While we await confirmation of the next UFWC title match, here’s a classic match from the archives, in which the first official football world champions finally became unofficial champions.

Uruguay 3-0 Peru
28 March 1953
South American Championships
Estadio Nacional, Lima
Scorers: Pelaez (2), C Romero

Although Uruguay were enjoying their second reign as official world champions, having won the 1950 World Cup tournament in Brazil, the nation had never won the UFWC title. Their two previous attempts had resulted in defeat at the hands of Chile and Brazil. This match was part of the round robin South American Championships (known from 1975 as the Copa America), a tournament that Uruguay had previously won no fewer than eight times.

The 1953 South American Championships was scheduled to be played in Paraguay, but the venue was changed due to concerns over the standard of that nation’s stadiums. New hosts Peru had gone into the tournament with Northern Irish coach Billy Cook. But, after winning only one of their opening three matches, Peru dispensed with Cook’s services, replacing him with Uruguayan Angel Fernandez, a veteran of his country’s 1930 World Cup-winning side.

Fernandez’s first game in charge saw controversy as La Blanquirroja played out a disorderly 2-2 draw with Paraguay. The violent encounter led to Paraguay’s Milner Ayala being banned from football for three years for kicking English referee Richard Maddison. The game was subsequently awarded to Peru when officials realised that Paraguay coach Fleitas Solich had made four substitutions – one more than was allowed. Peru won their next match against Brazil 1-0 to take the UFWC title and set up an exciting finish to the South American Championships.

Ironically, Angel Fernandez would lead his adopted charges into battle against the home nation he served so well as a player. A win for Peru against Uruguay would give them an unassailable lead at the top of the tournament table. But the Charruas of Uruguay proved to be tough opponents.

The official champions took the lead against the unofficial champs midway through the first half through Donald Pelaez, a striker from Rampla Juniors. Pelaez netted a second after 67 minutes, and the game was sealed four minutes later by Carlos Romero.

There was another Romero on the Uruguay substitute’s bench – Hosiriz ‘Hos’ Romero was on the books of Liverpool at the time, although he never made a first team appearance for the English club.

So Uruguay were comprehensive victors, and became the undisputed football world champions as only the second team in history to simultaneously hold both the official and unofficial titles (after 1938 World Cup champs Italy won the UFWC in 1939).

As for the South American Championships, this result ruined Peru’s hopes, and wasn’t enough for Uruguay. Both sides finished one point behind joint-leaders Brazil and Paraguay. A playoff decider saw Paraguay beat Brazil 3-2 and win the 1953 South American Championships. Uruguay would go on to hold off a challenge from England in a 2-1 friendly match victory, before losing the UFWC title to Paraguay in April 1954.

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This is an edited extract from Unofficial Football Champions, the official UFWC book. It traces the history of the UFWC from the very first international match in 1872 via more than 800 title matches, involving legendary teams and footballing minnows, classic finals and forgotten friendlies, celebrated players and unsung heroes.

FourFourTwo magazine called Unofficial Football World Champions “a fascinating history of football” and awarded the book five stars. It’s available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon.co.uk
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