time confusion, report from time to time the results, or some of them, of the Olympiad of 1906 as facts of 1896.

The peculiar thing is that in a more serious occasion (see Catalogue of the OLYMPHILEX 1992, BARCELONA, p.45) a Spanish researcher and exhibitor reports that there was a football tournament in the first Olympiad in Athens, and in fact he states details. Of course, he states the teams of 1906 - which we will see further - as participating in 1896 !!!

This, of course, is a mistake; it is totally veryfied that in 1896 there were not any football matches in Athens. This is veryfied as well by the I.O.C. with the note that, beginning in Paris in 1900 football went on appearing in all the Olypiads, with sole exception the Olympiad in L.A. in 1932

However, similar mistakes on this point are also mentioned in other equally serious publications. For example, while the truth is that football appeared in an Olympiad for the first time in 900 (Paris), D. F. in the auction of the 13-16/9/1990, (lot No 42059) reports as the first apparition of football the Interim - Olympiad of Athens in 1906!


1900 PARIS, SECOND OLYMPIAD 14/5-28/10/1900 (Gregorian Calander)

The first football matches in Olympic History were played at that time. It happened during the International Exhibition in Paris in 14/5 -28/10/1900. The matches were played rather as a demonstration to the visitors of the exhibition than as an official tournament; also, there were no medals awarded.

The participant Teams were the:

Club Francais Paris (C.F.P.)
English Upton Park FC and
Belgian Student’s Team (B.S.)

The matches between them took place, out of a peculial coincidence, during the two last weeks of the Exhibition.

20/10/1900 Upton Park F.C. - C.F.P. 4-0(2-0)
conducted at Municipal Velodrome de Vincennes, in the presence of about 500 spectators.
Referee: Moignard
Scorers: J. Nicolas (2), A. Turner, J. Zealey

23/10/1900 Club Francais Paris - Belgian Student 6-2(1-2)
conducted at the same Municipal Velodrome de Vincennes in the presence of about 1500 spectators.
Referee J. Wood

Several sources award Great Britain, France and Belgium the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively for the above - mentioned matches. This is inaccurate, as these matches were never part of the official program and the teams were appointed by clubs not by the National Olympic Commitees.

1904  SAINT  LOUIS  (1/7 - 23/11 1904) (Gregorian Colander).

Football was once more played at the Olympic Games, in conjuction with Word Exhibition, as it was in Paris.

The main events were held in September but football appears two months later. There were no medals awarded, as the matches were being played for demastration reasons.

Participant TeamsGait Football Club (Canada)
Christian Brother College St Louis (U.S.A)
St Rose of St. Louis ( U.S.A.)

All matches were held at St. Louis, as follow:

16/11/1904   Galt F.C. - Christian Brother College 7 - 0 (4 - 0)
17/11/1904   Galt F.C. - St Rose 4-0 (0 - 0)
20/11/1904 St Rose - Christian Brother College 0 - 0
21 /11 /1904   St Rose - Christian Brother College 0 - 0
23/11/1904   St Rose - Christian Brother College 0-2 (0 - 0)

The names of the victorious team Galt Football Club: Linton E., Ducker G., Gourley J. (capt.) Lane R., Johnston Α., Fraser J., Taylor Th., Steep F., Hall Α., Mc Donald G., Twaits W., ( Christman O., Henderson Α.).

Later I.O.C. awarded Canada (G.F.C.) with golden medal for its two victories

For the Thematic Philatelic Point of view: I have seen twice on commercial corespondence a card and a cover dated with 17 and 21/11/1904 of St Louis postmarks, but without a special recomandation of the owner

1906, ATHENS 9- 19 APRIL, (Julian Calander) (22 April - 2 May Gregorian Calander)

If I may be allowed to dwell a little more on the occasion of this Olympiad. This is not because I am Greek, but due to the many particulars of presence and its pivotal role for the Olympiads to come.
It is known that after the success of the Olympiad in 1896 the two following Olympiads (Paris 1900, St louis 1904) had a dramatic dicline in the status of the institution and a significant subsidence in the organisational as well as the athletic level. There for, in the event of the celabration of the ten years from 1896, it was tried to reinstate the institution and for the Olympic Games to recapture their magnitude and traditional value.

That is why their official name given by the Organising Committee was International Olympic Games.
Besides, for the first time in the History of International Philately there appeared a Postmark with the description OLYMPIC GAMES and in fact not in one but in three Postrmarks (ΑΚΡΟΠΟΠΟΛΙΣ, ΣΤΑΔΙΟΝ, ΖΑΠΠΕΙΟΝ)

For the sake of the Games, and in particular, of football, the “New” Stadium GOUDI (N.E. of the center of Athens) was used for training of the Athenian Football Teams. The administration of the Stadium Goudi used the first cachet in the World with a football player on it as its main subject. (Fig 5)

st_phil02_7_lFig. 5

The Participant Teams were:

Denmark (even not officially appointed by the National F.A.)
Athens (Ethnikos Gym. Club and other)
Smyrna (mixed team, since French, English. Armenians participated).
Thessaloniki (mixed team since Greeks, English participated).

