Archive for Sunday, June 30, 2002

World Cup trophy has wild history

June 30, 2002


— The World Cup trophy has lived a hazardous life.

It was hidden from the Nazis in a shoe box under a FIFA vice president's bed.

It was stolen, then found by a 2-year-old dog named Pickles.

And it was melted down for the gold in Brazil.

Actually, there have been several trophies. The first was created in 1928 when FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, decided it needed a cup to present to the winner of its inaugural tournament in 1930 in Uruguay. FIFA commissioned French sculptor Abel Lafleur to create the statuette.

He came up with a so-called "Goddess of Victory" holding an octagonal vessel in her hands raised high over her head. The original trophy was about 1 foot high and weighed 8.4 pounds. It was made of sterling silver and gold, plated with a blue stone base of the semiprecious stone lapis lazuli.

The eight-sided vessel gave birth to the phrase "World Cup" and the tournament was ready to begin.

Uruguay won it in 1930. Italy followed in 1934 and '38. World War II then intervened. When German forces occupied Axis ally Italy during the war, FIFA vice president Dr. Ottorino Barassi put the World Cup in a shoe box under his bed to protect it from the Nazis.

In 1946, FIFA renamed the trophy the "Jules Rimet Cup" to honor the FIFA president who served from 1921-54.

The World Cup resumed in 1950 and the trophy led a quiet life until 1966, when it was stolen while on display in London as England prepared to stage soccer's showcase event.

The theft set off a nationwide search. A week after it disappeared, a Thames River barge worker, David Corbett, strolled outside his London apartment to make a phone call, accompanied by his dog, Pickles.

Pickles spotted an item wrapped in paper under a hedge.

"The dog drew my attention to it," Corbett said in a 1990 interview. "It was very tightly wrapped in newspaper. I could see it was some sort of statue. I pulled the bottom ends of the paper away and I could see the disks. Then as I tore more of the paper away, I saw the names Germany, Uruguay, Brazil.

"And being a football fan I knew it had been stolen. I jumped up and drove to the police station."

Corbett got a $4,350 reward. Pickles became a national celebrity until his death in 1973.

England won the World Cup that year. When Brazil won it for the third time in 1970, the South Americans were given permanent possession of the Jules Rimet Cup. FIFA then opened a competition to design a new trophy.

Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga was the winner from 53 submissions representing seven nations. The new "FIFA World Cup" was cast by Italian trophy manufacturer Bertoni.

The trophy is 14 inches, made of solid 18 carat gold, and weighs 11 pounds.

Insured for $165,000, the new trophy shows two athletes, back to back with arms outstretched, with a globe resting on their shoulders.

"The lines spring out from the base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world," Gazzaniga said of his sculpture. "From the remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory."

The sculpture sits atop two rows of malachite, where the names of the winning nations are engraved. It can hold 17 names, which means it will be retired in 2038.

Unlike the Rimet Cup, which was passed from winning nation to winning nation, this one is FIFA's permanent property.

The winning team in today's final in Yokohama will get a gold-plated replica, which it keeps.

Despite the creation of a new trophy, the Rimet Cup even in retirement in Brazil kept making history.

On Dec. 19, 1983, hooded men broke into the office of the Brazilian soccer confederation in Rio de Janeiro, tied up a night watchman, and made off with the trophy.

With Pele appealing for its return, police learned the trophy had been melted down for its gold in Rio's poor outskirts. Three Brazilians and an Argentine were arrested but released. Eventually they were tried and convicted in absentia.

The trophy was quickly replaced. In 1984 the Eastman-Kodak Co. of Rochester, N.Y., received FIFA's permission to recreate the trophy, and commissioned Wilhelm Geist and Son in Hanau, Germany, for the job.

The new Jules Rimet Cup was cast out of 3.97 pounds of pure gold and again mounted on lapis lazuli. Eight gold plates were engraved with the winners from 1930-1970. The new trophy was presented to Brazilian President Joao Baptista Figueiredo in 1984.

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