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Trophy as filled with history as Cup

Updated: Tuesday June 25, 2002 02:47 a.m. ET

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) -- The World Cup Trophy is as filled with history as the tournament itself.

There have been several trophies and they've all lived hazardous lives.

The first trophy dated from 1928 when FIFA -- the world governing body of soccer -- decided it needed a cup to present to the winner of its inaugural tournament in 1930 in Uruguay.

FIFA commissioned French sculptor Abel Lafleur to create the statuette.

He came up with a so called "Goddess of Victory" holding an octagonal vessel in her hands raised high over her head. The original trophy was 35 centimeters high (about 13 inches) and weighed 3.8 kilos (8.4 pounds). It was made of sterling silver and gold plated with a blue stone base of the semiprecious stone lapis lazuli.

The eight-sided vessel gave birth to the phrase "World Cup" and the tournament was ready to begin.

Uruguay won it in 1930. Italy followed in 1934 and '38. World War II then intervened. When German forces occupied Axis ally Italy during the war, FIFA vice president Dr. Ottorino Barassi hid the World Cup in a shoebox under his bed to protect it from the Nazis.

In 1946 with the war over, FIFA renamed the cup the "Jules Rimet Cup" to honor the FIFA president from 1921-54.

The World Cup resumed in 1950 and led a quiet life until 1966 when it was stolen while on display in London as England prepared to hold soccer's showcase event.

The theft set off a nationwide search. A week after it disappeared, a Thames river barge worker named David Corbett strolled outside his south London apartment to make a phone call, accompanied by his 2-year-old dog named Pickles.

Pickles spotted an item wrapped in paper under a hedge.

"The dog drew my attention to it," Corbett said in a 1990 interview. "It was very tightly wrapped in newspaper. I could see it was some sort of statue. I pulled the bottom ends of the paper away and I could see the disks. Then as I tore more of the paper away, I saw the names Germany, Uruguay, Brazil.

"And being a football fan I knew it had been stolen. I jumped up and drove to the police station."

Corbett got a 3,000 pound (dlrs 4,350) reward. Pickles became a national celebrity until his death in 1973.

England won the '66 World Cup and, when Brazil won it for the third time in 1970, the South Americans were given permanent possession of the Jules Rimet Cup. FIFA then opened a competition to design a new trophy.

Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga was the winner from 53 submissions -- representing seven nations -- and the new "FIFA World Cup" was cast by Italian trophy manufacturer Bertoni.

Gazzaniga described his sculpture like this:

"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."

The design was 36 centimeters high (14 inches), made of solid 18 carat gold and weighed 4.97 kilograms (11 pounds).

Insured for 250,000 swiss francs (dlrs 165,000), the new trophy shows two athletes, back to back with arms outstretched, with a globe resting on their shoulders.

The sculpture sits atop two rows of malachite, where the names of the winning nations are engraved. It can hold 17 names, which means it will be retired in 2038.

Unlike the Rimet Cup, which was passed from winning nation to winning nation, this one is FIFA's permanent property.

The winning team in Sunday's final in Yokohama, Japan, will get a gold-plated replica, which it keeps.

Despite a new trophy, the Rimet Cup -- even in retirement in Brazil -- kept making history.

On Dec. 19, 1983, hooded men broke into the office of the Brazilian soccer confederation in Rio de Janeiro, tied up a nightwatchman, and made off with the trophy.

With Pele appealing for the return, police learned the trophy had been melted down for its gold in Rio's poor outskirts. Three Brazilians and an Argentine were arrested but released. Eventually they were tried and convicted in absentia.

The trophy was quickly replaced. In 1984 the Eastman-Kodak Co. of Rochester, New York, received FIFA's permission and commissioned Wilhelm Geist and Son in Hanau, Germany, to recreate the trophy.

The new Jules Rimet Cup was cast out of 1.8 kilos (3.97 pounds) of pure gold and again mounted on lapis lazuli. Eight gold plates were engraved with the winners from 1930-1970. The new trophy was presented to Brazilian President Joao Baptista Figueiredo in 1984.

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