The games took place in the presence of kings and a significant number of spectators. All of them took place in the Velodrome of the N. Faliron (suburb of Athens and Pireas) (Fig.6) as follows:



10/4/1906 10 a.m Denmark- Smyrna 5 -1 (1-1 (Fig. 7)
10/4/1906 4.00 p.m Athens - Thessaloniki 6-0 (0-0) (Fig. 8)


11/4/1906 ( 4.00 pm) Denmark - Athens 9-0 (Fig.9) referee: Drake (Sweden)


As far as football is concerned, an unofficial Tournament took place and not just a Demonstration Match. Furthermore, a characteristic point is that for the first time in an Olympic Game, appears even just one team that is not a club team but a National Team.

Fig. 6

st_phil02_8_lFig. 7

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

From evidence of the I.O.C. it is stated that for the first time a real tournament was held at the Olympic Games. Even though these Interim Games were officially approved by the I.O.C., the football tournament did not rank as such. However, various sources do count Denmark’s gold medal and Smyrna, Thessaloniki, silver and bronze medals in medals table.

In the final the Athenian team did not continue the game after the half-time but left the first place for Denmark. - at the same time, however there was no second winner in the Tournament. The Athenian team was asked to compete with Smyrna for the second place but they refused, so the two defeated teams, Smyrna and Thessaloniki played against each other (13/4/1906 not for the 3rd and 4th place, as it would have been expected, but for 2nd and 3rd place : 13/4/1906 Smyrna - Thessaloniki 3 - 0 (0 - 0) (Fig. 10) (it is also stated as score 12-0) For history, I mention the names of the players of the first National Team ( Denmark) that participated in Olympic Games:

Vigo Andersen, Peter Peterson, Charles Buchwald, Palmo Forslev, Stefan Rasmussen, Aage Andersen, Oscar Nielsen, Holger Frederikson, August Lindgren, Henry Rambuch, Hjalmar Heerup.

st_phil02_12_lFig. 10

The Olympiad of 1906 fully accomplished its target. It promoted the Olympic Institution that was in danger to elapse. Through the perfect organization, the short and substantial ten-day program, the plentitude of tenths of thousands of spectators appearing on a daily basis in the Stadium, the Velodrome, the shooting gallery (Skopefterion), the Zappeion and the other areas where the events took place, the impartial support from the Government and the fanatical support of the Greek citizens, it managed to renovate the past and to prepare a further development, to set solid foundations for the following Olympiads of London and Stocholm.
The somewhat neglected - under estimated Olympiad of 1906 contributed a lot in the conservation of the Institution and I can claim without fear that without 1906 the existence of the Olympiads today would have been different.

Moreover, on the philotelic point of view, in 1906 we have a beautiful issue of 14 stamps with images from Classical Times and the History of the Olympic Games, an issue more expanded than the one of 1896: the chronologically second Olympic issue in the world ! In addition, enough evidence of thematic philotely have also been found, such as the dates when several events took place, among which football ( as they have been presented in Fig 5 -10).
Finally, as far as the History of Football is concerned, I point out that for the first time, instead of the previous demostration matches, researchers mention the term tournament, even as unofficial tournament, but not a Game of demonstration.


During the 4th Olympiad in London in 1908 the first international tournament in the world took place in the traditional way,  the oldest and most traditional international tournament in world football.

Football in the Olympiads gets its own form, it develops in Stocholm in 1912 and it reaches a top level in ANTWERPEN in 1920. Since then it takes its familiar to all of us course.

The participating National teams were Denmark, France, Great Britain, Holland with the following results:

19/10/1908   Shepherds Bush, London   DENMARK -FRANCE Β  9-0(4-0)
20/10/1908 White City, London GREAT-BRITAIN - SWEDEN 12-1 (7-0)
22/10/1908 White City GREAT- BRITAIN - HOLLAND 4-0 (1-0)
22/10/1908 Shepherds Bush, DENMARK - FRANCE A’   17-1 (6-1)

Game for the third place

23/10/1908 Shepherds Bush, HOLLAND - SWEDEN 2-0 (1-0)


24/10/1908 White City GREAT BRITAIN - DENMARK 2-0 (1-0)

Here for the first time we have the official board of the top scores: the two first places are taken by Danish and the third place by an Englishman. 11 goals Sophus Nielsen (Den) 8 goals Wolfhagen (Den) 6 goals Steaply (G.B.)

Also while the match for the third place was viewed by about a 1000 spectators, in the final of the 24/10 we observe the greatest number of spectators in so far held Olympic Tournaments: about 8000 people.

For the above article i recognise the assistance and willingness of:

Mr. Bonticoulis Demetrios, (former Champion of Greece, Balkan Games winner, Director of the Athens Minicipality Athletic Museum).
Mr Halvatzidopoulos Ioakim, Football Thematic collector, Vice President of Hellenic Philotelic Society.
Mr Varotsis Kostas, specialised collector of Barchelona 1992 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

With special Thanks to a very polite gentleman, warm friend and F.I.P. accredited Juror, Mr Jose Ramon Moreno, who gave me his very usefull archives and information.

I thank very much all of them.


1. HELLAS DURING OLYMPIC GAMES 1896 ( HESTIA Publication, Athens, 1896)
3. LEFKOMA OLYMPIAKON AGONON 1906 (P. Savidis, Athens 1906)
4. ENCYCLOPEDIA “ILIOS” (Athens, 1950)
5. D.F.S.A. Some Auctions Catalogues 1990 till to day.
7. M. E. Tsironis: Stamps collection
8. M. E. Tsironis: 1906 Post cards archives

Last Updated on Monday, 27 December 2010 10:11

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