ZURICH, Switzerland - Football's biggest prize has twice been won with the help of dictators fixing matches for the host team, according to a FIFA-hosted conference on World Cup history.
Argentina's triumph in 1978 and Italy's 1934 victory were influenced by military leaders seeking propaganda coups, delegates were told on Thursday at a symposium titled "The Relevance and Impact of FIFA World Cups."
Italian writer Marco Impiglia presented a paper suggesting Italy's fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, ensured favourable refereeing decisions which helped the host team win.
Raanan Rein, an Israeli professor of Latin American history, said he was "100 per rcent persuaded" that Argentina's military junta influenced a 6-0 win against Peru. The match is a notorious chapter of World Cup lore and ensured Argentina advanced to the final instead of great rival Brazil.
Both Italy and Argentina won a second World Cup — in 1938 and 1986, respectively — soon after their allegedly tainted first titles.
The four-day gathering of academics and historians is studying the political, social and ecocomic impact on nations which have hosted the biggest and most-watched sports event since the World Cup was first played in Uruguay in 1930.
FIFA's choice of Brazil, Russia and Qatar — three countries with growing economies and diplomatic influence — as the next hosts from 2014 to 2022 suggests football and politics will continue to mix.
Opening the conference on Wednesday, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke acknowledged that working with democratically elected governments can complicate organising tournaments.