It was in London on Sunday 20th March 1966 that it was realised that the Football’s World Cup was missing – assumed stolen.
It had been on exhibition at Central Hall in Westminster, London. The £30,000 solid gold Jules Rimet trophy disappeared while a church service was taking place in another part of the building. Thieves had removed the cup from the “Sport with Stamps” display at the Stampex exhibition. Close by were stamps worth some £3 million but they were left behind! There were at least two guards of the Alsa-Guard security firm in the hall at the time of the theft but they were not available for comment!
The delegates from the then current cup-holders – Brazil – had left the cup in the custody of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) in the previous week as the trophy was to be the center-piece of the World Cup tournament being hosted by Britain later in the year. Jack Stewart, the vice-chairman of the Football Association Council, was reluctant to accept blame for the trophy’s disappearance but he did say that: “We are responsible for it in the end because we are the organizing association.”
Detectives and forensics experts began investigating the break-in and also appealed for anyone who was in Central Hall to contact Scotland Yard. The police said that a suspicious-looking man had been seen in the building at the time of the theft. They described him as being in his early 30s, of average height with thin lips, greased black hair and a possible scar on his face.
So – what was it that was causing all the fuss – apart from the actual theft? Well – the Jules Rimet trophy was – and still is – named after a French lawyer who had been a president of FIFA and had been the one who had initiated the creation of the World Cup competition in 1929. Brazil had been holders of the Cup for the previous two competitions – winning both the 1958 and 1962 competitions. Everyone – well most anyway – in Britain were hoping this time it would be England!
Understandably there were several days of anxiety and frustration following the Cup’s theft. Brazil said that it was a sacrilege and would never have been committed in Brazil where even its thieves loved football too much!
It was in south London seven days later – on Sunday 27th March – when the Jules Rimet trophy was eventually found. The finder was ‘Pickles’ – a mongrel dog that was out for a walk with his owner! Later that year England did win the World Cup.
In 1970 Brazil won the World Cup for a third time and was allowed to keep the trophy for ever and the replacement trophy remains the prize for the World Cup to this day.
However – the Jules Rimet cup was stolen again in 1983 – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It has never been recovered.