Up until 1923, the
Belfast-based Irish Football Association (IFA), regulated football in Ireland. Shortly after Partition in 1921, the Football Association
of the Irish Free State (FAIFS)- later to become the Football Association of
Ireland (FAI)- split from the IFA and organised their own international Ireland
football team. In 1923 the FAI was officially recognised by FIFA as the
regulating body for the newly formed Irish Free State.
Between 1936 and 1950 there were two Irish international
football teams, chosen by the two rival Associations. Both claimed jurisdiction
over the whole of Ireland
and selected players from the whole island. At least thirty-eight players
were selected to represent both teams during this period.
In 1950, when both Ireland teams entered
the FIFA World Cup qualification, four players (all from the South) played for
the two teams in the tournament. FIFA intervened after the FAI lobbied to
prevent the IFA from selecting players from the South. FIFA ruled that player
eligibility was to be based on the political border. FIFA went on to rule in
1953 that neither team could refer to itself as “Ireland” in tournaments that
both were eligible to enter and that the FAI team would now officially called
the Republic of Ireland and the IFA
team was to be named Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland went on to qualify for the 1958 World Cup which was held in Sweden. The team reached the quarter finals of the competition.