National Geographic : 2010 Jun
PHOTOS: FRITZ REISS, AP IMAGES TOP ; POPPERFOTO/GETTY IMAGES HISTORY Golden Touch The World Cup title might be the most coveted honor in soccer, but there's one thing the winning nation can't possess: the actual trophy. The 18-karat-gold statue (right) has been kept mostly under lock and key at an undisclosed location since its predecessor, the Jules Rimet trophy, was stashed under a bed during World War II, held for ransom and recovered, then stolen for good in Brazil in 1983. That statue was first pinched in March 1966 from an exhibition in London, which hosted the final match that year. Fortunately a dog named Pickles helped his nation save face by ferreting out the newspaper-wrapped trophy in a garden, earning him a place alongside the prime minister when England celebrated its World Cup win that summer. It hasn't won since. The champions of this summer's tournament in South Africa will get to keep only a gold-plated replica of the post-Rimet prize. But legions of soccer fans had a rare chance to see the real thing up close: The current trophy, in use since 1974, was the focus of a recent 83-country grand tour. "Only heads of state and World Cup winners can hold the trophy," says FIFA spokesman Alex Stone. The rest of us can only look---and dream. ---Luna Shyr Soccer star Garrincha (second from left) and well-wishers celebrate Brazil's 1962 victory with the Jules Rimet trophy. The current World Cup trophy depicts two victorious athletes holding up a globe.