Belize gets a special visitor; But we can’t interview it
You would have thought a head of state, famous actor or at least a rock star had landed in Belize for all the fanfare and excitement at the Philip Goldson International airport.
But the brilliantly coloured private airplane was creating all the furore not over any person inside, but over what they were carrying – the FIFA World Cup Trophy was visiting Belize.
Yes, courtesy of FIFA and Coca Cola, the FIFA World Cup Trophy has come to Belize, and people have travelled far and wide to see it or have their photographs taken next to it.
Probably the most revered sports trophy in the world, (OK, you Canadians and American from places like Boston and Chicago would argue strongly for hockey’s Stanley Cup, but that has more to do with passion than numbers) the FIFA Cup took pride of place at the Radisson Fort George Hotel where it was accorded the respect and start treatment of any visiting dignitary.
And no wonder. The FIFA Cup is a true treasure. According to FIFA rep Pekka Odriolozo,
“This is an 18 Karat solid gold trophy and it weighs over 6 kilograms. Its 36.8 centimetres high and this is the original World Cup Trophy. It was design in the early 1970s after Brazil won the Jules Rimet Trophy which was the previous trophy of the World Cup for the third time in 1970.”
Six keys of pure gold is…. We won’t bother with the math, but worth a lot (OK, someone did it for us – the cup is allegedly worth $20 million). However, it’s what that cup represents that makes it truly special and drew so many people to just get close to it. There have been wars fought with less tension and passion than World Cup matches, and this trophy truly is the Holy Grail of many a youngster from the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Kingston, Kenya, London and Sri Lanka to Sydney.
And here it was, for the first time, on Belizean soil.
Brad Ross, a Coca Cola International representative, explained that, “This is the longest journey that the FIFA World Cup Trophy have even been on. We are going to be going to 90 countries around the world. We launched it in the 12th September in the host country of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro and over the next 9 months we will be taking this trophy to 90 countries which is 149 thousand kilometre journey which is around three and a half times around the circumference of the earth.”
So it seemed only right that the trophy and its crew were greeted by the Minister of Sports, the President of the Football Federation of Belize (FFB), the Brazilian Chief of Missions, and the President and CEO of Bowen and Bowen, which besides making the one and only Belikin beer, is the local Coca Cola bottling company.
Ruperto Vicente President of the FFB, was understandably excited about the visit, and quite correctly pointed out that “This is the most sought trophy in the world and award in any sporting activity. We are happy that we are able to bring this trophy to Belize and create a kind of excitement for our sports. It is a timely visit, it is a timely thing for us as we are developing our sports here in Belize. Football is on the rise and football is about to achieve great things in this country.”
Yes indeed, after the Belize Jaguars made their first showing in the US this year (and made the country proud by playing the US team and turning down hefty bribes and reporting an attempt to throw the point spread) football fever is truly alive and well in Belize, and it’s hard to pass through any village and not see the next Belizean Pele or Beckham and their mates engaged in some serious competition.
We think Pekka Odriolozo was spot-on when he said, “What we intended to do when we launched this World Cup Trophy in 2006 the idea was to bring the most universal sports, the biggest sporting event, the one that all kids all around the world one day dream and to lift the World Cup Trophy – to bring it to the world to share the passion and to make everybody a little bit a part of that World Cup and to dream and that’s what we’ve seen. You feel the excitement and you start to dream about 2022 qualifying to the final competition maybe winning one day and why not.”
Why not indeed?
Here at Chaa Creek, where we sponsor a number of youth initiatives, we love this sort of thing. As a developing country, it’s important to keep our kids occupied with wholesome, healthy activities, and sports is an important part of many people’s lives, young and old.
So thanks FIFA and Coca Cola for taking the time and making the visit. We’re sure you’ve inspired more than one sports player to go that extra bit of distance and train and plat a bit harder.
As Ruperto Vicente summarised “It came from El Salvador to here and from here it goes to Israel. It is to unite the world and it is to unite people and to bring peace to all. That’s what the football trophy and the World Cup Trophy does to our universe.”
And one final word… even through we’re all meant to know, FIFA is short for Fédération Internationale de Football Association (my former students will remember the harping on the “man from Mars” axiom for reporting).