Riddle of the wrong World Cup

In 1930, world cham­pi­ons Uruguay pa­raded a cup at the Es­ta­dio Cen­te­nario that has barely been seen since. Why? No one knows, so FFT be­gan its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion

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Uruguay had just fought back to beat Ar­gentina 4-2 and win the first World Cup fi­nal in July 1930. The tri­umphant hosts pa­raded around the Es­ta­dio Cen­te­nario turf trailed by a gag­gle of ec­static kids, while in the stands 90,000 fans glee­fully waved fe­do­ras in the air.

The play­ers, in their fa­mous sky blue shirts and with tears run­ning down their faces, waved hands, caps and bunches of flow­ers. Cen­tral to the party mood in Mon­te­v­ideo, held proudly aloft into the sum­mer sun, was the cup.

How­ever, this wasn’t the iconic golden Jules Rimet Tro­phy. In­stead, Uruguay’s play­ers were wav­ing an en­tirely dif­fer­ent one. The first ever world cham­pi­ons had been given the wrong cup.

It’s right there in the black-and-white pho­to­graphs taken at the fi­nal, and in the flick­er­ing, Fifa-re­stored of­fi­cial film of the 1930 tour­na­ment. Re­ferred to in the archives sim­ply as a “sym­bolic cup”, it ap­pears to be a sil­ver goblet or chal­ice, around 20 inches tall with a long stem and sep­a­rate base.

Pho­tos show the mys­te­ri­ous tro­phy in the hands of a eu­phoric Pablo Do­rado, the scorer of the game’s open­ing goal, and the film dis­plays it be­ing thrust into the air to the de­light of cel­e­brat­ing fans. Nowhere in any pho­tos or footage of the first World Cup fi­nal is there any sign of the ac­tual World Cup.

There is no doubt the real tro­phy was in Uruguay for the 1930 tour­na­ment, as Jules Rimet him­self (above, left) car­ried it across the At­lantic on Glas­gow-built ocean liner, the Conte Verde.

The 12-inch high gold cup, on a blue lapis lazuli base, was cre­ated by French sculp­tor Abel Lafleur and fea­tured the winged fig­ure of Nike, the an­cient Greek god­dess of vic­tory. Its ini­tial name was the Vic­tory Tro­phy – it was re­named the Jules Rimet Tro­phy in hon­our of the FIFA pres­i­dent in 1946. How­ever, it was more com­monly called the Coupe du Monde, or the World Cup.

Rimet and his golden god­dess ar­rived in Mon­te­v­ideo fol­low­ing their two-week voy­age from Europe to quite a fan­fare. The French­man was pic­tured wav­ing at crowds as he dis­em­barked with play­ers and of­fi­cials from France, Brazil, Bel­gium and Ro­ma­nia. The fol­low­ing day, he was pic­tured hand­ing the cup to Uruguayan FA pres­i­dent Raul Jude for safe­keep­ing.

Apart from a few pro­mo­tional out­ings, the cup was kept un­der lock and key for the du­ra­tion of the fi­nals.

It was snapped while sur­rounded by ex­cited Uruguay play­ers at their train­ing camp ahead of the fi­nal. And by rights, it should have been pre­sented by Rimet to the vic­to­ri­ous cap­tain, Jose Nasazzi, af­ter La Ce­leste’s stun­ning sec­ond-half dis­play to over­turn a 2-1 in­ter­val deficit. So why didn’t that hap­pen?

The World Cup 1930 Project, set up by Dean Lock­yer, is a blog col­lect­ing ar­chive ma­te­rial cov­er­ing a com­pe­ti­tion vir­tu­ally ig­nored in Bri­tain at the time.

“The 1930 tour­na­ment has not been doc­u­mented as well as the other World Cups and I’ve found in­con­sis­ten­cies and myths,” he ex­plains. “It was not widely cov­ered in Bri­tain be­cause none of the British na­tions were in­volved, but there is a lot of orig­i­nal source ma­te­rial from Uruguay and else­where.”

Ac­cord­ing to Lock­yer’s re­search, both coun­tries were sup­posed to as­cend the steps of the Olympic Tri­bune stand at the end of the match, with the win­ning na­tion’s flag flown from the top of the Es­ta­dio Cen­te­nario’s dis­tinc­tive Tower of Homage while their na­tional an­them played out.

