The FIFA World Cup is the most prestigious prize in world football, the ultimate goal for most of the world's best players. As a result, the symbolism of the trophy in question is important. Winning the World Cup helps you achieve a place in history, and the award for those that do has a special status of its own. In this article, we'll be diving into that prize in detail, telling you everything you need to know about the famous World Cup trophy.
We'll explore the creation and naming of the trophy, and detail its dimensions, size, and whopping financial value. Adding to your knowledge of this iconic footballing object, we'll also tell the bizarre story of when the original World Cup trophy was stolen. By the time we're done, you'll be an expert when it comes to the most iconic football trophy of all time.
The World Cup was first devised in 1930 as a way of bringing together footballing countries from across the world in an international competition staged every four years. The tournament was (and continues to be) organised by FIFA (Fédération Internationale de football association), football's international governing body.
Uruguay was selected as the host nation for the tournament, due to the fact that the country was celebrating the centenary of its first constitution. The capital, Montevideo, was chosen as the host city for all matches, with most of them played at the newly-built Estadio Centenario. This home advantage paid dividends; the first ever World Cup, which featured thirteen teams (seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America) was won by Uruguay.
As a result, the South American nation became the first to get their hands on the brand new World Cup trophy.
The first-ever World Cup trophy was aptly named 'Victory', although mostly it was referred to simply as the World Cup or Coupe de Monde ('World Cup' in French).
In 1946, the decision was taken to rename the trophy after a man who was pivotal in the creation of the tournament in the first place. Jules Rimet was the FIFA President who in 1929 passed the vote to initiate the inaugural competition, and thus it was decided that the World Cup would be called the Jules Rimet Trophy.
Officially speaking, the World Cup isn't called the Jules Rimet Trophy anymore, because it isn't actually the original trophy. In 1970, Brazil were handed the original trophy for good after Pele and co. led them to a third World Cup title win. A replacement was commissioned, which was called the 'FIFA World Cup Trophy', introduced for the first time at the West Germany-hosted 1974 tournament.
The location of the original trophy is no longer known — in December 1983, the cabinet in which it was stored at the Brazilian Football Confederation's headquarters in Rio de Janeiro was broken into, and the trophy was stolen.
To this day, it has never been recovered and is widely believed to have been melted down and sold.
The World Cup trophy is widely recognised as one of the most expensive trophies in sporting history. It's made of extremely valuable materials and has been the subject of other theft attempts besides the aforementioned Brazil burglary — so how much exactly is international football's top prize worth?
The current FIFA World Cup Trophy is reportedly valued at upwards of $20m (£15.8m/€18.4m), a remarkable sum even given the prestigious, historic nature of the prize, and one that is reputedly estimated based on the weight of the gold alone. When the trophy was first built, it was said to have cost $50,000; however, this was in the early 1970s, and it's thought that due to inflation the cost of producing the trophy today would be around $242,700.
Because of the extremely valuable nature of the new trophy, a new rule was introduced at the time that dictated that three-time winners of the FIFA World Cup would be given a World Cup trophy replica rather than the original.
While it's a fraction of the original trophy cost, this replica is still fairly expensive to make; according to expert diamond and jewellery retailer Tobias Kormind, "five kg of brass, an inexpensive material, costs $25 and 0.5 ounces of gold plating at up to 3 microns thickness costs $840," which means that coupled with the cost of the malachite and workmanship, the production of a World Cup replica would cost around $3,565.
The original World Cup Trophy was designed by French sculptor Abel Lafleur and made of gold-plated sterling silver on a lapis lazuli base. It featured a decagonal cup that was supported by a winged figure representing Nike (the ancient Greek goddess of victory), clearly underlining that this was a prize designed for the very best in global football.
While this original trophy was extremely expensive to make, the 1974 replacement is even more valuable, with a far larger amount of gold featured in the second trophy. But how much gold is there in the World Cup?
Officially, the FIFA World Cup is described as being made of "solid gold". To be more specific, the trophy is made of 30,875 Carats of 18 karat (75%) gold, with a base featuring two strips of malachite. It's no surprise then, that the trophy has an extremely high estimated value of $20m.
The new trophy was designed by the Stabilimento Artistico Bertoni Company, an Italian trophy maker, with sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga, also from Italy selected by FIFA to design the trophy, after scouring the globe for the right artist to deliver the FIFA World Cup Trophy. The design features two people holding up the earth, with green malachite rings integrated into the solid gold base of the trophy.
