The title belt system in football is fictitious; however, serious football fans still consider it extremely important. Source: Imago Images
The title belt system in football is fictitious; however, serious football fans still consider it extremely important. Source: Imago Images

The football title belts are currently located in Uruguay and Germany

Football OlyBet 09.02.2024

February 17 was supposed to be the day we finally found out who the absolute heavyweight boxing champion of the world was. Tyson Fury and Oleksander Usyk were the ones set to settle this age-old debate once and for all. Unfortunately for all boxing enthusiasts, the fight has now been postponed to May 18th after Tyson Fury suffered a cut above his eye during sparring.

This means we will have to wait just a little more to find out who will become the owner of all four major title belts: WBA, WBC, WBO, and IBF. However, did you know that a similar “title belt” system is used in football as well?

In 2003, English journalist Paul Brown laid the foundation for the so-called current title calculation. He took as a basis all the national team matches since the very first match between England and Scotland in 1872.

The system itself is simple. To get the championship belt, you have to win the match, and the victories achieved in extra time and penalty shootout are also taken into account. In the event of a tie, of course, the title of honor will continue to go to the defending champion.

Of course, more serious football fans know that the first football battle in history between England and Scotland ended in a 0:0 draw. Brown did not let this bother him but began to keep records of another match a year later, which also took place between the English and the Scots. After all, the teams were the same.

That match, which took place in 1873, was won 4:2 by England, which made them the first holders of the title belt.

49 different owners

As long ago the football game was played mainly in Great Britain, the title belt remained in the British Isles for a long time: England, Scotland, Ireland and also Wales. The first “foreign country” that could play on it at all was Hungary, which hosted the English in Budapest in 1909. But the result was a loss.

The title belt in question left the British Isles for the first time only in 1931, when Scotland lost 0:5 to Austria. From that moment on, more migration began, and to this day, the joy of being a champion has been experienced in a total of 49 countries, among them Angola, Zimbabwe, Georgia and North Korea.

The title belt is currently held by Uruguay, who claimed it as part of the 2026 World Cup qualifying series when they beat reigning world champions Argentina 2-0 on November 16.

In the all-time list of title belts, perhaps surprisingly, Scotland is in the first place (149 title matches / 86 wins), but this is because, in the early years of national team football, it was primarily played in the British Isles. The Scots are followed by England (146 / 73), Argentina (116 / 72), the Netherlands (96 / 58) and Italy (79 / 45).

King of Small Countries

The smallest country to hold the championship belt is the Netherlands Antilles team in the Caribbean – their current successor is Curacao – who beat Mexico 2-1 in 1963. Four days later, however, they had to surrender it to Costa Rica.

The Estonian national team has also been able to play for the title belt four times in its history. In 2019, on our “debut” we lost 0:8 to Germany, in the same autumn we also got beaten twice by the Netherlands, respectively 0:4 and 0:5.

The last time we played against the champions was in the fall of 2020 when we lost 0:4 to Italy. Maybe we never really had a chance…

The club title belt is in Germany

At the same time, there is no need to sulk about it, because the Finns, our northern neighbors, have been able to play for the title as many as 14 times, but they have not yet managed to lift this virtual belt above their heads.

Of course, fans of statistics keep a similar calculation in club football as well. In this case, the countdown starts from the 1871 FA Cup, when Clapham Rovers beat Upton Park 3-0.

Since then, 5,285 (!) title matches have been held in the world, and the belt is currently owned by Germany’s top club Bayer Leverkusen. By the way, the Germans grabbed it already on the 9th of March last year, that is, they have defended the title a record 26 times so far.

Who is the Estonian champion?

At the end of 2022, the magazine Jalka also decided to reveal who holds the title belt of Estonian clubs.

Like Brown, they didn’t have a specific match to start with, but since three out of four matches in the first round of the re-independent Estonian championship – on May 2, 1992 – ended in a draw, the only one that remained was the duel between Sillamäe Kalevi and Jõhvi Eesti Põlevkivi.

Since it culminated in Jõhvi’s 2:0 victory, they also became the first owners of the title belt!

Since then, the title belt has changed hands 176 times and is currently in the possession of JK Tallinna Kalev, who grabbed it in the cup match on the 26th of November last year, when they beat Nõmme United 3:1.

They will have to defend it for the first time on the 10th of March when they meet reigning champion Tallinna FC Flora in the opening game of the Premium League.


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