The golden trophy that is awarded to the eventual winners of every FIFA World Cup tournament is the most prized award in soccer. But the trophy that will be awarded to whatever team eventually is victorious in South Africa in 2010 will not be lifting the original trophy, first awarded in 1930, but instead a replacement that has been in use since the original, the Jules Rimet trophy, was awarded in perpetuity to Brazil in 1970, in recognition of their third World Cup Victory.But the story behind the fate of the Jules Rimet trophy is a far stranger one than you might imagine.
The trophy itself was first created for the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. At that time it was officially known as the «Victory», it was not until 1946 that it was renamed for man whose vision had beget the competition in first place. It was a true work of art. Designed by Abel Lafleur, its blue lapis base held a solid gold representation of the goddess Nike, the ancient Greek patron of victory.
In January of 1966 the Jules Rimet trophy made its way to London, so it could be displayed prior to the World Cup, scheduled to take place in England later that year. The trophy was placed under the care of the English Football Association, who kept it at their headquarters in Lancaster Gate, showing it publicly only on a few, well organized occasions.
In February however the Stanley Gibbons Stamp Company requested permission from the FA to «borrow» the trophy, to be used as the central attraction for their Stampex exhibition the following month. The company promised that it would be well guarded and it was covered by a $30,000 insurance policy, even though it was only valued at $3,000.
In March the exhibition opened in the Central Hall in Westminster. Two guards were employed to stand near the trophy day and night, joined by two plainclothes policeman during the day. But still, it was later admitted that none had their eyes on the prized cup at every moment.
On Sunday 20th March the security guards making their noon inspection discovered that the cabinet that held the Jules Rimet trophy had been pried open and the prize was gone.
Scotland Yard took over the investigation immediately but early leads fell flat. Then on Monday March 21st, the chairman of the FA, Joe Mears, received an anonymous phone call at his office. The caller stated that Mears could expect delivery of a package, addressed to him, to Chelsea football club the next day.
But the package actually arrived at Mears’ home. It contained the removable lining from the Jules Rimet trophy and a note demanding fifteen thousand pounds in small bills. The note further instructed the FA to place a coded advertisement in the personals column of The Evening News. If they followed subsequent demands, the note continued, they would have the trophy back by Friday.
The events of the following days resemble something out of an old gangster movie. Mears contacted Scotland Yard who began to put a plan into place. Bundles of counterfeit cash were created and two officers were assigned to be with Mears at all times. In the meantime he was sent home to wait for another telephone call.
When the phone call did finally come the terrified Mears was in the throes of an asthma attack. His wife handed the phone to his assistant McPhee (who in real life was Detective Inspector Buggy). «McPhee» was instructed to proceed, cash in hand, to the nearby Battersea Park.
Buggy proceeded, shadowed by a number of Flying Squad colleagues in unmarked cars. At the gate he met up with a «Mr. Jackson» Buggy showed the man the suitcase, and he failed to notice that the currency was counterfeit. Buggy demanded to see the trophy before he handed over the money. Jackson agreed, stepping into Buggy’s car promising to lead him to the trophy.
Somewhere along the way «Jackson» realized that they were being followed and became nervous. He instructed Buggy to stop at the next traffic light so that he could go and retrieve the trophy from its hiding place. After he exited the car, he fled. Buggy pursued him and eventually found him hiding in a private garden. At the police station he was identified as Edward Betchley, a local car dealer and petty thief. He was charged with the theft and the subsequent extortion attempt but the Jules Rimet trophy was still missing.
On March 27th a local man, David Corbett and his dog Pickles were walking in the Beulah Hill area of South London, as was their custom. The dog discovered a package, wrapped crudely in newspaper. Corbett opened it and recognized its contents immediately. He turned the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy into the local Gypsy Hill police station immediately. Your browser may not support display of this image.
Although initially under suspicion, Corbett had an iron clad alibi for the time of the theft and after FA officials positively identified the trophy as genuine, the news of its recovery was released and Pickles found himself hailed a national hero.
Corbett received a $12,000 reward and Pickles even went on to have brief career in movies. In the summer of 1966 England won the World Cup, so the Jules Rimet trophy remained, hidden away, in England for another year. A replica was created immediately after the recovery of the original to be displayed for public purposes.
In 1970, per the man himself’s instructions 40 years earlier, when Brazil triumphed in the competition he conceived for the third time they were awarded the Jules Rimet trophy to keep. A brand new trophy was created to be awarded to future victors. Your browser may not support display of this image.
In 1983 the Jules Rimet cup was stolen once more, and has never been found. Investigators believe it was melted down for its gold value immediately, and Pickles the dog was no longer around to help them look for it.
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