The World Cup Trophy measures at 36.5 centimetres (14.4 inches), whereas the Jules Rimet trophy stood at 35 centimetres (14 inches) high.
It becomes obvious how large and weighty the FIFA World Cup trophy is when you see tournament-winning captains such as Lionel Messi or Fabio Cannavaro lifting the trophy after victory in the final — it's a substantial prize. But how much exactly does it weigh?
With a height of 35cm and a structural make-up of gold-plated sterling silver against a lapis lazuli base, the original Jules Rimet trophy is thought to have weighed around 3.8 kilograms (8.4 lb). However, as you might imagine having read about the amount of gold in the new trophy, these days the FIFA World Cup weighs significantly more.
This is where the rumours that the World Cup is solid gold start to fall down; its height of 36.5 cm means that if the trophy was made of solid gold, it's estimated that it would weigh between 60 to 70 kg. This means it would be pretty much impossible for most players to lift, and given the fact that we've seen a number of different players (some of them on the smaller side) lift the trophy, it's hard to believe it weighs quite that much.
Instead, many people believe that the World Cup trophy in fact weighs around 6.175kg. Chemist Sir Martyn Poliakoff made this estimation on the basis that the trophy must be hollow, a theory which has since been confirmed by the original manufacturer of the trophy. 18 karat gold is an alloy made of 18 parts of gold, 5 parts of silver, and 1 part of copper with a mean density of 15.6 g/cm3. This information has allowed scientists like Poliakoff to accurately estimate the trophy's weight.
So, what happens to this extremely valuable award once it's won every four years? Do the winners keep the trophy?
The official trophy is kept at the FIFA Headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, and is only wheeled out on the odd occasion, for example for the opening and closing games of each World Cup tournament, or for the occasional trophy tour.
Back in the day, the nation that was victorious in the World Cup final got to keep the Jules Rimet for four years, until the next tournament (so as you can imagine, the Brazilian Football Confederation got to know the World Cup Trophy very well indeed). However, due to concerns regarding its safety, the winners of the World Cup are unfortunately not able to keep hold of it.
Instead of temporarily keeping the official trophy in their possession, each team that wins the competition is given a gold-plated bronze replica, which is referred to as the World Cup Winners’ Trophy as opposed to just the World Cup Trophy.
As you'll gather from the strictness of FIFA's policy on where exactly the trophy is allowed to go, there is only one official FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Each World Cup winner receives a trophy replica to commemorate their achievement, but in its current format (eg. discounting the former Jules Rimet trophy), there is only one World Cup.
As a result, all the concerns regarding the trophy's safety are understandable. And there's another good reason for the worries about passing the World Cup around to anyone and everyone, which we haven't yet discussed in detail...
We mentioned earlier how multiple attempts have been made to steal the World Cup, with one prominent recent example occuring in 2010 when Spanish pitch invader Juame Marquet Cot was arrested after making a dash for the on-display trophy at the Johannesburg final. However, this is not the most famous attempt there has been to steal the trophy.
On 20th March 1966, just four months before the 1966 FIFA World Cup was due to kick off in England, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen during a public exhibition at Westminster Central Hall. Special permission had been granted for Stanley Gibbons' stamp company Stampex to place to trophy in their exhibition, as long as it was under guard at all times (it was also insured for £30,000). However, despite the presence of two uniformed officers and two plainclothes officers, there was nobody watching the trophy at all times, and during the guards' noon circuit on Sunday 20th, it was discovered that someone had forced open the display case and rear doors of the building and stolen the trophy.
It was a professional job, and none of the guards had seen or heard anything suspicious; the following days were panic-stricken. However, just seven days later the trophy was found wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a suburban garden hedge in Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood, South London.
Remarkably, it wasn't even a human who found it — it was a black and white mongrel dog named Pickles, owned by one David Corbett. Corbett was a suspect until his alibi cleared him, while Pickles became a national hero as a result of his discovery.
The latest nation to get their hands on a World Cup replica trophy is Spain, after their women's team stormed to an unexpected victory at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Their opponents in the final, Sarina Weigman's England side, have also been on a remarkable journey of their own in recent years.
We've got plenty of information about that progress on the blog — you can start by checking out our interview with FA Recruitment Manager Susan Couper, a key member of staff at last year's EURO 2022 competition.