In 1966 London was preparing to expose its citizens to something that had cost the players of more than one national team blood, sweat and tears. But what was to be a proud celebration for his country turned out to be an embarrassing and ridiculous one.
“We were told that the strictest security measures had been taken. But they failed.”
said a BBC reporter more than 50 years ago, from the site of a very particular exhibition at Westminister in London.
The cup in question was none other than the one made in honour of Jules Rimet, FIFA’s first president. It was the first World Cup, a statuette dedicated to Nike, goddess of victory, which was displayed at the headquarters of the host nation, England. On March 20, the Cup was presented by Stanley Gibbons, a famous collector’s house, in front of a city excited by the imminent celebration of the World Cup. Despite police assurances that they were going to deploy extraordinary security measures, the thief had no choice but to wait for the only policeman guarding her, who is in his 70s, to take his dinner break.
But the story took an unexpected turn a week later thanks to a furry protagonist and his owner.
A London resident, David Corbett, was walking his dog Pickles one morning in late April. Suddenly his dog began to sniff insistently near a parked car and out of curiosity Mr. Corbett went over to see what was there. Suddenly a nicely sealed package caught his eye. Pickles couldn’t stop smelling the sheets of newspaper that covered him, so Mr. Corbett decided to pick him up, realizing at once that he was quite heavy. He carefully tore away the sheets of newspaper that covered it and little by little several inscriptions were exposed. On them were written several countries: West Germany, Brazil?
David Corbett was a big football fan so that was enough to make him realise what he had just found. It was the World Cup! Without hesitation he got into his vehicle and walked into the nearest police station with it in his hand. The policemen who attended to him could not believe their eyes.
David Corbett however did not get the reception he expected. Obviously the police considered him a suspect at first but after several inquiries, they realized that he had no connection to the incident. It was official, Mr. Corbett and especially Pickles were the nation’s new heroes and were rewarded with the equivalent of around 6000€ and food for life for the famous canine, thanks to a well-known pet food brand. The World Cup could have been held with the original Jules Rimet Cup and, as fate would have it, it was England who won it, with the legendary Bobby Charlton at the helm. It didn’t stop there for Corbett and Pickles as at the title celebration, on a balcony in front of thousands of fans, Bobby Charlton lifted Pickles up and dedicated the win to him.
The identity of the thief is known
In 2018 the British press discovered through a relative of the thief the identity of the thief. The crook in question was Sidney Cugullere, a common criminal, womaniser and Arsenal fan, who confessed to a small circle of family and friends about his deed. After a first attempt to sell it and harassed by the investigation, he realized he had to return it and left it abandoned. The rest is already well known.
Unfortunately that cup seemed destined to disappear, as it did years later, but that’s another story.