If you’re a football fan, you’ve probably seen the famous photo of Bobby Moore being held aloft by his team-mates on the Wembley pitch holding one of the most famous trophies in world sport after defeating West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. However, you may not know, it is 31 years to the day since this iconic trophy was stolen and never found. The Jules Rimet trophy was awarded to the winners of the FIFA World Cup between 1930 and 1970. The man who it’s named after, Jules Rimet, FIFA president between 1921 and 1954, stipulated that when one nation won the trophy for the third time, the trophy was theirs to keep. That nation was Brazil who won the trophy for the third time in Mexico in 1970. The trophy was displayed at the Brazilian Football Headquarters in Rio de Janeiro until 1983 when it was stolen by thieves who used a crow-bar to break into the cabinet.
The trophy had lived a charmed life before this though. Commissioned before the first World Cup in 1930 in Uruguay, and originally called ‘Victory’, the trophy had survived World War II and a previous theft attempt. The last World Cup before World War II, in 1938 was won by Italy, so the trophy was kept in a bank in Rome until war broke out. To stop the trophy falling into the hands of the occupying troops, Ottorino Barassi, the Italian vice-president of FIFA took the trophy and hid it in a shoe box underneath his bed. After remaining hidden throughout the war, the trophy was stolen from a public exhibition at Westminster Central Hall in 1966, four months before the start of the World Cup in England. After the police were unable to find the trophy and the thieves offered ransom demands, a dog named Pickles found the trophy underneath a hedge in South London.
But after the 1983 robbery, the trophy has not been found to this day. It is widely considered that the original trophy was taken and melted down for its gold and sold on. A replica of the stolen trophy was then commissioned by the Brazilian football federation and can still be seen today. Similarly, a replica commissioned by the FA for use in public displays after England’s victory in 1966 can be seen at the English national football museum. Therefore, whilst replicas can be found around the World, the original Jules Rimet trophy may never be seen again.
Photo credits: Fountain Posters and Ben Sutherland