The holy grail of Football, the Jules Rimet Trophy, was the original prize awarded to the winners of the World Cup until 1970. At the inception of the tournament in 1930 FIFA agreed that should any nation win three finals, they would be given the trophy for keeps. Following Brazil’s win over Italy in 1970 final in Mexico, the trophy was therefore presented to the Brazilian Sports Confederation (CBD), now the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).
THE TROPHY STOLEN
Unfortunately, the Jules Rimet Trophy placed on display at the CBF offices in Rio, Brazil was stolen by a group of 3 men (2 according to some sources) on the evening of December 1983. As of now, it is yet to be recovered. While some argue that the trophy had been melted down and sold as bullion, there is no strong evidence to support that fact. In 1989 one of those arrested suspects – Antonio Carlos Aranha – was found dead having been shot seven times. With no breakthrough despite frantic search operations, the glorious trophy – the gilded 30cm-high statuette of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, made by the Parisian sculptor Abel Lafleur in 1929 is believed to have vanished forever.
But that was not the first time the security of the Jules Rimet Trophy had been compromised…
THE NAZI THREAT
Football’s greatest prize first came under threat from the Nazis. And they got very close indeed, During the second world war the trophy was held by the 1938 winners, Italy, and was kept in a Rome bank. Fearing for its safety, the Italian Football Federation’s president, Ottorino Barassi, smuggled the trophy out of the bank and into his apartment. However, the Nazis even reached Barassi’s home in their search for the trophy. They narrowly missed the old shoebox stashed underneath Barassi’s bed, the trophy hidden inside!
THE TROPHY EXCHANGED?
After West Germany’s victory in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, the trophy was kept in Frankfurt until it was taken to Sweden for the 1958 finals. Joe Coyle, a photojournalist, upon inspecting and comparing the previous photos of the trophy with the one sent to Sweden claimed that the trophy for the 1958 finals was 5cm taller and had an altered base from the 1954 version. It has never been verified whether the trophy was indeed adapted or exchanged during its time in Germany.
PICKLES- THE HERO
Before the 1966 World Cup Finals in England, the Jules Rimet Trophy was on public display at Westminster Central Hall three months before the opening match of the tournament. In a quiet Sunday lunchtime, four security guards on duty were left baffled and shocked when they discovered the glass case holding the trophy smashed and the trophy has gone!
The trophy was eventually recovered in dramatic fashion seven days after the theft. Pickles, a four-year-old dog while taking a walk with his owner discovered the trophy wrapped in newspaper outside the front garden of a house in Upper Norwood, south London. To this day, no one knows how it got there.
REPLICA OR THE ORIGINAL?
The FA had commissioned a replica trophy to be made in time for the tournament in case the original trophy was not recovered. Conspiracy theory claims the trophy that England handed back for the 1970 tournament was, in fact, the replica and not the original one by mistake.
When FIFA purchased the replica in an auction in 1997, they had it examined to be sure about those claims. Unfortunately, it was indeed the replica, meaning the real thing was actually the one stolen in Rio. So, the fate of the legendary trophy, which survived several close-calls and conspiracies, was finally sealed by 2-3 men in Brazil, never to be recovered again. But going by the trophy’s incredible past, one would not bet against yet another dramatic recovery somewhere, sometime in the future.