The Man Who Made the World Cup Trophy
Four decades after crafting a cup that would stand the test of time, a nonagenarian Italian sculptor reflects on the true nature of victory.
Photo by Andrea Pagliarulo
In 1971, the organizers of the World Cup found themselves without a cup to call their own. The year before, Pelé’s Brazil had won the tournament for the third time, which meant they got to keep the trophy. As Brazil’s captain, Carlos Alberto, held the trophy aloft on a blazing hot day in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, there was a sense that the title, previously kept by the winning team for the four years in between tournaments, really was coming home.
That trophy — a fourteen-inch high, gold-plated sculpture of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, hoisting an octagonal cup above her head — was named after Jules Rimet, a former president of FIFA, soccer’s governing body. It was first presented to Uruguay, in 1930. Won by Italy in 1934 and ’38, it spent World War II hidden in a shoebox to prevent the Nazis from taking it. In 1966 it was stolen from a public exhibition in Westminster, only to be recovered by a curious dog named Pickles, who found it wrapped in new…