Ultimately, the teams vying for the
World Cup are struggling for glorious recognition; to be a winner means being
eternally remembered as being the best of the best.
It’s the culmination of any
footballer’s career to lift the trophy at the end of a month which itself represents
a lifetime of God-gifted skill, athletic commitment and self-sacrifice. And
although the glory is its own reward, it also requires a special trophy to
acknowledge and define the moment.
The current trophy is the second
used, first commissioned for the 10th World Cup in 1974. It was needed because
Brazil had become champions in 1970 for the third time, which meant that they
could permanently keep the original Jules Rimet Trophy. That trophy, 14 inches
high, represented Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, and had been used since
the first World Cup in 1930.
During the Second World War the
Jules Rimet Trophy was hidden in a shoe box under the bed of Ottorino Barassi,
a FIFA vice president, thus avoiding the clutches of Mussolini, but later it
was stolen in England prior to the 1966 World Cup. On that occasion it was
recovered by a dog called Pickles – the most famous terrier in football history.
Sadly, it was again stolen in 1983 from a display case at the Brazilian
Football Confederation headquarters in Rio de Janeiro and has never been
recovered. It is rumoured that it has been melted down for its gold content.
From 53 submitted designs, FIFA
chose Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga’s work to be manufactured as the new cup.
Gazzaniga’s iconic design depicts two humans holding up the earth, with a space
on the underside of the malachite base to engrave the names of the winning
“The lines spring out from the
base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world. From the
remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures
of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory,” said Gazzaniga.
The trophy stands 14.4 inches high
and weighs 11 pounds. Cast in 18 carat gold, the trophy is thought to be
hollow, since a solid gold trophy would weigh more than 140 pounds and be too
heavy to lift. The trophy’s new case was designed by Louis Vuitton on commission
from FIFA and unveiled by supermodel Naomi Campbell.
FIFA’s regulations say that the
trophy cannot be won outright by any team and tournament winners receive a
replica of the trophy, which is gold-plated. The world governing body will not
confirm how many copies of the cup are in existence, but it is rumoured to be
The trophy, according to
convention, can only be touched by winners and heads of state. It’s a star in
its own right, touring worldwide and covering 81,000 miles as it visited 86 countries.
On its arrival in South Africa, it stopped off at 33 cities throughout the
country, guarded by armed police wearing bulletproof vests.
It made its gleaming appearance
during the competition’s first match, the 1-1 draw between South Africa and Mexico,
but will be locked in a safe until the final on Sunday, 11 July. FIFA’s general
secretary, Jerome Valcke, told journalists that the cup is literally priceless.
“This trophy is unique, it has no
[specific] value. Some say that the value is the equivalent of the Mona Lisa,
and I think that’s right,” said Valcke.
The World Cup Trophy has gone way
beyond its physical characteristics and entered the realm of cultural icon;
replicas can be made, but the original has to be earned – and that is the most
beautiful part of all.