Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 66-Pickles Finds Something In The Garden (1966)

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Some people prefer cats to dogs but did the former even find a world famous trophy in South London? In March 1966 the Brazilian FA (The CBF) handed back the Jules Rimet Trophy to FIFA in preparation for the 1966 World Cup to be held in England in the Northern summer. The trophy was handed to the English and displayed at a special exhibition in the Central Hall in Westminster as part of a Stan Gibbons organized ‘Sport with stamps’ exhibition.

While a church service was on in another part of the building thieves managed to sneak past at least two guards and steal the trophy. The sad part was that the trophy was in fact worth between 10k to 30k whilst around the hall stamps worth millions of pounds had been left untouched.  FIFA pointed a finger at the English FA and after eventual prodding the hosts admitted that “we are responsible in the end because we are the organizing association”. The CBF also spat the dummy at the organisers with claims that it was ‘sacrilege’ and that thieves in their crime ridden country wouldn’t steal the trophy because they’re football fans.

For a week there was much hand wringing as the trophy had not been found. Police had done their best Chief Wiggum act by claiming that a suspect had ‘thin lips, greased hair and a scar on his face’ which sounded like a vaudeville villain from the 1920s or a Beano comic.

The trophy was eventually found a week later (following an alleged faked ransom attempt) near Croydon in the South of London. David Corbett was walking his mongrel ‘Pickles’ along a quiet suburban street when the dog saw something of interest in the garden and started digging. What the dog found was the actual trophy in a shallow hole in a flowerbed where it had been dumped or hidden with a huge sigh of relief being heard around Lancaster Gate.

Before Geoff Hurst was ever a hero in 1966 a dog was. As a reward the owner was given a major cash prize in the thousands and Pickles was allowed to lick the dishes following the celebration banquet for the English team. Conspiracies abound about the theft but one strong story was that former soldier Edward Bletchley (the one arrested for trying to ask for a ransom) did in fact steal the trophy and had let them know the location in exchange for a bit of fun with a ladyfriend in his prison cell though this has been denied over time and may just be an urban myth.

It is also thought that the cup was cursed with Pickles managing to choke to death on his own lead whilst chasing a cat the following year and Bletchley dying from emphysema some three years after the incident (he wasn’t even 50). Even the head of the FA, Joe Mears, had died before the trophy had even been won by England. Mears had died from a heart attack that was put down to stress from organising the tournament and the furore surrounding the stolen trophy.

Brazil couldn’t even stand by their claim that thieves in their country wouldn’t steal the trophy with the cup (given to Brazil permanently in 1970 for winning three times) being stolen from the CBF HQ in Rio in 1983 and never being recovered (presumed melted down).

A memorable moment and one that seems like (as said before) a Beano story. The story also made it in to culture with a cartoon being made about Pickles and the find being referenced in fantastic BBC sketch show ‘Big Train’ during the world stareout championships.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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