Story by Jack Williams at Narrative.ly.
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 newspaper and stashed under a hedge outside his owner’s home. The trophy was stolen again in 1983, from the offices of the Brazilian Football Confederation, and never recovered.
With its new trophy, FIFA decided not to go in-house with the design process, soliciting fifty-three submissions from seven countries. One came from a quiet, private sculptor from Milan named Silvio Gazzaniga, a fifty-year-old who had spent his life creating symbols of other people’s success.