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The World Cup trophy is a highly coveted prize in sports. Throughout the tournament’s 90-year history, people have gone to great lengths to get their hands on the famous hardware. The original cup was a spellbinding piece of workmanship that was quarreled over by world leaders and stolen multiple times and, nowadays, is nowhere to be found.
French football enthusiast turned FIFA president Jules Rimet was instrumental in instituting the World Cup and the trophy, modeled after Greek goddess Nike, was later named after him. Uruguay won the inaugural edition of the tournament, followed by Italy in 1934.
By 1938, Europe had been plunged into turmoil. Adolf Hitler’s fascist regime had seized full control of Germany, and the dictator was keen to use a successful World Cup run as evidence of Aryan supremacy, a plan that wouldn’t come to fruition. Germany, after forcing five Austrian starters to play for their team, was embarrassingly knocked out in the Round of 16 by Switzerland and exited the competition in disgrace.
Italy went on to retain its title, but Hitler remained fixated on obtaining the Rimet Trophy. He ordered his troops to plunder Italian art, religious artifacts—and the World Cup. The Nazis stormed the home of Ottorino Barassi, president of the Italian Football Federation, but were unable to locate the trophy, which was hidden in a shoebox under his bed. Eventually, it was returned to FIFA in time for the next World Cup, in 1950.
Pickles the hero
In the buildup to the 1966 World Cup in England, the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen after being displayed at a public exhibition in London.
Football Association had already commissioned a replica, when the trophy was recovered by a dog named Pickles just seven days after the robbery. A suspect named Edward Betchley was detained, but it was later discovered that he was a mere middleman and the actual burglars were never found.
Theft in Brazil
Rimet intended for the first three-time champion to be allowed to keep the trophy indefinitely, and in 1970, Brazil, led by Pelé, triumphed for the third time on Mexican soil. The new trophy, commissioned for the 1974 edition, is still used to this day.
The Brazilians locked the hardware away behind bulletproof glass, but in 1983, the trophy was stolen once again. The robbers were eventually caught, but the prize was never recovered. A few of the thieves later died under mysterious circumstances, leading some to believe that the Rimet Trophy was cursed.
Fourteen years later, a trophy, thought to be the original, was sold at an auction in London. The bidding war was won by FIFA and later tests revealed that it wasn’t the original but rather the replica commissioned by the English FA in 1966. To this day, the story of the whereabouts of the Jules Rimet trophy, is considered one of the most emblematic of the football world. It has only contributed to the mystic of the tournament that paralyzes the world every 4 years.