June 17th, 2010


The World Cup Trophy, in person

In 1994, the United States hosted the World Cup competition, and before the games, the World Cup Trophy went on tour across the country to try to whip up enthusiasm for the sport.

My friend Cindy Van Vreede and I happened to go to a shopping mall in Milwaukee where it was on display, so we paused to look at it. We weren't big soccer fans, but how often would we get to see something that famous?

So we stood there admiring it on a stand near the central garden. A man in a suit who was obviously security observed us impassively. I felt a little disappointed that we were the only people who seemed interested. If it were on display anywhere here in Madrid where I live now, a long line would be waiting just to get close. But Milwaukee wasn't a big soccer town.

Here's a detail of a photo that shows the trophy being presented by then Vice President Al Gore to the Brazilian team, which won in 1994. It's about 36 cm/14 inches tall and weighs 5 kilos/11 pounds – all gold. I didn't like the design, which still seems a little knobby to me, but it was big, shiny, and gold.

Then we went on to buy whatever it was that brought us to the mall, and later stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant. As we sat down, the trophy's guard came in with a trophy-sized briefcase handcuffed to one of his wrists, and we guessed what was inside. He bought lunch and sat at a nearby table.

Cindy and I speculated about the security. There couldn't be just one guy protecting that much gold, right? Without a doubt, we decided, someone was guarding the guard, but we couldn't figure out who.

And that's as close as I'll ever get to the World Cup Trophy.

— Sue Burke