“Af­ter that, Jules Rimet would present the Vic­tory Tro­phy to the win­ning cap­tain,” says Lock­yer, “as well as gold medals for the win­ning play­ers and sil­ver medals for the run­ners-up.”

In­stead, Uruguay’s play­ers re­mained on the pitch fac­ing the Tower of Homage as the Sun and Stripes flag was raised into the sky. “Then they went on a lap of hon­our,” adds Lock­yer. “And that’s where we see some grainy footage of play­ers hoist­ing what looks like a sil­ver tro­phy, which is too big to be the World Cup tro­phy. And then we have the pho­to­graphs of Pablo Do­rado car­ry­ing the sil­ver tro­phy in one hand and what ap­pears to be the base in the other.” Ac­cord­ing to Dean, the sil­ver im­poster could have been used as a sub­sti­tute in place of the Jules Rimet Tro­phy be­cause the ac­tual World Cup was too valu­able to be let loose on the pitch. “There had been se­cu­rity fears be­fore the match, due to the ten­sions that had been stoked up by the press from both na­tions,” ex­plains Lock­yer. “It was re­ported that fans were searched on en­try to the sta­dium, and some­thing like 1,600 weapons were taken away. Eye­wit­nesses spoke of about 200 sol­diers sur­round­ing the pitch with fixed bay­o­nets, and there were real con­cerns about vi­o­lence and crowd trou­ble. That is per­haps why the pre­sen­ta­tion never took place.” The Uruguayan play­ers even­tu­ally re­ceived their win­ners’ medals, though that pre­sen­ta­tion was not made un­til Novem­ber, four months af­ter the fi­nal.

The gold medals fea­tured the Vic­tory Tro­phy’s god­dess on the front, with an in­scrip­tion on the back.

Nasazzi’s medal was sold shortly af­ter the right-back’s death in 1968 for less than its scrap value. It was sub­se­quently sold by Bon­hams auc­tion house in 2008 for the rel­a­tively small sum of £29,000.

Nasazzi may not have been pre­sented with the ac­tual World Cup, but he did at least get a cou­ple of repli­cas.

In 1930, the Uruguayan FA gave him a shoddy-look­ing plas­ter im­i­ta­tion. The crum­bling copy was sold at auc­tion in 2014 for £2,500, and in 1950 Nasazzi was also pre­sented with a gold-plated bronze replica by a body of the na­tion’s sports­writers. Bon­hams flogged this in 2013 for £3,500.

The sil­ver tro­phy, mean­while, re­mains an enigma, its iden­tity and where­abouts un­known. FFT asked FIFA to in­ves­ti­gate the mys­tery and an of­fi­cial re­quest was made to the Uruguayan FA, but they had no knowl­edge of the tro­phy.

A num­ber of en­quiries were also made at the Uruguayan Mu­seum of Foot­ball, within the Cen­te­nario, and the Na­tional Foot­ball Mu­seum in Manch­ester, which possesses one of the two balls used in the 1930 World Cup Fi­nal. In­ves­ti­ga­tions in Mon­te­v­ideo drew a blank.

“The tro­phy that Pablo Do­rado has in his hands is not in the mu­seum,” said Mario Ro­mano, the Uruguayan Mu­seum of Foot­ball’s di­rec­tor.

Nor could the elu­sive cup be found in Manch­ester. “We don’t have this tro­phy in our col­lec­tion,” in­sisted the Na­tional Foot­ball Mu­seum’s Alex Jack­son. “Sadly it looks like it might re­main a mys­tery.”

As for the Vic­tory – or Jules Rimet – Tro­phy, it had a more than event­ful life. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, Ital­ian FA pres­i­dent Ot­torino Barassi con­cealed it from pil­lag­ing Nazis in a box un­der his bed. In 1966 it was stolen from a glass dis­play case at West­min­ster Cen­tral Hall and found, stuffed in a hedge, by Pick­les the dog. And in 1983, rob­bers pinched it from the head­quar­ters of the Brazil­ian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion. It’s never been dis­cov­ered, and is thought to have been melted down.

By then, the cur­rent World Cup tro­phy, pro­duced us­ing gold and mala­chite and de­pict­ing two At­las-type fig­ures hold­ing up a globe, had re­placed it.

It’s the fa­mous golden globe tro­phy that will be awarded in Mos­cow on July 15, and this time the win­ning team will ac­cept no sub­sti­tute.

The search for the orig­i­nal un­der­study, how­ever, con­tin­ues…


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